Graduation Day: A Celebration And Sad Reminder

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Beverly Hills High School, Graduation Day 2015

If you’re someone like me who tried to have kids and couldn’t, there are times in life that can be sad reminders. For most child-free women, it’s probably Mother’s Day: an emotionally tough day for those of us who will never have children of our own to celebrate us.

I can get through Mother’s Day because I still have my mom to celebrate. The brunches and lunches, activities and outings, keep my mind off anything remotely self-pitying. Since I’m her only child, I make sure the day is filled with love and distractions galore.

No, the day that absolutely kills me is Graduation Day. That’s the day I really feel my childlessness.

For several years, I’ve lived within walking distance to my high school, which means for several years I’ve also been within earshot of graduation rehearsal and ceremonies. Every June the entire neighborhood is treated to the sounds of a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and the long reading of student graduate names.

It’s lovely and joyful, and depressing as hell. So much so that I have to hide out at the local Starbucks until it’s over.

You see, every time I hear the strains of Pomp and Circumstance coming from the front lawn of my high school, my heartstrings pull, and I’m painfully reminded of the kids I forgot to have. Well, maybe not “forgot,” more like waited too long to have. Those opening notes aren’t music to my ears; they’re tones of regret and shame for not taking my biological clock more seriously.

I spoke about this several months ago in a blog post entitled “Oh My God, I Forgot To Have A Baby!” If you missed it, here’s a recap of what I went through to get pregnant:

Six IUIs with donor sperm, three rounds of IVF, two embryo transfers using donor eggs, and lots of timed intercourse with a boyfriend who tried, but couldn’t knock me up. I got started at 43, and ended my quest four years later with no money, eggs, or time left on the clock. Game over.

But once the post game pity party was over, I started healing. Onwards! I said to myself. Even though I was single, I still had other worthy pursuits to keep my life full: a busy career, an active social life, and good friends and family. Then, three years after saying goodbye to motherhood, I said hello to marriage. Getting married for the first time at 50 not only gave my life unexpected dimension and purpose, it helped me ease the pain.

I continue to work hard to make peace with my past, and bring closure to that chapter of my life. It’s not easy sometimes, but I do my best to take the long view; to gracefully accept what was, and appreciate what is now.

It’s true what they say about one door closing and another one opening: you find opportunity. It may not look like what you planned or wanted, but hey, it’s an open door, so why not walk through it?

Not long after the baby door closed, the volunteering door swung wide open. I walked through it, and guess what? I found opportunity – to give of myself and be of service to others.

Last year, I joined my husband Robby as a Special Olympics coach (he’s been coaching for 30 years); and after a several year hiatus, I rejoined the Fulfillment Fund mentoring organization to become a mentor to a 14-year-old girl named Melissa.

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Global Education Academy, Graduation Day 2015

Already, my mentee Melissa and I have established a unique relationship. We talk, we bond, we teach each other things and learn about the world together. I like to think we both have a bright future ahead of us.

You want unexpected dimension and purpose to your life? Try volunteering. It’s THE greatest thing you can do, especially if you don’t have kids of your own.

Last week, I attended Melissa’s eighth grade graduation from Global Education Academy, a bilingual school located in South Central Los Angeles. It had everything you’d expect in a graduation: a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and a long reading of student graduates.

Come to think of it, it was just like a Beverly High graduation, but much better.

Because when I heard the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, and saw the processional of young students in their cap and gowns, it pulled at my heartstrings in a lovely and joyful way that didn’t have me running to the nearest Starbucks.

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Melissa the graduate with her proud mentor.

Graduation Day is no longer a sad reminder of my past, but a celebration of everything yet to come.

My Life As A New Wife: The Year In Review

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Farewell newlyweds, hello old married couple.

Celebrating my first wedding anniversary made me feel kind of like Miss America coming to the end of her reign: triumphant, honored, and just a little bit sad to give back the tiara and say goodbye to my title of newlywed.

