I am not supposed to admit this.
It will only lead to disapproving stares, however thinly veiled, at my local grocery or on the school sporting fields.
I enjoy an admiring male stare, the rev of an engine as it passes by, an appreciative sideways glance.
In my conservative town, an admission such as this as a divorced forty-hm-year-old woman can be dangerous.
Because, at a certain age, you are supposed to be beyond caring about all of this.
My father, in his eighties–a good family man who drove family sedans and station wagons for far too many decades–bought a car with a spoiler. I do not think he ever reached a speed where the spoiler truly came into play but the point is–he still cared. He still had some of that dashing Air Force airman in him. He was not ashamed to admit it.
In the same way, a woman who is truly honest cares. We care about aging gracefully. But that does not mean we give up the sighs of our youth. Or at least, it shouldn’t.
Let’s break it down.
First, I am a mother of two children.
Second, I am divorced.
Third, I am middle-aged.
In some book I have yet to find, it is written that I am supposed to be somewhat asexual. A Mother Teresa who keeps herself in shape.
I am neither of the first two and working on the third.
Now the caveats. Caveats that are painfully necessary because I will probably be judged for my remarks by a variety of people. I’m guessing my European and Australian readers will be more understanding. But I think I may get hell for this from my more puritanical American counterparts.
I am a mother. I will never put a man ahead of my boys as they grow up. I am only just beginning to date in earnest again and my kids will not meet most of my suitors. Ever. I’m dating. They’re not. A solid foundation is what they need, not a mom who ignores them at dinner to text with her latest flame. Or that latest flame ogling her from across the dinner table. Any man that meets my sons because he is dating me will have to be rock solid and really special.
I am divorced. Despite the fears of misinformed married gals who are sure that means I now want their husband, I do not now see all men as sex objects. In particular, I don’t see your husband as a sex object. I didn’t want him when I was married and I sure don’t want him now that I’m divorced.
I prefer a single man with years on him, life experience and the wisdom that comes with that, to a younger beefcake. That tells you something about where my head is; it’s not chasing tail.
I am middle-aged. I am choosing what that means. I have decided it does not mean I’ll carry the extra 15 pounds I did in the last years of my marriage. That it means I still have the right to get fit, look fit, be fit. That while miniskirts left my wardrobe decades ago, if I can rock an above-the-knee dress, I will. Sans apology. The difference being that hopefully my conversation is more interesting than the last time I rocked such a dress. At least, it better be. I think I’ve earned that much.
These admissions are prompted by one tiny incident. Sometimes that is all it takes.
As I walked my dog the other day, a throaty muscle car came up behind us. As the male driver passed me, he revved the engine. I saw his head turn and stare. I could not see his face, his age or his expression but the rev was intentional. I was getting a compliment. He made that much obvious. No smarmy catcall. Just a little friendly vroom vroom.
Normally, I would not give something like this a second thought. I’m not even a fan of muscle cars. This time, though, I had just finished a tough barre workout–one of many over the past six months. My arms and shoulders were bare; my leggings on. My body is far from perfect but I’m at least chiseling out some lean muscle. I’m beginning to remember a shape I’ve not had in many years. And suddenly, someone was taking note besides me.
Every woman knows that feeling. Whether you consider yourself a three, a five, a seven or a nine on the 10-point beauty scale—or possibly are wise and secure enough not to care about that scale—it is an affirmation of your hard work when the shape of a leg or the cut of an arm garners attention. Even when that hard work has mainly been for health or for your own eyes only.
This was one of several little tidbits of appreciation from the male species that had happened that week. I don’t know why. I think the sun was at the exact right angle, multiple constellations had aligned and the earth had most probably tilted on its axis. Perhaps Armageddon is coming. I don’t really care.
I had been reminded what it felt like to be noticed simply as a healthy, attractive woman.
Ah, yes. Some of you are nodding. Remember that feeling? Maybe you never lost it. If so, consider yourself blessed.
And the best part? The sweet young thing walking across the street and a block ahead of me? She turned around to see what the noise was about. The driver sped on past her, with nary a backward glance.
She looked flummoxed.
I tried not to look smug. Score one for Everywoman vs. the I-have-not-eaten-a-carb-in-months camp.
Those of you who read my blog regularly know I’m very spiritual. I talk more about being a bodhisattva than anything else. I have my priorities straight.
But this zen warrior was thankful for the reminder this week that she is sometimes seen for more than her usual roles. I may not be Sofia Vergara but I am becoming a leaner, healthier, stronger version of me. That is attractive on anyone.
So yes, I am coming clean. It made my afternoon, or at least my hour.
Many of my female brethren may not admit it, but a little innocent vroom vroom goes a long way.
33 Comments Add yours
I seriously felt you were in my head at one point! It’s the “not supposed to care” and my son coming first and foremost. The middle aged hit home too and in all honesty I laughed out loud because I came to that frightening realization recently -I am 44 in a southern town!
thank you for a needed perspective!
It’s nice to know we’re not alone, eh?:)
Times are changing then Kay. There was a time when wolf whistles and crude catcalls were commonplace and women either brazened them out, gave as good as they got, or they shrank a little and ignored them. Then it seemed to go the other way with it being accepted that men had no business treating women that way, but it became that you could hardly pass a compliment at all without being denounced as some sort of predator.
Maybe the world has grown up, the First World anyway.
Thank you for so eloquently saying what we all think.
Well, Kay, I’m not American, European, or Australian, and I loved this post. So deliciously honest. Vroom!
