Augustus: What were you thinking tonight, my dear? Ah, of poor Drusus. Yes, yes, yes. I , I was thinking of him tonight too. Rome cannot afford such a loss. Ah, I pray to the gods that these boys will be as noble and as virtuous as he was. You mustn´t dwell on it. I mean, a year has gone by and that´s quite long enough for grief, now. More is not the Roman way, you know. Musicians, play us out! Let us have music to take us to our sleep.
Antonia: A year. Is that all it is? One little year? -I, Claudius.
On November 30th my divorce will have been final a year. Over the course of the past year I have been slowly and awkwardly settling into the rhythms of life as a middle-aged, single woman. I go to work. I go to the gym. Once in a while I go to a class at the Wine School of Philadelphia. I go to the Mutter Museum and the Art Museum on occasion. I go to choir practice, although I must admit I’m having a hard time of it this semester. I’m thinking of taking next semester off. Most of the time, however, I am alone; reading, knitting, cooking, cleaning, talking to my cat. Early in my divorce friends took me to the opera, the orchestra, and the theatre, but that doesn’t happen so much now. I go to services and sit with my friends where before I sat in the back. One particularly lonely Friday night I confided to a friend that I felt out of place. He said come sit with us in Row J, who cares if your late. I was raised that if you are late you sit in the back. My parents were acutely aware of appearances. But he was right who cares if I’m late. They say that in your 40s you stop caring about what other people think and in your 60s you realise no one’s watching you anyway. In my teens the pressure to please my parents was immense. An impossible task as their happiness was a moving target. In my 20s I didn’t care much about what other people thought because I didn’t have anyone to please. That changed when I married. I had a husband whose happiness was also a moving target.
We barely speak anymore, my ex-husband and me. When we first separated he tried to treat me like a live-in girlfriend. He offered himself for sex once. No, I said, Just no. I’m sure that was more for his pleasure than mine.He pinched my nipples once. I smacked him. He swatted me on the ass once. I yelled at him. He called me his babe once. I told him off. I told him he needed to stop phoning. Before that he would text me or phone me at least once a week. One week he phoned me every day. My ex-husband has become like a dandelion that has gone to seed. When I speak of him, and I still do sometimes, I’m sending the seeds aloft never to return.
Although I will say I miss sex like crazy-like crazy. I don’t miss sex with my ex-husband at all. I miss an idea of it: smooth skin, soft hair, light caresses, laughter, the vulnerability, the excitement, the familiarity, the curiosity, begging my permission, granting permission, licking, biting, sucking, losing myself, letting go, the weight, the gravity. Thinking about it now…I’m in my office. My sister told me it’s a form of self-pity, that I am dwelling on what I don’t have. It’s not. I don’t feel sorry for myself because it’s the one thing that I don’t have. I don’t have bookshelves either but I don’t think about them all the time. It’s a longing and a need and a desire for a connection with a man. She has always been one who prides herself on her superiority and self-denial. She’s very Victorian that way.
Single middle-aged women who actually talk about life post-divorce seem to be in two camps-the ones who date and the ones who don’t. I haven’t, as I have been going through the hard work of rebuilding my life and my self. But I haven’t experienced many of the rituals I read and hear that many single middle-aged women experience. I don’t have a group of single, middle-aged women friends with whom I commiserate. I don’t have teenage children telling me it’s time to get out there. No one has tried to set me up with a friend or a relative. I’m being warned off online dating even though it seems to be the only way people meet. I’m thinking it might be time to dip a toe in, just a toe, fully prepared for the likelihood that I may not get a single response, much less one from a man who is under 60. I don’t really care if he’s white collar or blue collar or clerical collar. He doesn’t have to be Jewish (because that worked so well the last time). I have my own place and my own income. I don’t need a man to support me financially. I just don’t want a man who thinks he’s going to sponge off me. I don’t care if he’s tall or short, I like eyes at a level. I like big men and am a sucker for dark eyes, the darker the eyes the closer to stupid I get. Thin would be an interesting change of pace as would blue eyes, otherwise I don’t care. Adherence to basic hygiene would be an improvement as would basic social graces and table manners. I don’t need overprotective or jealous and I certainly don’t want to get married again.