Post-40 is the new post-30, I know, I know. But the only “post-” my body got the memo about is “post-partum.” There ain’t no turning the clock back on that one. The combination of babies and SSRIs and time has exacted its toll on this body. As a mama of daughters, of course of course of course I try to rock a good body attitude. I don’t hide the softness, with the girls. Flab, cellulite, wrinkles, veins, scars, sag—I tell them what they see is what they will get, someday. I tell them that this is part of growing up, that this is part of being a real woman at the beginning of her fifth decade on this planet.
I do all right, with them, but I can’t seem to keep that fab attitude across the board.
It is with some shame that I hang my Women’s Studies-packed head and admit that dating post-divorce has been a different animal for me. In particular: uh, a frog. It’s fairly pitiful, my thoughts on this. I recognize that, and yet the thoughts persist. I keep thinking about that often-mentioned experiment, the one in which a frog (sorry, frog) tossed into boiling water will try to escape, but a frog in water that’s slowly heated to a boil will just hang out and perish without really knowing what the frick is going on.
It makes less sense, typed.
Marriage, being the slow boil, sort of? Frog, being the marrieds, sort of? Hubby, were he still that, having known this bod since its 27-year-old incarnation—well, I can’t imagine he’d be startled by anything he saw, now. And vice-versa. When you age for a long time beside someone, sharing the same events and life, it’s easier to embrace and internalize the Velveteen Rabbit “loved until you become real” frame of mind and heart.
Dating post-divorce has felt like the damn pot of boiling water. The reveal of this body, however much or little—out of shared context—feels like a plunge into serious hot water. Dating single fathers with kids, or men who’ve simply dated mothers before: still surprisingly difficult, though no one hopped straight out of the proverbial pot, and there even seems to be some truth to the statement that men like a woman with a little meat on her bones. And dating men who’ve never been with a woman who’s a mother, and all that entails, emotionally and physically? DOWNRIGHT SCARY STUFF. What is he used to? Crap, best not think about it. What will he expect? Forget that. Forget it. Will he be quietly disappointed? Oh, hell.
It’s nice being the Velveteen Rabbit, sure. But some days, I’d like to return to my 22-year-old shiny new bunny self and really get my groove on. Just 24 hours. Okay, maybe a week?
Yes. I know. Fear not, my own vanity smacks me on the nose, hard, and humbles me. I resist the idiotic urge to explain to the Him that I once was DIFFERENT, that I once looked like her, or her, or her, that I once was Not This. I’d like to be consistent, offer the same message to the people I date that I offer to my daughters. I want to be bad-assity, self-loving, rockin’ the sex-AY this is I and I is a total prize attitude I’d like to see my daughters rocking, all of their lives. I am not quite succeeding, not yet.
Are there divorced men who feel peculiar and shy about introducing their 40-plus nekkidness to someone new, someone unacquainted with the beer belly, the ear whiskers, the balding head?