We like to think of ourselves as red hot and raring to go. Since the blog is two months old today, we plan to celebrate with our Macs, a martini, and a thank-you to our readers for the support, the comments, and for keeping the conversation going.
BY JULIE SEYLER
I mean, really, at this point, in our post-50 lives, what else is there to say, except, regardless of gender, whether single or married, each of us has, at least once, if not 50 times, given up on the other sex, rolled our eyes in exasperation and thought, in horrid disgust: “Can (s)he be kidding?”
Conversely, I bet it is equally true, that there has been at least once, if not 5000 times, that you have thought: “How could I even consider living with(out) him/her in my life?”
And therein lies the rub and the cliche: “You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”
I do not believe there is a solution to this dilemma. Rather, I think one wises up, looks inside, and decides for a variety of reasons: “I am going to hang in there.” Or: “It’s time to move on.”
I know people on both sides of the fence, and some people who seem to be simply straddling the fence, not happy to be in, but too worried and/or stressed about money to move on.
In either case, relationships are not for the weak of heart. They require work and kindness and consideration and empathy and flexibility – not to mention the ability to get angry and withstand anger. The irony is, the thing you get angry over, is the same thing you got angry about last year, and the year before, and the year before that. We are creatures of habit, and I guess in some perverse way, we prefer picking a standard fight to muddle through.
And this brings to mind this new book I read about. It’s called “How To Think More About Sex,” by Alain de Botton. With respect to the vows of love we declare, the author proposes a new pledge:
“I promise to be disappointed by you and you alone. I promise to make you the sole repository of my regrets, rather than distribute them widely through multiple affairs and a life of sexual Don Juanism. I have surveyed the different options for unhappiness, and it is you I have chosen to commit myself to.”
I thought that was sort of a brilliant take on the earthiness of the dyadic dance.
So then one wonders if it’s better to be with someone or not? I guess it’s an individual choice and perhaps with the wisdom that comes with being on the right side of 50, we make those choices with self-awareness rather than fantasy – unless you’re stuck straddling the fence.
BY LOIS DESOCIO
When you walk through the back door of my house, and look to the right, there is a long narrow hallway, with a 15-foot-long wall that is chock-full of a 4-foot rectangle of crooked pictures. There’s a bathroom down towards the end of the hallway, and by the time the uninitiated, first-timers-to-my-house walk down that hallway, and come out of the bathroom, they often ask: “What happened to your wall?” Or they let me know that: “Your pictures are all on top of each other, and not lined up.” Or even worse – they start to straighten them.
Thing is – I want them to be this way. I deliberately piled frame on frame. It looks like there was an earthquake. Actually, there is a science to it, and a lot of planning to make it look like there is no planning. But no tape measure or pencil is needed, nor any other fancy how-to-hang-a-picture gadget. The planning comes in the mission to leave no wall space between the frames. Much like the “splatter and action” technique of abstract expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, I like to make a mess of my wall. I’m a twisted madwoman when I’m hanging – mixing big frames with small, topping the corners of grandma’s 8 x 10 portrait with a sideways snapshot of my two sons as toddlers in the bathtub with their Ninja Turtles. Often, I have to tilt and turn to get rid of as much peeking wall as possible. If I hit a glitch, or there just isn’t an easy fix – I hang an empty frame:
I can’t claim this idea as my own. And there is a name for this, I just can’t remember it, nor can I find it anywhere. (A friend told me recently that she saw something similar in Pottery Barn’s Halloween catalog – how to make your wall “spooky.”)
I first saw the technique decades ago, in an old black-and-white movie that had a wacky wall of pictures in the background. It stuck with me. I just needed a wall. In the 1980s, my husband and I bought our first house, which had an odd-shaped wall on the second floor. One side just about met the floor. It was here that I began my picture tapestry, because not only did I have a potential canvas, I also had a new baby. So those photos of his every wiggle, squirm, drool, cry, laugh … went up on this wall. From here, and from house to house, and with a second new baby, the wall became a baby wall – filled with baby pictures of everyone in my and my husband’s family.