But I must, because now at end of Year One, I am officially a wife – with a new title and new duties. If longtime pageant MC Bert Parks was still alive, he’d be singing me a new tune.

What a difference a year makes.

No longer a swingin’ single, no longer subsisting on Trader Joe’s frozen entrees, and no longer letting my laundry pile up until I run out of underwear, life looks a lot different now that I’m Mrs. Scharf than it did when I was Miss Brandon.

For starters, I now shop at Gelson’s, I do a load of laundry every few days, and I have more food in my pantry than I know what to do with. The year has had much personal growth, changes both big and small, and lots of groceries to put away.

Yep, I’m a real housewife of Beverly Hills, alright.

Year One has been nothing short of a mind-blowing, eye-opening, waist-expanding experience and here’s why:

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Robby Scharf, a most fascinating creature.

I NOW HAVE THIS FASCINATING CREATURE CALLED A HUSBAND

I don’t know about all husbands, but mine is so interesting, I find myself observing him like an exotic animal. He’s sophisticated and elegant, but he loves to burp and fart like a 10-year-old; he’s strong and stoic, but tears up when watching CBS Sunday Morning; he’s an alpha dog, but he loves funny cat videos; he’s a manly man, but he loves to shop; he’s never been married, but he’s got some serious game as a husband.

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Say hello to my mac & cheese.

I LEARNED TO COOK

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I was raised by a working mom who excelled more in the office than she did in the kitchen. Not that Sonjia Brandon couldn’t cook; she just preferred to make deals rather than make dinner. So when I got married, I donned my apron (a bridal shower gift) and got down to business.

It’s been a year of “firsts” in the kitchen for me. I made my first short ribs, my first macaroni & cheese, and my crowning achievement as a wife (drum roll please) MY FIRST BRISKET. I can’t emphasize the importance of this major milestone for this Jewish girl.

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Good news! Nina and Nancy didn’t throw up from my lasagne.

I can’t take all the credit though. I have to thank my friends Nina, Nancy, and my many Facebook friends for their recipes and culinary guidance.

It truly takes a village to make a meatloaf.

Yeah, I made that too.

 

 

 

I WATCH A LOT MORE SPORTS

I’ve always been a sports nut, but I definitely met my match when I married Robby. The guy is a total sports junkie, particularly when it comes to televised sports. It’s not unusual for him to have a few TVs going and a couple of iPads tuned in, especially during playoff season.

He may be the bigger sports fan, but I’m the sports bettor in the family. I say who needs to watch the game when all you need to know is the spread?

THERE’S ALWAYS MUSIC IN OUR HOUSE

This is the benefit of marrying a guy who plays the bass, attended Berklee College of Music, and has been performing with The Cowsills for over 25 years. It’s almost daily that I’m in earshot of a rehearsal or treated to an impromptu jam. And when I want some peace and quiet, I put on a pair of incredible Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones (shameless plug – Robby works for the company).

But what really makes a Robby a rock star? He does the dishes.

NEWS FLASH! OOPS I MEAN HOT FLASH!

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Year One…and they said it wouldn’t last.

Poor Robby. Two seconds after we get married, I hit menopause (or rather menopause hit me). Great timing Mother Nature thanks a lot! Nothing like having to navigate your new married life with night sweats and mood swings. Plus, between the hormonal brain fog and the occasional senior moment, I can’t remember shit.

Has it really been a year already?

It’s true what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun, watching sports, eating a lot, and making beautiful music together.

Now if you don’t mind, I must attend to my next wifely duty: making my first turkey.

Midlife Dating: Men, What Say You?

shutterstock_268928468I gave the guys a little dating tough love in my last blog post, so it’s only fair to give the guys some equal time to speak on the state of the midlife singles scene as they see it.

I wanted to know how men feel about dating fellow boomers, so I gathered up a few of my middle-aged guy friends, bought them a few beers, and picked their brains about their dating life: the good, bad, and ugly. They were buzzed just enough to let it rip.

