Oops, wrong hat! When the Magic goes wrong.

bullwinkleThere has been some less than sunny news about the health of middle-aged women.  One recent report finds that their stress often manifests physically, as aches, pains, migraines, and gastrointenstinal problems.  One of the authors opines that the huge changes in our generation, which sent most women into the workplace, also brought them new forms of stress. Retirement–living at home after decades at work–is a huge dislocation; women of previous generations, who spent their lives at home, did not experience it.

Another study reports that depression may boost the risk of stroke in middle-aged women, and yet another says that there has been a dramatic rise in the suicide rate among the middle-aged. Since women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, these ills falls  disproportionately on them.

There is no magic if there is no risk.  The good news is that women who seek help are now more likely to find it, because the medical/psychological professions recognize the risks as real (and not just some old chicks sounding off because they’ve got nothing better to do).houdini_magic_upsidedown

The girl who has already done it all

meangirlsI read an article that recommends ways over-50s can ease back into the romance game. The jist is that if you’re nervous because you have not been on a date in a long time, it’s easier to go on a group date or participate in group activities than face off mano-a-mano across a dinner table.

An activity based on a common interest is a good idea.  It gives you something to talk about other than the often unpleasant life events that culminated in you looking for new love.  However, I take exception to the idea of the group. It suggests that single middle-aged people are somehow like high-schoolers, who join packs for safety and to spare themselves from having to find out directly if someone “likes” them.

If this were a movie, you’re not the shy new girl in school who is dying to be accepted by the reigning clique. You’re the girl who has already done it all. You can do exactly what you want: play around, sift through the candidates for a new partner, or neither, without caring about your reputation or fearing that if a romance doesn’t work out you’ll die. These kids are all new and will take some time to learn. But you will find what you want; more important, you know what you don’t want.  

I occasionally have a dream that puts me back in high school. Some grandiose official tells me I will not graduate until I do something I don’t want to do–write a paper, take an exam I don’t know anything about, I’m not sure.  The dream revives dread I (and many others) felt during those awful years.  But I have learned to extricate myself from the dream by telling myself: Wait a second, you graduated from college, so this can’t be real…  It’s the one bad dream I can escape by force of will.

It is very much like the nightmare that some have anticipating new midlife romance. Remind yourself: You’ve been through this and much much more. Then you wake up and resume your life, with fewer cares and greater skills than you ever imagined when you were young. 

More from the OK Cupid files

writing1More answers on the OK Cupid site, all by mid-lifers.

Q: Assume you have a homosexual friend who is the same gender as you. Would it bother you if they hugged you?
A: No
Unless he lifted my wallet while he was doing it.

Q: Do you believe that dreams can be messages from a “higher level”?
A: No
Mine are usually messages from a lower level.

Q: You’re dating someone new. You discover that they have a room-mate the same sex as you. This:
A: Doesn’t faze you one bit
It increases the probability of finding beer and a wide-screen TV there.

Q: Do you like the taste of blood?
A: Yes
If it’s of an enemy chieftain I slayed in battle, and now, to gain his powers, must eat.

Q: Do wild places such as mountains, rivers and forests call out to you?
A: No.
Well, the nymphs that live in them do.

Q: Do you believe that money can buy happiness?
A: No.
But it can buy lots of good shit, which happiness can’t.

Q: Do you like being in a car with someone else who’s driving extremely fast?
A: Yes
With Mario Andretti, sure. With Ethel Goldenfarb maybe not.

Q: If you found out your partner was cheating on you, would you cheat on them in revenge?
A: No, I’d confront them first.
I would short-sheet her bed and tie all her shoelaces together.

Q: You are sleeping with your significant other and it is very cold in the room, what do you do?
A: Nothing, I like it cold.
Better still: “Hey, get out there and chop some wood!”

Q: Love conquers all.
A: False.
Ray guns conquer all; but love is good too.

Q: How would you react if your lover called you by the name of their ex?
A: I’d pretend I didn’t hear.
I’d quickly ask her for the money she owed him.

Q: Is it possible for your partner to be too ambitious?
A: Yes.
If it’s possible for Caesar, it’s possible for my partner.

Q: Do you have a problem with people who wear fur clothing?
A: No.
It’s more of a problem if they’re wearing fur and it’s NOT clothing.

“Words of love, so soft and tender, won’t win a girl’s heart anymore.”

How do single middle-aged people find partners?  By midlife most of us have settled into jobs and social circles, and we don’t see much turnover.  Some social advisers say we would find like-minded candidates if we joined charities such as Habitat For Humanity. Whereupon we wonder what planet social advisers come from–and wouldn’t they be better off pounding in sheet-rock with Jimmy Carter.

Tens of millions of people of all age–including more and more mid-lifers–rely on dating sites. Despite the drawbacks, diligent, relentless, and not-easily-demoralized users often find worthy others. (Every woman who contributed stories to The Magic of Middle-Aged Women I met online.)

