The 4 Year Itch

36Candle

I was holding onto 35 like a baby with a pacifier. I didn’t want to let it go. How could I top 35? This was my year of complete self discovery. This was the year when I finally found me and unapologetically embraced me.

I was holding onto 35 like a baby with a pacifier.  I didn’t want to let it go.  How could I top 35?  This was my year of complete self discovery.  This was the year when I finally found me and unapologetically embraced me.  Not to mention, there is something very complete about being an age where it can be divided evenly into 5.  Living in LA there is a thing as ageism more so than anywhere in the country.  Women start getting Botox at the age of 25 (myself NOT included for the record… no judgment though).  I was having a debate with a co-worker of mine about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.  When men hear of women wanting more money in divorce settlements they suddenly freak out.  A side bar, most of the high level executives I know are married to “Stay at home” moms.  These are women that they met a Brown, Harvard, Berkley, Stanford who in addition to getting their BA’s they got the MRS.  And those prestigious high pedigree degrees are now being used to take kids to soccer practice, change shitty diapers, and pick out the best color to paint the living room walls.  I think any thought of a divorce and their housewives getting half of their fortune sends most men into a panic attack.  We got into a heated debate.

Coworker:  Why does she deserve half of his earnings?

Me:  He was a nobody before they met.  She put him on the map!

Co-Worker:  What was the last successful movie Demi Moore did?

Me:  That’s not the point.  Before he met her he was just on “That 70’s Show” and had just started “Punked.”  Once they met and married his career blew up.  Trust me he wouldn’t be where he is now without her.

Co-Worker:  Demi needs to chill out.  Besides she’s over 35.  It all goes downhill from there!  Good luck finding a guy to date when a woman hits post 35! 

I laughed along with the co-worker to prevent myself from running out of the room and jumping off the ledge.  I blew off his comment on the outside but in the inside I was de-fucking-flated!  Was this what I had to look forward to at 36?  Was I officially yesterday’s news and now relegated to the senior special side of the menu?  Should I send a request to AARP for an early bird membership?

I went home that evening and did a long extended facial mask.  When I rinsed it off I looked at myself in the mirror.  I still had it going on.  My teeth were gleaming white; my skin had a youthful glow to it.  My Botox free face was didn’t have any wrinkles.  My breasts were still perky (maybe not 26 year old perky) but damn it I could still go braless and have confidence and my regular gym routine had me secure with going to Martha’s Vineyard for my annual family trip the following week and rocking my brand new overpriced bikini (how can something with so little material be so damn expensive?)

But as August 6th was fast approaching I had this heavy cloud hanging over me.  And the crazy thing about this shit was my friends who are in their 40’s are all so damn fierce and fabulous. I truly looked up to them.  So why was I suddenly scared… no actually, the proper feeling would be petrified that I was turning 36 a.k.a 4 years from 40.  There was an evil choir that was singing in my head similar to in A Christmas Story how they sang “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  That same choir was singing in the same tune, “4 years from 40… 4 years from 40… 4 years from 40…”

I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me.  I had a full life.  I have a great family that loves me unconditionally.  Recently, my mother had successfully come through a health scare and got the thumbs up from her doctors that she was okay.  My various circles of friends were inspirational and had my back, my career was blossoming, and my love life was full.  I was currently experiencing some dating highs and allowing myself to enjoy being single while opening myself to the possibility of love.  What was causing me to freak out?  Why was 36 such a daunting number?  In other words, what the fuck was my problem?!

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The timing for the annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard couldn’t have come at a better time. My family and I have gone to Martha’s Vineyard every summer for the last 12 years. It is a place that is so magical to me.