Their feedback was insightful, honest, and very real. It was also cringe-worthy, because as a long-time single girl once myself (up until very recently) I made a lot of dating mistakes, and at times I felt they were describing me.

Now I know what you girls are thinking: By the time you’re post 50, everyone is bitter, jaded, or hardened – especially about dating – so why should I listen? These guys are probably all a bunch of sorry-ass losers who’ve struck out at love and know nothing.

Yeah, some have struck out, but who hasn’t? If you’re single and 50+ years old, you’ve probably seen it all, done it all, dated it all, and chances are, have a bad attitude about it all. Join the club! Everyone in the 50-something dating pool has had their fare share of hook ups, breakups, and fuck ups, and that’s a good thing. It makes you human.

The truth is, dating in your 50s can blow sometimes, but it doesn’t have to suck.

In fact, midlife can be a great time to be single, and my man friends here agree. These are nice guys, not shallow, not players, they’re looking for LOVE, not games, not one-nighters, younger chicks, or the bigger, better deal. They’re looking for smart, substantial, age-appropriate women who know who the Beatles are.

In other words, they want women like YOU. So ladies, if you’re listening, take note.

Note to the men: This stuff works both ways, so listen up.

THE GOOD

“I actually prefer dating women my own age because we have a common base of things to relate to, talk about, laugh at, or commiserate over. Women my age ‘get it.’ Very little gets lost in translation. Put it this way, if a woman isn’t familiar with Woody Allen’s early work, then it couldn’t possibly work.”

“Women in their 50s generally have more time and freedom. They’re more relaxed, especially if they’re empty nesters. We’ve been both been through the hell of raising young kids and now we can hang out.”

“Women over 50 are the sexiest humans in the world. They’re in command of their bodies, and in charge of what they want and need. They don’t care about stretch marks or a few extra pounds – and neither do I. Besides, I’ve got a big gut, so who am I to talk?”

THE BAD

“Women in their 50s can be a little too anxious to get involved. Right after the first date, they want you to meet their kids, their parents, their pets, whatever, without any regard to your comfort level. It feels rushed.”

“I’ve dated some divorced women in their 50s who are so bitter and angry toward their exes they can’t see straight. It’s hard to get close when she’s still fuming.”

“You can feel the desperation with some women in their 50s, especially if they’ve been single a long time or if they’re newly divorced.”

THE UGLY

“If a woman tells me what to do with my kids, or gives me unsolicited advice, or criticizes my parenting skills, I run for the hills.”

“Women who obviously judge you based on how much money you make, or in my case, don’t make, is a deal killer.”

“I’ve met some women in their 50s who believe having sex as quickly as possible is a way to get a man and it’s not.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Men who seek out and date women in their 50s do so because they WANT TO. Because they dig chicks who have a little more maturity and experience; because they enjoy the mutual compatibility and sympatico you get with someone your own age; because there’s more freedom and fun; because women in their 50s are hot as hell, and I’m not talking about menopause.

Ladies, I’m not telling you what to do here, but this is what I’ve gleaned: If you stay open to the possibilities, TRY to have a good attitude, make peace with yourself, let go of anger and grief, and don’t jump into the sack too soon, you’ll see that midlife dating doesn’t have to blow or suck at all.

Unless you want it to of course.

 

Guys and gals, what say you? What’s the state of your singles scene?

When Your B.F.F. Turns Into A P.O.S.

shutterstock_114278899 copyThere are friend breakups, and then there are friend blowups. You know the kind: a falling out with a friend that turns into a spectacular flameout of epic proportions, complete with bad-mouthing and betrayal. A friendship can blow up over something as simple as a little misunderstanding, to some deep seeded jealousy and resentment. As a result, a civilized parting of the ways quickly escalates into something so vicious and unrecognizable, it takes your breath away, not to mention a part of your soul.

Somehow, the person you thought was your B.F.F.* suddenly becomes a P.O.S.*

Been there, felt that. Ouch.