In the last few years, a new dating site has risen in popularity: OK Cupid. Its unique feature is its algorithm: there are thousands of (user-generated) questions, ranging from the usual (are you looking to get married in the next three years; what do you like to do on a first date), to the less usual (do you like to have your hair pulled; would you film yourself having sex), to many that are not at all love/sex related (should people be able to carry concealed weapons; would you watch a meteor shower at 2 AM; is Jesus Christ your lord and master).  The site does not pretend to fashion from your answers your “personality type.”  It simply shows, numerically, how similar you are to others, based on your responses. The site is also unusual in that it allows for the pursuit of all romantic ambitions, from a chaste long-distance relationship to a closer one bound by a bullwhip.

Each question offers multiple answers, and leaves a place for comments. This is where the magic happens. I have accumulated what I think are some of the more noteworthy comments, all written by the middle-aged:

Q: Would you enjoy going fishing with your partner?
But if we can be honest, worms usually work better.

Q: Do you know the first name of every person you’ve ever made out with?
It’s “Honey-Chitlin’.”

Q: Are carbohydrates something you think about?
Unless I’m really attracted to them.

Q: Would it bother you if your partner kept pictures of previous partner(s)?
If she kept limbs or scalps I would put my foot down. 

Q: How long do you believe people need to be in a relationship before before
getting married?
Less than 6 months/no requirement.
One trimester.

Q: Would you shave something you usually don’t because your boyfriend/girlfriend asked you to?
Not if it was on my body!

Q: Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?
Usually no one knows what that reason really is, but there is a reason.

Q: Do overweight people annoy you?
Unless they sit on me.



“Wet, she’s a star. Dry, she ain’t.”

EstherWilliamsBWDangerousWhenWet-778x10241-455x600Though this is a remark that could be made about millions, Fannie Brice directed it at Esther Williams (while no doubt thinking that she would pledge her life, her fortune, and her sacred honor to look like Esther Williams in any state of lubrication).

There’s no message here, just an appreciation of Ms Williams, who died last week at 91. Though my family was big on musicals, I was not, and I was a lamb at the slaughter when I walked into the living room one day to see the image below on the TV. It was a precursor to the blow to the soul Jacqueline Bisset delivered in Day For Night.

Obit Esther Williams

After winning the American championships in freestyle swimming, Ms Williams made some spectacular–and spectacularly silly–movies. Not at all a Hollywood type, she married badly; her husbands took her from the public eye, and one took her from her money. But she turned her life around in middle age, making a successful business of her own brand of swim wear, swimming pools, etc.

She was known for her “frankness and self-deprecating humor.” About women who were “fighting a thing called gravity” she said it was “crazy to have a bra made out of a piece of cotton that could double as a napkin on the table. And the thongs! God, we’ve spent our lives trying to keep our underwear out of that spot, and all of a sudden they want to put a fish line there?”

Toward the end of her life she regained some celebrity and made the very interesting remark: “When you’re out of sight for as long as I was, there’s a funny feeling of betrayal that comes over people when they see you again.”

RIP Esther Williams. I’m not sure what you’re doing on my blog, but I’m glad you’re here.

Age 67:

esther-williams at 67

Gay marriage: Menopause and impotence to the rescue!

elena-kagan-0035d329b819b0edIn March, the Supreme Court heard arguments about Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriages, which voters in California passed in 2008.

The defense of the ban had to be made on legal grounds.  It would not do to say: “because God says all homos will burn in hell.”  Charles Cooper, the lawyer supporting the ban, said that the debate over same-sex marriages is taking place in states across the country, and the Supreme Court should not interfere in this democratic process.

None of the justices appeared to think much of this argument.  Justice Elena Kagan (casting a spell, above) said:

In reading the briefs, it seems as though your principal argument is that…opposite-sex couples can procreate, same-sex couples cannot, and the State’s principal interest in marriage is in regulating procreation. Is that basically correct?

Cooper said yes, it was “the essential thrust of our position.”

Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that “couples that aren’t gay but can’t have children get married all the time.”

Cooper allowed that was true, but he worried that if marriage was redefined as a “genderless institution” the focus of marriage would not be raising children, but rather “the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples.”

Justice Kagan said, “If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?”

Cooper said that it is rare that “both parties to the couple are infertile.”

Kagan said, “I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”

The transcript recorded: “Laughter.”  Which Cooper’s argument deserved.

Are middle-aged husbands their wives’ bitches?

SalomeHeadCloseupMost sexual research focuses on the habits of individuals (as did mine). However, more than half of Americans stay in their first marriages, and what holds them together is well worth knowing–and rather surprising, according to a large study of long-term couples (together an average of 25 years) in five countries, conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

Many components of long marriages are ones you’d expect. However, physical tenderness, such as cuddling and caressing, turned out to be important to men (that is, in the analysis predicted happiness), but not to women. Both men and women were happier the longer their relationship has lasted. But more men than women said they were happy in their relationship.

The most interesting finding was that women showed lower sexual satisfaction than men earlier in their relationship, and greater satisfaction later (after fifteen years).

The study does not explain why. It could be the result of a change in expectations, or the departure of the children–or because women who found their sexual situations intolerable left their partners.  But for some reason, women in long-term relationships are more likely than men to end up with a sex life that pleases them.

Herbert, where are you?

Bocklin - Copy