Tonight I ask, hug your kids, hold them close, and say thanks for the miracle bestowed upon you. No matter how many teenage moms MTV promotes or kids pop out of that Duggar woman in Arkansas, having a child is a miracle.
For me, reality has sunk in–it’s highly likely I will never be a parent, a mother. Yes, I believe in miracles, but I’m also grounded in reality, and my reality is that at my age I only have a 10% chance of having a child, and that’s if my Patrick Dempsey look-alike-boyfriend entered the scene today. With medical intervention it’s only 25%.
Enter, my silent grief. Silent because I wonder if it’s even a valid grief, if I’m entitled to the pain of losing something I never had while others have lost children and suffered miscarriages. Silent because in the hierarchy of society there’s little value placed on a 40-something, single, childless woman; we’re the bottom feeders of a social caste system that celebrates marriage, motherhood, and baby bumps. We’re the wallflowers at the high school prom who have nothing to offer society except taxes that fund schools of which we’ll never use. Heck, even teenage mothers get more societal love than the 40-year old childless single.
So I sit quietly by and watch those around me post pictures of their kids’ achievements and celebrations, announce pregnancies, wipe dirty faces, chase after that one missing shoe, or even raise their voice to say, “if you do that one more time, I’ll…” and each time, I’m reminded that I will never know any of those things. And each time, I know this won’t be the last, that on some random day in the future, just when I think I’ve moved on and believe that my life is fine without kids of my own, a photo will show up on my Facebook feed, a birth announcement made on a conference call, and I’ll be reminded all over again. It’s a cycle that will continue for the rest of my life.
And while people will tell me that without kids I’ll have the flexibility, the time, and the money to do what I want, I nod my head and say, “yes, I know.” And I really do know. I have the benefits of a no child life posted to a bulletin board and read them daily as some sort of positive affirmation. I replace visions of birthday parties, graduations, recitals and little league games with visions of exotic travels, plastic surgery at 50 and a solid retirement fund so I can pay for someone to take care of me when I’m old. Yet, no matter how many trips to Fiji I take or units of Botox I inject, at my core, I know it’s all a consolation prize.
As a five-year old my favorite book was the Golden Book, “Little Mommy” –that’s what I wanted to be. Goodbye Little Mommy.
Today, another Gen-X’er turns 40. Instead of crawling under my sheets and over-dosing on Geritol and Ben & Jerry’s, I went out to get my semi-annual 20 units of Botox, then channeled my inner-Zhivago as I sipped vodka at the Russia House and reflected on the life lessons of this Breakfast Club, Gen-X’er.
1. Quality friends are more rewarding than quantity. Especially in the age of social networking, I’m thankful that I have high standards for “friending” folks, the reward is immense in support, commaradiere, laughs and well simply, “they get me and I get them.”
2. Sunscreen is the best anti-aging product.
3. International travel is essential to appreciate the wisdom of our founding fathers, and despite our government’s shortcoming’s, we live in the best country in the world.
4. Trends you thought would never come back do. You only get one shot to wear a trend. If you’re old enough to have lived through the trend the first time, you’re too old to take part the second, third time around. I never thought leggings or flipped collars would come back, but they did.
5. The more crap you have the more you have to move. Live in a small house and you’ll be forced to clean out at least two times a year.
6. Keep old love letters. It reminds you of those few, but very special people that came into your life and touched your core, for which you were never the same.
7. Keep a journal. You’ll be amazed at the strength you had when you couldn’t imagine how you’d ever survive without him in your life. Your life is a story only you can tell and over time, you’ll see that when you thought life was boring, non-eventful, you were indeed, having amazing adventures.You’ll also discover that you’re pretty awesome, yet beautifully flawed.
8. Never stop learning. This keeps your mind active and makes you more interesting.
9. There is no perfect job or utopia work place. Every place I’ve worked and will work in the future has their own brand of crazy. The trick is finding the place that gels with your own crazy.
10. Keep a diverse group of friends who are older, younger, from different parts of the country and world than you. By leaving my home state, NC, early in life, my world opened up to people and places I never imagined I’d see. Each person, each place, transformed me to see the world through lenses other than those of my traditional, southern roots. From this, I learned so much about how others view men/women, politics, child-rearing and traditions, that I am enriched daily.
11. Buying a power drill opens the door to endless household projects you can easily do yourself and makes you extremely self sufficient.
12. As much as I hate it, work out at least three times a week. I’m confident I’d be a gastric bypass candidate if I didn’t commit to this when I turned 25.