Vroom vroom is always welcome. Compliments are like nectar in times of emotional / middle age drought.
I commend you on your health gains and love what you said about your kids not being the one who is dating your dates. Keeping things simple and clear is likely the easiest for now.
I wish you continued health and growth. 😊
P.S. I’m from CT!!
I was just saying to my husband the other day “why bother with my appearance?” I was joking, because I do try to stay fit and look nice, but I am sad at age 47 that I no longer get those compliments or admiring eyes. Maybe that’s vain – but oh well!! I think it’s human nature to want to feel attractive – and anyone that says they don’t care, I’m not sure I believe them!!
I agree! I know very few of us that can handle that aspect of aging gracefully all the time:).
You go girl! 🙂
I loved your “I am a mother” part. Deeply moving,
My dear friend Jane ( http://strawberriesinthedesert.com/buy-the-book/ ) was in a wheelchair for most of her adult life and flirted with anyone who came to the front door, even when she was in her eighties.
Oh, Deb, I love that:). The confidence and sense of fun. We could all use that into our 80s! I will remember her next time I want to be a wallflower . . .
Oh, I’ve just seen her pic on the book and she is adorable:).
I think a reason you are gathering good karma is in part because you have your priorities straight. I suspect the book you are referring to is sort of out of print, being a carryover from when we were young(er). Today being a mother is not the end-all/be-all focus for women as it was last millennium. Divorce holds vastly less stigma than it did in the 19xx’s (though still causes pain to the victims) and with an increase in life expectancy the idea of “middle” skews towards the larger numbers.
Having a sense of self and direction in your life, of calm assurance will project more beauty and attractive attention from people using their brains rather than their glands for input.
I sincerely hope you have more afternoons (or at least hours) made. I raise my coffee mug to you!
I accept raised coffee mug and return it:), along with a sincere appreciation for the cleverness: “will project more beauty and attractive attention from people using their brains rather than their glands for input.” Bravo!
’tis true. Takes a few (several/many/VERY many) years for most to discover this truth (if ever, sadly). Believe you to be wise beyond your middlin’ years. I know I wish I’d learned it a lot earlier…
You deserve the Vroom Vroom for your hard physical work and the candlelighted dining room for your well-earned stimulating conversational skills, Kay. You are the whole package. Please enjoy the attention and the great and fortunate man who’s going to be the right one.
Thank you, Mark:). You are always such a gentleman.
You’re welcome, Kay.
When I was at the 40-ahem age like you, remember, I went through my divorce, and rediscoveries, and dating. I found my dear wife Karen, my fantastic daughter came through it well, and those parts of life became sweet. I naturally see you reaching out for, and grasping, that same sort of happiness.
Good on you Kay. If you can’t stand in your truth, where will you stand?
The only place left is out in the cold where the Puritans will be pointing their fingers at you from 🙂
I say if a little vroom, vroom can bring a smile to a lady’s heart and they jump up and down about it, but they say nothing about other problems in society, it shows a sad reflection of their priorities, and about where they are coming from. Mark
I have been ‘working’ on my look too and shed some kilos (pounds). The feeling is good as I am enjoying wearing clothes I have not felt comfortable wearing in years … letting go of the baggy tops … “Even when that hard work has mainly been for health or for your my own eyes only.”
Letting go of the baggy tops is of epic proportion, isn’t it? 🙂 Good for you! Chisel away . . .
Good. For. You!!!
Oh, darlin’. Do enjoy the vroom, vroom!
I, being recently widowed, am not “supposed” to feel as you do… and yet, Saturday night, when out with a bunch of girlfriends, dancing the night away, I cannot tell to which level (very high) I was thrilled to have a 30-something, firm, handsome man, not only accidently-on-purpose keep brushing past me, but finally letting me know he thought I was beautiful with a great smile. I cannot lie. This 51-year old was beyond pleased at finding out she was not invisible as she is “supposed” to be at her age…
Ah yes, the invisibility. That part is the toughest! And we are, sometimes. I was raised to value myself for more than just the outer wrapping but I think it’s only human as we get older to still want that wrapping to remain intact and pretty!
It is…but you know, the trick is to NOT go to places where the average age is 21! To them we are invisible!
Of course we want our wrapping to remain intact and pretty…that said, there are many out there who wnt real. And that, Baby, is us! 😉
I like you! I don’t need to elaborate, you get it I am sure.
You go, Girl! If anyone is judging, then shame on them. I am a middle aged married (for 25 years) woman, although those close to me know this hasn’t been easy. I struggle every single day with how much I care about appearances, etc. Some days I care way too much, others I absolutely couldn’t care less. This is something personal for every individual. But I think it’s fabulous that you were brave enough to admit that being noticed boosts the adrenalin a little if not the self-esteem. Men do it all the time… as the song goes. Kudos.
I don’t think you ever get to a point in life where a compliment in any form or at any age is something you shouldn’t admit. You just said what everyone else in your town might be thinking but doesn’t have the guts to admit. You have your priorities in order and you’re taking care of yourself in all ways that matter. You feel good about yourself which is also most important. Everything go you’re doing for yourself is being noticed and not just on a physical level. If anyone thinks you shod not feel good about the compliments, maybe their own priorities need to be examined. Good for you.
Thank you for the kind words. I think you’re right. It’s an unspoken taboo, but a useless one. We should all feel good about what we earn through hard work.
I say “Vroom, Vroom”!!! You’re too pretty and too young to “die” while you are still breathing. Do you!