The wall I now have in my current house is the grandest of them all. It is a culmination of 27 years of previous, twisted walls – an overflowing chronicle of my two sons’ lives so far, plus anything else I want to put up there. Parents, grandparents, brothers, nephews: all there. People I love who have died: lovingly placed. Girlfriends: in place. (One old boyfriend.) Beloved dogs: check. (Two are dead.)
I’m writing about this because I’m going to be moving at some point in the near future, and I will have to take my wall down. I most likely will not be able to replicate the wall as it is, wherever I end up, because I don’t believe I will ever have as perfect a wall as I have now. But on all the new hallways and walls that come my way in the future, there will always be a small cluster of twisted and bundled photos of my clustered, twisted messed-up picture wall.
BY JULIE SEYLER
I go through stages of reading the front section of The New York Times. I find I need to prep myself before I can delve into how the world is fracturing into a thousand little pieces. Once I’m ready, I plunge into the horror show – ready for the one-two punch of being weighed down by the oppressive facts that constitute modern day living, and frustrated by the endless non-answers. However, at least I don’t feel as if I am a complete ostrich with my head stuck in the sand. After I have been brought up to date on the latest wars, murders and irresolvable Congressional disagreements, I retreat and concentrate on the stuff that makes life worth enjoying – movies, books, art, restaurant reviews and recipes. I may have a love-hate relationship with food, but I love reading about it.
On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, I was in the mood to see what’s going on “over there.” The front page of The Times delivered, with the headline “Hints of Syrian Chemical Push Set off Global Effort to Stop It”. This was the opening paragraph:
In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.
The article went onto discuss how the near catastrophe of easily distributed killer gas was averted. Countries that usually prefer to stab each other in the back (China, Russia, the Middle East and the United States), in a rare show of cooperation, were in synchronicity that chemical warfare is bad for all of us. Hallelujah for common sense! The article explained that there are actually several factors that need to be in place for a successful dispersion of sarin gas. Therefore, a chemical attack may not necessarily be the easiest way to obliterate the planet. And of course, the denouement of the piece consisted of the pundits warning that just because disaster was avoided this time, doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. Those munitions are still out there, and ready to be used, depending on who gets their hands on them.
I was frightened. I guess that was the purpose of the story, and decided to check in with some of the guys at work to see what they thought. One friend scoffed at chemical weapons, since they can only do damage to thousands of people. On the other hand, take a nuclear weapon – now that can wipe out millions in a second. His biggest concern: Pakistan.
Another guy was much more benign. He figures if a nuclear weapon drops on his sector of the universe he won’t have time to think about it. It will be over, and that will be that. Why worry about it? I said, “But what if you survive? And it’s like the movie On the Beach?” You know that great 1959 movie with Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins about the end of the world? Well, he figures he’d find a bridge to jump off of. Geez Louise.
We never even got into the topic of biological weapons. Anybody care to weigh in?
BY FRANK TERRANELLA
2013!!! That’s not a real date. That’s a science fiction date, isn’t it? I think there’s nothing that makes me feel old like writing a date that should still be in the future, but it’s not; it’s here. What contributes to making me feel old, is the fact that, recently, I helped my son move into his first apartment. He’s the first child off on his own. Later this year, he will be the first child to be married.
Over the Christmas holidays, we played some video of my son from when he was a baby. Parents tend to do that so fiancées can see just how adorable the future husband was as a child (and what the children might look like). But after watching close to two hours of my children as infants, I felt depressed. Just as it couldn’t possibly be 2013 already, my infant son could not really be moving out and getting married. Where did the years go? The fact that the memory of those intervening years is hazy at best is quite depressing to me. Fortunately, I did take the time to shoot video of their early lives, and so I have reinforcement of some memories. But taking those videos ended by the time they graduated from grammar school. Where did those high school years go? College was a blur – although I have loan payments to prove it happened. And now they’re about to go off on their own, and it seems like they took their first steps last year. Of course, the problem is that what I really want is a time machine to go back and re-live the ‘60s, the ‘70s and the ‘80s. This time, I would pay more attention to the details.
