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What Every Argument You’ve Ever Had Is REALLY About

Argument

What Every Argument You’ve Ever Had Is REALLY About. Most days these days, I can name a few reasons to be angry at my guy, The Spaniard. Truly. We’ve been through seemingly endless challenges — some self-created and others lobbed at us by an invisible, arbitrary all-star pitcher — and there are many times I’ve asked myself why, oh why, did he not handle x differently? (Read: The way I would have wanted him to.)

In our maturity, we’ve both learned not to go looking for drama. We know it has a way of finding us even when we’re hiding behind things we think will protect us: well-laid plans, a retirement account, historically good health. But drama has a way of slipping in just when you think you’ve closed the door tight. It doesn’t discriminate. This, we now know.

The Spaniard and I don’t have screaming fights. We don’t (anymore) go days on end without speaking. When we do argue, it’s usually because I’m unhappy with something he’s done. Truth be told, he rarely complains I’m not holding up my end of the relationship bargain. That’s either because, a) he’s more open-minded and forgiving, or b) I’m not doing much to derail our happy place. OK, honestly? It’s a combination. Cross my heart.

Part of our ongoing challenge is we have a blended family. And blended families don’t come with easy-bake directions. They’re messy and raw. And frustratingly chaotic. Add the recent death of the ex-wife to the mix and you can toss the whole Brady Bunch-esque fantasy into the Nutribullet. There’s grief and disillusionment. And anger. And disagreement about whose anger and grief should be prioritized. And whose disillusionment should top the specials board on days that end in the letter y.

What Every Argument You’ve Ever Had Is REALLY About

So, I know how it feels when the people and circumstances in your life do crazy with unparalleled proficiency and panache. Sometimes it seems your only option is to unleash — often onto your fallible partner — a well-deserved mix of rage, inarguable criticisms and the always constructive, cherry-on-top list of why and how you do the whole living and breathing thing in an obviously superior fashion. Sound familiar? But what I want to share with you has changed the way I choose to respond to the crazy. Yes, choose. And not because I’ve found some super special zen place, I haven’t. But I know, in my deepest core, that it’s the most accurate, frustrating, righteousness-negating truth of truths about all disagreements. Whether you’re expressing anger at your spouse, your friend or your child, what you’re really saying, without exception, is this: Stop making me feel this way.

Yep. That’s it.

Stop making me feel sad or lonely or betrayed. Stop negating my feelings. Stop making me feel this out of control. Quit making me feel like I’m needy or demanding. Or crazy jealous. Or that I’m not an effective parent. Stop making me feel like I’m not a priority. Or that I’m not successful enough or pretty enough or enough enough. Stop. Just stop. Because the more terrible or threatened or scared I feel, the more vicious and fervent the resulting argument will be. Full stop.

Whatever you’re in disagreement about is indisputably related to what’s it’s triggering in you. OK, yes, you’re angry your child stayed out past his curfew. But what is the underlying feeling attached to it? Well, perhaps it makes you feel disempowered or unheard in a way that’s historically painful for you. Or maybe you’re pissed your boyfriend just checked out — for the second time — that hot brunette who just walked by your table. But, again. Could it be your insecurity about your own attractiveness — or your fear that he’ll up and leave you for someone else — that’s driving the upset?

When our basest selves are provoked, we lash out at the person we perceive has injured us in some way. Do the people in our lives hurt us? Hell yeah, they do. But, more often than not, your reaction isn’t about the actual event or behavior, but to the wounded space it activates inside you. The space that would really rather not be poked or prodded thankyouverymuch.

So, what’s the benefit of knowing this? Well, back to choice. Next time you feel that bile of anger rise, stop. At least pause. Is your child’s tardiness really egregious enough for you to go off the rails? Isn’t it true your boyfriend thinks you’re so sexy and beautiful that he’s chosen only you to partner with? Take a breath and shift your lens. Look inside and take ownership of your reactions. When you’re able to identify your insecurities and sore spots, you can teach the people close to you how to sidestep them. And you, in kind, can learn how to steer clear of theirs.

