“Cherry-picking” is defined as the action of selecting only the most beneficial items from what is available. So…..Ladies, a question? Since statistics indicate more older women than ever are choosing to be single instead of married (and since I can’t possibly be the only one who says: Oh hell to the no! Choosing to be single is NOT choosing to be celibate . . .), are we single gals “of an age” cherry-picking our post divorce wants & needs? In other words (and unless I really am the lone slut at the single sisters’ table) are we picking out just the best part(s) of being with the next man — and deep-sixing the rest? Are we with our actions and words — in either conscious thought or subconscious instinct — telling the naked guy in our bed: “Be fun to be with, hold me, screw me, spend time with me, tell me I’m sexy and beautiful — then toodles til the next time –’cause I ain’t doing your laundry, cooking your meals, picking up after your ass, figuring out your fucked up finances, making your doctor appointments, reminding you to call your mother or any of the other myriad of mundane day-in-day-out shit I did for x-number of years.” (In my case, 36)

Harsh, right? But is it true? Because truth be told . . . I think maybe I was cherry-picking my last relationship’s best parts (and his). (OMG! Did she just say that??) Yes, I did. And furthermore many experts say I’m not alone. But before I do my usual survey/research/statistics shtick, let’s recap . . .

Regular readers know of my ongoing/offgoing relationship with Sunday (aka “I don’t do relationships but I show up when I please”) who recently informed me he was in love with another woman. Oh, but wait! It gets waaaay friggin’ better! He said he was waiting a couple years to marry her. And for those of you who haven’t kept a scorecard (or read “Time to Say Goodbye”) — Dude is 52 and the object of his affection is 28!! (OMG! Did she just say that??) Yes, I did. And let me count the ways that fucking stings . . .

Lamenting the loss (because what woman in her right mind would sign on for that gig?), I opened up last weekend to a girlfriend. (It’s what we women do.) She’s not one of my usual 2 go-to sister-confessors, so damn! If Girlfriend 3 didn’t have a whole new take on my heartbreak . . .

“What do you want from him?” she asked.

Ironically, Dude had asked me the same question the night he dropped his little bombshell. I gave her the same answer: “I don’t know.”

“Well you need to figure it out,” she answered. “Are you looking to be in a relationship with him? Do YOU want to marry him?”

“NO. I won’t ever, ever, EVER get married again. I don’t want to play house. Do the day-in-day-out thing. And I’m sure as fuck not co-mingling my money.”

“Ok, so you’re telling me what you DON’T want. What is it you DO? And don’t tell me it’s a relationship — ’cause all those things you just listed — that you don’t want — are what make a relationship. So you don’t want a relationship.”

It took a long pause and a whole lot of thinking before I could come up with an answer. “What I had, I guess. Hanging out a couple times a month, maybe taking the occasional trip. Sex.”

She looked at me, her head tilting. “Did you think you two were exclusive?”

I bit my lip. “Nope. He was always honest about that. He comes and goes, does want he wants, sees who he pleases. I just figured when he was with me, he wanted to be with me. And he always made me feel that way.”

“Well, girlfriend,” she said with a laugh. “You don’t want to hear this . . . but THAT is exactly what you have still. He’s not moving on. He THINKS he’s in love with her. He THINKS he’s going to marry her – in two years. In the meantime, you threw a curve ball at him. You’re obviously not what he prefers . . . age-wise . . . yet he’s still coming around. He likes you. He told you you matter, he trusts you, he likes being with you. Hell! He even told you he loves you–“

“As a friend,” I interrupted.

She waved a hand. “Doesn’t matter. And shit happens. He said so. Things can change. Friendships become relationships. Plus he knows you love him and he hasn’t headed for the hills because you do. So unless you DO want what he THINKS he wants with this girl — and clearly SHE doesn’t want it now — then why are you sad?”

Ouch. Talk about food for thought and a banquet of oh boy, oh boys . . . “I don’t know,” is all I could put on the table.

“Well you gotta figure out. ‘Cause unless you want more, you’ve got it– at least until what you DO want comes along. And by the way, I don’t think it’s him. Because IF it’s the right one, then you are going to want ALL those things you just said you don’t.”

