It’s been pouring up here in the Seattle area. Record amounts of rain coming down in sheets, in big fat wet drops. It’s awesome. Along with some of the trees starting to turn, it’s fantastically fallish. And earlier than I’ve ever experienced an autumn. After the unrelenting heat of my Sonora summer, it’s such sweet relief. I love fall almost as much as I love rain. I think it’s the season that makes me most aware of nature, most in tune with the feel of it, and the sounds of it. Spring does too, but it’s different than fall. Fall is cozy, it’s fresh, it’s invigorating in that “it’s time to hibernate in the cave” sort of way. It makes me want to curl up with a blanket, a fire, and a good book—though one thing the depression has done is render me unable to read for more than about ten minutes at a time. It’s a concentration thing. So unusual for me, who normally, especially in weather like this, can read for hours on end.
Another thing I’m realizing about depression is how it ravages self esteem. I’ve read it in books, seen it in all the “symptoms of depression” lists, but I haven’t wanted to see it in myself. But it’s true. When it comes to how I feel about myself right now, it’s like I’ve been thrown backward decades, and all the work and growth and healing, all the wisdom, the acceptance, the understanding gained over the years, has all vanished, replaced by acute levels of insecurity, self-criticism, and self-judgment.
Not that I wasn’t skating on thin ice in that department anyway. Single for the first time in thirty-five years, in my late fifties, in a world where youth rules, where I’ve heard that men of any age pretty much won’t date a woman over fifty. Seeing myself for the first time since my early twenties not through my own eyes but through the perceived piercing eyes of men, it’s felt like a gut punch. Starting a few months before we separated, when our marriage therapist, a woman about my age, announced that she knew what would happen if we separated: he’ll (looking at my husband) have someone new within four to six months, and you, (looking at me) well, you’re over fifty, and men just don’t want women over fifty, so you’ll… you know… you’ll most likely be alone for the rest of your life.
I swear to god she said it. Verbatim. I'll never forget it.
He and I did not separate with the idea of finding someone else. I had not even thought in those terms. I’d only thought of ending the pain between us, of relieving us both of the disappointment, hurt, disillusionment, of saving us from the bitterness that had begun fermenting between us. I’d thought in terms of freedom, and the opportunity to be happy, whatever that meant, and of possibility. I think he’d say the same.
What I had not thought about was some random idea about desirability, or whether or not, because of that, I’d be alone or not alone. For the rest of my life, no less. Of course I thought about it, how can you not, give then situation. But I never dwelled there. And though we never went back to her after what she said, though I knew it was completely wrong and out of line to say it, and I knew that though statistically she was right but that it is always, always indivdual, what she said not only terrified me on some primal level, but worse, it undermined something, some sense of basic okayness on some very subtle level, and suddenly I began seeing myself through what I wasn’t, instead of what I was, who I’m not, instead of who I am.
Now the depression has added its own layer of self esteem and self worth issues, like frosting on the already baked cake. And even though I am not "looking," even though (when not depressed anyway) I am perfectly content being alone, even though I would much rather be alone forever than ever have a less than completely satisfying and invigorating relationship, it is hard and sad to know that there are many people out there upon whose radar I would not even begin to be, to whom I would be fundamentally invisible, no matter their age, simply because of mine. Divorcing in my fifties, being a single woman over fify, I've become part of a marginalized (stigmatized?) group. Out of the mouth of our marriage counselor: men don't want a woman over fifty.
In fairness, it's not all men. Though I know they're out there. I know it personally from men I know. I know it from my friends who've done match dot com and e harmony dot com. I've heard it from my younger single friends who have men friends-some in their fifties-who will only date much younger women. Nor is it even really their fault... and it says volumes about the culture we live in.
I have no idea where this rant came from. (Except maybe one of the other things that comes along with depression, namely, anger.) Here I was, minding my own business, writing about how much I'm enjoying the weather, and wham, out it all came. I'm totally tempted to delete the whole thing. Though I won't. It deserves to be said. Not just for me, but for all the fantastic single women out there over fifty; who are fun and interesting and smart and wise and sexy and accomplished women.
And for the record, in our case anyway, the therapist was wrong. It's been a year and nine months since we separated. And he's still as single as I am.