Will this ensure a battle-free relationship zone? Good gracious, no. But it may help hack away at any extraneous drama in your lives. And that’s a very, very good thing. At least, I hope, we can all agree on that.

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What’s Wrong With Girls? Apparently Everything

 

n-BEAUTY-PRODUCT-SKIN-large570Thoughtful parents everywhere are fighting to save their daughters from the cruelest of villainesses, Low Self-Esteem. And she’s a formidable opponent no matter what protective parents do to disarm her. Why? Because from the time girls get their first Barbie dolls, the insidious message of what a sought-after woman looks like has infiltrated their sensibilities. And by the time Barbie drives her Glam Convertible up to her Dream House, the connection between having big boobs, an improbably small waist and kink-free blonde hair is intrinsically linked with achieving the “good life.”

On a recent trip to Miami, I took conscious note of what young women are bombarded with regarding their physicality. One billboard hawked a special “feminine” soap for those with offensively smelly vaginas. Countless other ads touted quick weight loss products. Message? You’re too fat. Other messages? You’re too thin, too Black, too white, too hairy. Your underarms stink, your va-jay-jay is too dry and you need a tan. Your eyelashes aren’t long enough and your teeth aren’t white enough. Your breath stinks and your skin needs an unquantifiable amount of help and coverage. And let’s not even get into the horror of menstruation.

Some young women in Miami were scantily dressed. And by scantily, I mean barely. And this wasn’t on the beach. They were dressed for dinner. I understand that young people primp and preen to attract potential partners. And that by standing out in a crowd, an attractive, desirable partner will hopefully notice and choose to mate with you. That’s just animal nature. But I had to wonder just who the desirable partners were these young women thought they would attract? I noticed a lot of 45-year-old men with their tired wives and gaggle of kids turn their heads. But is the goal to be validated by some already-taken old guy who wants a look up your micro mini? I have to hope not.

And, to make matters worse, ideal attractiveness is a moving target we can never hit. Small-busted or buxom? Big butt or tiny tush? Blonde or brunette? Brazilian or bush? Kate Moss or Kim Kardashian? And let’s not forget that ubiquitous handful of supermodels — paraded in a continuous loop in our psyches — whose otherworldly physical attributes simply aren’t attainable by mere mortal women.

For those in the aging crew, there’s no end to the products designed to keep us looking younger. So, while we’re encouraged to inject foreign inflatables into our faces, jam silicone into our bodies and endlessly attempt to diet and exercise ourselves back to our wedding day weight, we’re simultaneously trying to convince our daughters to love themselves just the way they are.

I’ve heard smart, successful women talk about and to their daughters in ways more treacherous than they imagine. “You really shouldn’t eat so much. Your thighs are getting fat,” or “She’s too short. I wish she’d gotten her height from her father’s side.” I’ve heard loving moms lament their daughters’ hair color or texture, their skin tone, their baby fat. All the while berating themselves for crow’s feet or no longer fitting into those Girbaud jeans from 1984. But moms aren’t to blame. They grew up with the very same messages. And those messages never stop.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a pretty, blonde classmate when we were college seniors. Her post-graduation plan? “My father and I share the dream of me posing for Playboy one day.” (Lord, please let me tell this story without angry rants about what an honor it is to be chosen by HH — which may well be true for some but isn’t germane here). The point is, this young woman’s FATHER encouraged her to pose naked as a life’s goal. Message? You tell me, but — creepy factor aside — I’m thinking something along the skewed lines of ultimate external validation.