“Doesn’t that make me stupid to still see him? Knowing . . .”

“It goes back to what you want. If this is it – and you have it – then it makes you smart. And seriously . . . looking like he does . . . I don’t blame you. I get it. So until – or unless – ‘better’ comes along . . . ” She shrugged and smiled. “Judith, what do YOU want?”

Indeed. What?

I want what many single women want. And not just women newly single or those whose D.O.B predates Disco by decades. Nowadays, and in greater numbers, women are choosing freedom and independence over relationships with men. For example, last year in Australia, fewer women got married and more got divorced than has ever occurred there before. Experts who apparently study this sociological stuff, say women in their 20s and 30s are focused on fun and friendships and are not ready for love, while older women just prefer to be responsible for their own lives and happiness.

I’ll buy that. But let’s talk specifically “older” divorced women — because that’s my demographic (and it’s my blog). Factor in the facts that the dating scene for us sucks, that we have the means and ability to be self-sufficient in ways that didn’t exist 30 years ago, the stigma of divorce has greatly diminished AND it’s ok to have sex without marrying and BINGO! Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner! Marriage — or remarriage — just ain’t the end-goal it once was. And I, for one, am doing my damnedest to dispel the stereotype of the lonely, miserable spinster who will grow old alone and die with a herd of cats that will eat off her face.

So let’s talk more about this (my) group, a.k.a OWOOMs (older women opting out of marriage) The truth is (remember, according to the experts), women today, in general and of my age in particular, are far less likely — or willing — to suffer unhappiness in an unhappy marriage. Moreover, OWOOMs are happy single — as long as “single” was not forced upon them. (And even then, we cope better than men because we network). But living life solo isn’t just a happier choice for some — it’s a healthier one. At least, according to a 2013 study of nearly 80,000 post-menopausal women in 40 places across the U.S. Between the ages of 50-79, they were followed over a 3 year period as they stayed unmarried or married, got divorced or separated, got remarried or “entered into relationships that were like marriage.” Only women who became widows were excluded from the results which have been published and referenced in rather reputable places, including The Journal of Women’s Health and Psychology Today. Here are the findings released in 2017:

  • For those who were unmarried and then got married: their BMI, level of drinking and systolic blood pressure went up.
  • For those who were married and got divorced or separated: their BMI, waist circumference, and diastolic blood pressure all went down, while their healthy eating habits and level of physical activity went up.

Interesting, eh? That women overall became healthier when divorcing or separating from their husbands?

So . . . happy and healthier . . . with her own place, own money, own life . . . what’s not to like? And here’s another interesting fact based upon a 2014 Australian survey of 3500 single participants: 76% of the women reported being satisfied with their single lives, as opposed to 67% of the men. And now a final contributing factor for some choosing to be single instead of married in older age . . . We fucking live longer! As a rule. So where’s the mystery that many of us don’t jump at marrying a new man? I figure the inner dialogue goes something like this: “Why should I reorganize my whole life to accommodate a new man when chances are pretty damn good he’s going to die on me in a few years? And if he gets sick first — and seeing as I have way more assets than he does — where’s the upside of linking myself to him legally and sacrificing my own future financial well-being ?”

Harsh, right? But it’s reality. And so maybe we deal ala a favorite movie of mine, Heartbreak (no pun intended) Ridge . . . We improvise. We adapt. We overcome. And yes, we cherry-pick. We select what we want and take only the best parts of a relationship:

√ the physical connection with someone who offers human touch and intimacy

√ the emotional connection that allows vulnerability and the sharing of happiness, sadness, hopes, dreams, experiences and honest conversation

√ the fun and comfort of just being with someone you just enjoy being with

Yep. Check. Check. And check. And guilty as charged.

Ergo, as a self-confessed perpetrator of the crime of cherry-picking, why the eff am I now surprised (or hurt ) to discover there are pits? Damn! We’re talking real food for thought now . . .

Sooooooooo . . . about that 28-year-old stone . . . is it time to be logical – and practical? After all, as with any unpalatable matter that somehow comes to get stuck in a woman’s craw . . . let’s be honest. We all know the choice. Spit or swallow. (OMG! Did she just say that?) Yes, I did.

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