Do you feel today’s single women of a certain age are rewriting the dating game?
Yes, definitely! There was a time when mature women, if single, were pressured to light a candle by the window and hope for a sailor to wash up on shore. Nowadays, single women of a certain age are being very proactive about their love lives. They either date (or not) and know exactly what they want. It’s a far cry from how we dated in our youth – which involved a lot of hit-and-miss experimentation.
Why do you think there is so much interest or intrigue on dating after midlife?
Because it’s a relatively new thing! Boomers have up-ended this culture from the get-go, and they are continuing to do it as they reach middle-age. Only boomers could have invented drugs that make it so you can still have sex like twenty-year-olds! And it’s typical of boomers to be proud of their bodies and sex-positive – so there’s no reason for that to stop as we get older!
A generation or two ago, a single person was looked upon in the community as somewhat weird, much less a single woman. How much do you think this has changed? Do you feel our culture is accepting of women who choose to remain single?
I think this has changed significantly – but not entirely. I do think the culture is more accepting of single people than it ever has been, but there is still a long way to go. Especially for women, who are still viewed with a bit of pity. It will take another decade of this paradigm shifting before we’re viewed the same as everyone else.
Do you think women tend to be more ok with being single than men?
Oh yes! Studies have shown this to be true. On the happiness scale, it’s married men on top, then single women, then married women, then single men. So much for the stereotype that men love their single status and women ache to get married!
Describe some of the experiences faced by the writers in your book. What stands out to you? Is there an experience that you feel defines the emotional state of most single women over 40?
I think there is a general feeling of “making this up as we go along!” Our mothers did not live this way, for the most part, so we have no guidebooks or signposts to guide us into a contented unmarried existence. Some of us struggle with how to date at this age, others, with empty nests, and still others, with our changing bodies. But in general, I read a lot of strength and courage in these essays! These are women I’d want in my army if I had to go to war.
What do you think single women of a certain age will learn by reading your book?
That there are all kinds of ways to approach this life – and all are okay! That they are not alone. That laughter can help put everything in perspective.
Many are saying that 40 is the new 20. Do you think it’s now time for the single women of a certain age to shine?
Absolutely! Thankfully, TV and film are finally utilizing more fantastic actresses in their 40s, 50s and up who can role model for the rest of our culture what modern aging is all about. Glen Close, Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter, Kyra Sedgwick, Brooke Shields – all are doing the best work of their lives. And looking good while doing it!
Not everyone chooses to be single. There are women in your book that lost their partners to death and divorce and the experience of being alone has been very painful. How do these women find comfort? What is their saving grace?
That’s right – many, many women are single by default. And these women are forced to reinvent their lives from scratch, sometimes very unhappily. In my experience, what gives these women comfort is the very act of reinvention – doing some personal exploration, discovering what is meaningful to them, and pursuing those things with a passion. If divorce and widowhood can bring a woman’s lowest points, finding herself again and coming through the fire can provide some of her highest.
What did you learn from working on this book?
That single women of a certain age come in all shapes, sizes, and experiences. The two things they seem to have in common are that they’re single, but also that they’re courageous. Single life is not for the faint of heart! But it can also be richly rewarding.
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Jane Ganahl is the editor of the newly released paperback edition of Single Woman of a Certain Age. She is also the author of the novelized memoir Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Life. For almost five years she penned the well-received “Single Minded” Sunday column about the unmarried life in the San Francisco Chronicle. Visit her online at http://www.janeganahl.com/.