The High-Pressure Friend
Why the Crisis?
There are a number of reasons why this happens to a woman in her 40s (and seems to end, mercifully, by her 50s -- readers out there, correct me if I'm wrong). First, many of us are just coming out of childhood as we were when we were teenagers -- except now, it's the childhood of our children. Our "babies" are growing up, entering their own adolescence. They've gone off to skulk in their rooms and listen to terrible music, but at least they can now go to the bathroom unassisted and pour their own glasses of juice. A woman becomes aware of herself again as a person (as opposed to servant, nanny, cook, personal assistant, chauffeur), and can resume her adult life. It's a little like coming up for air after dwelling many years underwater. Gee, it's light up here! I can breathe! Look at all the things there are to do!
I imagine that women who don't have kids go through a similar feeling of re-emergence: "I survived my 30s. I've put as many hours as possible into my work/marriage/trying to find the right guy and settle down/trying to have children, and now it's time to figure out how I'm going to live the other half of my life." The trouble is, you're a little older than when you submerged, and only now do you have the time to notice it -- let alone do anything about it. And boy, is there lots to do. Aside from changing your wardrobe to fit your new interests -- be it going back into the workforce or buying all the gear for that triathlon -- there is that haircut whose sole aesthetic virtue is that it can be worn wet to carpool or dried by those pathetic little dryers they stock at business hotels and gyms. It is at this moment, too, when a woman notices that her body has begun to settle exactly like the walls of her house: Overnight, it seems, there are new cracks, new surfaces that should be level but aren't. And you may notice that your actual house has probably sunk to a state that a Realtor might describe to a prospective buyer as its "original condition." You remember, dimly, that you once wanted to sponge the dining room walls, and do something cunning with fabric and wood for a master bedroom headboard, but these plans got shelved along with everything else you had hoped to do, back there in your 30s.
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