The High-Pressure Friend
Enter the "Friend"
This frenzy of self-awareness leads to the second aspect we used to dread in junior high: revived competition from other women. I know lots of women who suddenly are feeling insecure about their marriages -- even if, on the face of it, there seems absolutely nothing to be insecure about. It's Boyfriends in High School Redux: "Okay, like, he seems happy, you know, but what if, like, he isn't? Omigod, what if he, like, dumps me -- for no reason?!" But at this age, we can't console ourselves with the thought that in just a few years we'll (pick one): have breasts, be better-looking than we are now, be way smarter and more successful than the head cheerleader. As women in our 40s, we have to confront the fact (and forgive me if I put this bluntly) that our market value is less than it was 10 years ago. Yes, we're wiser, and happier with who we are, and terrific wives and mothers, and everything else Oprah tells us about women after 40; but if we're not willing to confront this other fact -- and if our husbands are remotely successful, there will be many younger, single women who will force us to confront it. Unfailingly, doubts start to creep in: "Sure, so-and-so's new younger wife is pretty, but she's really dull and not very smart, don't you think, hon? Hon?"
Before we know it, the next renovation project is ourselves. Yet self-renovation doesn't have to be done in a spirit of competitiveness, dejection, or fear. The very fact that we are older and wiser means we can approach the task with more assurance than we possessed when we were 13. I know many of my friends have taken to renovating themselves, and their lives, in the spirit of taking a last big kick at the can: I will buy that miniskirt! I will spend the next week emptying the house of junk, and call the architect about the kitchen renovation! I will take the next bonus and put it toward a romantic vacation for just my husband and me! Yes, I will finally heed the message of all those dreadful Disney movies to which I've been subjected over the years, and "follow my heart." I will (circle all that apply) ask for the promotion/look into volunteer work/get my eyes done/take up bungee jumping.