The timing for the annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard couldn’t have come at a better time.  My family and I have gone to Martha’s Vineyard every summer for the last 12 years.  It is a place that is so magical to me.  The beauty of Martha’s Vineyard is seeing all the families out and about together.  You see generations and families of all ages.  I loved lying out at the Inkwell and seeing couples with the cutest kids.  You see these masculine men building sand castles with their young toddlers and mothers showing their sons how to fly a kite.  It’s really one of the most magical places on the planet for me.  It’s also a place where I can go and be me.  No makeup, no heels, just the authentic me.  I wake up in the morning and watch the sunset and in the evenings we head out to Menemsha and watch the sunset as a family as we eat lobster and clam chowder.  Our last evening in the Vineyard we were invited to one of my mother’s friends homes for dinner.  I had the privilege of meeting her teenage daughter and her friends.  They were beautiful, energetic girls who were about to start their freshman year of high school.  They had so many ambitions and dreams.  They had a style to them that was fresh and classic.  They reminded me of… me 20+ years ago.  As I sat and listened to them talk about starting high school and boys and the latest teen craze Lana Del Ray and One Direction (they were keeping my ass relevant).  I smiled.  I remembered those days.  Those days when you felt like you had your whole life ahead of you.  Those days when there were endless possibilities and you dreamed big and didn’t worry about failing.  As I gave them advice about being a COM (creature of mystery) in high school and not being a fast ass they then started asking me about me.  When I told them I lived in LA they all gasped in delight in unison.

Teenagers:  LA!  You live there.  Oh my goodness that’s so cool.  Do you see movie stars?

Me:  All the time.  Miley Cyrus goes to my grocery store.

Teenager Girl:  No way!  That is so cool!!!!  Wow you rock!

Me:  Really?

Teenage Girl:  Yeah!  I want to move to LA one day! 

Me:  I love it there.  I was your age when I knew I wanted to live there.    

Teenage Girl:  Can I give you my number so we can keep in touch?

Me:  Absolutely. 

Teenage Girl:  When do you leave the vineyard?

Me:  Tomorrow.  Back to reality for me.

Teenage Girl:  What a great reality!  I want your reality.

Me:  Really?

Teenage Girl:  Yeah!  You have an awesome life!  Way cool!

Me:  (long pause) You know what…. You’re actually right.  Thank you!

Teenage Girl:  For what?

Me:  Just for being you…

Teenage Girls

I had the privilege of meeting her teenage daughter and her friends. They were beautiful, energetic girls who were about to start their freshman year of high school. They had so many ambitions and dreams. They had a style to them that was fresh and classic. They reminded me of… me 20+ years ago.

It’s amazing that it took three 14 year old girls to snap me out my birthday slump.  Here I was feeling all down and out because I was about to be four years away from 40.  I wasn’t allowing myself to appreciate where I was and how far I had come.  When I returned to LA I went into my storage closet and pulled out my old journals (yes I have been journaling since I was a kid and I have kept most of my journals).  I turned to my journal entry from when I turned 15.  I had listed all the things I wanted in life.

1-       Move to LA

2-      Become Famous

3-      Marry Grant Hill, Larry Johnson, or Scottie Pipen

4-      Have Kids

5-      Drive  a convertible

I had accomplished all that I wanted so far.  Granted my marriage didn’t last and Tamia got to Grant Hill before I had a chance.  I hadn’t had my kids yet.  But all in all I was living the life that I wanted.  I always knew I would move to LA.  I always knew I was going to have a great life.  When I was in my birthday slump I decided I was going to spend August 6th by myself at the spa and go home and meditate and have a birthday cupcake by myself.  My girlfriend was not having that shit.  She texted me the day before my birthday:

Girlfriend:  When are you coming home and what are we doing for your bday?

Me:  Probably nothing.  I’m not feeling this bday at all!

Girlfriend:  SMH.  Well forget about it.  Something is in the works.  Have yourself together tomorrow at 7:45.  You can’t refuse so just deal with it and shut up!

Me:  LOL!  Okay party planner.

Girlfriend:  It will be fun.  It’s all been worked out.  Whatever you’re sad about just know that a lot of people love and care about you and can’t wait to see your ass Tuesday night!

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As I blew out my birthday candle I thought about those three teenage girls I met in Martha’s Vineyard. They probably have no idea how much they touched my life. I thought about them and I made my wish. I wished that when they turned 36 they would feel the same amount of love I felt in that room. I prayed that they would evolve into great young women and would learn some of the lessons I learned in the last few years earlier and not the hard way. But most of all I wished that they would never lose their sense of adventure and hopefulness.

