10/02/2012 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper

Like most single mothers, I am self-sufficient. Independence is in my blood: I come from a long line of matriarchal Jewish women who sold chickens or worked in the fields while their husbands sat around and studied. Except I study, too. I write, I do research, and lately I've been thinking about finishing my doctorate.

So why do I suddenly find myself wanting to collapse against the nearest broad chest and sob uncontrollably?

One reason is that a broad chest -- attached to a rather attractive male body -- has recently entered the picture. For the first time since my kids were little, someone is interested in knowing what they can do for me. The sexiest four words in the English language may well be "How can I help?"

The problem is, once I get past the blubbering gratitude that someone is asking, I have no idea how to respond. I've spent my life working to get things under control and, well, they are. Bills are paid (most of the time), the lawn is mowed, and the car doesn't need inspecting. I kind of suck at recycling, but over the years I've come to terms with that.

Still, "under control" isn't the same as blooming, thriving or jumping for joy. I'm pretty sure I can experience those things as well. But first, I need to learn how to accept the support being offered.

The prospect is terrifying. How, after all this time, can I allow myself to be vulnerable? To admit I need help, or even scarier, that I want love? I've spent 52 years building the Great Wall of Deborah. Am I really going to dismantle it for the transient pleasure of resting my head on someone's shoulder?

God, I hope so. I've proven beyond doubt that I can be tough. But tenderness -- that's the final frontier. If I can't get there with a bang, it's time to try a whimper.