Single and over sixty: solitude or sorrow?

5 11 2016

solitudeI’ve recently had the chance to speak with several over-60-year-old men, and women, about relationships, being single, loneliness.

Well, okay, some of these were dates. Some were laughter over dates. Some were thought provoking, others broke my heart.

We all handle being alone differently. Many of the women I know who are single seem happy to stay that way, at least for now. They are tired from years of sharing their lives with children or family members and are still craving the gentle solitude of a solo cup of coffee in the morning, or a cuddle with their pet in the evening, when they are weary and don’t want to talk.

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coffee. peace. quiet.

Or they want to take off on women-only trips around the world where they can just go and be without the need to perform.

But they are a self-selected group. I hang out with independent (some may say too independent) women.

I also know so many women whose lives are destroyed by solitude, who must have companionship, preferably male and human, to survive. These women are shattered by divorce and find it intolerable to live alone. They, too, break my heart. No one should be alone who doesn’t want to be…but on the other hand…part of being a good partner is learning to be good on your own, I think.

For me, I may more be one of those independent women who prefers to live in MY space, to invite friends to visit, but never ever to stay. Not to say I don’t like the visitors…

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not a real man in a cabin, though the axe might be real.

I know a few independent men, too. But they seem smaller in number, perhaps because they are out in the woods somewhere living in a cabin and so I don’t meet them often.

Most of the older men I meet are painfully lonely. It breaks my heart. I seriously think men find it harder to be alone, struggle more with their sense of self-worth than women do, on average. They seem driven more by the need to make love/have sex/fornicate than women let show. They wake in the mornings dreaming of sex, they go to bed thinking of it. Without it, a huge part of their inner selves seems to wither.

So what does an aging man have to offer a woman? They don’t seem to know. Instead of seeking companionship, shared interests, etc, they look for younger and younger partners, hoping their flagging sexuality can be enlivened by a more active lass. They tell themselves lies about their fitness, desirability, general selves. And so they doom themselves to failure and loneliness. They aren’t used to hanging out with guys, most of them, so they end up isolated. It’s terribly sad.

Oh, and they judge women, by scores they don’t apply to themselves. In happy delusion,

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One of my recent dates, examining my height

they seek tens, when they themselves are 4s or 5s, or on a good day, a 7. I had a 400 pound man tell me that he didn’t think I looked THAT overweight (in tones of condescension). I’ve had people suffering bankruptcy tell me I was getting a good catch who would look after me. Riiiiiiiiight.

They don’t think about evolving themselves to fit the needs of women in their age group, to read, to learn, to cook, to be responsible, to be independent and self-supporting. To have let go of anger. That is unutterably sexy. Women who have spent years looking after people don’t want to meet someone who, on first acquaintance, obviously needs looking after. And so many men have interesting lives, if only they would share them in a non-self-aggrandizing way.

So women are stuck in a bind if we want companionship. No one our age wants us – men seem to want women ten to twenty years younger. The ones twenty years older than us want us, but they are often looking for someone of their porn dreams, someone to care for them, someone to adore them, as they were adored when they were young and fit and had their future ahead of them. Oh, and someone who wants to make love all the time.(One chubby fellow I dated showed me his sticky little book of sexual positions, many of them life-endangering. When I laughed out loud at one contortion, he said, sure, we could do that. No, I said. I’m not standing on my head for anyone. Sorry. That was that. I washed my hands and left.)

518ldvbqs-l-_ul1200_Or they want a nurse, preferably one who would wear that sexy nurse outfit while massaging their feet.

Dating is perilous in this age group. If you meet and decide he isn’t for you, and you try to let him down gently, you run the risk of being stalked, as you try to peel his tentacles off of you.

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If you are clear with them, you are a bitch who only values money. (or healthy teeth or someone who lives responsibly or someone who doesn’t spend every spare minute looking at porn on a 60 inch tv set). They get furious at you.

Either way, dating feels more dangerous than it should.

Other men are so sad and hopeful you want to be kind, you err in kindness, you give mixed messages to try not to hurt, you hope they will break up with you so you don’t have to deal the crushing blow. They, understandably, get confused, and you end up hurting them anyway. Or vice versa.

So for those women who want male companionship with a little naughty icing, they have a challenge.

But thank heavens, we seem better suited to solitude. And as for me, male friends rock. More than that, I dunno.

Maybe that’s why so many of us are into crafting with our friends. js23831350

Off to needle felting I go….

