My thoughts on Book Club

I saw Book Club this weekend. As a writer and a voracious reader, a movie about a book club is immediately appealing to me. Throw in some of my favorite actresses, like Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, and no additional incentive is required. That being said, I do have my own issues with aging, especially the discrepancy between how an aging woman is treated versus a man. I worried about how the women in this movie would be betrayed, and if it would trigger my own fears about aging.

 So, what did I think about the movie?

In a nutshell, I loved almost every part of it. I smiled, I laughed out loud, I choked up, I applauded, I swooned. I’m a big fan of romantic comedies with happily-ever-after endings. The fact that the couples in this movie were at least twenty years older than me had no bearing on my feelings. Here’s why.

The friendship shared by the four women was supportive, hilarious, and honest, akin to Sex and the City. They teased each other endlessly, but they had each other’s backs. The personalities were somewhat clichéd (there was the “promiscuous” one (Fonda), the “prude,” (Bergen) and the idealist (Steenburgen). There were jabs about one of the male leads needing Viagra and one of the female characters having plastic surgery. None of this bothered me because the characters were developed beyond these stereotypes. And, the truth is, many men of a certain age do take the little blue pill and many women of a certain age (and even millennials) get plastic surgery! And while erectile function was an issue for one of the couples, the other romantic story lines developed like any other romance. I’m a fan of grand gestures in romantic comedies and this movie had them in spades, and it was wonderful.

 As I watched the film, it occurred to me that the women could have been any age and have almost the same conversations. In nearly every group of friends, there’s someone who is afraid of getting hurt, not happy with her body, holding a grudge against a family member etc. Women of all ages commiserate over bottles of wine and seek guidance on what to wear on a special occasion. I liked that these women were portrayed as vulnerable despite being old enough to qualify for Medicare. With each decade of my life, I become less obsessed with what others think of me, but at the heart of it, I’m still made of flesh and blood and can’t imagine a time when I won’t seek some sort of reassurance/validation/advice from friends, even over things some might consider frivolous or immature.

 The female characters were successful women. One was a Federal judge, another owned a hotel, and another was a well-known chef. Yet they still craved romance and attention from the opposite sex. What’s so wrong with that? I’m tired of watching television and movies where it’s the woman who loses interest in sex and not the man. Or the divorced man or widower gets right back in the dating scene, usually with a younger woman, and the divorced woman (or widow) focuses only on her career or her children. Why can’t she have both? I don’t think women lose their power because they want romantic love. I haven’t read many of the reviews, but I’m sure there are some who think the movie is anti-feminist because it focuses on women needing a man. I didn’t get that vibe at all. All four women had proven that they were completely capable of taking care of themselves. Admitting that they wanted sexual companionship and romantic love doesn’t change that.

 I had small issues with the film, for instance, I wished Keaton’s character had more of a spine a little earlier with respect to her children, but I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face and the warm and fuzzies in my belly.

Fun facts: One of Candace Bergen’s online dates played her love interest in the last season of Sex and the City. My friend also pointed out that Don Johnson, one of the male leads, is the real father of Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the book they’re reading.

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public service announcement: don’t call me Ma’am

I’m interrupting my regularly-scheduled editing session to write this blog post.

I’m attracted to men with good manners. I find it sexy. I always notice when a man, even a stranger, lets everyone on or off an elevator before exiting himself. I think it’s sweet when a date walks to the passenger side of the car to open the door for me. I like when a man opens a door for me in restaurants or simply directs me to walk through an entrance way before him. While I firmly believe in equal rights for women, I’m not a feminist to the point where I don’t believe in chivalry, and I make no apologies for appreciating being treated like the gentler sex sometimes. I also welcome good manners in general—people who say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” or any variation of these expressions; individuals who wait their turn, who are mindful of other people around them. Good manners is near the top of my “must-have” list for potential boyfriends.

Yes, I like good manners. What I don’t like is being called “ma’am.”

