REFLECTIONS ON A DECADE – PART ONE

It’s been a shitty decade. No need to go over the details here – just open any newspaper, magazine or watch any end of the year tv programme for a reminder of the grim highlights. It feels like ages since the panic of Y2K that never was.I suppose it’s inevitable to look back at the end of a year but I never attempted to look at an entire decade of my little life and, when I started thinking about it, I was surprised at how much of significance was packed in it.

This excuse for a personal reflection made me ponder about what happened to me in a broader spectrum, and thoughts tumbled out of my head with no rhyme or reason.Some of the events in my life are commonplace – others less so. A few were unpredictable, given who I am. It’s been an interesting exercise, above all if conducted in absence of judgement, an obviously hard task.

In broad strokes, in the last ten years I got married, helped parenting two children in a quasi impossible situation or, at least, an ungrateful one, left my chosen profession of 15 years, reinvented a new career and ended the decade on the brink of divorce. All  this, while miraculously keeping the same dress size (I am focusing on the positives here).

Let’s start with marriage. An unpredictable turn of events for me. Was never much of a believer and I managed to last 39 years without being asked. Not once. I am the product of a failed marriage, of a couple who stayed together way past the sell-by date and who, all things considered, were not much better off apart either. Endless arguments around the dinner table, multiple public affairs and shouting matches never made me pine for a white gown and a trip down the altar. Actually, all through my 20’s and 30’s, I avoided friends and relatives’ weddings like the plague and the photos of me at my sister’s don’t show a willing bridesmaid.

Then I met the man who would become my husband – I knew he was different, our relationship, once it eventually got under way, was decidedly different but I never thought of tying the proverbial knot until he asked. And I said yes. It seemed the thing to do – we were living together with his children, we were madly in love so, why not? And I don’t regret if for a minute.

As with all my girlfriends, I was brought up on a diet of feminist precepts, female affirmation, the necessity of a career and the abhorrence for seemingly useless institutions, such as marriage. But, when my turn came, it felt right because it just happened, it wasn’t the realization of a goal but rather a natural progression and a commitment that I was choosing as a “love statement” and not a career. Recently, I have been surprised at how the tide is turning. In this religious obsessed America, girls tend to get married younger and in much higher numbers than in Europe, for example. It might not be a “career” choice but it seems to be a necessity – as if our life is not complete without the other half. I couldn’t even fathom marriage in my 20’s, when you barely know who you are or where you are going. What are the chances of waking up 10 or 20 years later to find out your mate has different aspirations or has morphed into someone you barely recognize? My biased opinion thinks they are very high.  Not to mention all the experiences that an emotional and financial commitment will make you miss out on. Sometimes I feel like shaking the young girls I work with and remind them the world is a big and interesting place and why limit oneself to a two room apartment in the Valley with a man just out of childhood? But it’s not my place and they would think I am a party pooper anyway.

I went to see “It’s Complicated” a few nights ago. I was in the mood for some romantic fantasy and I want to support with my hard-earned dollars a movie whose leading lady is approaching 60 and is not afraid of plastic surgery-free close-ups. I laughed a lot, had a good time, couldn’t help notice I snugly fit the demographic the movie was written for but what dismayed me somewhat was that, at the end, the heroine is finally complete because there is the appropriate man in her life. Never mind she has a successful business, a dream house, plenty of friends and loving children (of the perfect kind that doesn’t exist..) – what would life be without a man?! Is that what we still really want since Jane Austen’s time?! If even good, old Jane got by without one, why is it that we can’t conceive of the empty bed alternative?

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