Musings of a forty-something

Until recently, I was loath to confess I was a “forty-something.” I preferred that people make their own assumptions of how old I was based on how old I looked which, I’ve been told enough to believe, is probably a decade younger than I am. Perhaps this email is an example of that “go-with-the-flow” and “I don’t-care-what-people-think” attitude those who’ve gone before me promised was one of the benefits of entering this decade.

In many respects, my life is more similar to younger women in that I am unmarried with no children. This means I can take vacations whenever I want, spend my money how I please, sleep in on the weekends or stay out all night, date anyone I want or no one at all etc. and it’s no one’s decision but my own. But while my life might resemble a twenty-somethings on the outside, below are a few issues with which I never concerned myself back then, but do now Ad Nauseum:

The impending “change of life”

In my twenties and thirties, “menopause” never entered into conversation unless we were talking about our mothers. My mother was in her fifties when she went through it, and my older sister is a couple years shy of fifty and still gets her period. Since I generally have regular cycles myself and am still closer to my thirties than my fifties, menopause was one of the few things I didn’t fret over when I turned forty. Yet, women only a year or two older (and even younger) than me talk about “the change” as if it’s going to happen next month. They throw around the phrase “perimenopause” (another word I never heard until turning forty) around the way we said “happy hour” in our twenties. Now, if my cycle is a couple of days early or my PMS worse/better than the month before, I freak out, wondering if it’s perimenopause. These same fluctuations never bothered me before.

Fifty-year-old men

In my early-mid-twenties, I had a flirtation with a thirty-year-old man and remember thinking he was so old—way too old for me. And in my late twenties, when one of my friends dated a guy who was pushing forty, we thought she was crazy. I remember thinking “no way!” when “older men” sent me emails on dating sites. Even now, my first impulse when a man of fifty approaches me is to grimace and think, “He’s too old!” I’m struggling with the realization that fifty is not too old because I’m not as young as I used to be! Part of it is that I look younger than my age while most of the available single men I’ve met of fifty look fifty (or older). It makes me feel like I’m dating my dad. (None look as good as the cute guy on the Our Time commercial or Fitz on Scandal!) But another part of it is denial that I’m actually not in my twenties or thirties anymore. Being in my forties doesn’t mean I can’t date men in their thirties, but it probably means I should at least be open to meeting a man in his early fifties, too.

Health

I used to blow off small ailments on the assumption they would pass quickly. When I told my hair stylist I had to stop for a snack on my way to my appointment because I was experiencing hypoglycemia, he urged me to check it out with a doctor because as we get older, we can’t take minor things lightly anymore. I told him I’d been experiencing occasional episodes of hypoglycemia for years so it wasn’t age. “Still,” he said. ”We’re no spring chickens anymore!” (He’s a few years older than me.) I replied defensively, “I’m not old either!” But it did strike a nerve. Between my many friends, someone is almost always experiencing some sort of health ailment. When we’re out to dinner, sharing great food and wine, the conversation will often turn to health problems and I’ll think, “There is no way we’d be having this conversation ten years ago!”

Spinsterhood

I was inspired to write my fourth novel How Do You Know? as a result of my own feelings and fears about turning forty. I wanted to show it from the perspective of a single, never-been-married woman rather than the usual married, separated, or divorced standpoint. Most people loved the book, but several commented (rather passionately) that at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”), Maggie was way too old to be having such insecurities about her relationship and should be more mature and settled. They said they didn’t know anyone who would act that way at thirty-nine (“almost forty!”). Well, despite the fact that most of my friends found me very similar in personality to Stephanie from Just Friends With Benefits, the character of Maggie was closer to me in mindset than any other character I’ve ever written and I was about her age when I wrote the book. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally, but I did feel judged for not being more settled, for wanting to find my own happy ever after, and for choosing my happiness over settling with someone because it better fit societal norms. This kind of judgment is not something I experienced in my twenties or most of my thirties. I want to believe my five nieces and nephews think I’m “cool Aunt Meri” but I do fear they think of me as their spinster aunt even though I have a great social life, including relationships with men, and I don’t own a cat. I could absolutely be in a serious relationship if I wanted it badly enough (I get offers…), but at this point in my life, I hold my happiness above all other things and unless I’m more content with the guy I’m dating than I am without him, I’d rather keep enjoying the freedom. I do hope I meet someone who fits the above criteria and I haven’t given up hope of it happening, but in the meantime, I’m okay.

I’m sure I can come up with additional subject matter that clogs my brain space now that never even entered it ten to fifteen years ago, but I don’t want to depress anyone! Rest assured, some aspects of this decade are actually better. And while I often yearn for my thirties (my favorite decade so far), I actually look better now than I did in my twenties, and am a more interesting and strong person by far.

Maybe for next time, I’ll list things I used to think about in my twenties that no longer cross my mind at all. I’m sure there are plenty and I’m not so old or far removed that I can’t remember them :)

California Dreamin’

In case you’ve been under a rock, trapped beneath a dresser, or in a coma, those of us on the east coast are in the midst of Blizzard Jonah, Blizzard 2016, Snowzilla—whatever you want to call it—it’s snowing out there.

