When I ended my 11-year relationship, the reactions ran the gamut. One friend asked, “Did you cheat?” Another asked if my sex writing led to our demise. (It did not, though a lack of sex may have played a part.) Hands down, the best reaction was from a woman who asked if I was afraid of being single in my 40s. Because staying in an unsatisfying relationship is such a better option than being single. As if.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t think this woman meant any ill will with her comment, but still, it wasn’t the most empathetic of reactions.)
If anything, I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since the split. Several friends and strangers have commented on my newfound glow. Life suddenly feels lighter. Sure, there are moments of sadness, but there’s a whole new world ahead of me. Besides, the prospect of adventure always makes me happy. Even as a — gasp! — 43-year-old woman.
Maybe I’m able to embrace this transition with ease since I was never on the marriage and baby-making track. My ex and I had parted civilly and are nothing but amicable toward each other. I have no regrets.
Still, it’s irksome that other people feel the need to put a time stamp on my happiness. I may not be the hot, taut 20-something I once was, but there’s something amazing about my 40s — I know exactly what I want and I’m not afraid to ask for it. Being comfortable in your own skin is liberating.
At 43, I have a whole lot of life experience under my Hanky Panky thong — from navigating friendships and sex to loss and careers. If I’ve done anything in my four-plus decades, it’s been to live out loud and without apologies. Without the demands of a live-in, long-term relationship, I have more time to invest in things that matter — myself, friends, a vast array of personal interests and seeking satisfying relationships — sexual or otherwise.
Let me be clear: Being single is not the same as being alone. I like myself, my independence and lots and lots of space. I’m terrible at being a 24/7 anything to anyone. (Thankfully, I get to co-parent my dog.) My life is rich, fulfilling and I’m grateful to have a tribe of incredible friends. I’m in no way a project that needs fixing — I’m doing just fine on my own.
No matter how old you are, you and only you get to define your happiness. If you’re single and looking, here’s wishing you the best. If you’re single and loving it, cheers to you. For the time being, I’ll be the 40-something woman comfortable being herself.
A version of this story was published May 2018.
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