Finding Independence at Forty

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Independence Day is just around the corner and this is the time when we are supposed to celebrate living in a democratic society and the freedoms we declared coming out from under British rule.

Funny, I never think of that. I always think of my own personal struggle for independence.

I was officially emancipated at the age of fifteen. A ward of the state, I had a wage paying job, a pregnancy, and a marriage that indicated that I was prepared for independent living. HA! Yes, laugh.

The job lasted six months, the pregnancy nine, and the marriage seventeen.

Life got better. I got a college degree in nursing, other jobs, another marriage, had two more children.

Then, the kids grew up. The husband became strange(r). We got divorced. Trust me, it needed to happen.

I could have stayed in the area, but I opted to come to Florida to be near to supportive family. It was a culture shock. From conservative, small town, U.S.A., to a nudist resort in a diverse community where “anything goes” was the rule. Finding yourself at age thirty-six, the prime of your life, single, with a good paying career, in a Florida resort sounds like heaven. I was sipping pina coladas in the sunshine, for about two weeks. It gets old faster than you think.

BTW: Being a nudist does not imply low morals and no self-respect, just in case you are wondering.

I had my independence. I could pay my own bills, manage my own bank account. Not be responsible for somebody else’s crap. I could come and go at liberty. My responsibilities were my own. But I was alone. I had fallen off the edge of the earth.

For the first three years I sat in my house and listened to the clock tick. I had one five month relationship that ended when I learned the guy replaced his dying wife’s cardiotonic with herbal vitamins in an effort to hasten her death. Seriously, shit gets scary.

I had left a world of social structure that included being soccer mom, Girl Scout cookie chairperson, Den Mother, youth group chaperone, softball coach, Varsity Cheerleader mom, Tae Kwon Do mom, PTO & Church secretary, Women’s League co-chairlady farmer’s wife… those All American roles that had made me who I was, and became simply me. All of the things the other women my age were doing were gone.

Being a single woman in your mid-thirties is challenging. Being independent also meant I could pick and choose my company, but that was not as easy as it sounds. I hung out at Cheeks, the bar and grille at Cypress Cove, and found most of the men to be superficial and shallow. They were there for a good time. I wanted more for myself. But I was 500 miles from home and becoming single for the first time in my adult life, had no clue how to proceed.

After three years, I finally decided to venture out alone. I would go to restaurants alone, and feel like everyone was staring at me sitting there with no partner…the poor girl who probably got stood up. I would take in a movie, sit in the rear…and watch the backs of pairs of heads leaning against each other. AND I cried in these places, real tears of loneliness and despair.

I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and go out to meet people of my own age. Where? I had fallen out with the Church. I won’t go into that here, but that was not an option. There were bars and clubs and volunteer organizations, where I could meet people who; perhaps, shared my own interests. I joined a canoe club, a waterways cleanup crew, The Wilderness Trekkers, the Audubon Society, and Artist’s League…and waited on them to post their next meeting dates. Meanwhile, I was going to brave the world and go out, alone.

One night, I left Cypress Cove, way out in the wilderness, and went to downtown Orlando for the very first time, alone. I found a cute little Irish Pub with a Peter, Paul, and Mary band singing folk music. I ordered a drink and sipped it for an hour. There was a man at the bar. An American Indian with nicely chiseled features, long black hair, and suntanned skin standing there in a suit coat looking like he was saying, “Come with me and my wolf to traipse through the forest of my world.” Our eyes met. He sent me a second drink. Within a few minutes he was seated at my table and we were talking about Florida wildlife and sixties music, books we had read and movies. I had finally met somebody interesting.

He asked if I had dinner yet. I had not. He offered to take me to a deli downtown. Not knowing anything about where I was going in Orlando or the parking provided, I left my car blocks away in the public parking garage. He was parked in a lot just outside the pub. I agreed to join him. (Mistake number one: never get in the car with strangers. Didn’t your mother teach you that when you were four?”)

We rode away, up and down unfamiliar city streets to a quaint little deli. As small as it was, it was crowded, and I thought he was really nice to take me somewhere so popular. The waitress came and I ordered food. I thought it was strange he had invited me to dinner, but only ordered coffee for himself. It was getting late and the crowd began to thin as I was finishing up my simple sandwich meal. He looked at me and said,

“Look, you’re thirty-something, I’m thirty something. We’re obviously attracted to each other. We’re adults here. What will it be, my place or yours?”

“Well, this is very nice,” I said softly, “But I’d really like to get to know you better. We’ve just met.”

With that, he stood up and started screaming, “That’s it! I’m done! You women are all alike!” Heads turned in our direction. People stopped eating and stared. “We buy you drinks and dinner, and you always want more. More dinners, more drinks, more stuff. I’m outta here!” He threw down his napkin and proceeded toward the door. “Find somebody else to take advantage of!” he yelled back over his shoulder as he pushed through the door.