I’ve had countless discussions with other women, both face-to-face and via social media and this is what I’ve discovered: We hate the term “ma’am” —HATE IT! It makes us feel old and unattractive. As if the media and Hollywood don’t already give us a complex about aging, women in their thirties, forties, and fifties don’t need it from regular people serving us coffee, handing us deliveries, and running up our items at the grocery store. I’ve always been told I look much younger than my actual age, but over the last few months, I’ve been called “ma’am” so many times I’m afraid I went to sleep one night and woke up old and matronly. I’ve been tempted to shout, “Ma’am?? How old do you think I am??” (Confession: I have done this once or twice and immediately felt stupid, but it’s because “ma’am” is a horrible word and one most women abhor.) I’m no longer an ingénue, but I’m a far cry from an “older” woman, yet after I’m called “ma’am,” I confess to questioning whether the person I see in the mirror is the same woman others see when they look at me. I’ve second guessed my own female vitality, and I know I’m not alone, all because some misguided person thought calling me “ma’am” was the polite thing to do. It’s not.

I appreciate that many people are raised to refer to women as “ma’am” as a term of respect or to be polite, but unless the person doing the greeting is a child who thinks any adult over the age of twenty is old, or you are speaking to a woman who is clearly over the age of seventy, it’s MUCH kinder to use another word, for example, “miss.”

Thank you for listening. Now back to my regularly-scheduled evening of edits.

because I’m “middle aged”

I dreaded turning forty and the unofficial entrance into “middle age.” I think I started worrying about it around thirty-seven and remember going to bed on my thirty-ninth birthday vowing to take advantage of the next three hundred and sixty five days of my thirties. I’m not sure I really did. Honestly, there is only so much “taking advantage” one can do when they work a full-time job, have professional and personal responsibilities, and the days just go by so fast. I lived the year as best as I could. I enjoyed the good times, got through the bad ones, had fun, worked hard, traveled, paid my bills, blah, blah, blah. I handled my fortieth birthday well, but I will admit to anyone who asks that it was mainly because I was dating someone and hoped he would be “The One.”  My biggest fear was turning forty and being unattached romantically. Kind of shallow, I know. But it is what it is and I’m grateful for the timing of that relationship :).

It’s been a few years and I still struggle with aging often. A lot of it is because of how media makes women “of a certain age” feel irrelevant. I don’t want to feel that way, but I’m easily swayed, at least if I’m already feeling down about something. At the same time, I’m beginning to accept the whole “middle age” thing. I’m certainly at the beginning of it so that’s good, right? And, really, all it means to be “middle aged” is to not be “young” and not be “old.”

I’m even able to embrace some aspects of “middle age.” Sure, I have to go to more doctors for prevention than I used to, cover my greys more often than I did a decade ago, if I didn’t exercise regularly, it’s quite possible my slowing metabolism would not bode well for my stomach and thighs, and there is a group of men out there who might not consider me good on paper merely because of the year I was born (even men born five years earlier than me). But I’m not yet at the age where I need to get a colonoscopy (cheers!), I’m not even close to being fully grey, I don’t have many wrinkles yet, my shape is more or less the same as it was in my thirties, and any man who will only date younger women or who would dismiss me based on being over 40 is not a man I would want anyway.

I also see the world in a different way than I did in my twenties and thirties.

Because I’m “middle aged” and not “young,”  I’m able to appreciate how I look now knowing I’m going to keep changing. Even ten years ago, I’d probably take it for granted.

I’m also able to understand that if a man wouldn’t “swipe right” solely based on my age, it’s about his ego and I don’t let it shatter my own. I’m not so sure I’d have been so strong in this conviction even a few years ago.

Because I’m “middle aged” instead of “young,”  I’ve been around long enough to make mistakes, to recognize that they were mistakes, and to acknowledge that they were my fault. Although looking back often makes me want to turn back time and get a do-over (it really does), it also helps me from making the same mistakes in the future. I hope I get the opportunity to use these lessons while I’m still middle aged and not old.

Because I’m “middle aged” and not “young,” I’ve seen a lot of people get sick and die. I hate this fact of getting older, but it also keeps me from taking the people in this world I love for granted.

Rather than look back and lament the ending of my “youth,” why not appreciate all the things I can still do now that I might not be able to do when I’m “old?” For example, today I run upwards of twenty miles a week. Who knows if I’ll be able to do this in a couple of decades?  I hold down a full-time job and just signed a seven-book publishing deal because my brain is intact and I’m healthy. This can change at any minute and I’m “middle” enough to know that. Today, I can go out with my girlfriends and still get hit on by men (“boys”)  in their twenties. I doubt this will happen when I’m in my seventies. God willing, I still have plenty of life in me and opportunities coming my way to make my life a great one.

