08/29/2011 10:21 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can a Woman Ever Really Retire?

The other day I was at an amazing Indian dance concert featuring a friend of my daughter. This young woman performed, for two hours, a classic Indian dance known as Bharatnatyam Arangetram. And she plays golf, too. She is heading off to high school, already a stellar example of what a woman of today can become, and I was in awe of her.

Afterward, there was a totally yum Indian food buffet. I was there alone, and I always like to sit with people I don't know, so I sat with some older couples who had one spot left at their table. It turns out they knew the dancer's father, a cardiologist, mostly through playing golf at the local country club. So here I am at a buffet of Indian food, sitting with some folks who, like me, were clearly not of Indian ancestry. They didn't seem totally comfortable with the menu, so I knew I was in for an interesting meal.

The one woman, who reminded me of my mother, said something to her husband that's exactly what my mother would have said: "There's no meat!" All of them picked about at their plates, not sure what was what or how to eat it.  All but one. The woman next to me had an Indian-American neighbor, so she and I together were wolfing down the delicious food with delight.

The other woman sitting across from me had such a pained look on her face, I felt obligated to make conversation. I asked her if she enjoyed cooking. She looked at me with a droll and depressed look on her face and said, "I've been cooking for 44 years, and I'm sick and tired of it."

Her husband, who was busy talking to the golfer next to him, didn't hear. The other woman (the one who reminded me of my mother) chimed in, and said she too was sick of it. So I--troublemaker that I am--looked at her husband who was sitting next to me, and asked her if he ever cooks. The face she made was comical. Again, it was the stunned, prideful, and resentful look that my mother would have made (with a slight shake of her head). "No."

I turned to him, and asked him what he did, and he said, "Nothing. I'm retired."  I joked with him that maybe he should learn to cook. But he wasn't interested in my kind of humor.

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