Friday, July 18, 2008

A New Blog Address!

Oops, where did I go?? I've made a change in my blog address folks!

My blog is now sitting on WomenBloom so I have everything rounded up in the same place! I hope you'll find it easier to check out the articles, stories and forums since the links are just above!

If you're arriving at this page, just click the heels of your Ruby Slippers twice and click here or this address to be transported toute suite to the new blog:

If you, were subscribing by email or RSS feed sorry you have to set that up again, but it will be worth it, I promise!

I'm learning a new blogging platform so I hope you'll be patient with me as I get that in place.

Happy Blooming!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New Kettle Of Relationship Fish

A month or so ago, I published an article on WomenBloom on polyamory. For those of you as in the dark as I was about this concept, it is basically having intimate or ‘romantic’relationships that are open, with the full consent of all concerned, to other sexually intimate relationships.

BTW, we’re not talking swinging here. ‘Polys’ as they call themselves, are about relationships, not just sex. They believe no one person can fill an individual’s emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and so, why can’t you love more than one person concurrently? Yep, if you’re not sure whether you feel like spending time and your bed tonight with Pierce Brosnan or George Clooney, you don’t have to choose. Well, maybe you have to choose for one night (or maybe not!), but you don’t have to limit yourself. And, George and Pierce are fine with that.

I admit it blew my mind when a friend told me that she was involved in one of these relationships. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. It seemed like a crazy idea. So, I did what any snoopy and curious nerd like me does when confronted with a mind bender like that, I researched.

Long story short, what I came to see is that, while certainly not for everyone, I do believe it is a viable alternative for some. And, it stretched my own ideas of what relationships can be although I’m still a good ole monogamist.

Last night I went to a book discussion led by my friend Karen Kreps who writes True Intimacies for The Good Life Magazine. Jenny Block, who was there, is a successful writer and a bi-sexual woman who has written a book called Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. She and her husband of many years have had other relationships while married. And, they are still happily married, despite that Jenny also has a girlfriend she’s been seeing for almost 2 years. Out of the 45 or so people there at the discussion, a good 70 percent identified themselves as polys AND most of those were well into midlife.

This past year, I’ve had a housemate who is lesbian so I’ve gotten to know that community pretty well. Suddenly that experience and listening to all these poly folks last night crystallized something for me that’s been cooking. And that is, it’s REALLY hard to put human behavior around sexuality and relationships in a neat little box. Our behavior is so diverse and what works for people so varied that it seems more and more unrealistic to me to say that traditional, ‘cleave unto no other’, monogamous marriage is the standard. We like to pretend it is, but let me tell you when you get out there and start listening to lots of people, it just isn’t.

We talked last night about how ‘cheating’ is more accepted in our society than open relationships. The stats on cheating are high, peeps. Most experts guess it’s 40 to 60% of people in supposedly committed relationships have strayed. And yet, people in the group noted that folks often say the equivalent of “If you’re cheating, at least have the decency not to tell your boyfriend/husband/whatever”. Hmm, so cheating and lying is better than being honest about what is going on. As someone wisely pointed out, “well, being honest about open relationships is challenging The Rules, cheating and lying help preserve the status quo so it’s less threatening in some ways.”

I’m not sure if I’m just getting a skewed view or not, but I do know it seems as though there is a lot of redefining going on with regard to relationships. With women more financially independent, we have more options. Which means we can focus on how our relationships meet our emotional needs rather than having to have them meet our economic needs.

How people get their emotional needs met is a WHOLE other kettle of fish....what is y’all’s experience with how relationships are shifting? Or, are they from your perspective?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A 21 Year Old's Perspective On Midlife

I'm fortunate enough to have a college intern working for me this summer. Lindsay Sellers is in between her junior and senior year at St. Edward's University. Poor thing, she didn't know what she was getting into coming to work for this scattered, midlife woman's evangelist. I thought it would be fun to have Lindsay write a blog post about how she thought of midlife BEFORE she came to work at WomenBloom and now, since she has a little time under her belt. Following is what she has to say!