A big pet peeve of mine of late is when people in my age group refer to themselves (and me by association) as “old.” We’re not old. We’re in the middle! And it’s a pretty great place to be. Let’s enjoy it before we’re old!

What are you afraid of?

 

THE ENEMY IS FEAR. WE THINK IT'S HATE; BUT, IT IS FEAR.GHANDI

I was pretty fearless when I was younger. I went on all of the roller coasters, even the ones that went upside down! I would try almost any food and, according to my mother, liked just about everything. I auditioned for (and landed) roles in school and camp plays. I collected caterpillars and let them crawl up my arm. I went to summer camp not knowing a soul and came out with great friends. At nine years old, I had a crush on a boy in camp and so did another girl in my group. Despite rumors that the boy liked my campmate, I expressed my interest and it turned out the boy liked me back! My first boyfriend 🙂 Basically, I was up for any challenge. There were a few exceptions. I went through a weird stage where I adopted other people’s fears as my own, and I spent a couple of months terrified of bridges. I stole the fear from Jennifer Davidson during our sixth grade trip to Washington D.C. and my mom still brings it up on occasion. But for the most part, fear wasn’t really part of my vocabulary.

As I hit my teens, I was not quite so courageous. I stopped going on the roller coasters for a few years, became too self-conscious to follow my passion for acting, and was too afraid of what other people might think of me to express my true feelings or stand up for myself.

I’ve never recovered my bravery toward performing in public aside from Karaoke in groups, but I’m back to going on the “scary” rides (except for the REALLY frightening ones), learning to embrace speaking in public (kind of a necessity as an author), and I definitely do not cower away from defending myself when necessary. I care what some people think of me, but only the people whose opinions I actually respect. In short, I’m no longer afraid to be myself.

But I’m still afraid of a lot of things. For example:

My mother dying – She’s healthy, knock wood, and not exactly ancient, but whenever I think about it, I start to cry. I even had a panic attack in the shower the other morning. (I know you’re reading this, Mommy, and I’m sorry I brought it up. I love you and wish you the happiest of birthdays!!)

My sister dying – Apologies for the morbid trend here. I don’t worry about this on a regular basis at all, but when I do, it’s a doozy. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Driving – I had my driver’s license back in the day—only took me three tests—but I let it expire by accident. I was never comfortable behind the wheel and haven’t done it in close to twenty years. I probably should take lessons again, but I don’t want to. I have chronic nightmares about being behind the wheel and losing control.

Living without Alan – I’m panic-stricken over being forced to go my entire life without ever seeing, speaking to, or hugging my best friend/boss/mentor/cheerleader/shrink outside of my dreams. I miss him so much, it physically aches, so I can still only think short term—today, tomorrow, or the next day.

Never meeting “The One” – I’ve always assumed when the timing was (finally) right, I’d meet “The One” for the long haul at last—the man I want to spend the rest of my life with who feels the same way about me—but between the wrong guys and the unavailable ones, it’s like searching for cellphone service in 1979.

Meeting “The One” – As much as I want to commit fully to someone, I’m terrified I’ll feel smothered or find it difficult to balance the freedom and lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed with my new coupled life. I hope giving up some independence will be worth it for the right person.

Losing my ability to write – Whenever I’m going through a tough time, writing makes me feel better. It’s really the one thing I can do that is guaranteed to wash away stress from my “real life.” I don’t know what I would do if something happened that prevented me from writing. What if I went blind or suffered from permanent writer’s block, or some other brain malfunction?

Cancer – Getting it, my family getting, my friends getting it.

Getting old – I’d much prefer aging to the alternative, but I dread the aging process—wrinkly skin, sagging neck, losing muscle tone despite working out five-six times a week, inability to stand up straight, people treating me like I’m a non-entity or a sweet old lady, losing my faculties. My grandmother told me after the age of twenty, life moves really fast and she was so right. Although every Monday, I wish Friday will come quickly, I don’t want life to pass me by!

Becoming invisible to the opposite sex – I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoy attention from men. I like being flirted with and checked out. I don’t know if I will ever get to a point where I don’t care what I look like or whether others find me attractive and so the aging process (see above) scares me.

Dying – I don’t want to! Maybe if I knew what happened after we left the physical world, I wouldn’t be so afraid. Experiences I’ve had in the last year have convinced me that there is something else, but I don’t know what it is and hope not to find out for a long, long time.