It’s tempting to remind parents of girls to watch their running commentary on women’s clothes or hair or weight or beauty. But so many moms and dads are already out there fighting the good fight for their daughters’ self-esteem. And so many young women already know the score. But, as far as we’ve come, there’s so much further to go. An infinitesimal number of women will ever come close to the physical ideal du jour. So, isn’t it best to put our efforts into what we do have to offer? For guidance, we should take a page from said supermodels’ books. These women have figured out how to maximize their natural-born gifts, using them to create businesses and earn money. We need to help every girl we love do the same — optimize her talents and shift her focus from the fruitless chase of someone else’s unattainable dress size or pin-up fantasy. Whether her goal is professional sports, medical school, homemaking or posing for Playboy, let it come from one place only: within.

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Re-Spinning Splitting: Why Divorce Needs a Good Publicist

No one tells you not to graduate high school or get married or have kids. No one tells you that you shouldn’t exercise, eat right, save for retirement, or pay your mortgage on time. Or that you shouldn’t learn more, read more or strive for that next rung on the ladder. No one recommends you shouldn’t keep your nose clean, stay off drugs or avoid run-ins with the law. Nope. Nobody. There’s a general consensus that most of these things are smiled upon. Or it’s all a conspiracy theory — depending on your lens.

But we’re told — covertly or overtly — not to divorce. That divorce — in all its splendorous complexity and astronomical emotional and financial expense — is to be avoided at all costs. We’re instructed to “work” on our marriages, no matter how dire they’ve become. You’ll hurt yourself, your families, and your children, you’re warned. You’ll live eternally in financial straits. Your kids will blame you. Your ex-spouse will become an ogre only found in children’s fairy tales. Your life, after divorce, will become a big, black hole of regret, frustration and sadness.

But if nearly fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, why are we still peddling it as doom and gloom? Isn’t it time to put a different spin on it? Of the divorced ranks, I ask: Isn’t there strength in numbers? Shouldn’t divorced folks combine forces to change up the ingrained messages that still plague our society about the ending of a marriage?

Hang on. I’m not arguing for divorce. I’m no more pro-divorce than I am pro-illiteracy. But we’ve become a nation of divorce dissenters. What if we didn’t look at divorce as a failure or a train wreck? What if, instead of promising our kids a happily ever after in which their parents never, ever split, we tell them there’s always that possibility? Marriages, despite our best intentions, don’t always last, we could say, even before trouble is on the horizon. What if we didn’t greet the news of divorce as a tiny tragedy but as a near-inevitable occurrence for half our population?

I’m divorced and my heart still sinks when I hear another couple is divorcing. I know that prescribed road is bumpy and dark and scary. But when I filter out the dire messages about divorce, what’s left? Like millions of others, I’m happier and better off. Not in every way, of course, but in the way most important — my soul is at peace. My kids see their mother — not as a shadow of herself — but as authentically living and enjoying her life. Would they prefer their parents still be married? Perhaps. But that’s because they’re also victims of a society which tells them divorce is bad and sad — that their family is busted.

We need to start managing expectations around here. Just twenty years ago, the idea of legal marriage for our gay friends was anathema to most folks. Even those who supported gay rights may have looked at it as a blue sky dream. But many have come around to accepting it as an inevitability and a human right. Yes, the spin has spun in a different direction. The numbers supported a change in the tide; the need to redefine an antiquated way of looking at what makes a family.

But woe is the gay couple who marries and, yikes, then chooses to divorce. Because, when you divorce, you break up a family. Right? See how readily you nod? But, stay with me here, maybe that’s not how we market it. What if, as a divorced nation, we accepted divorced families, not as broken, but as, well, simply divorced. Without labels attached. Or sympathy. Or blame.

Are there a tiny percentage of folks who live happily and passionately in 50-year marriages? Yes, of course. But many more of us choose to stay in meh marriages. Huge numbers of us get divorced. We’re half the norm. Our stories — and our families — are in desperate need of healthy redefinition.

