Two days ago, I had a brief conversation with a virtual stranger that I've thought a lot about. He hadn't married until he was forty-eight, he told me. He wasn't ready before, not mature enough. But finally he decided that he wanted to take on a committed relationship, not just short term good-times. And he'd found the woman he could do that with.
I've been thinking a lot about this readiness to accept what I'll term adultness, for want of a better word, since that's a state that I've resisted almost all of my life. I can pinpoint some of the difficulties starting with my mother's death and my father selling the house and disposing of all her carefully chosen furnishings a year later. That put paid to my idea of home as a safe environment, a place that would protect you.
And the upheaval of my teenager years with a drinking father in an era during which women weren't particularly encouraged to take on professions undoubtedly lead to my acting out a collision course downward. All this made me resistant to taking on the wrappings (I would have thought of them as trappings) of adulthood -- a healthy relationship and a home.
I'm seventy now, able to look at the past and see the times when I made sorry choices because I was incapable of making better ones. What I found touching about the discussion with this virtual stranger is that he was able to stop himself from repeating a pattern that wasn't going to lead to the privilege of a healthy relationship and all that means -- the pleasure and the work of it.
My set of circumstances made it impossible for me to come to such a conclusion in time. There was something about my family history that was damaging to me, just as it was damaging to my half brother, sixteen years older than I am, who has made even less progress in leading a stable life. At least I've had the benefit of working with seven therapists and a great deal of Alanon, but it's still been a struggle.
What I particularly appreciated about my conversation the other day was that this fellow is somewhere in his mid-fifties and capable of talking about his choices in the way that no man I've met in his sixties or early seventies does. He was speaking simply and openly, exposing vulnerability as well as maturity. And he's in a profession that is associated with power and authority. I hope that this was a sign that men of a younger generation are more capable of the kind of conversations that I've only had with women.