Those are the major things on my list. What are you most afraid of?

 

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 🙂

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-feb-2016

Youth is wasted on the young

I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

no gray hairs to speak of!

no gray hairs to speak of!

check out my skinny legs :)

check out my skinny legs 🙂

not a care in the world

not a care in the world

plump, young skin...

plump, young skin…

speaking up for late bloomers

When I get a bad review of one of my novels, I’m obviously disappointed, but I have never, nor will I ever attack the reviewer. People are entitled to their own opinions and I long ago accepted that not everyone will like my books and, in fact, some people might hate them.  I am not under some false belief that every person who writes me a bad review is a troll. Critics come with the territory of putting your art out there publicly.

Part of my motivation for writing How Do You Know? was to argue the misconception that there is an age by which women “grow up” or figure themselves out. And while the story was one hundred percent fictional, I have experienced many of the same doubts as my character Maggie, especially as I approached forty, and I know I am not alone in this. So when I receive a negative review based solely on the fact that my character is “too old” to be having her doubts – doubts acceptable to woman at a younger age, I’m offended personally—not as the author but as a woman and a late bloomer.

For people who are so simpleminded to attach a deadline to emotional growth, I say lucky for you! How fortunate to have experienced such a healthy, functional upbringing that you can’t possibly compute the reality of the many people who weren’t so lucky. I also say that taking the time to ask questions and make less popular choices is not self-absorbed—it’s brave.

Finally, I suggest you get out more. You’d be surprised how many amazing people you could meet if you took down your judgmental walls. And how much you’d learn—even after 40.

Maggie Piper dishes her thoughts on tv, smug marrieds, and turning the big 4.0.

For my blog post this week, I thought I’d introduce you all to Maggie Piper, the heroine of my latest light women’s fiction release, How Do You Know? I’ve asked Maggie a series of questions and she was kind enough to answer them honestly, even some of the more personal ones.

By way of background, Maggie is a thirty-nine-year-old marketing manager who lives and works in New York City. She’s an only child of a broken home, but considers her first cousin, Cheryl, more of an older sister since they grew up in the same house and even shared a room. Maggie’s love life is, well, complicated as you can see from the book blurb:

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.  

Appearance-wise, Maggie is 5’5” and doesn’t have much in the way of curves. Her hair is strawberry blonde and she has blue eyes and an abundance of freckles. She looks closer to thirty than forty, although it doesn’t make her feel much better about the impending 4.0. I’ve always pictured Maggie looking like the actress, Sarah Jane Morris.

Maggie Piper

Maggie Piper

Without further ado, let us begin the interview:

Me: Thanks for joining me today, Maggie! Let’s jump right in. What is it about turning forty that scares you so much?

Maggie: Wow! You don’t waste much time, do you? Haha. Honestly, I just thought I’d be somewhere else in my life by forty and fear that my opportunities to get there are dwindling away. At the same time, there isn’t much I would do differently.

Me: By ‘somewhere else’ can I assume you mean married with children?

Maggie: Yes. You don’t really hear about too many forty-year-old women who’ve never been married and the media clogs my vision with images of older men with younger women. I fear that I’m approaching an age where I won’t be appealing to the opposite sex. It makes me antsy and scared of the future.

Me: But you have a boyfriend, right?

Maggie: Had one. We broke up recently. I love Doug, but I wasn’t sure it was right. I wanted time to figure it out, but he didn’t want to give it to me.

Me: What about the people who say it is selfish or immature of you to not have your shit together by now?

Maggie: I say those people haven’t walked a mile in my shoes. There are people who think I’m putting too much emphasis on my love life and should just relax and let things happen. But the people who say that are usually the ones who have never struggled in that department. Navigating the dating world is not easy for most of us. I’m guessing the naysayers have never come so close only to have the rug pulled out from under them. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, hurt someone they cared for deeply because they knew it wasn’t right. It’s like that Match.com commercial with the woman who tells her friend that if she wasn’t married, she’d totally go on Match. She can only say that because she is married.

Me: Bridget Jones referred to them as “smug marrieds.” Do you agree?

Maggie. *laughs* Some of them, yes. But not all. Of my three closest friends, one is happily married, one is recently divorced, and another hasn’t had a relationship in close to a decade. Yet, none of them judge me for feeling the way I do.  These are people who might not understand where I am coming from based on their own experiences, but they are able to look beyond their own lives and appreciate that not everyone figures things out at the same pace.