So, I’ll begin by modeling the change I’d like to see in redefining divorce with a message to my kids: Boys, your family is not broken and neither are you. Your parents got divorced. You’re loved now as you have always been by the very same people. You carry no stigma. When you marry, please choose your spouses with eyes wide open. Know that, if you’re lucky, lust and love will overlap on a good day. Manage your expectations when it comes to the routine of married life. Understand that relationships have ups and downs. But when those downs continue for years on end, know that’s not the way you’re intended to live. I didn’t bring you into this world so you could live unhappily. Or with heavy, dissatisfied hearts. If you divorce, do so fairly, kindly and respectfully. Be a model for successful, divorced families without shame or guilt.

It’s time.

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The Real Reason Over Half of Women Say They Divorced in Midlife

The Real Reason Over Half of Women Say They Divorced in Midlife. It’s no secret that midlife or “gray” divorce is skyrocketing. And, according to the AARP, 66 percent of these divorces — which have doubled since 1990 — are initiated by women. But the numbers, without any narrative, are just numbers. They don’t tell us why so many women, seemingly in droves, are making this heartbreakingly difficult decision. My interest piqued, I designed and distributed a survey to find out more. Hundreds of women took the survey and told their stories. And I am very grateful they did.

Because I’m a psychotherapist who has worked with dozens of divorced and divorcing folks, I wasn’t prepared to be surprised by the results. As it turns out, I was both intrigued and enlightened by many of the findings. But the one piece of data that most astonished me was this: A whopping 53 percent of women said they divorced their spouses because of emotional or psychological abuse. This was the number one reason women gave for leaving their marriages.

What is emotional (or psychological) abuse exactly? It’s the systematic manipulation of one person by another — through intimidation, bullying and criticism– in order to gain control. Emotionally abusive partners do this by making their spouses feel inadequate, stupid, guilty, lazy or ugly. There’s practically nothing the victim can do to win the favor of the abusive partner. She may be on her best behavior (defined by him), cook his favorite food every night, or lose 20 pounds so he’ll find her more attractive. Newsflash: None of these things will make a whit of difference. It often takes time before the victim realizes the futility of her efforts, so she will continue to dance like a marionette to please her implacable spouse.

Emotional abuse is always present at the start of a relationship, despite how cleverly cloaked it may be in humor or concern or love. It never magically appears overnight. People with a propensity to emotionally abuse carefully select partners who seem susceptible. Emotional abuse can, at least initially, fly below the radar. And emotional abusers are so masterful at their insidious craft that they’re expert in not scaring potential victims away.

How do you know if you’re in — or heading into — an emotionally abusive marriage? Simply put, if you don’t have healthy autonomy — in speaking or socializing or living — then you’re already in a danger zone. Are you watching what you say, who you engage with, or how you dress in order to contain his reactions? Do you limit what you tell others about the relationship because it’s an unspoken rule you shouldn’t talk about it? Emotional abuse begins with rules put in place by your partner. Rules designed to ultimately diminish and control you.

For over 50 percent of the survey respondents, years of being chastised and belittled finally took their toll. Enough of a toll that they ended their marriages because of it. Here’s what some of the respondents had to say, post-divorce, about being free from the emotional abuse they endured in their marriages. Their relief is palpable:

The Real Reason Over Half of Women Say They Divorced in Midlife

“I am free to pursue my interests without being made to feel guilty.”

“The best thing is not having someone to say no to things you want to do.”

“Being able to be my own person with my own goals and dreams without being told I’m ‘silly and pointless’ for the first time since I was 16 years old.”

“Not feeling as if I have to live my life under someone else’s ‘rules’.”

And while we now know over half of women surveyed left their marriages because of emotional abuse, even more — a full 70 percent — said they had married because they were in love. But as sure as the love was there, so was the flagrant abuse, lying in shadow until the unique insularity of marriage gave it license to show its full face.

