Does A Man Define You?

My mother was 66 when my dad died in 1988, at 69. He was the love of her life and although financial hardship, and then his cancer, defined the last years they had together, she weathered through them like a soldier. After mom sold their house in Queens, she moved to Manhattan and joined the 92nd Street Y, which offered a rich program for FOF women and men (I refuse to use the S word!)

I wonder why some women need men, even less-than-desirable men, to help “define” them.

At first, she dated two men she met at the Y, but reported that they were always kvetching (chronic, whining complaining) about one thing or another. “I took care of your father when he was sick and I have no intention of taking care of another man now,” I remember her declaring (mom was a declarer; she didn’t voice her opinions meekly).

Once she dismissed the two complainers, mom was perfectly content to play bridge and mahjong, attend Shakespeare and other classes, coordinate the Y holiday parties and go out with assorted lady friends for dinner, the movies, jaunts to Atlantic City for a day of gambling and buffets, museums and countless other excursions.

Mom didn’t need a man to be happy. She spent the next two decades with her Y family, her blood family and with herself. She’d be satisfied to return home after a full day, put on the TV and relax, an old photo of her and my dad always at her side.

I know many FOF women today who are just like mom. Their husbands died in their primes, and they never craved the full-time company of new men. They’re smart, attractive, self sufficient and lead fulfilling lives. Who needs a man if he isn’t going to bring something to the table (humor, culture, caring, money, sex!), they say. I wonder why some women need men, even less-than-desirable men, to help “define” them.

One FOF friend is the polar opposite. She has a boyfriend whom she sees often. He helps her out a bit, financially, and takes her to dinner and away for many weekends. Even though he’s still legally married, my friend cares most about having his companionship. She just doesn’t feel whole without a man.

When they’re asked to describe themselves, they start out by saying, “I’m married…” Marriage is a state of being between two people. When the union dissolves, does that mean you do, too?

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