I know that what I am describing is part of being over 50. It’s the time we find out that our parents were right when they told us over and over: “The years go by faster and faster as you get older.” But they didn’t tell me it went into a warp speed out of Star Trek. These days, I am usually wrong when trying to judge how long ago something was. Like when someone asks: “When was the last time you ate at that restaurant?” And I think it was two or three years ago, but it turns out it was in 1998.
Being in your 50s means that the phrase, “50 years ago,” comes out of your mouth more often than you would like. I remember not too long ago (it seems), I was talking to my former law partner and I said: “Remember 50 years ago when we were in kindergarten?” And he said: “I’m not old enough to remember things from 50 years ago,” even though he is. Well the truth is, I can remember things from 50 years ago. But those memories seem no more hazy than my memories of changing diapers, and getting up in the middle of the night to pick up and walk the floor with a crying child. It’s all things I did, but the time separation has collapsed. The 1980s do not seem that much more recent than the 1960s. It’s all a distant memory.
That’s why it’s so tough to come to terms with dates that begin with a 20. Can it really have been more than a decade since we celebrated the millennial new year? Has it been nearly 50 years since the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan? Where did the intervening years go? 2013? I demand a recount.
BY JULIE SEYLER
I received an e-mail the other day from an attorney. He had been opposing counsel in a case that we had settled about three years ago. His reply was in response to a message I had left on his voicemail concerning a completely new matter. We hadn’t spoken in the three years since the other case closed, but his e-mail said, in part: “How can I forget those yellow smoking hot pants!!!” “The sexiest … attorney at … ”
The hot pants were a pair of jeans, not “hot pants”. As background, during the long negotiations we had had a meeting at a crowded business function. The day we met I happened to be wearing jeans that were yellow colored. Amongst a sea of navy suits, pastel yellow stands out and we had joked about it. Anyway when I received the email I was a bit shocked, but not outraged. Really we had laughed about those yellow colored jeans. But, what made me not cast the email banter aside was a conversation I had had with my colleague, “Q.” He led me to see the vignette from an entirely different point of view.
When I told “Q” the anecdote, his first question was, “What did you say on the voice mail?”
“Nothing. My message simply said, ‘Hi, it’s Julie, remember with the yellow pants?'”
“Q” rolled his eyes and shook his head, “You made the first move.”
Huh??? I did not see myself as being at all provocative, but I listened. “Q” was giving me insight into the male psyche. He was helping me to “see” how men “see,” confirming the over-used adage that men are from Mars, and women from Venus. He was telling me that my use of the innocent phrase, “yellow pants,” could be interpreted as alluring; flirtatious. I would love to know what other men and women think, because my boyfriend, Steve, absolutely agreed with “Q”, whereas a female colleague’s eyes popped out in horror when I told her the story. Her immediate reaction was “How dare he!”
And that’s why this thumbnail sketch of male/female interaction is so intriguing. “Q”’s perception, and Steve’s concurrence certainly made me question whether I had (un)consciously sought an acknowledgment as to how I looked. It also led me to wonder whether men read very well, the little movements we make to (not) attract attention. Is it possible that they see right through us? Are women more naive than we like to believe?
And as for my reaction to the comment from the attorney about those “hot smoking pants?” It’s a snapshot of time travel. In the ’70s when I was in my teens and a rampant and ardent worshiper of Gloria Steinem, I probably would have taken umbrage. Today, at 57, I am embarrassed to admit that what actually entered my mind when I received that e-mail was: “Would he still think that I was “sexy” three years later?” Geez how shallow and vain can you get?
These days, it seems that the ability to immerse in undeterred obliviousness has seeped out of the routine, perhaps never to return, or only to return later in life, when we will most seek energy. In any case, we envy this man’s relaxation.
BY LOIS DESOCIO
At my latest annual physical a few weeks ago, my doctor asked me who my cardiologist was. Cardiologist? I’m way too young for a cardiologist. Cardiologists are for old people with heart disease. She sighed. She shook her head in disgust. She was surprised I wasn’t dead yet.
“Your cholesterol is sky-high,” she said. (She said the same thing two years ago, and I’m still here.) “What do I have to do to get you to swallow that pill!”
