Page 1
Beauty Style Fitness Wellness Living #RealTalk #EmbraceYourAge
Stay up to date

Get on the List

Unlock our weekly newsletter packed with tips on living authentically, healthfully, and stylishly at every age.Get on the List: The best beauty, fashion, wellness and fitness tips straight to your inbox

I’m 56, Not Dead

On a trip to New Mexico, I’m hiking with four middle-aged women on a blue-sky day. All of a sudden, my friend Deb says, “I mean, I don’t need to have it every day, but if I go too long without it, I start to really miss it. And then when I do have it, I have to admit, it’s soooo good.”

My friend Kathleen and I stare at Deb with identical raised eyebrows and suddenly piqued interest.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Deb exclaims, “We were talking about green chili!”

I guess, despite being in my mid-50s, my brain hasn’t yet given me the message that “this has to end.” I’m just not there yet, and there is no reason I should be. I have a right to want what my heart wants — and what my body wants. I can be a feminist and still want a man in my life. I can support Kamala Harris for a run in 2020 and still want a man in my bed. But, strangely, as a post-menopausal, divorced, heterosexual female, I find myself constantly needing to defend my position against comments like:

“You’re 56, not 26. Why do you need a man in your life?”

“If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t get married at all, although the kids were a nice bonus.”

“I’m just as happy hanging out with my girlfriends. You’ll put some effort into dating for a few years, and then you’ll give up, just like the rest of us. Men are just not worth the effort.”

In the four years since my former husband and I separated, I’ve heard it all — except what I hoped to hear: “There are a lot of nice men out there. Eventually you’ll fall in love again, but this time, with a person who sees your worth.” (Support! Empathy!)


I don’t need a man to complete me or to guarantee my own happiness — which would be youthfully foolish — but I’d like to have a partner again to share this adventure called life.


I don’t need a man to complete me or to guarantee my own happiness — which would be youthfully foolish — but I’d like to have a partner again to share this adventure called life. I love my dog to pieces, but having a dog is just not enough for me, and what’s so wrong with that? I also delight in the give-and-take of clever conversation, and my dog only really knows the phrase “eye drops.”

My homes were always filled with boys: Three older brothers, half a dozen guy roommates, and then a husband. I’ve had the pleasure of raising two sons and feeding their starving, adolescent friends. I like observing the different ways in which the male brain operates, which seems very different from the way my brain operates. I like watching men take things apart and put them back together. With some exceptions, of course, I also genuinely like being around men.

I even liked being married. Although our marriage wasn’t my idea of what a marriage should be, I appreciated all of the tangible benefits: the ability to exchange ideas and receive instant feedback; the asset of two combined heads when making major life decisions; regular affection, and, yes, regular sex — which is healthy and normal. And while it’s true that I’m a loving and generous person in most respects, I really enjoyed having one specific person to love: my partner.

This is the unwelcome part: I am frequently criticized by other women — and also by men — for trying too hard or not trying hard enough; for having unrealistic expectations, any expectations, or low expectations; for having too much confidence or too little confidence; for being foolish, instead of brave. Gosh, why can’t I get it right? All these faults in such a short span of time.

Put yourself in my shoes, or in the shoes of all the other divorced women my age: We are in our prime — not dead. After being in an active partnership and home-with-children for 30 years, frankly, being alone feels like a shameful waste of emotional resources. I don’t need all this alone time to “find myself.” I found myself, years ago, in love, marriage, motherhood, and a successful nursing career. I found myself in gardening, creating an inviting home, and touching every corner of my family’s life with beauty and nourishment. I’ve known who I am for a couple of decades, at least.


Now that I find myself alone, I feel like I don’t deserve to be alone, and I certainly don’t desire it.


Now that I find myself alone, I feel like I don’t deserve to be alone, and I certainly don’t desire it. But here is a fact: Women my age, who exist in large numbers, are largely invisible. (We’d make great surveillance agents for a variety of clandestine spy agencies.) More and more, it looks like finding a partner is likely to not happen at all, and for me, that would be a very sad thing. I hate this ugly, squat, realization growing inside me that whispers like Gollum, “We may have to accept this, my Precious.”

Some women my age say they’re glad to be done with sex, they don’t miss their husbands, and they value their new-found freedom above all. But I wonder if this is true late at night when they’re alone in a cold bed in late February or a balmy summer night under a full moon? I mean, sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder, who will I view the Northern Lights with on my bargain, winter flight to Iceland? Will it just be me and the fur seals?

What happened to the need for human contact? For simple touch? For the warmth and pleasure of laying with another human body; for sharing deep, sensual kisses; for back rubs and foot rubs. For the simple caress of a hand resting gently on the nape of one’s neck? Not to mention strings of soft kisses in the same spot.

Sadly, I suspect that, given no nourishment, my own physical and emotional needs will wither and die like an unwatered garden. But I do not welcome this — I fear it. I want to be a whole, living, breathing, sensual human being for as long as I can. This is who I am.

Wendy Cohan lives in Missoula, Montana. She’s the author of The Better Bladder Book and What Nurses Know … Headaches. Her children’s story, “Annabelle Tames the Round Warrior,” was featured in the February 2018 issue of Cricket. Find out more about Cohan at wordsourcemedia.com.  