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My Saturday morning spin class was canceled, as were my lunch plans with a friend, and so I am in a Mother-Nature-imposed but not unwelcome hibernation right now. I finished watching the first episode of Shades of Blue and am turning off the television to write this blog as I haven’t posted one since the day Novelista Girl was released a couple of weeks ago.

This time last week, I was in California with some of my favorite author friends/soul sisters for the third annual Beach Babes weekend. The weather wasn’t great, but it didn’t matter. We go there for the comradery and break from real-life, not for the weather. (Although if I’m being honest, sitting on the back porch, walks along the beach, and jogs up the mountain do go better with a sunny, cool breeze than rain, wind, and fog.)

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That being said, I cherish this week away with my fellow beach babes: Eileen Goudge, Josie Brown, Francine LaSala, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Jen Tucker, and Julie Valerie so much. We all write different genres, have very distinct voices, and are at varying levels of experience in our careers and yet we all manage to learn from each other.  We are so very distinct and believe it is our diversity that makes us work so well as a group. I can’t imagine most random groups of seven women thrown together in a house for five days would get along as well as we do. Seriously, have you watched The Bachelor? Granted, we are not all competing for the same guy, but the beauty is we’re not competing at all. I wish for their success with the same ferocity I wish for my own, and I know the feeling is mutual. And, gosh, I think I might cry right now because I miss them so much. We are already counting down the days until next year when we will meet for the fourth annual Beach Babes weekend, and one of them already pointed out that because it’s Leap Year, we’ll have to wait an extra day—darn you, Julie Valerie for actually being good at math!!

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Besides benefiting my writing skills (and I’m positive that the input, honesty, and talent of these ladies is an asset), better ways to promote, and the ups and downs of securing the dream agent and the big New York City publishing deal versus small-press publishing or self-publishing, these are some of the things I learned in California

Making poached eggs is not as difficult as I thought.

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Great things are in my future as I long as I stop thinking so much.

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My friends are quick to jump to my rescue and stop me from acting impulsively when an outsider stabs me in the back.

 

Eileen was right: throwing fancy clothes in my suit case “just in case” was not necessary.

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One very small person can pee A LOT in the course of a day.

Sitting in the back seat of a mini-van is very conducive to car sickness.

Two cups of coffee is all it takes to hang with folks who insist on waking up at an obscenely early hour in the morning despite downing several bottles of wine the night before.

Seth Rogan was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his role in Steve Jobs.

“Ride Like The Wind” by Christopher Cross with nice background vocals by Michael McDonald is a great distraction from fearing death by insane turbulence.

And my favorite of all:

My friends love me just the way I am and I love them right back.

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Release days, free days, sale days: Oh My!

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Today is a big day. Huge. COLOSSAL. It’s the release day of my fifth novel, Novelista Girl. The standalone sequel to my fan favorite third novel, Blogger Girl. Readers first met sassy Kimberly Long in Blogger Girl, and now the feisty New Yorker is back in a sequel packed with quick wit, friendship, heartache, and […]

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Becky Monson celebrates chick lit as the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour comes to a close!

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To close out the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour, I’m so excited to have Becky Monson on my blog. Becky’s books always make me laugh and so I shouldn’t be surprised that her post below also elicited quite a few chuckles.  Don’t believe me? Read for yourself. The Importance of Chick Lit By Becky Monson Call […]

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I am pleased to welcome author Carol Maloney Scott to the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour. I love how she was inspired to rediscover her love of writing during a reunion with her girlfriends. Girl power!     In March 2009, I visited with a bunch of girlfriends from high school back in New York. […]

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Thank you, Laura Kilmartin, for taking over my blog today and telling us why you love chick lit. I agree wholeheartedly with your definition of chick lit, and I found your post as interesting and engaging to read as your delightful first novel, Next Year I’ll Be Perfect. I am anxiously awaiting book 2!!   […]

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Familiar and comfortable, yet foreign and new at the same time – why chick lit is Author Lucie Simone’s happy place. Welcome, Lucie, to the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour. I’m so happy to have you on my blog!   Why I Love Chick Lit By Lucie Simone Chick Lit is my happy place. With a demanding day job, […]

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Welcome author Kathryn Biel to the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour – I’m so glad to read that we’ve swayed another women’s fiction author to the “light side” and am eager to read her first chick lit offering!   Chick Lit Was Calling My Name!   Thank you, Meredith, for letting me crash your blog today […]

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happy birthday to me!

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I’m taking a break from the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour to wish myself a happy birthday. Yes, today is my birthday—the anniversary of another revolution around the sun. I took the day off from work today and am going to spend the afternoon being lazy which, in my case, means going for a run […]

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Why does author Stacey Wiedower adore chick lit? Find out here!

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I’m happy to welcome the lovely and talented Stacey Wiedower to the Celebration of Chick Lit Tour. In her post, Stacey digs deep to tell us why she adores chick lit. (And I appreciate the shout-out of my “chick lit with depth” novel, How Do You Know?)   Why Do I Adore Chick Lit? You know, in mulling […]

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