The next day came… August 6th.  My 36th birthday.  I got out of bed and I felt slightly rejuvenated.  It was a brand new day, the sun was shining.  I headed over to Fig and Olive and had a great birthday lunch then I spent the next few hours at the spa.  By the time my girlfriend picked me up that evening at 8 pm.  I was feeling really good.  I felt at peace and relaxed.  When I walked into the back room of Xen Lounge and saw the smiling faces of my close girlfriends.  I smiled.  I felt such an overwhelming amount of love.  There in front of me were my closest friends from college all the way to my recent sisters that I bounded with and they were all there to celebrate with me.  I was beyond happy and felt an overwhelming sense of love.  As I blew out my birthday candle I thought about those three teenage girls I met in Martha’s Vineyard.  They probably have no idea how much they touched my life.  I thought about them and I made my wish.  I wished that when they turned 36 they would feel the same amount of love I felt in that room.  I prayed that they would evolve into great young women and would learn some of the lessons I learned in the last few years earlier and not the hard way.  But most of all I wished that they would never lose their sense of adventure and hopefulness.  I also thanked God that he brought those three angles into my life at that time.  It is so easy to forget about how far you’ve come when you are so focused on where you want to go and why you haven’t gotten there on your time.  As I begin this next year of my life I am finally going to learn how to enjoy the journey and not focus so much on the end result.  When I opened my eyes I was confident that all of my wishes were going to come true.  I am 36, four years away from 40 and absolutely fabulous!

 

40 Shades of Grey

Looking in Mirror

I remember the first few months of my divorce; I would look at myself in the mirror and feel like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. I would also look at myself and feel like I was a different person.

I remember the first few months of my divorce; I would look at myself in the mirror and feel like there was a huge weight on my shoulders.  I would also look at myself and feel like I was a different person.  I still looked like myself but I felt like I was wounded and I didn’t know how to heel the injury.  Fast forward to present day.  I have really been focusing on my friendships and my family.  I went out with one of my close girlfriends last weekend.  She is 42 and newly engaged.  We have been close friends for the last 10 years.  We have gone through the ups and downs of dating and as her close friend it is so great to see her excitement during this time of her life.  As we sat down having cocktails overlooking the ocean at the Loew’s Hotel in Santa Monica she was reminiscing over the last decade.

Girlfriend:  I tell you, life is so interesting.  You really have to enjoy your life and live in the moment. 

Me:  That has been a recurring theme lately.

Girlfriend:  Trust me, I understand.  I met my honey later in life.  But if I had met him before I did neither one of us would have been ready.  You see, the 20’s are for making the mistakes.  The 30’s are for learning the lessons, and once you reach your 40’s you hit your stride.  You’ve made the mistakes and learned the lessons.  And you are at a point in your life where you say fuck it!  I am who I am and it’s okay.

Ironically, this wasn’t the first time I had heard that saying.  But perhaps it was the first time I was really paying attention to what she was saying.  The very next day, I met up with another group of my girlfriends who happened to be in their early 40’s as well.  We were celebrating my girlfriend’s 40th birthday.  It was a beautiful day in Malibu.  We sat outside at Gladstone’s eating Oysters and having some wine.   We were all sharing our dating horror stories and just bonding.  All of us at the table had gone through a divorce or some type of heartache at one point in our lives and had made it to the other side.

Me:  What are some of the lessons you learned in your 30’s?

Girlfriend:  Let me tell you something.  You are young.  You cannot settle!  Lots of times we settle and we put up with a lot of shit that we shouldn’t.  If something doesn’t seem right, keep it moving!

Me:  How do I know if I am not being reasonable?  In the past I have been accused of not giving guys a chance.

Girlfriend:  Oh please, if it’s not right it’s not right.  You know when shit doesn’t feel right.  You can’t force stuff.  I’m not telling you to be a raging bitch.  But I don’t want you to be in something just because you don’t want to be alone.  I don’t want you to put up with crap just because you think you can’t get better or you’re getting “old.”  Chile’ please. 