The wise, insightful women who took my survey are no different from me, you, your daughter, your manicurist, your physician or your favorite actress. Emotionally abused women aren’t weak or stupid. Almost anyone can be a victim of emotional abuse at some point during her life. To be clear, there’s no shame in being vulnerable to your spouse or working hard on your marriage. But it is problematic when you flail away at improving an irretrievably broken relationship while watching any semblance of self-respect disappear in the rearview.

Change can’t happen without insight. And a victim of emotional abuse may temporarily lose her capacity for insight as everything she ever believed about herself — and about basic human kindness and decency– becomes skewed and distorted as a result of the abuse. But the data here is hopeful. The numbers tell us that somehow, some way, victims of emotional abuse are finding their way back to health and self-love. More than ever before in history, women are making it abundantly clear they’re no longer willing to stay married to partners who abuse them.

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4 Things I Know for Sure About Choosing Midlife Divorce

Midlife Divorce4 Things I Know for Sure About Choosing Midlife Divorce. I became a front line expert on midlife divorce when my own marriage came tumbling down. There I was, in my mid-40s, trying to make sense of the dissolution of a nearly 25-year union that had produced three amazing kids. I’ve also witnessed dozens of midlife divorces in my psychotherapy practice. And most divorcing folks fit the same mold. Whether we push for the divorce or rail against it, we are all — to a person — confused and overwhelmed at best.

The recent stats on midlife divorce are startling. People over 50 are divorcing in higher numbers than ever before. And women are leading the charge — filing in greater numbers than men. The “gray divorce” rate has doubled for this population in the last two decades.

The first thing I know for sure about deciding to divorce in midlife is that it’s an incredibly lonely endeavor. Most of life’s other big decisions — where to go to college, what career to pursue, if and when to marry or have kids — have usually been made with the input of family members, educators, partners and friends.

4 Things I Know for Sure About Choosing Midlife Divorce

But midlife divorce is murkier. Usually, you’ve been married to this person for many years — perhaps even most of your adulthood. In your marriage, you’ve established a life, a routine and a supposition that you are in it for the long run. Now, you think, you’re done with all you’ve built. And thinking about dismantling it is likely the most torturous decision of your life. Even the most supportive of friends and family can’t tell you what to do. And no therapist, guru, shaman or life coach can tell you if it’s time to leave your marriage. Only you can do that.

Secondly, midlife isn’t really midlife unless you’re 39. We call it midlife as a way of gently sidestepping the reality that we likely have more time behind us than ahead. So, divorcing in what we call midlife is really a decision based on the hope that there’s a better way to live out the healthy years we have left. Sorry for the splash of cold water, but it’s true. I hope you live to 100 but, fact is, few of us do. If you’ve spent months or years unhappily wondering if your marriage is a happy one, it’s time to take action. Either work on your marriage or don’t — up to you — but do something. And watch the clock.

I also know divorcing in midlife derails the essence of what you thought your life would be. In a sense, your life’s compass, map and GPS have vanished. You’re lost — wandering in the crushing disappointment that the life you promised to live until the end of your days can’t provide you what you need to feel happy and fulfilled. And, in that realization, you’re going to hurt and disappoint the very people you never thought you could. So when you’re choosing to diverge from what nature and biology and TV sitcoms hold as inalienable truths, you may feel like Atlas — dually shouldering a weight-of-the-world decision while planning for the frontier of a whole new life.

Because marriages and divorces are like snowflakes — no two are exactly alike — I’m on a mission to learn more about women’s experiences with midlife divorce. I knew my situation wasn’t unique, but I didn’t know where to look for a like-minded community. How did other women make this decision? What finally caused them to pull the plug? Why did they get into their marriages in the first place?

So, I’m in the process of writing the book I so desperately needed to read at that time. And, as part of that process, I’ve designed a brief, anonymous survey for divorced women 40 and over. In a matter of a few short days, over 650 women have shared their personal experiences with divorce in midlife. These thoughtful women have openly shared their pain and their joy — and the lessons they came away with following divorce. The survey is still open if you’d like to chime in. I’d love — love! — to hear from you.