Photo: Demaerre

You Might Also Like

‘Gilmore Girls’ and Me
#RealTalk

‘Gilmore Girls’ and Me

The seven-season series Gilmore Girls and its four afterglow episodes, A Year in the Life,...

read
Why I Hold On Tight to Old Friends
#RealTalk

Why I Hold On Tight to Old Friends

One of the biggest arguments I ever had with my father was...

read
The ‘I Am’ Project Showcases Ageless Beauty
#RealTalk

The ‘I Am’ Project Showcases Ageless Beauty

Angelika Buettner is on a crusade to celebrate the natural beauty of...

read
My Second Awkward Stage
#RealTalk

My Second Awkward Stage

A couple of weeks ago, I took my eldest son and my...

read
‘Aging Isn’t for Wimps’ and Other Quotes From Our Readers
#RealTalk

‘Aging Isn’t for Wimps’ and Other Quotes From Our Readers

We asked our Facebook followers what part of aging has surprised them...

read
Hot Flashes in the Boardroom
#RealTalk

Hot Flashes in the Boardroom

I couldn’t help but giggle recently when I read one of Sharon...

read
Get Glowing With 8 Highlighters We Love
Beauty

Get Glowing With 8 Highlighters We Love

The solution to chronic fatigue requires a holistic deep dive into your...

read
Eat This Now: Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal
Wellness

Eat This Now: Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal

We at The Fine Line eat lots of oatmeal. Especially in the...

read
Women Who Inspire: BRU Bone Broth Founder Soo-Ah Landa
Living

Women Who Inspire: BRU Bone Broth Founder Soo-Ah Landa

Some might say bone broth is having a moment, but don’t tell...

read
‘Gilmore Girls’ and Me
#RealTalk

‘Gilmore Girls’ and Me

The seven-season series Gilmore Girls and its four afterglow episodes, A Year in the Life,...

read
6 Good Reasons to Eat More Fiber
Wellness

6 Good Reasons to Eat More Fiber

Fiber is the indigestible part of a carbohydrate that packs a powerful...

read
Learn to Embrace Active Recovery Days
Fitness

Learn to Embrace Active Recovery Days

In today’s “go big or go home” mentality, it is easy to...

read
Give Yourself a Gray Hair Makeover
Beauty

Give Yourself a Gray Hair Makeover

As your hair’s pigment seemingly evaporates into thin air, you might notice...

read
7 Ways to Strengthen Bones Naturally
Wellness

7 Ways to Strengthen Bones Naturally

For many, bone density holds cause for concern: Osteoporosis is a diagnosis...

read
Beauty Buzzwords: Beta Hydroxy Acids
Beauty

Beauty Buzzwords: Beta Hydroxy Acids

When you were younger, your skin functioned more nimbly. It produced loads...

read
9 Little Black Dresses That Work Around the Clock
Style

9 Little Black Dresses That Work Around the Clock

We’ve been contemplating the idea of a uniform. These little black dresses...

read
Digital Fitness: Yay or Nay?
Fitness

Digital Fitness: Yay or Nay?

The music’s pumping, the sweat is dripping, and the high-energy instructor is...

read
Why I Hold On Tight to Old Friends
#RealTalk

Why I Hold On Tight to Old Friends

One of the biggest arguments I ever had with my father was...

read
Office Hours: What Should I Wear on a Job Interview?
Living

Office Hours: What Should I Wear on a Job Interview?

Welcome to Office Hours, where each month a Fairygodboss expert answers a question from...

read
Women Who Inspire: Beauty Industry Titan Bobbi Brown
Living

Women Who Inspire: Beauty Industry Titan Bobbi Brown

When makeup artist Bobbi Brown created 10 simple brown-based lipsticks at her...

read
The ‘I Am’ Project Showcases Ageless Beauty
#RealTalk

The ‘I Am’ Project Showcases Ageless Beauty

Angelika Buettner is on a crusade to celebrate the natural beauty of...

read
11 Water Bottles We’re Thirsty For
Fitness

11 Water Bottles We’re Thirsty For

Above the political din, the conversation about saving the planet rises. Innovative...

read
My Second Awkward Stage
#RealTalk

My Second Awkward Stage

A couple of weeks ago, I took my eldest son and my...

read
3 Foam Roller Exercises to Limber You Up
Wellness

3 Foam Roller Exercises to Limber You Up

Pretty much everyone can benefit from a few foam roller exercises, says...

read
Every Little Reason to Use a Foam Roller
Wellness

Every Little Reason to Use a Foam Roller

If you experience stress or regularly exercise, your muscles will thank you...

read
‘Aging Isn’t for Wimps’ and Other Quotes From Our Readers
#RealTalk

‘Aging Isn’t for Wimps’ and Other Quotes From Our Readers

We asked our Facebook followers what part of aging has surprised them...

read
Beauty Buzzwords: Vitamin E
Beauty

Beauty Buzzwords: Vitamin E

We’re always on the lookout for products that multitask, so if an...

read
Road Test: Elle Macpherson’s SUPER ELIXIR Greens
Beauty

Road Test: Elle Macpherson’s SUPER ELIXIR Greens

I was preparing to write this story when I met a long-time...

read
Women Who Inspire: The F-Factor Diet Founder Tanya Zuckerbrot
Wellness

Women Who Inspire: The F-Factor Diet Founder Tanya Zuckerbrot

Food was always an important part of Tanya Zuckerbrot’s life growing up,...

read
8 Red Lipsticks for a Luscious Pucker
Beauty

8 Red Lipsticks for a Luscious Pucker

Think you can’t rock red lipstick in your 40s and beyond? Think...

read
Load More
share
To Top