There seems to be a certain stride that women hit once they turn 40.  I noticed it in a lot of my friends.  First of all, they all look beautiful.  There is an inner and outer beauty that radiates from within.  There is a certain amount of confidence I notice in women in their 40’s as well.  When I was going through my divorce my mother once told me, “You have earned your battle stripes.”  I realized those times when I was looking at myself in the mirror I WAS looking at a different person.  I no longer lived in this fantasy world.  I had gone through the trenches of a bitter breakup and I made it.  I realized I was becoming a true grown ass woman.  You see, in my 20’s I saw things as either black or white.  There was no in between.  I was going to be married by the time I reached 30, it would last forever, I would have my 2.5 children, and a house with a white picket fence.  By the time I reached my 30’s and was in a bad marriage, I still saw things as black and white, I was determined to make things work in spite of the fact I knew deep in my soul I was with the wrong person.  I was willing to shrink who I was to fit into his small world in order to make him happy.  But by the time I was going through the divorce that is when my black and white world was suddenly turning gray.  And that’s when I realized as a 35 year old women I am in the midst of becoming the woman I was supposed to be.  Without the experience I had I would have still been living in my black and white fantasy world.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have a lot of my close girlfriends who are in their 40’s.   They are like big sisters to me and there is such a love that we share.  And there is also authenticity.  We don’t bullshit around; we say it like we mean it.  Although I have sometime before I hit my 40’s (I ain’t trying to rush shit).  I realized I was finally hitting my stride.  I was in the middle of learning those lessons.  I had already made the big mistakes and now was my time to learn from them.  It’s amazing what happens when you decide to focus on you and not finding a relationship.  I am hyper aware of a lot of things around me.  I yearn for those perils of wisdom.  I can’t lie, in the last few months I had those moments of feeling like, I’m getting older.  If I don’t meet someone by the time I hit 40 the pickings are going to get slimmer.  I live in LA; men will think I am too old.  I want to have children one day.  I need to hurry up and find someone before I hit 40!

 

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I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have a lot of my close girlfriends who are in their 40’s. They are like big sisters to me and there is such a love that we share. And there is also authenticity. We don’t bullshit around; we say it like we mean it.

That’s why it is important to surround yourself around positive people who have some damn sense!  I was already beginning to do exactly what I was doing in my late 20’s and look where that got me.  Now at 35 I had learned the lesson.  When you let fear and worry dictate your actions you end up making major mistakes.  I am finally learning to enjoy my “grey” time.  Life isn’t just black and white.  When you mix the two colors together you become a fully authentic woman.  When you earn your battle strips you learn what roads lead you to another war.  When you begin to embrace who you are at any age life becomes worth living it to the fullest.
 
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+        

The Company You Keep

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I refused to speak to or associate with any negativity. Not to be a bitch but I needed to protect myself.

I had finally returned to the land of the living.  I was feeling like myself again and I was also feeling hopeful after that chance meeting with “Ron.”  So I made another conscious decision to spend more time with happily married couples, people in love, and positive energy.  I refused to speak to or associate with any negativity.  Not to be a bitch but I needed to protect myself.  It is always a great reminder to be around people who actually love each other but not only just that, they love you and want the best of you.  Over the weekend I attended a bridal shower of a friend of mine who was getting married in June.  She had been through a previous marriage and divorce. She met her soul mate around a year ago.  To see the sincere happiness on her face during her shower was… inspirational.  I believed in love and I wanted to believe that the second time around could happen.  I remember a little over a year ago I was considering moving to Chicago.  I had gone there for work and I felt like I was a super star.  Brothas acknowledged me.  They went out of their way!  And I liked the vibe of the city.  I told my girlfriend this and her response was, “Are you crazy?  You don’t even have a plan!  Are you just going to move to Chicago and not have a plan?”  She definitely had a point.  A few weeks later I was in Chicago for a layover.  When I got off the plane and walked through the jet way, which took a total of 20 seconds.  By the time I was finally in the airport.  I couldn’t feel my legs.  They were frostbitten.  I realized then and there if this is what the weather was like in Chicago in December I was going to stay my ass right in LA.  I grew up in New Jersey and yes it was cold during the winter time but the level of bitter ice cold in Chicago was more than I could stand.  My 13 years in LA had made me allergic to the cold weather.  And my friend had a point.  It would be one thing if I had already met my soul mate who lived in Chicago and I moved for love.  But why in the hell would I move to Chicago without a plan in hopes of meeting an imaginary man?  If I didn’t I would spend my time alone and cold.  At least in LA I can be alone but take a drive in my convertible in the middle of December with the top down.  But fast forwarding to present time seeing her so happy gave me hope.  And encouragement that the second time around could and would be better.