 

 

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On the occasion of a horrendous election pending and the women v women way we behave

9 10 2016
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Organizing yet another bake sale to fund the hospitals the men wouldn’t let women earn money to build

Ah, women.

I am one, I think, and yet I am filled with puzzlement at them. I have a group of marvelous women friends who I adore. We all would come running to whomever needed support, would offer casseroles, muffins, homemade soup, a warm shoulder to cry upon. My friends keep me alive, make me laugh, give me joy.

But many would leave the recipient’s house, commenting to each other, “Well, I wouldn’t have dealt with things THAT way,” or, “Where’s that man of hers? Why doesn’t he help?” or “Did you see what state her house is in?”

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“Can you imagine?”

It’s the same thing that makes some (never me, I simply don’t care) rearrange the dishwasher if someone else loads it, that makes us repack suitcases for children and men, that sighs at the general incompetence of everyone except us.

It’s why women who succeed are universally regarded with suspicion – by other women! – and why we have never been able to fully mobilize to take back our rights from abusers and others. I still think the best way to frighten abusers into submission is to show up en masse

women-protesting

“Whose that over there throwing stones at us? Is that Gladys?”

at court dates and funerals of those harmed and stand there, as the police do, a physical and huge threat. We are over half the population. But no one will do that because of the sneaking suspicion that the woman might have somehow deserved it – after all, he’s so sweet…and he might like us. Heck, we might even date him. He wouldn’t hurt US.

So here we are in the midst of an American Presidential election between a career politician woman (gasp! No!) who is somewhat more terrifying than all the male career politicians (somehow that is okay, though slightly sleazy), and on the opposition, an utter boor. And he is still in the picture, though everyone is hoping he’ll step down and

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“My name is Mike Pence and I own your uterus!”

let a truly evil man take his place, one who talks smoothly with the tongue of repression, rather than revealing his slithering insides.

Well, say many, at least it wouldn’t be a WOMAN. Sadly, even women say this, their envy of success being so poisonous against their own gender that it blinds them to the fact she is better qualified than anyone else who ever stood for the office. And allowing them to accept men who openly or quietly demean women, treat their bodies like possessions, shut them out of top positions, keep them virtual slaves.

I can’t help but feel enraged, though I know the green fire of jealousy burns in me, too.

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Happy green

So how can we fix this seemingly permanent line in our nature? Can we erase the poisonous green and replace it with a kinder, springier one?

I’ve met some women who have. One of whom left us this week – my brother-in-law’s sweet mother – one of the kindest women I’ve met, with a belief in her faith that must have been her weapon against jealousy. Unlike many faithful, she never used it as a hammer with strangers. She simply did good.

I know another few women who do this, who step back from selfishness and do good in their quiet way. I love them all and struggle to be more like them.

But much as I love them, I wish we women would get together, stop doing good quietly, and take over the world up front. Enough quietly rearranging the dishwasher in the background, while sighing in exasperation. Let’s teach our fellow world inhabitants how to do things right. As with these quiet good women, we can show by example, but frankly that’s not working well enough. A thousand people tidying the Titanic wouldn’t have saved it from sinking. A woman who knew how to drive the boat who was able to wrest control from the men who blustered their way in charge might have. It’s time for women to do some blustering.

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“If only there was a smarter person to take charge! One without breasts!”

But you know what? Probably in the lifeboats (of which there would have been enough because, um, planning), other women would be whispering, “Who does she think SHE is? She should mind her own business.” And the men would be shouting four letter words and commenting about breasts.

I despair.

 





On knitting

30 01 2016

BritGirlCatBoyDogknitI’m a terrible knitter. I’m dead slow. I regularly drop stitches  – in fact, so regularly, one could argue they could be part of the pattern, if they weren’t so varied in size.

I lose track of patterns, I forget where I am. I once knitted a hat that was shaped like a Mobius Strip and thus could never ever be worn. Or taken off the needles.

And god help me, with tremendous hubris, I made some poor soul an afghan for her wedding present – one with great holes and a distinct non-rectangularishness. Frightening. Warm, and it took me weeks and weeks to make, but…no.

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my cat never plays with my yarn, so I can’t blame him for tangles…

If I were more patient, I’d learn how to fix dropped stitches, but I always lose the threads when I pull out a few to get at the missed one and so I end up pulling out the whole project and rolling it into a ball. One ball of yarn spent several months in the back of my closet, being punished for not behaving. I think there are a few half knit projects in there, too, all thinking about their respective badnesses.

