Advice for the Suddenly Single at Forty-something

Being single in your twenties is great. No commitments. No restrictions placed on your time or your alcohol consumption. You are free to pursue or be pursued. In your thirties it’s okay too. Theoretically you’re all more mature and less likely to do things you’ll regret.

But in your forties and fifties, it can be embarrassing, painful and let’s face it, hideous. Kind of like getting pink eye. At least that’s how it seemed to our newly divorced friend, Ann.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to divorce him.” Ann said regretfully.

“He cheated on you for eight years. I wouldn’t say you were being hasty.” I reminded her.

“But dating, it’s just so…”

“Exciting!” I said, trying to be encouraging. “It’s a great time to be dating. Men in their forties are stable and have careers.”

“Men in their forties that are stable have wives. The ones that have never been married I wouldn’t classify as ‘stable.’” she said

“So find a stable divorced guy. There’s got to be plenty of those. If there’s no ring, go after that thing!” I said, trying to sound cheerful, but sounding more like a washed up cheerleader. “Look, you can go out with anyone you want!”

“I want Jeremy.” she pined.

“You just think you do. Once you find a nice guy that doesn’t cheat on you, or pee in the yard and has a separated unibrow, you’ll wonder why you stayed with him so long.”

“Thanks.” she said, although I’m not sure what she meant by it.

“Why don’t you look up old boyfriends on Facebook?” I said trying to sound enticing.

“They’re all married.”

“You could try one of those dating sites.” I said hopefully. “You know Bob and Kate met that way.”

“Bob and Kate? The swingers?” she asked dumbfounded.

“Oh, right. What about church? That’s got to be a safe place to meet guys.”

“You know I’m an atheist. Right?” she reminded me.

“Still? I thought that was just in the nineties.” I said trying to recall. “Oh, that’s right, the nineties were your Jehovah Witness/Prince period.”

“Prince!” she said bursting into tears. “He would have been perfect.”

After twenty minutes of trying to console her, during which I pretended to understand what she was saying through her sobs, I got her convinced being single in her forties was the best thing to happen to her. Well, I say convinced, mainly I just got her to stop crying. Or she was too dehydrated to produce anymore tears.

Then the doorbell rang, my dogs went crazy and a brilliant idea struck me. “Quick,” I yelled, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the door. “What about him?” I exclaimed yanking the door open to reveal the UPS guy setting a package on the front porch.

Everything happened really fast at that moment. Ann’s swollen tear streaked face, now had a decided look of fear and confusion. But not as confused and fearful as the UPS driver that was suddenly being pursued by my big snarling dog and handicapped by my little Chihuahua mix that had attached himself to his ankle.

Thankfully Chihuahua teeth are small.  Ann was able to nurse his wounds and convince him not to seek legal advice or call the dog catcher. She even got a date with him!

“No, he got a date with me.” she corrected me a couple of weeks later when we were revisiting the event. “I did it to save your butt. He is not my type.”

“Was it the unibrow?” I asked.

“No, I like a guy with a strong unibrow.”

“You should give him another chance then. You know what they say, see how a man treats his mother, because that’s how he will treat you.” I said wisely.

“He lives with his mom.” she said.

“You mean he takes care of her and she lives with him.” I said re-framing her statement.

“No. He never left home.”

“Oh.” I said, disappointed. We sat there quiet for several moments unable to come up with any more dating options. “Have you consider Catholicism?” I asked. “Not as a religion, but as a nun?”

Fear of Hypochondriacs

hypochondriacI have a neighbor that’s a hypochondriac. She’s like a magnet when it comes to germs.  If anyone in the neighborhood has a cold, flu, chicken pox or a hangnail, she will have it too.  She has the most remarkable story about catching pneumonia from her grandmother in Cleveland – over the phone!

Anyway, when I came back from a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and couldn’t get my energy back, I dropped by to see if she had any thoughts on what was wrong with me.

“Okay, tell me your symptoms.” she instructed, pulling up webmd.com and a stack of outdated medical books, because you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.

“I just feel exhausted.”

“That’s good.” she nodded encouragingly. “And?”

“My throat feels a little constricted. And my head, it’s like it’s waterlogged.” I continued.

“That’s not normal for you?” she inquired.

“No. Not like this.  It’s like a head cold.  Sort of-”

“I’ve got it!” she said cutting me off.  “You were bitten by a snake.”

I laughed thinking she was joking.  She stared intently at me, causing me to question whether I really had been bitten by a snake.  I sheepishly shook my head. “I wasn’t bitten by a snake. Sorry.”

She shrugged her eyebrows and went back to WEBMD.  “Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”

“I, uh…”

“Do you have a rash? A cough? Blood in your urine?” she fired off. “Tingling in your fingers, ringing in your ears or unexplained teeth marks?”

She continued the medical interrogation another half hour until I was dizzy from shaking my head.

“Do you have a fear of coconuts, beards or flesh?”

“Flesh?” I asked.  “Is that a thing?”

“Yes.” she said. “Flesh is a thing. It covers our bodies.  The medical term is epidermis.”

“I, I know what it is.  I just didn’t know people had a fear of – of flesh.”

She whipped her glasses off, her eyes boring into mine again.  I’m not sure why she was wearing an antique head mirror, but the reflection of my eye in the clown-like mirror scared me as much as her look.  “It’s called Selaphobia. It’s very serious.”

