I know. I know. Every single woman is entitled to her own feelings, but I’m flabbergasted when a woman doesn’t want to share something lovely that’s happened in her life and that can inspire other women.
First, meet the woman in question. I’ll call her Sharon. She’s in her late 70s, well educated, retired, and a grandmother. Her husband, who had been sick for years, died a number of years ago. She’s lived alone since then and is close to her grown children and grandchildren. She cares deeply about social issues. Enjoys theatre, classical music, ballet. Not terribly interested in fashion or beauty.
Sharon and I have known each other for decades, but have never been close. We hadn’t communicated in about five years, but I got a message from her recently which included the news that she was “seeing a wonderful man.” She told me where he worked and said he was soon retiring. Her Facebook page showed photos from a number of trips she’s taken with him during the last few months. She’s not an especially joyous or expressive woman, but she looked happy in the photos.
I texted Sharon about three weeks ago and asked how she was doing. “Fine. Traveling in Asia with Ron (not his real name either). Life is good. You?” she responded.
I was thinking earlier this week that other older, widowed or divorced women would love to learn how Sharon met Ron and how they’ve established a successful relationship. Although many older women are happy as larks living alone, many want the companionship of a man, but have a hard time meeting one.
So, I texted this to Sharon: “Hi Sharon, I’d love to interview you for an article on my website about establishing a new relationship in your 70s. I’d show you the article before I published it to make sure you were happy with it. I think it would be inspirational to divorced and widowed women who would like to meet someone. LMK if you’d be up for it.”
I forgot I had emailed Sharon until I saw this message from her yesterday: “Hi. I’m sorry but I have to say ‘no’ to this. I consider these things personal and private. And, I don’t think there’s much to be learned. What has happened for me is very unusual, and unlikely, at my age. Most of the women I know, widowed or divorced, would confirm that. I feel incredibly lucky. But he and I agree, it’s remarkable but it’s a fluke.”
HUH, I thought. Exactly what does Sharon consider “personal and private?” How she met this man? What they have in common? What drew them to one another in their 70s? And yes, it may be “unusual” and “unlikely” to develop a meaningful relationship in your 70s, but that’s precisely why I wanted to write an article about a couple that has. I didn’t even have to use their names. Who cares what their names are anyway? And even if Sharon and Ron’s partners had cheated on them, and they now found comfort in one another, why not share that fact? Or maybe they hadn’t had sex for years and they’ve reawakened each other’s sexuality. Wow. How great is that! Why not shout it from the rooftops. You don’t have to reveal what position you use. You don’t even have to say anything more than “we were instantly attracted to each other, a feeling neither of us thought we’d ever have again.” Or maybe they share a deep, dark secret about their lives that brought them together. They don’t have to divulge it. Sharon could simply say “we had common ground on some important issues.” For goodness sakes, you’re close to 80, not 18!
I found Sharon’s response obnoxious and off-putting, if not a tad affected and foolish. I’ve interviewed a woman whose husband lived a double life, a woman whose daughter died from an opioid overdose, and a woman whose husband hid that he lost all their money, until he picked up and left her and their daughter, on Christmas Eve no less. Now, those things are “personal” and “private,” yet the women were anxious to share their experiences so they could help even one other woman to see the light.
I wish Sharon and Ron years of health and happiness together, in their “remarkable but flukey” relationship. Flukes happen.