I’m excited to share the results of this survey — for you, and you, and you. For all the women in midlife poised on the brink of this momentous and far-reaching decision. And for those of you who have already been there — whether you’re still nursing your battle scars or have long left your divorce in the emotional dust. I realize what others think or say may not change your life — but, at the very least, their experiences may make you feel less lonely. You have a community — a real, feeling, knowing community. And, as the research bears out, you are very, very far from alone. And that, too, I know for sure.

For more posts by Abby, click here to see Abby’s blog!

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Musings of Brilliant Folks and Other Captivating Stuff

3 Ways Your Unhappy Marriage May Be Hurting Your Kids.

n-PARENTS-FIGHTING-large570We’re often warned about the detrimental effects divorce can have on children: It can make them insecure, worried, or harm their ability to have a successful marriage later on in life. But do you really believe all that? Relationship expert and marriage and relationship coach Nancy Pina is looking at things from the flip side. Here are three reasons a divorce may just be the healthiest thing for all of you. Read more.

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The Phase of Raising Tough Kids

sb10065231ck-001My mother’s lifelong friend, Mrs. Ryan — and that’s what we called her — was like a second mother to my sister and me. She raised four kids of her own, three of whom were older than us. When my mother would lament some new challenge with her own children, the experienced Mrs. Ryan would respond lovingly, “It’s just a phase.”

I’m not sure if those four little words helped my mother through our comparatively benign childhood and adolescence. On paper, they’re little solace for parents who are grappling with the trials of raising challenging kids. I personally consider myself an expert in grappling after raising three sons whose adolescent choices took at least five years off my life, proverbially speaking. To protect their privacy, I won’t go into all the mishaps, heartbreaks (mine) and unrest they brought to our door. Needless to say, I’m sure there were a lot of folks in our town who wondered, understandably, just what the heck was going on in our house.

And I’m a good mom. Really. My friends, and family and kids will all tell you that. I was there for my boys in their crises — and there was opportunity aplenty for that. Anton Chekhov wrote, “Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” Apparently, Mr. Chekhov never parented three crisis-prone teenage boys. Because the crises can and do wear you down — right along with the daily worry of what’s coming next.

But through grace and luck and what I’m going to hope was halfway decent parenting, my boys are launched and on their way to their definitions of success. And that makes me oh-so-happy but, more importantly, it’s given me a lot of perspective. How? Because when my sons were (fill in whatever poor choices, within reason, spring to mind and I’m sure they will apply), I thought I’d never feel the end of the heartache, pain and, yes, embarrassment of whatever it was. Not only did I worry about the crisis du jour and what it meant for them in the next hour or week or year, but I was consumed with what the lasting effects of their antics would be. It was a time of uncertainty and endless anxiety.

And then.

My oldest son went to college. And then my middle. And then my baby. And despite the requisite growing pains, they’re all evolving into the most amazing of young men. And all of the crazy of the past is relegated there. And sometimes we laugh about the old days. Really laugh. About things that were really, really not funny at the time. And when one son came home on his first college break and said, “I’m sorry for everything I put you through, Mom. It was a lot,” I had my first inkling that everything — to the extent that it can be for anyone — was going to be OK.

Watching your children teeter on the threshold of adulthood is a thrilling and frightening thing. It’s waiting to see whether the crops you planted — of lessons imbued, forgiveness granted and love showered — will yield a successful harvest. And whether the qualities you thought most important for them to be successful humans — tolerance, gratitude and kindness, in my case — were absorbed. Or whether their adult choices will be decent and thoughtful ones, even if they differ from yours.

A close friend of mine is helping her three children navigate some pretty serious family crises. And her children are all struggling mightily. And my friend is sad and pained and in that place — the very same place I was — where I just couldn’t see that time would pass and the kids would grow up and that life would not be frozen in this particular moment of angst.

