Post by Sharon Day
My mom was proud to serve in the Navy during WWII. Her role model prior to that time was Amelia Earhart. She loved the feeling of responsibility, independence, and dating a lot! Then, my father became her boss and they fell in love, married, and had five children.
When I was 16, my father died quite suddenly. He was 59 and mom was 54. My mom didn't drive, had never handle a bill, was quite sheltered.
I watched her struggle with the loneliness and the overwhelming responsibilities. I taught her to drive. She was so proud to have a license. I helped her with finding repair people for the house and car. And I pondered if she would ever find another man and no longer be alone. As the baby of the family and older siblings living elsewhere, I worried I might be babysitting mom forever.
And, over a year or so, something very unusual happened. I never saw it coming -
Mom started going out to lunches and sharing girlish laughter with her friends. She tucked away a bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme in the cabinet for a "nip" now and then (dad was a recovered alcoholic, so no alcohol was ever in our cabinets). She started driving. And, she bought her first pair of blue jeans!
Years went by and mom never dated. Never remarried. She lived alone for another 20 years upon her passing. And she was never lonely, never feeling she needed a man. She grew African violets in the windowsill, created oil paintings, fed stray cats - refusing to officially adopt and care for another.
I didn't understand that solitude until I was turning 48 and getting a divorce -
I had been with my ex since I was 16 and had never been on my own. I didn't know what it was like to be just without someone else first. I had been either baby of the family or wife to the husband and mother to the child.
Then, I moved out and started a life on my own for the first time. I figured I'd remarry eventually. Surely I'd date. But then years went by. I was busy. I left a miserable job due to changes in the industry and outsourcing to take up stock trading and then the oil and gas industry, I published books, I grew my blog, I began writing screenplays, I went on road trips, and I had a blast.
I didn't have to worry about what I wore around the apartment. '
I could get up in the middle of the night and drive through Jack-in-the-box for a taco if I wanted.
I decorated my own nest. It was all by my hand. I didn't have to compromise with anyone. I assembled my own Ikea furniture. I learned how to repair the carpet cleaner. I built a huge bowflex from the ground up!
My place was as quirky as I am and when I came into my apartment after a trip, I sighed with relief. It was all ME.
So, what happens with older women when it comes to sharing space?
When we get a man into our domain, something changes. We get into a pattern we had long forgotten. It becomes apparent we now have to worry about feeding another person who might not appreciate second day leftovers from a Chinese takeout carton and a jar of pickles for a meal.
We have to share space and a bed with someone who has different patterns.
When a woman might get insomnia (the menopause gift) and need to get up during the night and paint or watch TV or do a puzzle, there is now a man stumbling out of the bedroom rubbing his eyes and asking if she's okay.
Many women too have had a lifetime to prepare for retirement. The thought of marrying a man and the marriage not working would mean losing half of their retirement when they are too old to recoup it. Like most mothers, too, they want their children to reap the rewards when they pass on.
Women are also faced with the very real dilemma that the man pool in the latter years means taking on his medical problems and likely demise before her.
It seems rather heartless, but when you consider the difference of aging with someone you married young who naturally aged and you might have had influence over their lifestyle with meeting someone when diseases have set in, it's a very different commitment.
When you're young, the person could do well with aging and you would have time to find out early and work on reversing issues. But, later in life if you meet someone, their whole lifetime of decisions were not yours to give input and now they are perhaps in situations that cannot be reversed this late. The thought of falling in love and having maybe eight good years together is anguishing.
When women were younger, they thought of their man as their everything. He was the rescuer, the partner, the hero, the security. But, the concepts of romance later in life are much different. The greatest thing a woman might wish for is someone who doesn't get underfoot too much or require gobs of attendance and maintenance.
Women are not only tired of all the work involved in a relationship, but the men they have to choose from are often jaded and tired emotionally. They really don't want to have to go through the charming romance phase again and their bodies may not be up to the challenge of seduction.
Instead of complete surrender, women (and men) are thinking more about someone they can live out the retirement years with who would help them finish off their bucket list or simply be with them through everything. It's much different than the hormonally-driven choices of our youth.
