Dating in our teens and 20s was challenging. Dating in our middle adult years, with significant exes, children, pets, mortgages, careers and a boatload of emotional, physical and perhaps even financial baggage, may seem impossible. I've single parented my son since he was very young, and didn't have much time to date amidst parenting, working, continuing my education, doing dishes, mowing the lawn and attending various kid-related activities. So when my son left for college, I decided that there was no better time to start dating again.
But as often happens when we poke our heads into an activity after a few decades-long hiatus, I realized that everything had changed - and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Rather than meeting someone at a dance, a bar, or if we go back far enough, a frat party, I soon learned that the majority of dating was occurring online. And rather than having to worry about my first impression when meeting someone, I had to worry about my first online impression.
We now have to worry about leading not with ourselves, but with an image of ourselves. We have to contend with parallel dating, encouraged by the online dating algorithms that push multiple potential partners at us at one time. We have to worry about competition that always seems to be younger, thinner, wealthier and happier. Most of us are battle-weary, still struggling with past hurts and anger, and scared to get hurt again, and now we find ourselves in completely unchartered territory, with very few ‘rules of the road’ to guide us.
A Gallup Health and Well-Being Index revealed that women approaching midlife had the highest levels of stress among all age groups and genders. What's worse, according to the study, they were far more stressed out than previous generations of women, and there didn't seem to be any relief in sight. Today's women are raising children, working, caring for aging parents, and tending to their partners (or trying to), while doing their best to remain fresh and youthful. And as a result, they often feel too stretched, too overwhelmed, too exhausted, too unappreciated, and way too weary.
The study also highlighted the fact that among a range of emotions experiences by these over-worked and under-appreciated women, the most pronounced was guilt. No matter how much they worked, no matter how thinly they were spread, no matter how caring, giving, and sacrificing (and no matter how damned good they looked while engaging in all of their service-related activities) it never felt like they were doing enough -- there was always more they believed they could/should/needed to do. And at the core of these women's souls lurked a fear that they were failing themselves, their employers, their partners, and their children. According to the study, this type of perfectionism is eating away at the mental and physical health of today's women, particularly those who are parents.
I have always worn masks. I didn't know I wore masks, but I did. I wore masks to protect myself, and to project images that I believed were more acceptable than the real me. I wore these masks so automatically, that I wasn't always aware of their existence. Although I've willingly worn multiple masks throughout my life and have worked diligently to keep them all in place, at some point I began to question their necessity. This questioning peaked when I reached middle age and began to experience a growing sense of discontentment. When I turned 50 I began to yearn for more honesty, more boldness, and more courage. I yearned to be more visible, more relevant, and more cohesive. I yearned to be more authentic and more transparent. I yearned to wear fewer masks. In fact, I yearned to wear no masks at all.
The concept of living a life of greater authenticity and transparency isn't new. Just Google "authenticity" and you'll get more than four million hits. Everybody's talking about living more authentic and transparent lives these days. In fact, just the other day I saw a status on Facebook stating something about how we should strip away our pretenses and be more honest about our past mistakes, because our strengths are born out of the ashes. I liked it, along with about 20,000 other people. So yes, living a more authentic and transparent life is all the rage.
But if we're all so convinced that it's important to live more authentic lives, and to be more transparent about our mistakes, our uncertainties, and our insecurities, then why are most of us investing so much time and effort into desperately holding onto our masks of perfection, conviction and confidence?
Welcome to my Blog!
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.