Railroad tracks, some industrial park – where the heck are we? and, suddenly, a very steep driveway leading to a beautiful house on a hill, overlooking the San Gabriel mountains, where, right when we arrive, the sunset riot is in full swing.
Inside, the house is decorated with pumpkins, and witches and every imaginable Halloween trapping. We set to work in the enormous kitchen which is open to the dining room.
The women, all between 45 and 60, start coming in, cheerful and loud and happy to gather, like they do every month: they play a dice game, eat some food and kvetch. Liberally. Nothing unusual. That is what women have done since the beginning of time.
While my partner and I are busy grilling vegetables, cooking chicken and re-heating lasagna, we can’t help eavesdrop on the lively conversation: some general gossip about common acquaintances; some travel and shopping expeditions; and, interminable, health. Check ups, mammograms, breast cancer, colonoscopies – the whole gamut. What doesn’t get discussed at all is men. Or love. No husbands, boyfriends, partners or dating mishaps are mentioned.
Come to think of it, when Sue and I talk on Skype, it’s all about our tiredness, the state of our parents and our Spring trip. Relationships get a passing mention, in a sure sign we are all grown up, and that the vestiges of youth recede farther and farther in the rearview mirror.
Are the days of dissecting love, or its imitations, under a microscope for hours on end really gone? It’s not that relationships don’t interest us – to the contrary – it’s that we are not consumed by them as we used to be. Some of us are settled in decades long marriages; others are single but with full lives and no time for palpitating hearts. In any event, they are not at the heart of our conversations, unless one of us is going through a painful break-up or we are exchanging tips about navigating sex during menopause.
I never gave it much thought that it feels surprisingly good to be settled, to feel strong, within or without a relationship, and to have opened time and space to a million other pursuits. Maybe what getting older is all about is finding a balance among all that interests us (and all we must do). It’s a time in our lives in which we can still enjoy an expansion – of ideas, interests and re-invention – and we should appreciate it. Before life shrinks again and, instead of fixating on matters of the heart, we will solely fixate on our health and the newspaper obits.
But maybe we can work on this too: if old age is a regression of sorts, I would rather regress to the days of palpitating hearts. Just remind me, twenty years from now, if you catch me opening a conversation with the state of my bowels.
Image: Two women talking in doorway by Rudy Burckhardt – Paris 1934