What do mature women want?
A man that accepts us for who and how we are. We do not want to have to remain model-thin, coloring our hair, hiding our stretch marks, and generally feeling like we need to apologize for aging. We have already gone through that turning ourselves inside out with insecurity in our youth hoping to land a man and be a perfect item - age has allowed us to ask questions, be sassy, say no, and wear what we want. We are no longer trophies, we are partners.
Most older women are hoping to catch up on all they missed when they were deep in careers and child rearing.
They want to head to Mexico with their gal pals and have margaritas and laugh.
They want to have some quiet time alone to see movies they want to watch, maybe paint a room a bright pink just because they love the color.
They might be searching for sexual fulfillment that they feel they missed out on.
They also relish the feeling of men flirting and finding them attractive after perhaps decades of a spouse being lazy and remiss.
One astute newly divorced friend told me. "I met this guy in a bar and we went into the parking lot, climbed into my car and kissed for almost two hours. Kissing! Oh my God! When was the last time my ex kissed me???" Our married friends listened to her admission and sighed. It sounded positively dreamy to just have face-to-face time. So many middle-aged men quit kissing or holding hands. They are literally training their wives to be bitter and unhappy.
All is not lost for men who want to find a woman in the latter years. but you might find a woman happy to date and even have a brief affair, but commitment is not easy.
For many, it's the first time in their life they might have reclaimed their last name again and could say they are single. It's a nice feeling knowing that there is no rush and lots of possibilities to explore.
With the right man, a woman can change her ways and settle down. (Sounds like the reversal of roles from the early years when newly out of college, men wanted to play the field and not be tied down).
For many mature females, it would take finding someone who is in the same place in their life, perhaps retired, downsizing, wanting to travel.
Who a woman picks in latter years is different than who she picked when she was young and breeding.
We generally are looking for intimacy, but also someone we could do things with so compatibility is key. A woman who loves knitting and cats might not find excitement with a man who adores camping and four-wheeling. She might bypass that fellow for a man who loves home and hearth and enjoys movie night under a blanket together.
Whereas men finding themselves single tend to rush for another female, women feel a strange lightening of responsibility.
In a general sense, we see ourselves as having raised children and a husband. We don't want to be a mommy anymore.
One single friend chose a man who was the polar opposite of her ex just to know a different way of life. Another single friend found someone not afraid to say "I love you" and be cuddly. Yet another single friend found someone who treated her as if she were a beautiful 20-year-old instead of a 59-year-old with stretch marks and 30 extra pounds.
For men and women both, it seems that latter years dating means not compromising so much. The one we chose when we were younger was perhaps due to insecurity, desperation to start adult life with a partner, or exhaustion from searching and just giving in to what was easiest. Now, as we go on a question to find happiness, sometimes it means exhausting vetting process to find the right fit - finally.
If women seem to be resistant to rushing a relationship or moving to the next stage, it might be that they need a new way to define partnership in which they do not lose all the uniqueness and independence they have enjoyed.
All that being said, some of the best matches can be made latter in life when people know who they aren't, are no longer desperate or hormonally-influenced to make bad choices.
My best advice to men is be sure the woman knows you are proud of her accomplishments and like to see her happy, continuing to do what she does, hanging with her friends, going places, and that you make yourself available to do some trips and treks to make memories together.
In closing, I tell women this -
The other day I noted a neighbor was not coming out to get her mail like usual. Police were called. They arrived and I asked them if her mailbox was full, as she was meticulous about getting mail. She was an elderly woman who lived alone and was very private. She was a widow not interested in dating at all. But, when they pounded down her door, they found her dead and alone.
Human beings are kind of like ghosts... Ghosts don't really "exist" until there is someone there to witness them. Without a partner in your life, all your preciousness, all you have to offer, all your dreams and wishes are within your four walls and never taken out and polished and appreciated.
As a social creature, human beings need mirroring and interaction, verification and validation. And that comes from the loving eyes of another.