I am a 21 year-old college student, and some of my interests include “shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture” (or, for those not “hip with the lingo,” dancing) and eating deep fried Twinkies. I love to go see midnight movies, and have my picture taken. Contrary to my age, however, I also love to cook, crochet, cuddle up with a good book (the older the better!), and am trying my hand at cross-stitching. Despite the hobbies that place me well above my age, until recently I held an incredibly shallow conception of mid-life compared to what I now know mid-life to actually be.

Before interning for WomenBloom, the word “mid-life” was not one used frequently in my everyday conversations nor was it a concept I thought about. Frankly, if I did think about mid-life, a slight feeling of dread would usually be my companion. I knew that mid-life for me would be nothing like how it is for the mid-lifers on The Real Housewives of Orange County or New York City. I could say that the epitomic image of a mid-life woman was Evelyn Couch from Fried Green Tomatoes. If it’s been awhile since the last time you watched Fried Green Tomatoes, Evelyn Couch was played by Kathy Bates. Yep, Evelyn Couch – fat and lonely.

I was afraid of veiny hands, crow’s feet, and cellulite. I would thank God that I’m only an A cup – my boobs won’t sag too much. My future husband might not find me attractive anymore. I might not even have a husband! Mid-life crisis – crazy hair cut, possible new tattoo or piercing, new job, new car, new color for the living room. My kids will be teenagers, and if they will be anything like how I was, I should be scared. Because of the number of Boomers now retiring, I probably won’t be able to collect my Social Security. How will I retire? MENOPAUSE. Scary!!!

True, my mom is living well in her mid-life. She made a move to change her career while in her mid-thirties, so now at the age of 44, she is doing well as a personal chef. She looks better than ever, sports a new sassy hairstyle, and, no matter what the weather, she can typically be found in a “flouncy” skirt and heels. My mom is in love with the life that she is living, in love with her partner, and is blessed with two wonderful kids (I’m her favorite, of course. *wink*).

I thought that she was an exception to the rule, however. I thought that she had somehow escaped whatever gray cloud that is supposed to start raining on you the day that you are considered a mid-lifer until the day you die.

By working for WomenBloom, I have discovered that there are more successful, beautiful mid-lifers out there than I thought. It is a time to be looked forward to because I will be wiser and more mature (hopefully). I will hopefully have the funds to travel. I can still be beautiful! I can still be as sexy as I am now, just more in a Sharon Stone or Kim Cattrall kind of way. Mid-life does not have to be the start of the end of your life; it can be the start of the rest of your life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Blog Award!

Well, blow me down! My thanks to Ms. Meta at Metafootnotes for awarding me the Arte y Pico blog award. It’s a little fuzzy to me exactly what the award is since it’s a Spanish language blog but it’s supposedly something to do with ‘style and substance'.

What I do know for sure is that it is a chance to recognize other bloggers that I think are up to some great things. So, hey, I’m all over that! And the winners ARE.....

Karen at Midlife’s a Trip (I think she already has one but she deserves two)

KK and SalGal at Midlife Gals (crazy crazy ladies and soooooo very funny!)

Nanny Goats In Panties (hilarious and who can resist a name like that?)

Lori at Between Us Girls (love her outlook!)

Kim at Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (I’m very jealous of Kim as she has just set sail for a Big Adventure in France—I’m definitely living vicariously through her)

The rules for the award are, you have to list the rules, so here they are:

1) You must choose 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of language.

2) You must publish the name of each award-winning author as well as a link to his or her blog.

3) Each award-winner must post a picture of the award and link back to the blog that has given the award.

4) Both the giver and the recipient of the award must link to the “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) You must post these rules.

Onward, fellow bloggers!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Midlife Sex Conversation

There is going to be a sex question and survey for you at the end of this post so I hope you’ll read through.