13. Pick a college major that you’re passionate about, no matter what your parents want you to do. Unless you believe your calling is to be a doctor or nurse, your major will have little to do with your job and ultimate career path. If I had buckled to the pressure to be a nurse or business major, I would’ve missed out on the beauty of Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Fast forward 17 years, I turned out okay and have worked with global Fortune 100 companies.
14. Have an appreciation for something. Just because I wasn’t destined to be a prima ballerina or the 21st century’s Ansel Adams doesn’t mean I don’t love the ballet or a photo exhibit. These are true artists and I appreciate their gifts and talents.
15. Eating dinner alone doesn’t make you a loser. It makes you a confident, independent woman!
16. After the 2nd glass of wine, all wine tastes the same.
17. With enough money, you can pay people to do almost anything for you. No longer, do I feel like I have to do it all.
18. There is always going to be someone who is smarter, prettier, skinnier than you, but for everyone of those there are countless others for which you are their ideal.
19. There is no shame in plastic surgery or Botox.
20. Your vote does count. Just look to Florida 2000 if you don’t think so.
21. A home without a cat is just a house.
22. Second chances come back for a reason, but look carefully before you leap back in, sometimes it’s a distraction to side-track you from where you’re meant to be.
23. Relationships require work.
24. Every year make goals, not resolutions. Goals are things we want to do versus resolutions are behaviors we don’t like about ourselves. I’m much more inclined to achieve what I want to do rather than change about me I don’t. This tactic makes me feel more successful year after year. Even the little things, like learning how to sew or how to install a ceiling fan, brings me satisfaction that I can do anything I set out to do.
25. You can solve almost anything by typing your question into Google.
26. You can never watch your favorite movie too many times. I have no clue as to how many times I’ve seen The Sound of Music, but I never miss an opportunity to watch and see if the Von Trapps make it out of Austria safely.
27. Going out on New Year’s Eve is overrated. Go to bed early and wake up refreshed to a new year, feeling that anything is possible.
28. Karma’s a bitch–that stupid boy that dumped you and left you devastated for months will get his someday, and it’ll be 100x worse than what you experienced. Trust me on this one!
29. Work will never love you back, so why invest your heart and soul? Do the work, go home at a decent hour and love your life and have it love you back.
30. Contribute to your 401K as often and as much as you can. It’s glaringly obvious social security will not “secure” Gen-X’s future.
31. When you buy a house, put money down on it. This makes you an investor and a home owner.
32. Keep up with technology. If you do, you can shave at least 5-10 years off your real age.
33. You’ll inevitably say, “I remember when…” and then feel like “when” wasn’t so long ago.
34. Don’t wait around for other people to come into your life. Go out and find them. I credit Twitter and a solo trip to China where I found people with whom I now count as friends.
35. Vacation time and flexibility is more important than a higher salary. After all, I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll be working til I’m 80, so between now and then I need more than a couple weeks off a year.
36. There is no happily ever after. Life is more complicated, twisted and bumpy than what Disney had us believe.
37. Traditions are meant to be broken. Pave your own path, make your own traditions. Just because you’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way.
38. Always say “please” and “thank you.” It goes a long way in creating strong relationships.
39. Hold onto your values. Not everyone’s going to agree with you and that’s okay, it’s what makes you, you.
40. And finally, in the words of Miles from “Risky Business:” Sometimes you gotta say “WTF”, make your move, and every now and then saying, “WTF,” brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”
Lately, I’ve been pondering the concept of NBM. Or what the online dating sites classify as “Never Been Married.” I’m particularly interested in this concept for women 40+. Although the claim is that 40 is the new 30, when it comes to marriage, stats still confirm that that the average age for a woman to get married in the US is 26.5.
The marriage rite of passage is highly touted through the countless shows dedicated to finding the perfect wedding dress, having the most memorable wedding and the tales of bridezilla, yet I can’t point to one TV show or reputable role model that caters to the 40+ NBM women.
I ask, where are the role models that tell us it’s okay to forgo marriage, that it’s okay living alone, and that having a perfect wedding does not equate to a perfect marriage? My fear is that today’s focus on weddings and the bombardment of online dating sites sends the wrong message to American young girls. Don’t they need to know that being single is not a curse, but another lifestyle choice to be considered? A choice that can come with benefits that far out-weigh those of marriage?
Being a 40+ NBM either by choice or by circumstance is one to be celebrated. They’ve kissed a lot of frogs and have far more insight to the world of men, dating, marriage and relationships than many of their married antagonists. I believe they need to be promoted and celebrated. There’s so much to learn from this cohort and I want to hear more from them. Speak up. Where are you?