I sat for a few seconds smiling at the onlookers. Then, to the clerk who had come out from behind the counter to sweep the floor, “Check, please. And could you call me a cab?”

Here I was pushing forty, and taking a cab back to my car across town. I didn’t think things would ever change. I was destined to remain alone. I laughed all the way home!

After that, I went back to isolating myself at the Cove. I met the Canadian Cowboy a couple of weeks later. This was a nice guy who came to the Cove. Tall, blond and handsome with sparkling blue eyes, and hung like a horse. He was always sporting a white cowboy hat, and nothing else. We had talked off and on. He asked me on a dinner date. We went out of the Cove to Pebbles. A lovely restaurant at the Crossroads by Disney. This was about twelve miles from my home. We went from my house in his car.  A real freakin’ date.

After dinner, he groped me the whole way home. I’m thinking, “Okay, you’re pushing forty…there’s a certain expectation.” We had sort of gotten to know each other. He was kinda nice. He was smart, good looking, polite (up to a point). Time to release your inhibitions girl and go with the flow.

We got back to my house. I put on some music. He stripped off his clothes. I started lighting the candles around the house. I was trying to set a mood. He followed me to the bedroom where I was lighting the last candle, and said, “So you have some crazy, fucked up ritual you have to perform before sex. I’m good with that, but it makes me feel like some animal that’s about to be sacrificed to the Gods.”

Whooosh! Out went the candle. I went around the house blowing out all of the candles, one by one. I handed him his clothes and pushed him out the front door. Okay, I’ll admit, I had issues. I laughed myself to sleep!

Dating got a lot better after those first couple of experiences. I vowed to date any man who asked. I dated over a hundred. Most of them I would not date twice. Some got one to three. There were a few short term relationships, a couple of long term relationships. I was non-committal and not looking for a marriage partner. For seven or eight years into my forties I learned a lot. Most significantly: How to take what was beautiful from one relationship into the next leaving the baggage behind. That culminated into knowing exactly what I wanted in a relationship. I was not willing to settle for anything less.

Rules:

  1. Learn to laugh.
  2. Never say never.
  3. The best dates aren’t the expensive ones, but he should buy you dinner and you should order anything off the menu without a thought. After all, you’ve colored your hair, manicured your nails, responsibly managed your feminine needs, applied your make-up and perfume, dressed in your nicest attire, including those stockings and uncomfortable heels, bought all that sexy lingerie.  I could go on. Bottom line: respect yourself. Buy him dinner, too!
  4. There should be several dates, real dates. You deserve to be courted and wooed, even if it takes a while. If he is THAT impatient, he’s not worth the time.
  5. You don’t have to have a man on your arm to know that you are desirable.
  6. If he can’t listen as well as he talks, he’s not going to hear you. (That works two ways.)

There are probably more but those are the ones that easily come to mind. I could tell you stories about other dating adventures, but I’ll save them for another holiday. Now I’m eighteen with thirty six years of experience.

Just so you know, before age fifty, I met the man of my dreams, but he told me I would not have liked him if I had met him sooner. He’s perfect, funny, charming, a real renaissance man having traveled the world, a real genius in many ways, a handyman, supportive and kind. We are more interdependent than independent or dependent. We both have our own interests, but those we share in, as well. We were married six years ago this October. No regrets.

We met online through Great Expectations dating service. It cost money. I figured the men would be really desperate or really serious and it was up to me to decide which. I was ready for serious. Our first date was Austin’s Coffee Shoppe, where we talked for three hours. He was the first guy I met, and he was on the payment plan, so it took me three years to pay off that contract. Well worth it and he helped with that. Just saying there is hope if you are waiting for the right one to come along.

They won’t come knocking on your door.

Get independent.

Put yourself out there.

Face your fear.

22 thoughts on “Finding Independence at Forty

  1. My, my my! You have been through! I’m still laughing at your ” hung like a horse” statement. It’s good that you eventually bounced back and started to do things. I’m at a stand still now. My friends and changing and moving on without me, I don’t drive, and I’m still looking for a job. My life is in the house at the moment. But, time will change. I hope.

  2. I agree–lots of stories! You have had an interesting life–and you are very brave. It’s great that you can look back and laugh at some of the “adventures!” 🙂

  3. You have a fascinating life, SK. Great advice earned with wisdom. The thing about him telling you that you wouldn’t have liked him earlier is so likely because so many men take forever to grow up.

    • It’s a tough one. Already feeling like everything is changing faster than they can become accustomed to it, teen girls often have such low self esteem. It’s the same for old married women when they suddenly become single. All the roles change.

    • Thank you, Cayman. I appreciate your coming by to say so. Glad I didn’t settle, even if it took me nearly fifty years to find him. We found each other at the right time.

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