This week we are having an ongoing conversation in the WomenBloom forums about sex and midlife. We have a couple of guests in the conversation, Gayle Michaels and Jade Beaty, who between them have an amazing breadth of sexual experience and wisdom to share. Both of them are firm believers that sex is a sacred and spiritual gift that has the capacity to add enormous joy and intimacy to our lives. And, that it is all too often treated with secrecy, shame and disrespect. They are on a mission to help people experience it more deeply and joyfully.

The reason we decided to do this is because I don’t think we midlife women talk about this very much, I can pretty well guarantee not with the complete frankness Gayle and Jade do. Oh sure, the occasional semi-embarrassed giggly exchange with a girlfriend but not really conversation. Am I wrong about this?

And, am I the only middle aged woman who still has a conservative voice in my head telling me that sex is only to be enjoyed within the sanctity of a marriage? And, I better not think about enjoying that too much or, heaven forbid, having it with myself, because I’ll go crazy and end up in a mental institution. Oh, no, I think the mental institution is only reserved for those who pleasure themselves. Oh yeah, that’s right, the marriage one is primly doing the wifely duty thing but not having an orgasm. Anyway....

I even used to think that ANY physical contact even as simple as a kiss MEANT something significant, a kind of implied launch down the path to matrimony or something like that. I have a guy friend whom I met a few years ago now on Match. For various reasons, we never connected ‘romantically’ but we kept up and would occasionally get together for a glass of wine. Well, at some point I found myself making out with him in the back of a dark bar and enjoying it immensely. After the first time, I had some angst about ‘What Did It MEAN?” After it happened a couple more times, I came to see that it’s possible to just do it for the sheer pleasure of it. It doesn’t have to mean ANYthing.

I know. Duh.

My views of sex have changed quite a bit since I was married and widowed 14 years ago. Most certainly, I’ve become more curious and relaxed about it. My attitudes about sharing sexually aren’t as casual as deliciously making out in a dark bar, but if there is someone you like and respect, and there is some chemistry there, and each is free from other commitments, what is wrong with that? With all the usual warnings about STDs and safe sex and the rest, of course. Most of us aren’t gonna be doin’ the baby thing anymore so....what?

I’m told by my friend, Karen Kreps, who writes a column called True Intimacies that 50-something men tell her that us middle-aged women are pretty much rarin’ to go on the sexual front, screw long term relationship or commitment of any kind. And, if you can believe this, the men are the ones protesting, ‘hey wait a minute, can’t we connect on a deeper level before we jump in the sack?’ Hmmm.

Anyway, I’m curious how you see it. How have your views about sex changed as you reached midlife? Or, have they? I hope you’ll comment but you can also take this easy as pie survey which might be kinda fun. Or you could do both in the interests of giving me both subjective and rigorously quantitative data. hee hee.

Then, I’m off to call my guy friend for, er, a glass of wine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Accepting Ourselves As...Who?

I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that have provoked ponderment on my part about just how far to go with maintaining a youthful appearance. Conversations about going gray, about Botox, and ‘letting oneself go’. They’ve sprung from the research and writing we’ve been doing on WomenBloom about 50 something women having trouble on the job hunting front.

They’re kind of tricky, I find, those conversations.

A friend and I fell into conversation about what she feels are the mixed messages in magazines and other media. On the one hand, they encourage women of a 'certain age' to accept themselves, embrace who they really are, etc etc. Admirable. Yet, on the other, they are filled with ads for skin salves, plastic surgeons etc. What gives?

As far as I can tell, in this context anyway, 'embracing one's real self' seems to mean things like canceling future color and highlight appointments with Jean Paul. Leaving plastic surgery and Botox behind (not that this would be a sacrifice seeing as how I have no personal experience with either, but you know what I mean). Not succumbing to the blandishments of cosmetic companies trying to sell expensive creams and salves to keep the wrinkles at bay and the skin as youthful looking as possible.

I’m trying to be open minded here.

