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Being a Liberated Woman is not about Burning Bridges or Bras

With Age Comes Freedom

Forget the ads that imply the only things to look forward to as you age are incontinence, impotence, arthritis and swapping the beamer for a scooter chair. There is a wonderful asset to age that is oft overlooked, namely: liberation.

I’m talking about the real freedom that comes with finally having grown up, figuring out who you really are, and being joyfully free to like yourself. No more agonizing over fitting in with the crowd, wearing the ‘in' styles and, the really big one for singles over 50, how do I get him/her to like me roughly translated as what games shall I play.

Those of us, who have been fortunate to grow up by the time we join AARP or collect a 'boomer' card, experience a euphoric realization that freedom is real. A lifetime spent punching the clock, running the household, being on call as chauffeur, nanny, and general gofer has us well trained to believe that we have to be useful or wither. Not so. Witness the numbers of 55 plus men and women heading out on real adventures, scaling mountains, rafting rivers, bungy jumping, volunteering, starting their dream business. They have the freedom to choose how to spend their ‘second adulthood’ as the years 60 onwards are frequently referred to; downsizing from the tyranny of a large home, getting rid of years of clutter, learning new skills - all are part of the wave of liberation that is there for the catching.

Amongst my circle of friends that includes both couples and singles, I’ve seen some remarkable transformations. As the husband of one dear friend retired, she turned a long-held volunteer position into a paying job and loves both it and the role reversal that has taken place. Her husband has become a devotee of cooking classes and found his inner ‘child’ - as in Julia Child. Dinners at their house are now a true adventure; this coming from a man who literally had never boiled an egg before his liberation from the male, ‘me work, woman cook’ stereotype. They are going together to cooking school in the Napa valley later this summer. Another couple who remained in the east, fought relentless winters and treasured their two months a year spent in Arizona finally had an epiphany, sold the family home and are happily ensconced in a golf villa here in Tucson. “We thought we had to stay in Buffalo for the kids”. Two years into their Arizona life style they have both embraced a love for the outdoors, have lost weight and announce that they have never felt more alive.

Single friends too have found freedom in relationships; not the sexual liberation of the sixties but a genuine freedom to express themselves, to explore self-confidence and make choices about life-style based on what they really want. Fran, 66, retired, widowed for 5 years , decided after living alone for 3 plus years that she liked herself well enough to consider sharing her life once more. “I really enjoyed living alone, found that I was rarely at a loose end, heard myself singing around the house….” She went on to say that the realization that she was free to choose how she spent the rest of her life hit her quite suddenly. “It was a real eureka moment and I went around grinning to myself just delighted with what freedom I had.” She joined an on-line dating service and after “not an insignificant number of frogs” found not a prince but a true partner. She extols the joy of being secure within herself to know that she did not ‘need’ this relationship but 'wanted' it. She asks; "Do you remember the awful insecurity that goes with desperately needing to be in a couple? That’s all gone. I went into this knowing that I was free to be myself and he was free to be who he truly is. No "I’ll change, I’ll do anything to get him to like me"….and then the endless waiting around for him to call. Nogames, no pretense, no worrying about the sagging parts”!

At our girls breakfast following a monthly hike, other women have spoken about a newly discovered sexual freedom that allows them to talk openly to partners or husbands about what they want and in return ask that question of a man. “I never discussed my so called needs during my marriage and looking back, it probably contributed to the break-up. We didn’t enjoy sex, I literally gritted my teeth”. Janice is 57 . She was single for 7 years and waited to get the kids off to college before considering dating again. “I was financially secure so didn’t need taking care of. I wrote a list of what a prospective partner could add to my life and then I went shopping…well, I joined a social club, took up tennis and signed up for mixed doubles”. She and her partner married last year. “It’s no holds barred in conversation; we talk all the time, we don’t just assume something, we talk it out. I didn’t have the guts to do that when I was younger.”

Married women too (still haven’t got those men talking on the subject) talk freely about regaining intimacy in their marriage once the stress of career faded and they focused on being a couple. “It’s about having the confidence to speak up”, said Beth.
“Tom loves golf, it bores me silly but I used to go off on golfing vacations with him and be fuming the whole time. I finally figured I’d nothing to lose by telling him and he surprised me with a week of hiking the Cinque Terra with a group that caters to travel for women. It had never occurred to me that as a married woman I could take a vacation without my husband but I did, had a great time and Tom met me in Florence for another week of doing what I like to do. We decided it was a second honeymoon and now it’s my turn to plan the third one”.

The message that I take from my own life and relationships and listening to friends is that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability. If you are going to take a vacation separate from a spouse, the trust and communication between you must leave no doubts about fidelity and motive; for the single woman, freedom to explore her sexuality must come with the responsibility to be informed about STD; to have the guts to ask hard questions of a potential partner and to have the confidence to walk away from situations that don’t feel right. There are no women in my circle who are out jumping from bed to bed and I know no men who leap around town like aging satyrs. There’s no liberation in either of those activities and knowing the difference is real freedom.

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