I have been widowed since 2002. I was in my late forties when my husband passed away and the stress from the long illness, fear of watching him die (he had requested that he go from my arms to God’s), pressure from his family who I never really understood (nor they me), and overall sadness of losing one of the nicest people I had ever met – all while working a job with lots of responsibility and not much support, all threatened to take its toll on my health and appearance. Not long after my husband passed (I couldn’t make it to the hospital before his transition), I went to California to pick up our sixteen year old son (from my husband’s first marriage) to bring him back, at my husband’s deathbed request. He was to finish high school here and decide what he wanted to do after graduation. I also redecorated our home to brighten it and remove all reminders of the sick room our living room had become during my husband’s last days along with any vestiges of cigarette smoke from the walls, carpets, curtains and furniture.
As soon as I got the house just right, the owner offered it to me for sale, but as a single woman with a teenage son, I had no desire to own a very large, older house, even though it was beautiful and the neighbors knew us well. So instead, I moved downtown where I had spent nearly twenty of my adult years. My son and I moved to a remodeled loft where he had his side and I had mine. We met in the middle where the living room and kitchen were located. Life was good and things were beginning to appear normal.
I felt liberated, light and ready to do all of the things I never allowed myself to do during most of my adult life. I had no idea that I was middle aged and no longer a hot commodity on the dating market. Actually, I didn’t have any problems attracting suitors, even much younger suitors. I just wasn’t interested in dating, all I wanted was to finish my graduate degree that I had put on hold, see my son graduate from high school and figure out how I wanted to spend the last thirty years of my life.
Well the first of those ten years zoomed by like a flash of light. I turned fifty and went to Jamaica for a blazing celebration with my sisters and close friend. My mom aged in front of my eyes and passed away in 2008. My son flipped out and got into trouble with the law, graduated from high school, got a job, married his sweetheart and had a son. I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and gained thirty pounds. I completed all my graduate degree requirements (though my degree was held hostage for unpaid tuition (that’s the subject of another blog post so look out for it). I opened a consulting firm and moved in with one of my sisters who lost her husband.
Next thing I know, I’m fifty-five, single, over weight, diabetic, and living in a world that had changed drastically while I was busy doing everything except tuning into the world around me. Young men were on the prowl for older cougars while men my age had their pick of young, uneducated, under employed women/girls who looked like well-fed barbie dolls with hair and nails for days. For a year or two I was so flattered that these young men were interested, I believed it had something to do with my good looks. Soon I came to realize that while I was no slouch, I could not compete with a 20 year old with nothing but time on her hands. I also realized that the young men were leaving the young women their age in droves for the cougars because they were looking for the mothers they never had.
Seems the hip hop generation from inner-city Detroit were, too often, parented by single teen mothers who all but left their sons to fend for themselves. These guys were attracted more to my maternal instincts than to my sensual allure. Didn’t really matter, about the young guys, since I have never been attracted to younger men. I always sensed that if there is going to be a ‘young and tender’ in a relationship, it should be the woman. In addition, my more serious relationships had been with men who created their life’s work after we got together and I was seriously done with that scene. I joined an online dating site with the explicit request for a retiree with a country home and preferably a boat.
With so much going on with three moves, finishing my degree, changing jobs, losing my mother and brother-in-law (and my best friend’s parents), and, let’s not forget, menopause, I can finally see middle age staring back at me every time I pass a mirror. I also see it on the faces of men my age when they meet me and begin to sum up the possibility of hooking up. They give me the once over, think, “not bad- but won’t look as good as Shaniqua will in ten years.”
So, I say all this to say, it Just Occurred to me that, I might enjoy middle age if there weren’t so many young women willing to spend time with men thirty or forty years their senior simply because there are no men in their age group who are not incarcerated, unemployed, playing video games, gang-banging and looking for me.