A few years ago, at my father’s 60th birthday party, an old family friend came up to me. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since I had moved to New York in 1998. He has two grown children, both married with kids. After the usual questions about my career and glamorous life in the big city, he proceeded to ask me about my love life. I was single at the time, with few exciting prospects, but happy nonetheless. I explained to him that I was content on my own, enjoyed my freedom and that the right guy would come along eventually. But he didn’t seem to accept my positive outlook, because from where he was sitting, my situation was hopeless. He finally concluded: “It’s too late for you. You got stuck.”
Perhaps the festivities of the night had impaired his judgment and made him believe it was OK to criticize my choices, but that was no excuse. I remember I was so disturbed by his answer I got up and left. It was sexist – men can wait as long as they want and nobody gives a damn – and conservative. But it got me thinking. Maybe I was stuck. Particularly, stuck in my ways, and in the manner I had created my own life and tandem rigid routine. I thought about how hard I find it to share my space with someone else, or worse, my bed. I thought about how liberating it is not to account for my actions or whereabouts. I thought about how much I love watching my own TV shows and never have to pass the remote. I wasn’t stuck. I just didn’t want to be unstuck. Because I am happy there.
It’s every girl’s dream isn’t it? You grow up, fall in love, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. It’s a socially acceptable, standardized trajectory by which most of us abide. But what if you’re a self-made woman, who’s focused and independent and prioritizes her career? What if you’re busy traveling and never locked down in one place long enough? What if you’re in your late thirties or forties when you finally stop to breathe? Is that too late? Is that not respectable? Why do some women wait to settle down?
As we grow older we live and learn. We find out things about ourselves through experiences, from the people we interact with and by being fearless. Our relationships and how we perceive them change constantly, mature if you wish, especially when it comes to romantic partners. Sometimes it takes a few marriages to get it right. As we grow older we are much less focused on the need for a relationship. A relationship becomes a gift, not a necessity. Because we are so set in our ways by the time we reach 40, we don’t need the other person for validation. We are fully aware of ourselves, have plenty to show for, and are just looking to enhance our path with love and friendship, without interrupting it.
Look at Mariah Carey, Jade Jagger, Tory Burch and Jerry Hall for example. True, it’s not their first rodeo, but they’re giving it another shot, and probably the last one. These are all women who have careers, children and massive creative successes under their belts, but still needed someone special to share it with, regardless of their age. I believe that relationships that start later in life, can build on stronger foundations, on lessons learned and solid emotions. They are much less about a coup de foudre than about an intelligent, practical, smart decision to settle into something safe and comfortable. And those types of partnerships are very rewarding. It’s like a weight is lifted, and suddenly there is a person in your life who can make you feel sexy, forget work, or quite simply: take off your heels.
My last relationship ended last summer. It was short but sweet. And I remember thinking how different this one was. It felt mature. He lived two hours away from the city, so he wasn’t around me all the time, but I trusted him. I felt secure and relaxed. When we saw each other we made the most of it. I dropped work for a day or two and gave him my full attention. And when he left, I picked up my life again. It was the perfect balance. We were there for each other, but we didn’t need to be in each other’s space all the time. I loved the fact that the entire thing was stress-free and based on mutual understanding, and it didn’t matter that I was a little stuck. Because there are some guys who don’t ask you to be unstuck, and those are worth waiting for.