You know how one minute you’re in a happy and fulfilling marriage and the next you find out that your husband of 20 years has been cheating on you with someone 10 years younger? Well, I do.
I went from country club wife and mother of high school students to a single, 39-year-old “cougar.” In this weekly feature, I will share with you all the mind-boggling, head-scratching, is-this-someone’s-idea-of-a-joke moments from my so-called single life. Consider this your private invitation to my tremendous learning curve…
Hi, I’m earth. Have we met?
Those first few weeks of being single were akin to being kidnapped by a mother ship from a foreign alien nation. That is the only way I can describe it. I had started dating my husband when I was 16. One minute I was getting ready to have drinks with my husband after work, and the next I was getting ready to “work it” in a sea of strange young men.
Terrified but determined, I quickly realized getting ready to “go out” at 39 was a lot of freakin’ work. I had to slather my face with a mask to get rid of layers of dead gator skin. Then I moved on to errant hair removal. Nothing screams “old lady” like a hair protruding from a mole. I also had to “shave” my upper lip, my beard and scan for any decade-old nose hairs. (And no, I’m not a hairy person. I was 39. It’s an age when hair just crops up in unlikely places to remind you that you’re not 21 anymore.)
If you ignore this vital grooming ritual, just string a sign around your neck that says, “I’m old and tired as f***” and get it over with. Since my husband had just dropped me on my head in the most profound way, my fragile ego could not take rejection of any kind. I would leave nothing to chance.
After I was satisfied with my she-scaping, I slid into pretty underwear and a matching bra and put a touch of baby oil on my shaved legs. You just never know, right?!
When fun takes an ugly turn
I adhered to these ridiculous rituals, got drunk and made poor decisions. During these few months, my ego was satisfied — men in their early 20s hung on my every word, and heavy petting or prolonged makeout sessions ensued. And yes, there were a couple of “hit-it-and-quit-it” evenings. That’s when I had to stop. Those were soul sucking and decidedly not me. I was the mother of honor students, not the kind of gal who made out in the cab with a 26-year-old. I started to become consumed with self-loathing. It was time to make some changes.
A self-imposed time out
Fast forward almost two years. I got in and stayed in a highly dysfunctional relationship for over a year and a half. When it ended, I put myself in a time out. I needed and wanted to be alone. This meant staying home in my pajamas on Friday and Saturday night and watching re-runs of Seinfeld. So when my sister who lived about an hour away called and invited me to a wedding reception a few weeks after my breakup, I accepted. How much trouble could I get into at a small town gathering with my sister, where she knew everyone?
To be sure I wouldn’t relapse into my old ways, I wore granny panties under my wrap dress. I stretched an offensive pair of pantyhose over my ugly undies. Then I topped that mess with a pair of bicycle shorts to hold in my mid-November stomach. I took it a step further and didn’t shave my legs and completely ignored all of the aforementioned hair removal. I was bulletproof.
Granny panties with a side order of bicycle shorts
I arrived and my eyes fell on the groom’s brother, who was still wearing his wedding finery. I had also sworn off men under 35 (I like to place a lot of rules on myself because I no longer had the accountability of a marriage). This blonde haired, buff, blue-eyed charmer looked at least 35.
All the small town women were clawing at Will as if he was the only good-looking man within a 50-mile radius. I watched from afar, amused, making jokes with my sister as I sipped my red wine. After my second glass, I made my way over to Will. “Hi Will. I’m Bunny’s sister. What’s it feel like to be treated like a zoo exhibit?”
Will looked at me with a sexy grin and said, “What do you mean?”
“Oh, Will, can I straighten your tie?” I straightened his tie as I had seen several young women do. He chuckled. “Oh Will, can I touch your face?” I held his gaze while I dragged my hand across his gorgeous 10 hour stubble. “Oh Will can I touch your hair?” I slowly ran my hand through his reddish blonde hair. Then I giggled and walked away.
I don’t do that — anymore
Will and I proceeded to seek each other out the rest of the evening, and then took our flirtation to the dance floor. He invited a group of us, including my sister, back to his place. Foolishly we went, but on the way, I looked right at him and said, “Just so you know, we’re not getting busy. I don’t do that.” In my head I qualified, “anymore.”
Will looked shocked as if he had never been told that before. I more or less meant it. I wasn’t going to have this gorgeous young man see the s***-show I had going on under my dress.
We got back to his place, drank more and after my sister went home, Will and I began to flirt heavily. I had every intention of just crawling in his bed and passing out. When we got to his room, he started to kiss me in a seductive and non-threatening way. Then he reached up under my dress.
Don’t judge me
I held my breath. “What is that?” Will asked when his strong hands found the layers of body armor.
I had already told him my age. To my surprise he seemed turned on by it. (He was only 31 as it turned out… oops.) “Um, it’s what women who have had two kids wear under dresses. Don’t judge me.”
He laughed. I left the room, removed my offensive undergarments and returned to Will. From there I pretty much broke every rule I had established for myself.
Unlike past scenarios similar to this one, I didn’t beat myself up the next day. Will was still gorgeous and funny the next morning, and we dated on and off for a couple of months. And as sick as it may sound, Will was the hottest thing in the room, and despite the stiff competition from women half my age, I was the one who landed him. Better yet, when the night was over, he still sought out my company — hairy legs, granny panties, mid-November tummy and all.