I wrote this a few years ago, and I really love it … please chat with strangers. Listen to old people. Ask personal question. Listen. Share, and listen more. Remember that ours is not the first generation to struggle with being a woman with professional ambition, children and sexual needs. Read, and share.
Last week, my kids and I visited my mom at her Milwaukee condo, the complex of which is occupied mostly by senior citizens. While lounging by the pool where my kids caused a ruckus, mildly amused and mostly annoyed by the very loud woman who went on and on and ON about how she could not believe the restaurant charged her $2.75 to swap the picadillo peppers for onions, I was delighted when a very elegant, spry older woman sat down next to me, put on her wire-rimmed bifocals and dug into her Danielle Steel paperback.
“I'd like to jump in there, too, but I'm going to be 90 this month and probably shouldn't get into a swimsuit,” was her opening line. That, of course, was cue for me to tell her a) she looks fabulous for her age (true), b) who cares what you look like (truer still), c) engage with her. I'm so glad I did. There were some gems of advice from my new, brilliant friend, and I must share them with you.
First, a quick bio: This beautiful woman grew up in a small, rural midwestern town and became a PhD psychologist. She married her college sweet heart very young, and at age 26 after recently giving birth to her only child, a son, her husband unceremoniously “sued me for divorce.”
“He was a heavy smoker, and two years later he was dead,” she said with a shrug. “My parents said, ‘Honey, what do you want to do?' I said, ‘I want to play the field,' so they suggested I see the family doctor.'” She had her tubes tied. “I never regretted it for a second,” she told me.
For the past 37 years she has been married to “the love of my life” — a building contractor who just celebrated his 100th birthday. Here are some genius single-mom nuggets from from this hot momma:
Always have your own money. When her love rang in his centennial birthday, his grubby daughter sent real estate brokers over to the condo to assess its value, intending to sell it. Joke was on her! “When we married, I had money saved from my practice and bought the place I wanted in cash. The house in my maiden name. Always make sure you take care of yourself.”
Marry for love. “Mr. Goldstein is the love of my life,” she says. Before him, she dated a prominent lawyer for 12 years until he passed away. “But no one loved me like Mr. Goldstein.”
Marry your financial and professional peer. “But Mr. Goldstein was doing very well for himself. Honey, you need someone who respects your career, and you respect his. Don't settle! And make sure you have your own money, in your own name.”
Enjoy your body. “Honey, you're still young. You look great. Play the field.”
But be careful. “That's great you're dating. But honey, be sure to protect yourself. Don't get pregnant.” [Editor's note: Don't get a STD, either! Condoms, people, condoms!]
P.S. Enjoy your body. “When I went for my annual exam, the doctor said, ‘You look like a young girl on the inside! You could still be having active sex!' When I asked her if she and her husband still had sex she said: “Oh no. Not any more.” Did she miss it? “Sometimes. Honey, play the field.”
Don't stop playing the field. “The other day I was in Pick ‘N' Save and I ran into a doctor I knew 40 years ago. He told his daughter, ‘I knew her years ago, and when her husband dies I'm going to marry her!'”
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.