So, I’ve got to ask myself, why in tarnation do I persist? How many simple scarves does one person need?

Well, there’s a few reasons I still tie bits of yarn in knots, and I think there’s something to be learned from them, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Knitting is like meditation. The repetitive actions soothe the mind, allow it to play elsewhere. You are DOING something, ergo you are not wasting time, but you are also thinking, putting your subconscious chicks in a row.
  2. It keeps me humble. Everyone CAN knit. Not everyone can knit well. (and let’s not even mention….gasp…crochet!). Every time I start a project I am reminded of how little I know compared to so many others, about how much I have to learn.
  3. It’s a survival craft. Like baking bread or tying knots or sewing, it is one of thodress06se things that I (or rather, you) can do from first principles, from spinning the raw wool to making clothing. Come the armageddon, I shall at least be able to drape myself in large squares of knitted grasses. I find this vaguely comforting, tho god knows why.
  4. It’s a sensory delight. From the cheapest acrylic to the most dainty cashmere, wools and cottons and silks and bamboos slip through my fingers, providing sensory stimulation and the inevitable need to squeeze. My knitting pals pass skeins of yarn around our communal table and we ALL SQUEEZE EVERY SKEIN. It’s always  topic of comment, from the gritty linens to the softest baby yarn. And the colours!! Such fun to play with and imagine.
  5. And that brings up the best reason to keep knitting – my knitting pals. Knitting is a terrifically democratic hobby –  you can be a yarn snob (as I confess I am – I take so long to knit things I resent spending days on a cheap yarn) or a bargain hunter. You can insist on wool, or wander into the trendy yarns. You can be bad at it, as I am, or stupendous at it, like many of my pals, and you are welcome. No one is turned away. You knit and talk and knit little relationship groups together, form friends, link to new friends, develop a community just as you knit together your scarves or sweaters or socks. It’s amazing to watch and I treasure my knitting friends, who tolerate my descent into needle felting. (You can stab things and there’s no stitches to drop!

As with most important things, it’s the people that make the hobby. And the hobby that makes the friendships. Stories are shared over knitting that wouldn’t otherwise make it to air. I am so grateful for the friendships this seemingly simple task has brought into my life.

As for the rest of you, you non-knitting types, what’s stopping you? It keeps fingers nimble, it’s good for men, women and children. Come, join in. You’ll be welcome.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

18 07 2014

41yP7zqWI8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_I know I am by no means the first to cheer this wonderful book about writing and life and joy and jealousy and competitiveness and outgrowing that and love and loss. It’s one of the MUST READ books in any writer’s (or person’s) collection.

But I had it out last night for some inspiration and came across the lines below and they made me laugh out loud. She’s commenting about how she takes index cards with her everywhere to note down things since she (like me and many of us) forgets them unless she does. I know I travel with piles of little notebooks to write down little phrases and such. (I hear you can also do it on Evernote but my battery runs down with astonishing regularity and there’s nothing to beat a pencil and paper in the rain.) She’s figured out how to fold the cards and her pencil so she doesn’t look bulky, even.

But here’s what she says about this need to write things down:

I think that if you have the kind of mind that retains important and creative thoughts – that is, if your mind still works – you’re very lucky and you should not be surprised if the rest of us do not want to be around you. I actually have one writer friend – whom I think I will probably be getting rid of soon – who said to me recently that if you don’t remember it when you get home, it probably wasn’t that important. And I felt eight years old again, with something important to say that had suddenly hopped down one of the rabbit holes in my mind…

Emphasis mine. How wonderfully witchy of her!

That’s the thing about writing. Because no one really KNOWS how it’s done, we’re all out here in the wilderness stumbling along, and the slightest little thing can make us feel eight again and hushed up again and told to stop that talking and shouldn’t you be doing something constructive? again.

Reading Anne Lamott brings me back. I may be only eight with little to say, but at least I have a friend here, and perhaps we can play with our word blocks together.

Come join us, if you haven’t already. Anne Lamott also writes great books on faith and life and so forth – depending on your religious stance, these may or may not be for you – but in all things she comes across as a gal I’d love to have a lemonade with and laugh til our stomachs ached.

And then we’d write. And write. And write.





