I come from a family of news junkies. I remember my mother’s father sitting in our living room devouring the daily papers. And my father’s mother lived long enough to become addicted to CNN and the 24-hour news cycle. She was a 24-hour news devotee debating local and global politics with anyone who enjoyed a lively discussion.
I became a news junkie too. Mostly, I love tragedies and legal procedure. Tragedies provided me an outlet for all of the sadness depression dumped on me. Legal procedure appealed to the other parts of my brain, eventually leading me to law school and then litigation.
A friend of mine – a fellow writer – has been gently nudging me to write about ‘women of a certain age’ for some time. And I want to, I do. The problem I have is that age is generally not a category I seem to think of when I think of life’s experiences.
That’s not to say that I NEVER think about age. I do.
I feel like a dinosaur when I go to our monthly writers’ dinners and see so many young writers at the beginning of their careers, their love lives and their campaigns of deliberate mistake-making. When I see these young people, I definitely know that I am ancient and old.
But I don’t really care because I don’t want to go back to my twenties or thirties. I might make a lot of jokes about being the geriatric at the table, but I don’t pine for those decades of my life even though I’m quite nostalgic about them and find myself wallowing in memories of those times way too often.
And of course I feel ancient around my very hyper – I mean energetic – youngest nieces, my curious and always-inspired college-aged niece, and my skateboarding teen boy neighbors.
But again, I don’t care about feeling ancient. If anything, I feel lucky since I’m at a point in life where I get to go back to my sofa at the end of the day and chill out, relaxing while the young people are busy running around finding themselves, feeling angst, feeling conflict, and rebelling against the restrictions imposed by others.
I must say that I genuinely love being an adult. I love being able to make choices every day about what my adult life will look like. Being an adult is really much cooler than I ever imagined.
But at the tender age of 52, I generally don’t go about my business feeling old or invisible or anything less than what I genuinely feel at any particular time. To be honest, my life has been largely defined by three things: feeling good, feeling fine and not feeling good.
Now, in my 50’s, with the right job (for me), the right medications (for me), the right diet (for me), and the right lifestyle (for me), I almost always feel either good or fine. I don’t often feel not good. And, when I do feel not good, it doesn’t overwhelm me the way it used to.
When I feel not good, I get through it. I don’t worry obsessively that feeling not good might last forever. History shows that feeling not good doesn’t last forever. History also shows that feeling not good lasts a shorter amount of time if I don’t add a layer of worried obsessive anxiety.
So I usually have days when I feel good or fine. Indeed there are some greats in the mix, but the greats are usually parts of days, not entire days.
It’s not because I don’t have great days. I do.
But my tendency is to not view days as great because I’m a compartmentalizer from way back. I never measure time in terms of an entire day. I break each day into eighths, sixteenths, thirty seconds and sixty fourths.
But not to worry.
I generally tend to have a few guaranteed greats per day. That’s probably because I write and draw every day. And I allow a very cute dog and a highly mischievous cat to live in my house. I consider these to be my four children. My four adorable children are writing, drawing, my dog and my cat. At any given time, one of my four children is being silly. Or naughty in a funny way. Or ironic. And all of those are great for me.
Writing about feeling good and feeling not good comes easy to me. Very easy.
But pondering – or writing about – the topic of ‘women of a certain age’ doesn’t come naturally for me.
Of course I could always talk about my own very specific personal issues with age. Because it’s SO TOTALLY FUN talking about the joys and constant surprises of peri-menopause.
But I consider peri-menopause just another phase that I can ignore to the greatest extent possible since everyone agrees it’s temporary. I’m not going to invest much time or energy into something temporary…even if temporary feels like forever sometimes.
So I’m left with just one thing – and that’s: ‘What defines me as a woman if it’s not my age?’
For lack of a better word, all I can come up with is sexy. To me, in a very personal way, as a woman person, my life comes down to feeling sexy or not sexy.
It’s probably because I grew up with a sexy mother.
Despite the problems, challenges, and issues our family had to deal with, my mother was always sexy. Even when I hated her and thought she was the worst mother on the face of the earth, she was still sexy.
It was infuriating at times.
My mother was sexy and she knew it. She knew it, she felt it, and we felt it.
And I learned to associate most of the things I value with sexy.
My mother was smart and decisive and confident. She was hard working. She would never ever consider doing something or not doing something because of her mood. She was reliable, consistent and responsible.
And she always put her children first, even if she wasn’t always pleasant or selfless about it in tone.
To me, that was all incredibly sexy.
On top of that, my mother looked good every single day.
Every day, my mother fixed her hair, put on enough makeup to look like she gave a crap, and wore clothes she enjoyed wearing. Every day, my mother looked like she wasn’t just phoning in her performance as a mother, a wife and a woman.
I don’t wear makeup everyday because I like to give my skin a break when I can. But I love makeup. I really love makeup. Makeup quickly transforms me into an ‘awake and ready to go’ version of me.
Even though I don’t get dressed up everyday, I wear something I love every day. I’ll spare you the nauseating details, but I never wear something that means nothing to me. I always wear articles of clothing that feel really good and that I feel really good in.
It’s a habit.
And it’s a helpful habit. For me.
And generally, I feel sexy.
At the age of 52, I don’t feel more sexy than ever or less sexy than ever or any particular variation on sexy. I just feel sexy. Like I’ve always felt sexy.
And I don’t necessarily mean sexy in terms of sex. Although I’m a fan of sex-related sexy.
I mean sexy in terms of inspired and passionate and turned on by the day. To me, sexy is strong and deliberate. Focused and determined. Earnest and honest and hard working. Capable and confident. To me, that’s what sexy is.
I’m sure everyone has a different definition of sexy. And I’m sure sexy isn’t a necessary element of life for a lot of people. Or that other people call my idea of ‘sexy’ by another name.
But when I think about my life as a woman, for now at least, age isn’t a defining issue.
I’ll let you know if that changes, but I hope it doesn’t.
I sincerely hope that when I’m in my 80’s, I’m still a sexy babe, making the men and women who are already drooling drool just a little bit more.