I have a friend who has been selling me this ludicrous idea that life begins at 40 with the result that for close to a decade now I have been waiting with bated breath for that momentous occasion when my life will take off. Almost fifty now, I am still waiting and I must confess that the morale is getting a bit droopy and the patience wearing thin.
In the forties of my dreams, I would have a rocking life. Don’t mistake me. I don’t mean vacations in the south of France or romantic holidays on sun-soaked beaches with the Significant Other rubbing suntan lotion on my back and cooing blush-inducing stuff into my willing years. All I sought were a few romantic drives with the spouse, singing our favourite old Hindi songs and laughing together. I wanted no champagne, caviar or cuts of expensive Wagyu beef in Michelin-star restaurants to precede splendid seduction. I would be happy with interesting conversation, a cup of cutting chai and vada pav. I wanted no sparkling solitaire or shopping trips to Milan; I would have been just as happy to sit in a park with the spouse and watch the world go by.
Turns out these are things that are beyond the realm of imagination of the adult male. I don’t know if I am the only woman who goes through this– I suspect not — but the sum total of what the Man Of The House wants to do is come home to roost every evening and loll in comfortably tattered ’Home Clothes’.
Maybe it is that age-old thing of the Cave Man who wanders all day, finding food for the Missus and family back home. Maybe men think that their job is done once the salary for the day has been earned. The trouble is: the missus is working too and does not necessarily need support on that front. What she needs is to occasionally put on some make-up, wear a nice dress and go out dancing or meet up some interesting folk and engage in some socialising. I suspect it is in their forties that many women realise that the Tall, Dark, Silent guy she was smitten by in her youth has remained just that. Silent. And that silence bites her in the backside every time she resigns herself to one more evening at home watching the telly.
The irony is that the Great Wall of Silence descends on our lives just when we are ready and willing to go out and have some fun because the kids have grown up and flown the coop and we have achieved much in our chosen careers. Now for some fun, we say, smacking our lips in anticipation but lo and behold, here comes Grumpy Papa Bear aka loving spouse who thinks listening to old Hindi songs on radio is the most romantic thing in the world. It is a lovely thought but No, it is not romantic or exciting all the time. Thank you. Neither is television foreplay. Thanks again.
I know any number of friends who have run into this great mid-life divide. Some have grappled with depression, some have had affairs, some have taken to binge-shopping and yet others have found their own solutions to mid-life crisis. I have an older, very wise friend who is light-years ahead of me in the ways of relationships. She figured out a long ago that no matter how happy a marriage or relationship, each of us are eventually responsible for our individual happiness. Don’t put the onus of your fulfilment on anybody else, especially not the spouse, she has always cautioned our group of friends.
The irony here seems to be that at the very point that we women want to go out and let our hair down, Hassled Harry, The Spouse, is in the throes of mid-life crisis as well and is looking forward to coming home and being nurtured by his woman. He is tired of proving himself, working his butt off and worrying about his disappearing hair and libido. He does not want to pull in his rapidly expanding girth to fit into smart threads to go out evenings and make small conversation with anyone, leave alone men and women who are perfectly synced and indulging in much Public Display of Affection.
Two months short of my 50th, however, I have decided to reclaim my mojo back again. Last week, I quaffed tea and caught up with a dear friend, both of us soaking in the sunlight that streamed in through the ceiling to floor glass windows at Gourmet Avenue, the lovely patisserie at Hyatt Regency that is my favourite hang-out when I am in that part of town. In between delicious bites of carrot cake and such other sinful pleasures, she told me about finally finding the love of her life and I found myself dispensing advice on Love Life (!!!). We ate some more pastry and have lined up plans to go out for dinner with her love interest. My spouse does not know it yet, but he is coming along as well.
Over the last few months, I have also bonded all over again with my bestie – the one who told me life begins at 40 – and have been talking about the stuff that consumes us women as we get into our fifties. The kids have grown up, yes, but now our parents have grown old in the meantime and they need us, she tells me. She lost her parents a decade ago and says the only way to escape pangs of regret later is to give them our time now. Then there is Papa Bear who is lost because he is grappling with a host of “Men issues” and can’t cope because strong men don’t cry, do they?
It is our duty to be around for the Other Half, she tells me. And even though you are sometimes so bored you want to just jump off a cliff, it is for you to figure out the shared journey that you set out on with a heart full of dreams, she tells me.
We have made a beginning. Next week, we go out for a play together. We have lined up a couple of dinners at home with close friends and have promised to pick up an activity that we both enjoy doing together, to keep us occupied on long evenings. Papa Bear has agreed that we need to talk to each other more. We all live on hope, don’t we?
And oh, did I tell you, I have also decided that no matter what, this is the year I will pick up a couple of hobbies to lead me into my feisty fifties. I have long nurtured a secret passion to be a theatre actor and maybe this is the year I action that dream… And learn a few smart moves on the dance floor…
Sudha Menon is an author, columnist, speaker on gender and diversity issues and the founder of writing workshop series, Get Writing and Writing In The Park. She turns fifty in October and is preparing for life in the fifties with much gusto. You can contact her on email@example.com
Illustration by Suraj Lokare
You can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org or her twitter handle@sudhamenon2006
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