Last lines…

3 04 2014

Everyone talks about the importance of the first line in your story, long or short, but there is often such grace in the last line that they need to be mentioned.
The last line can give you a punch, a feeling of “whoa!”, and last lingering taste of the story, that makes it live in your head long after you are done.
The short story “How Far She Went” by Mary Hood, as featured in Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction” (2nd edition, pp. 207-213) is an excellent example. The story itself is filled with imagery, familial history, danger, and sadness. It concerns a rebellious teenager who has been left at her grandmother’s by her father. The entire story is worth a read, but my breath caught in my throat when I read this last line:
“The girl walked close behind her, exactly where she walked, matching her pace, matching her stride, close enough to put her hand forth (if the need arose) and touch her granny’s back where the faded voile was clinging damp, the merest gauze between their wounds.”
The whole story, the girl’s turnaround, the meat of what happened, is captured in that line.
The more I read it, the more it hits me. Not a word too many, or a word too few. And yet, everything.





Mining memories

16 08 2013

messy-deskWas listening to CBC this morning and there was some program on it (I forget which one) about memory, about the pathways of memory, about how if we rehash memories they create rivers in our neurons, meaning they’ll be easier to recall later.

So, between them, and writing exercises starting “I remember”, I’ve been digging a bit.

On the radio program they said “We always remember our first kiss”. I had to go mining deep for that one. I remember a lot of memorable kisses – the fly by one at college, the first one from an unreasonably handsome man who I never thought would notice me, wet kisses, dry kisses, passionate kisses, loving kisses, pecks on the cheek. But my first? I scrounged around a bit in my files.

Ah, yes, there it was, in the group of most embarrassing moments. My first boyfriend had tried to french kiss me. I reacted badly. Had never even thought of French kissing, had no idea about tongues and such. He politely backed off, always a considerate fellow, and we never French kissed again for our entire relationship.

Of course, next boyfriend was specifically recruited to teach me French kissing. I am grateful for them both.

That file, the most embarrassing moments, is annoyingly large. I remember asking a friend to come with me to the prom, RIGHT after I had the most hideous haircut of my life – he, unsurprisingly, said no. I remember bursting into tears at a management meeting just before I left work, snivelling and weeping like some half-baked depressive. I was sick sick then, my MS just kicking me about, but I didn’t know that. I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown, and probably looked like it, too.

I remember stupid things I said, foolish things I did. They’re all there, ready to be retrieved and placed on some invented person so I can feel them again (eek) or make them feel real for my characters.

I remember happy things, too – the joy of feeling my babies moving inside me, the first sight of them, the time I ran for politics and made a good speech.

Sad times, too – losses and absences and heartbreak.

Excitement. Thrills. Laughter.

It’s good we can retrieve these things, imagine what our characters must feel when they go through them. It’s a great place to go mining for inspiration.

But I can’t help wondering if revisiting these feelings changes me, too.





Connecting with a romantic partner

24 07 2013

Had a recently met fellah tell me that he was amazed at all the wonderful women out in the world and that he wondered if men were keeping up.

Answer: no.

I believe there are so many wonderful women out on the dating sites because you men are NOT keeping up. You might look at stepping up your game. Especially if you want to keep us.

I say all this with affection and a little bit of exasperation. I’ve met a lot of wonderful men over these second-time-round dating years and it’s been entertaining, interesting, and sometimes a bit scary.

If you ever wonder why we women are becoming more hesitant and less open with you guys, perhaps it’s time to look inside.

We really don’t want to hear about your crazy ex. Trust me, we know that if she was crazy, part of you either likes that or causes it. Either – not good. Come to terms with that relationship before you start another.

We don’t scope you out for money resources. We do want to know you can handle money like a responsible adult. Many of you are looking for someone to feed and house you. What’s in it for us? Not anything we want or can’t get elsewhere.

We’re not therapists. Deal with your issues before you go a-hunting. Come to us relatively whole and we’re thrilled. I’m a nurse, for heaven’s sake, and I’ll be darned if I am going to do psychological counselling for free.

We don’t stalk you if things don’t go well. That’s just creepy and potentially a chargeable offence. When things are over, let them be over. Unless you’ve established a friendship, let her go, man.

We don’t take one look and discard you. Maybe you could try that, too. I know a guy who dropped a lass he was quite deeply involved with because there was something “not quite right with her face”. It wasn’t bad enough to make him not sleep with her, though. I suppose he kept his eyes shut.

Ach, I am sounding bitter, and that’s not me. I adore several of the men I’ve met, and many are good friends. But every once and awhile I wish a contender for something more might appear.

And then I am disappointed, and look into cats. Not the same, yes, but feeding them is easy, they keep a bed warm, and they purr.

PS: I know all of this can go for any gender. We all need to be more grown-up out there. Be kind to each other.

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