From that perspective...I should let Mother Nature take her course with a minimum of interference. Hmmm, let my hair go gray, allow nature to take her course with my skin, embrace breast sags and skin that is losing its texture and elasticity, and smile at hairs that miraculously sprout to unbelievable lengths overnight, appearing in places that haven't had hairs before! Oh yeah, and all at the same time I’m losing my close in vision. (What is with THAT anyway??)

Alright, SCREW open mindedness! I don't THINK SO!!!!

OK, get a grip, Al. Whew, clearly I have some unresolved issues around this :)

Well, what does accepting yourself as yourself mean....really?

It seems to me that acceptance of self often implies doing nothing to hold gray hair, wrinkles, dry skin and wild hairs at bay. But couldn't that be imposing a stereotype every bit as much as the other end of the spectrum? I mean, where does it all end? Does that mean I shouldn't work out to maintain as much strength, flexibility, and muscle tone as possible? Next time my gall bladder acts up or I crack a tooth, I should just let Nature take her course?

I mean, if I've been inclined to have what Jean Paul calls "Effect Hair", dress some years younger than many women my age, and freely apply ceramides, anti-oxidizers, and killers of free radicals on my skin, wouldn't it be NOT being myself to let myself suddenly go gray, wrinkly, and hairy? What if being me means being my somewhat vain self? What if I've never been the au naturel type?

Then, in a burst of self examination, I realize that hair color, skin creams, and Botox seem more benign to me than tummy tucks and eyebrow lifts. Obviously, that's where my particular line of prejudice begins. Although my boundary with that eyebrow thing is a little fuzzy.

I don't have a good answer for this. But, it seems to me that embracing and accepting who who we really are means just that. If you’ve always been the au naturel type, great, continue that line. If you’ve played with the color of your hair, bought every new miracle skin product that comes out, and winced mightily as the aesthetician ripped off your short hairs, wouldn't it be out of integrity to stop doing those things because that's what women of a certain age should do, according to media or other women?

I met with a physician recently (to research articles, really) who does nothing but aesthetics, that is, he specializes in a number of non-invasive procedures and treatments that get rid of wrinkles, improve sun damaged skin, and re-plump saggy skin. I was surprised when he said his experience was that many women 50 and up thought they shouldn’t be doing these things. They seemed somehow ashamed or guilty about it even as they were handing over their plastic.

That seems wrong to me. Why should they have to feel that way?

This is a huge subject obviously. I guess I’ll wimp out and just say, I think it’s a matter of choice. I certainly don’t have any problem with women who decide to free themselves from the expense and maintenance of coloring their hair, who want to embrace that aspect of who they are. Or, who see their wrinkles as merely the 'patina' acquired from a life's worth of experience. Or, who get the occasional Botox injection. I’m struggling with the more invasive procedures, I admit.

I am clear on one thing though. That the beauty of redefining middle-age means we get to say who we are.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth, Y'all!

Happy Independence Day, Y’all! I hope everyone is planning something suitably celebratory that includes grilling, friends, family and fireworks.

It’s easy to forget that the day means more than that; I have to consciously stop myself to remember what it means to live in America. For all that our world reputation is tarnished, and our domestic picture is gloomy in a number of ways, that doesn’t take away from the basic premise: we live in a country where we always have the opportunity to make a change. So it gets bad. As citizens, we can make things change. Our system is set up so that can happen. Only a small percentage of the people in this world can say that.

The system is one half of the equation, the other half is us. As Pogo famously said, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” We can expect the situation to be no better than we make it. No better than we demand of ourselves and our public servants. I think that’s why Barack Obama has struck such a nerve. He is asking us to be bigger than we are. Bigger than we have been in a long time. And I believe the American people are starved for that. We know we can be bigger than we are. But no one since JFK has asked that of us.

Obama is asking that of us. Hillary told us, with very good reason, that she would be a highly competent Chief Executive and I believe it’s true. But, she didn’t manage to tap the piece of our self-identity that aspires to live up to the ideals of our Founders.

Whether you’re a McCain fan or an Obama fan, I hope we’ll all ponder what we can do a little differently to be bigger citizens than we are.

And, have fun too!