And isn’t that one curse of parenting? That our children’s turmoil is so overwhelming to us, we just can’t envision that in a month or three or twenty, many of these struggles will be behind them. Or they will, at the very least, look and feel different in some way. I realize this isn’t true for every child or every experience. Lord knows, I know that. But it is true for the parents trying to make sense of what it means to raise a child who refuses, in whatever current capacity, to toe the line.

I now know — in the way of real knowing — that what Mrs. Ryan said is true. That raising kids is a series of phases that can’t and won’t last. It’s a truism for our kids, for us and for life. I only wish I could have believed it when I most needed it. Chekhov also wrote, “Wisdom… comes not from age, but from education and learning.” And, when it comes to parenting, I can surely attest to that.

Also read on Huffington Post

 

 

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50-Year-Old Women and 25-Year-Old Guys

50YrOldWomen

It was a late night at Foxwoods when my guy announced he wanted to stay up and gamble. Because I have as much chance of understanding craps as I do learning to speak fluent Mandarin, I headed up to our room for bed.

I was already in the elevator when the doors opened and about 10 young men — all in their twenties and not exactly what you’d call sober — got on. They had their overnight bags with them and between their bodies and the luggage, I was pretty much pinned against the back wall.

One of the young men was particularly loud and sloppy. The others, aware of my presence, seemed a bit embarrassed by their friend’s antics. “Where are thelay-deesWherecanwefinethuhladies?” he slurred as part of his running commentary.

Suddenly, I felt a nudge. At first I ignored it because, being in such close quarters, I was sure one of the guys had just bumped my arm. But the nudging persisted until I turned to the tall, handsome young man standing next to me.

When we made eye contact, he said, quietly, without any hint of sarcasm or malice or innuendo: “How does that make you feel?”

How does that make you feel? In other words, how did it make me feel that his friend was asking where the ladies were while I, obviously a female, stood among them? How did it feel that his friend had not counted me as a viable, desirable woman?

Luckily, the doors opened at that moment and, with an eye roll and a smirk, I pushed my way out.

But the experience stayed with me and I think I’ve figured out why.

First, how I see myself isn’t necessarily how others see me. Most of us, even as we age, still feel young. And then, seemingly suddenly, our outsides and insides no longer match, like one of those unexceptional movies in which the personality of a 13-year-old girl invades her mother’s body. So, no matter how much Botox you inject or how many Pilates classes you attend, you’re still the age you are and everyone else can see that. Even if you look good. Even if you look great. You’re still a 50-year-old woman to a 25-year-old guy.

Second, I remembered how I felt at their age about people my age. They were old. Even if they weren’t. A college professor of mine had a very beautiful, sexy wife (I only realize now) who was probably no older than 35 but, to my college-aged self, she was ancient. The same follows for the elevator guy and me. And just as my youthful opinion of the professor’s wife had no bearing on her life or self-image, nor does the drunken guy’s have any on mine. I’m old to him and that’s just fine.

Third, I’m happy to be in this phase of life. Youth may be wasted on the young but it also belongs to them in both its splendor and struggle. I look at younger women and not for a moment do I wish I could turn back. No. Thank. You. I saw a t-shirt once that read, “I’d rather be 40 than pregnant” and that basically sums it up. (I think I just felt a tidal wave of collective amens-to-that from the menopausal contingent). I’m not saying there aren’t things I wouldn’t change, but the end result of being where I am and who I am now is well worth the wrinkles, stretch marks and the bumpy ride.

Lastly, there are young men whose opinion of me I do value. They’re my three sons and I’m their Mom, Momma and Ma respectively. In the same situation, I hope they’d conduct themselves — not like the loudmouth guy — but rather like his friend, who showed surprising sensitivity to an old lay-dee like me. I’m pretty sure they would.

In fact, craps-table aside, I’m willing to bet my old, sorry butt on it.