That pill is Lipitor (apparently everyone is doing it), which she had prescribed for me two years ago, which I filled, and left sitting, unopened and expired on my dresser. As much as Julie will grasp every word her doctors and friends dole out, and will act accordingly, I rebuff. My quest becomes: “Phooey! I will prove you wrong.” I say no to drugs. And I eat a lot of spinach.
BY JULIE SEYLER
Around April 2012, I was having dinner with a friend at a Thai restaurant, and was pretty excited about ordering some Chicken Pad Thai, you know those yummy rice noodles laced with chicken, a little egg and some peanuts. I asked her what she was having. She has some food quirks and rules, but was never averse to meat. This time though, instead of a beef or chicken curry, she went with something vegetarian. And as she was telling me what she was ordering, I can only describe the look she gave me as enigmatic – basically begging me to ask what was up.
“You’re off meat these days?” I asked.
“Well, I’m reading this book, and if you read it you’d be off it also.”
“Please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I have enough concerns. I don’t want to take on the animals!”
“I won’t,” she said.
And with that, I ordered my Chicken Pad Thai, and asked her, “So what else is new?” But of course, the pink elephant was on the table. And as much as my sensible inner voice screamed, “Don’t ask!” my curiosity of the secret knowledge that my girlfriend possessed was 10 times greater, and before that plate of sauteed chicken with slithering noodles was placed in front of me, I had to ask, “OK. OK. Tell me about the book.”
She was in the middle of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals.” She regaled me with how the chicken industry treats chickens – how they fatten them up with steroids, and stuff them into 2″x4” windowless cages.
“But what about kosher chickens?”
Is this the year that the allure of “me” begins to wither its way towards unseemly? Or innocuous? Is this the year that I may age-out of being irresistible? I’ve turned 58 years old.
This is my new fear about aging. So far, I’ve managed to not dwell on the cliched, much-mourned about, typical, in-your-50s losses: I no longer look like my 25, 35, or 45-year-old self (Been there. And survived). My cheekbones are starting to form the skyward, upper reaches of a V-shaped face, with my chin and neck falling towards pointy – kind of like going from perky to pelican (I just try to smile a lot to pull it all up). My knees are really starting to hurt when I bend them (Then don’t bend them! Downward dog pose gets you to the same place).
Or even that I’m meandering my way towards dead. None of that really rattled me at 57.
But what I don’t want to become is tired and dull, and therefore done. I hope that I will never, unexpectedly, and without warning or remedy, lose my ability to see the enchantment and delight in life, and will therefore become less enchanting and delightful, regardless of what I look like. Worse would be if I didn’t care. Because, to me, it’s allure that makes someone attractive, and can keep us all going. It’s begot from confidence; spirit. That human magnetism that draws people to you – entices, intrigues, beguiles. I look for that in people. It transcends physical beauty, the eye-of-the-beholder kind, which will not be beholding to you for life.
Hopefully, the flimsier the potency of the seen, the firmer the unseen, the inner beauty. Your appeal oozes even more from what you exude, not how you look. Those intangibles – charm, rapture, kindness. People enjoy being around you. We all know the beauty with no personality whose attractiveness is diminished with every spoken word, and the less-than beauty, whose effusiveness and exuberance paints a glorious glow over their physical selves. Their allure is a constant.
Of course, praise for all these inner workings, does not mean that I don’t have my moments of lamenting over the realization that, undeniably, from this point on, only one head (maybe), not all, will turn (sometimes) for a second look. That I will no longer be able to run down the beach with unbounded joy into the ocean without looking like … just picture it.
But I do get a new kind of satisfaction at any comment that may hint at the possibility that “really old, wrinkled, and maybe dull,” is not coming at breakneck speed.
When I told my mom recently that, in two years, when we go to the movies, I will be asking for: “Two seniors …”
“Well, they’ll have to proof you,” she said, without a flinch. “Because they will not believe yours is the face of a 60 year old.”
Yes, it’s my mom speaking. But she’s honest, and is never one to mince words: “You’re nothing but a party girl” (8th grade); “What’s the matter with your hair?” (last Monday). And she would never dole out disingenuous praise.
So that comment will help to fuel my alluring smile at least until 60.