The next day I met up with two of my married girlfriends at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica.  My one girlfriend friend was happily married to a man who adored her.  Their family looked like one of those families that are in a picture frame when you buy one from the store.  They are gorgeous and the level of respect and love they have for one another is again inspiring.  My other friend had been married for two years and I was with her when she met her husband at the UCLA Jazz fest Memorial Day weekend a few years back.  Their courtship proved that when you marry a man who is your friend and who loves you unconditionally you have a strong marriage.  I was telling them how I had just gone through one of my dating depression and was so frustrated with dating.  You see, if I wanted to I could have already been remarried if that all I wanted was just marriage.  But Like my friend whose bridal shower I went to the day before, I was looking for something more.  I was looking for the real thing.  And I wouldn’t settle until the real thing happened.  All of these dating lessons I was learning since the divorce made me realize that it is better to be alone and lonely than with someone and lonely.  Once again, being around people who are happily married gives you a sense of hope.  Also, if you really listen they offer perils of wisdom.  My one girlfriend told me, “Right before I met my husband.  I had made myself okay with being by myself.  I was travelling and just enjoying my life.  I made myself okay with me first.” When I went on further to tell them about my crazy ass week and self doubt my other married girlfriend said, “You have to be very careful with what you put out into the universe.  There are things that might run through my mind, but I don’t say that shit out loud.  When that negative thought creeps up I push it down.  Don’t speak bad shit into existence.”   It is so good to have real friends.

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I was glad I had girlfriends in my life that kept it real and that were positive….Seeing my friend so happy and with a man who genuinely got her really touched my heart. And she said, “Ladies, miracles do happen.”

Then my final stop for my weekend of unexpected self discovery was happy hour with some of my college friends at Sonoma Wine Bar at the 3rd Street Promenade Mall in Santa Monica.  A girlfriend of mine had started dating an amazing guy.  Seeing my friend so happy and with a man who genuinely got her really touched my heart.  And she said, “Ladies, miracles do happen.”  Seeing her smile made me realize that was true.  Misery doesn’t always love company.  Being around these wonderful women made me realize a few things:  first of all, the common denominator they all had is they reached a point in being fine being by themselves.  It didn’t mean they didn’t believe that would meet the right man but they made themselves okay with being where they were at the time.  They also did not settle just to be with a man.  They went with the flow and waited for the right man to come along.  They didn’t force it.  They just lived their lives and when they met their soul mates he didn’t complete them he merely enhanced where they already were.  These were all things that I knew already but I found myself forgetting this.  And then when I really sat down and thought about it, I realized that is one of the major reasons I ended up marrying the wrong person in the first place.  I worried that I wasn’t going to get any better and I found myself dealing with bullshit just because of my fear of being in the dating game.  I find that lately I think I have been tested.  I’m not sure if these tests are the universe’s way of making sure I am really and truly ready or making sure I really learned my lesson.  But I was glad I had girlfriends in my life that kept it real and that were positive.  It is easy to get advice from the wrong people.  I remember when I was going through my divorce different people were so quick to give me advice on what I should and shouldn’t do but when they were in a similar situation it was interesting to see how they didn’t follow any of the advice they gave me.  It is so important as woman that you keep positive people around you and that you stay positive. Because when you are in a low and vulnerable position you can become a victim of bad advice and bitterness.  I don’t have a major dating story to tell you all today, but I felt the need to reiterate age old wisdom.  Watch the company you keep….     
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+