It's a jolt to be called "Ma'am" the first time. And it still sucks the 223rd time. Ouch...a realization nobody needs to be reminded of. The thoughts that follow, I promise, are not yet another "homage" to the "I look better at 50 something then I did at 20 something" mantra. No. You don't. You look different -- and that's a good thing. The beauty of our youth is a glorious time and nobody can replicate it.
So, let's accept that and move on. Our exteriors may fade (a tad, a tad) but our interiors can brighten. There are some spectacular benefits to being a 50-plus broad...a 50-plus broad solo on the road is an adventure I just returned from. It had been a looooong time since I traveled stag.
I grew up in a matriarchal family -- with a dominating and adored mother, a live-in, idolized grandmother, four sisters, countless bossy, juicy aunts, a hen-pecked father and a brother who was fairly ignored by the pack of girls. Needless to say, I've always been drawn to women -- strong women -- and found myself this summer in a city in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, that seemed to be a Mecca for sisters -- all ages -- all stripes -- all power.
I went with a purpose -- a big item on my "to do" list. While I got to check that off (who doesn't love that feeling), there were so many more levels to this trip that I had not realized I needed and that I needed to explore. The rambling opened up aspects of me -- being alone and able to reconnect with -- well, the big stuff like: space, spirit, love, meaning. It was fun to observe the freedom I felt and how very different the "now" me versus the "then" me of my 20s or 30s would have reacted and would have experienced.
Some exploits and how the "grace" of aging can rock...
When I leave my demi-boyfriend for extended trips, we agree on the following five principles for both of us:
1. No promises
2. No lies
3. No details
4. No confessions
5. Wrap it up please...
NOW: Sometimes being a grownup is a bitch. While I like this/need this, there's a deep down girlie side of me that misses the drama. I ignore that side and embrace the freedom... 'cause we all have secret erotic selves and the search for a "soul mate" in every aspect of life has long been buried in favor of honesty.
THEN: This agreement never would have happened in my 20s or 30s. While I may have (probably would have) carried on, I was hooked on the DRAMA, the obsession, the jealousies of being "LOOOOVED". That ain't love...but...ahhhh, youth!
Flings, Sexual Adventures and Sweet Taboos:
It was not easy to ignore the appeal of the "Oh You Kid" 20-something man living on the bottom floor from our shared hacienda. Central casting couldn't have chosen a more delicious Ricky for my Lucy...tango instructor, man about town...yummmmm...
NOW: I date young -- but there has got to be a line drawn. This is the CHILD of a friend of mine. Not happening. I'm going Ethel here.
THEN: I'd have been all over this taboo...more fodder for the chronicles. I'd have begged him not to rat on me with said mother. He'd have complied.
On yet another sunny, shiny day, while sauntering down a cobblestone alley, I get hit on by a dashing Mexican Cowboy hanging outside of the organic market (!!) For those NYC women out there, we know that this kind of hustle does not happen in our town as much as the old days. Is it the water? Cowboy's line: "You look like a woman of my age - 53, 54 (close enough.) I have a horse ranch and I am known to be quite fun. You don't want to get married and have my children, do you?" No I definitely do not. I get to see iPhone clips of his horse ranch as his sharply dressed Buckaroo sidekick poses in front of his pick up truck - very John Huston scene.
NOW: I had a project I cared about and was working on intensely. It could be fun but I was running out of days and had to edit my time wisely. However, I did take his number, his email and distributed it among the many lusty, available women I met. They say the men in SMA are either gay, married or leaving on Tuesday. In this case, I was leaving on Tuesday -- so I shared the wealth. I found a live, frisky one!
THEN: I was the champion of travel flings -- but priorities change. I'd have been off and running with this nut job and his fellow wrangler -- project and discipline be damned. Giddyap!
Each morning, I'd take off for my Spanish class. A class costs $11 for a one-on-one hour intensive with a kind, patient teacher. Yes, the cost of two cappuccinos in NYC...at a cheap place.
After these sessions, I'd visit churches. I'd amble about, get lost, immerse myself in the beauty, in the forbidden. I'd find myself in unexpected sanctuaries where -- at least at home -- we'd be barred from visiting in precious, hidden chapels -- a new one each day. I'd email my friends about these excursions and I became known as the "Prayer Warrior" to my pals back home. We'd joke -- but there were emails in my inbox daily with their hopes, their wishes for themselves, for family, for friends, for health, wisdom, happiness. I embraced this title. In fact, I was becoming that Warrior...taking the time to think and meditate in silence about people I cared about - about their well-being. Recently I read a review in The NY Times that spoke to me about Sam Harris's new book "Waking Up." I quote Frank Bruni here in describing a walk Harris took in Jesus's footsteps. This happened on "an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon," Harris writes. "As I gazed at the surrounding hills, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being separate self -- an 'I' or a 'me' - vanished. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-between-godliness-and-godlessness.html
NOW: YEP! Nothing to do with dogma -- it's universal! Bring it on!
THEN: While I relished the art, I'd have scrammed out of those chapels the moment I sniffed "devotion" or "sacred." I was a recovering Catholic and was marred to any spiritual enlightenment. Poor young me...
Why did it take me so damn long to get the SIMPLIFY principle? The loveliness of a smile to strangers in the morning with a "Bon Dia." The spontaneous fun of a morning espresso with a new friend who lifts your day with his dazzling brain and surprising, brilliant observations about...life. The taking the time to view a video a deep, good pal sends you that may be...seven minutes long -- and your world radically shifts for a moment. The joy of making last minute dates without the de riguer 55 text exchange. The thrill of NOT writing my obsessive list of "things to do" or -- if I write it -- don't make it 132 items per day. Edit edit edit -- a simple process of elimination. Less decades to look forward to - let's be kinder, shall we? And kinder to ourselves. One of the most poignant films last year, "The Great Beauty," said it all for me when Jep, our jaded hero asserts: "The most important thing I discovered a few days after turning 65 is that I can't waste any more time doing things I don't want to do."
NOW: Yeah, Jep. Me neither...and I don't wanna hit 65 to learn that. There is a freedom that comes with age if you play it right. Simplify!
THEN: I wore shades ala Anna Wintour so "strangers" wouldn't chat me up. The more convoluted my life, the more complex my relationships, the better. I said YES to everything. No filter. I've come a long way, baby...
On my way home, in the shuttle, I met yet another enlightened, fascinating, elderly lady. She asks me how long I have been in San Miguel -- and then she declares: "San Miguel is a very female city. There are others: Paris, Rome, but you have been in the heart of one of them."
I looked at her dumbfounded. Of course she was right -- the family values, the adoration of the children, the spirituality, the rituals, the beauty, the safety, the sweet hospitality of the locals, the matriarchal traditions. Then or now, I would have realized this -- eventually. I went on this trip thinking I needed solitude. What I needed was "Home."
Maryjane Fahey is a writer, designer, animator and coauthor with Caryn Beth Rosenthal of DUMPED, a breakup bible for women to get off their asses and over their exes in record time.