Me: Onto a less serious question, is it safe to say you have an addiction to television?

Maggie: Ha! Yes, I do. I’ve been binge-watching television since way before Netflix was born.

Me: What are your favorite shows?

Maggie: I’m a sucker for the legal-suspense type shows, like The Following, Criminal Minds, and Law and Order: SVU. But I also enjoy the sharp wit of shows like Grimm, Veronica Mars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Castle has it all.

Me: What are you looking for in a romantic partner?

Maggie: And we’re back to this line of questioning, huh? I’m not sure. I think that’s my problem. I wanted the break from Doug to figure that out. I don’t want to hurt anyone in the process, but I want to be happy.  As much as I love male companionship (and sex), I want to commit for the right reasons; not simply so I can tick off “married” on questionnaires. But how do you know when you’ve found what you’re looking for? How do you know when it’s right?

Me: I wish I knew, Maggie, as I ask myself that same question often. I hope you find the answer.  Is there anything else you’d like to say to those who read How Do You Know?

Maggie: I would just hope that after people read my story, they pause before making assumptions about where someone should be in life based on the year they were born. Not everyone has the opportunity or even desire to take the more traditional path and some folks have a longer learning curve. Don’t invalidate someone’s insecurities/doubts just because you did not experience them yourself. With each birthday hopefully comes more wisdom, but “growing up” is a life-long process.

farewell to 2014

This time last year, I was really looking forward to putting 2013 behind me. In 2013, I broke up with my boyfriend, my sister’s beautiful dog Gypsy passed away, and my boss of seventeen years and best friend was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Leukemia. So, despite the fact that my third novel and fan favorite Blogger Girl was released to outstanding reviews, and my debut Just Friends with Benefits was re-released by my current publisher, Booktrope, to surprisingly best-seller status, the year was pretty sucky all in all.

2014 started out much better. I began the year with a trip to California with several other authors where we talked, laughed, and drank lots of wine with the beach right outside our door. I met up with a guy I had dated several years ago and had such a wonderful time, I was certain we’d get a second chance. Best of all, my boss found a 100% match for a bone marrow transplant. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, the trip to California only lasted a few days and I returned to New York City and the Polar Vortex with a cold that lasted about four months. Despite the connection I was certain was mutual while out with the guy from my past, he kept putting off a second date until I had to assume he didn’t share my feelings. Worst of all, by far, my boss/best friend lost his battle with cancer, passed away in July, and broke my heart into a million pieces.

2014 wasn’t all bad. My publisher released an ebook collection with my three first novels on Valentine’s Day that made the Kindle Top 100; Blogger Girl and A State of Jane were re-released by Amazon Encore pursuant to an exciting licensing agreement with Booktrope; my fourth novel, How Do You Know?, was published in December, Just Friends with Benefits was released as part of a romance anthology called Blended for Love; and I am already halfway through the first draft of my fifth book, Novel Girl.

More important than “book” stuff, my friends and family really stepped up after my boss died and showed me how much they loved me. Their patience, understanding, and unwillingness to let me feel alone showed me how truly blessed I am and I will be forever grateful even while I’m still dealing with my grief on a daily basis.

I’m no mathematician, but I know that with each passing year, I will get a year older which, as those who know me are well aware, doesn’t thrill me. That being said, I am truly ready to put 2014 behind me. Although I have goals for 2015—publication of Novel Girl, possible solo trip out of the country, potential running of New York City marathon, refurnishing of my apartment—I am not making any formal resolutions. All I really want is to be happy.

Or perhaps the resolution is to figure out what it is that makes me happy and go after it.

Thanks to all of you for keeping up with my blog this past year. I hope I have entertained you with my life and book updates. Happy New Year to you all and see you next year!

When age isn’t just a number

It’s no secret I believe there are too many stereotypes associated with age. For the most part, I deplore hearing/reading about how people are supposed to look, feel, dress, behave etc. simply based on the year they were born. I organized an entire blog series associated with the phrase, “Age is Just a Number” and one of the reasons I wrote my newly released light women’s fiction novel How Do You Know? was to redefine how some folks perceive women in their late thirties, early forties.