I nodded obediently.  She held my gaze several more moments, then deliberately and dismissively closed her computer.

“You may have colorectal cancer. You’re going to need a rectal exam.”

Terror showed in my oversized eye of the clown mirror.

“You should see a doctor.” she continued.

Nodding rapidly in agreement, I jumped to my feet. “I – I – I – I, I’ll do that.” I said with a Bugs Bunny like stammer and bolted from her house.

I successfully avoided her for three weeks until I ran into her at CVS. She was getting burn cream for a third degree burn she caught from a fire fighter at a fundraiser. She inquired as to my health.

“How was the exam?” she asked raising her eyebrows and gesturing behind her with her thumb.

Horrified she was about to get personal in front of a line of strangers, I quickly explained it had been Valley Fever and I was back to normal.

“Coccidioides.” she said thoughtfully. “Just as I suspected. I thought that required a blood test. Did they-?”

Panicking at her line of questioning, I quickly glanced at my wrist, pretending there was a watch on it and threw my purchases on an open shelf.

“Is it that late?  I’ll have to do this later..” I said beating a quick exit.

“I noticed your husband was growing a beard.” she hollered after me, unfazed  by the growing distance between us. “Are you going to be okay with that? You should consider Cognitive Behavior Therapy!”

The Pain of Comedy

I once had an improv teacher that said “comedy comes from deep suffering.” Or something profoundly odd like that. “That’s ridiculous” I thought at the time.  “I create comedy and I’m not miserable.”  I was writing comedy bits for stand-up comedians, writing and producing live comedic murder mysteries, doing character improv gigs and I was having fun!

Or was I? I had just divorced my ex-husband for continuing to date while we were married and my attempts at dating after that were as exciting as senior discount day at IHOP.  Although I did meet a guy while waiting on the train to take me to improv  who said I was “pretty enough to be a stripper.” That’s something, right?

So I had no social life.  That didn’t mean I didn’t have friends, did it? Oh yeah, I guess it did.  But friends and relationships aren’t everything. I mean, what is happiness anyway? One person’s dead-end career is another person’s dream job.  One person’s horrible ex-husband is another lounge lizard’s rock star. One person’s drafty apartment is another person’s crack house. It’s all in how you look at things, right?

So, if good comedy comes from deep suffering, it’s all good in the end.  Or maybe Barry, or Kerry, or whatever his name is, was wrong. Maybe comedy comes from being happy, or at least being ignorant of suffering.  Maybe it comes from just a little suffering, like a paper cut or stubbing your toe. Those are painful things.

If only I could find him, or remember his name. I do remember hearing he had left for Florida 3 years later to pursue a career as a toll booth operator. Wherever he is, I hope he’s happy, but not funny. Because that would mean he’s still suffering. Oh, the injustice of it all!

Not Fat Enough

drawing of lady talkingI think it was Homer Simpson who once said “Surround yourself with people smarter  than you.” Or it might have been Kanye. I’m not sure. But if you’re smart, or at least have smart friends, you can learn from them if you slow down enough to catch their words of wisdom.

For instance, I once met someone through a mutual friend at a dinner party.  She seemed nice enough and we all had a good time. Or, so I thought. It turns out though that her friend hated me.

“She hates me?” I asked in disbelief “What did I do? I thought everything went fine.”

“She hates you because you’re successful.”

My jaw dropped open and a high pitched “What?” came out. “I’m not successful. My husband is successful.  I have an endless list of failures.”

“I know.” she said “It doesn’t matter. You’re skinny.”

“I am NOT skinny!” I said.

She nodded her head in agreement.

“I do have fat, I just hide it under my clothes.”

“She doesn’t like your clothes either. She thinks you’re flaunting your money by wearing that fancy jacket you had on.”

“I got that blazer at a thrift store when I was buying clothes for the school play.” I said incredulously. “I even said so!”

“Yeah, she was just looking for excuses to not like you.”

“Is that a thing?” I queried.

“Wake-up dummy.  People are so unhappy with their own lives they have to tear down others to make themselves feel better.”

I thought about it for several moments. This is where I was suppose to receive those words of wisdom my friend had just shared, but I didn’t hear that part.

“I don’t see how that could work.” I said cluelessly.

“It doesn’t, so they stay miserable, have no friends and drive their spouses to drink or divorce them.”

“She doesn’t hate you.” I said slightly jealous.

“She probably does, but she needs me to give her son a ride home from band practice on Mondays.” she said.  “The kids!” she screamed, jumping to her feet, her eyes opening so wide she was momentarily paralyzed.  “I forgot about the kids!”

“No!” I blurted, pushing her back onto the sofa and running for the door. “I’m going! Text me her address!” I hollered over my shoulder.

“What are you gonna do?” she screamed in a panic scrambling up off the sofa.

“I’m gonna kill her (yanking open the car door) with kindness (jumping in the driver’s seat) until she likes me!” I finished with a determined slam of my car door.

I couldn’t hear what she was saying as I sped off.  It was probably something like “You don’t know what her son looks like.”  or “They won’t let a stranger pick up her nine-year old.” I didn’t catch it.  I was so excited to be on my quest to turn the other cheek, that I may have shown my bum.