That being said, from personal experience, I cannot deny some things have changed for me over the past few years and the best explanation for these involuntary alterations in my life is that I’ve gotten older. I wouldn’t necessarily describe most of these changes in terms of being “good” or “bad” but yeah, things have changed. For instance:

I can’t drink more than a few alcoholic beverages without losing some, if not all, functionality the next day. This doesn’t bother me all that much because I don’t enjoy being “drunk” as much as I used to and am happy with a nice, pleasant buzz. I have too much to do to risk losing an entire weekend day sleeping off a hangover. While feeling tipsy feels good, crossing over to “drunk” feels icky. And a Sunday Funday isn’t as fun for me anymore if I know I will suffer for it on Monday. Knowing what will happen if I drink too much helps me make wiser decisions, not necessarily in the moment, but when planning my activities. In all honesty, I do over-indulge from time to time anyway because I sometimes lack the self-control to stop after the buzzed state. Case in point: This past Friday night, I drank way more glasses of wine than I needed to and I paid for it on Saturday when I was a zombie and rendered incapable of being productive. My excuse was that I was out celebrating the release of How Do You Know? but I don’t always have an excuse and I do it anyway. But I turned down an invitation to watch football at a bar with friends this afternoon to spend the day writing, something I’m positive I wouldn’t have done even a couple of years ago. Some people might lament this change in preference and say, “I’m getting old” but because I truly had no desire to drink today and looked forward to a day of writing, you won’t hear any complaints from me. It is what it is.

Whereas I used to have no problem sleeping in—sometimes until close to eleven—now I have trouble sleeping later than 9:30am even after a late night. Some people still consider 9:30 late, but it’s pretty early for me relative to my sleeping habits of younger years. This doesn’t bother me either because starting my day earlier leaves me with more time to get things done.

While I’ve always known how deadly cancer is in an abstract sort of way, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen and experienced first-hand how devastating, far-reaching, and indiscriminate the disease is. These days, I can’t even hear the word without getting sad and afraid. A diagnosis of cancer by someone of my young age is not the “norm” but I’ve seen it happen enough to know it’s not that rare either and it freaks me out to the point that every doctor’s appointment—even the routine check-ups—cause me anxiety. While I’ve always worried about my mother’s health, now I find myself more aware of the mortality of younger people, like my sisters and friends. (It’s worth noting that my best friend lost his battle with cancer earlier this year and this tragic event, and not my age, could also be the cause of my anxiety.) It’s not just cancer and other diseases, but with age, I’ve become more aware of the simple randomness of life and knowing that things can change on a dime.

When I watch television shows, I no longer crush on the young son. It’s all about the dad or “adult” male character. I have a feeling if I watched an old episode of Growing Pains, Kirk Cameron would no longer do it for me. (Although neither would Alan Thicke). (Exception: I’d still lust after Jordan Catalano in My So Called Life. )

I can’t be as brutal on my body without suffering consequences. I can still keep up with the twenty-somethings on the track and in spin class, but I find myself with Achilles Tendinitis and other aches and pains afterward if I’m not careful. Whereas I used to take my limbs, joints, etc. for granted, I don’t have that liberty anymore. Sometimes I lift heavy boxes at work and forget that I’m not eighteen anymore. Just because I can do these things, doesn’t mean I don’t need to be more careful.

I have no desire to stay out really late. I love to go out to dinner and have drinks with friends or go on dates, but I’m perfectly happy to get home by midnight. I’d rather get up early (9:30…) and get things done than get home past 3am and sleep the day away. Contrast this with my younger days when I prided myself with closing down the bar.

I have more patience. When I find myself in a long line, I’m less likely to tap my feet in annoyance or mumble expletives. When I break items or have trouble putting them together, whereas I used to cry and throw tantrums, after an initial expression of frustration: “Shit!” “Motherfucker” “For the love of God!” I’m better able now to take a deep breath and calmly form a game plan.

Finally, I have more appreciation for the journey of each day and the importance of making myself happy, living in the present, and not worrying so much about tomorrow. Every day counts, whereas in my youth, I thought I’d live forever. I still need to work on this, but it gives me something to look forward to as I get older!

So, yes, age sometimes really is more than a number and things do change as the years go by. As my late and great best friend Alan said to me only a couple of months before he died when I complained about getting old, “None of us get younger, but we don’t have to succumb to it. All we can do is deal with it.”