I’m sad to report that even the greatest friendships end. Even the ones you thought were rock solid and iron clad; with history and memories, unconditional love and support. A B.F.F. breakup can be worse than a boy breakup: it creates the same kind of pain, rejection and abandonment, but it leaves a bigger hole in your heart. My friend and fellow blogger, Helene Cohen Bludman describes it as “her other ex.”

It kills you, but you let go, mourn quietly, move on gracefully, and try to find peace and forgiveness – with your ex-pal and with yourself.

That’s what used to happen when I was younger; but something happened when I got into adulthood: friend breakups started getting ugly.

I managed to get through my school years without being bullied. Unfortunately now with digital communication and social media, people are fair game for the worst kind of post-friendship fallout. Former friends can hurl all kinds of vitriol at you while they hide behind their smart phones and computers, harming you with emails, texts, and Facebook posts.

Welcome to adult bullying, where mean girls are now grown women. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search – there are over 15, 500,000 listings about women who’ve been shamed, intimidated, and threatened by other women.

10734110_744246158964217_3438436236814293575_nIf you haven’t noticed lately, fighting with friends in the 21st century has gotten a lot nastier.

I have this theory that as women get into their late 40s and early 50s, things change: life, hormones, aging, midlife, money, relationships, whatever. As it all starts catching up with you, the next thing you know, you’re bitter. And angry. Life isn’t fair and you’re pissed.

Yeah, been there, felt that too, but I continue to fight it and right it every step of the way because it’s very easy to dump one’s emotional baggage onto a friendship and screw it all up.

So what do you do when your bestie becomes a bitch and your breakup becomes F.U.B.A.R.?*

Damage control.

Ask yourself: “What was my part in it?”

Were you insensitive, uncaring or not thinking? If you made a mistake, used bad judgment, or did something hurtful to a friend, do some soul searching. Reflecting on the error of your ways can bring much needed insight and thoughtfulness to the situation.

Make amends.

The fastest way to stop a friendship from derailing is saying “I’m sorry.” Take responsibility for your part. Even if you think your friend is being irrational or oversensitive, don’t invalidate their feelings or get defensive. Take the high road and be the bigger person. Conversely, if YOU’VE been wronged, accept their apologies, and quickly get back to the business of being friends.

Let go.

If you’ve apologized like hell and there are still hard feelings, then it’s time to walk away. Don’t hold grudges, don’t grovel, don’t wait. Just send your ex-friend off with love and move forward with the friends you already have – just like my wise friend Karen does:

“I don’t get mad, I don’t get even, I don’t cross you off my list. I don’t give it energy. I just make the decision to walk away, and I don’t look back.”

And when all else fails:

Assume the position and prepare for impact.

Still hoping for a peaceful resolution? Sorry, but you’re S.O.L.* The shit is about to hit the fan, so take cover. Gossip, taking sides, whisper campaigns, and breaching of confidences are just the beginning; and if it doesn’t end, you might have to hire a lawyer like I did.

No, you’re not in high school, but you’ll sure feel like it.

Here’s the good news though: there are still some of us out there who are mature adults. We’re reasonable, level-headed, and we don’t let a little tiff fuck up a perfectly good friendship. We talk things out, we don’t fight dirty, and we get past our problems unscathed.

shutterstock_226520419In other words, we know how to K.A.M.U. (Kiss And Make-Up).

 

*B.F.F. – Best Friend Forever

*P.O.S. – A Piece Of Shit

*F.U.B.A.R. – Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition

*S.O.L. – Shit Out Of Luck

Oh My God! I Forgot To Have A Baby!

UnknownI didn’t exactly forget, I just lost track of time.

My mind was on other things: like figuring out my career path and deciding what I wanted in life. I always dreamed of being a wife and mother, and always operated on the assumption it would happen when it was supposed to, in its own time – whenever that was.

I also thought my fertility would last forever, so what was the rush?

I breezed through my 30s, and cruised into my 40s without hearing a single tick-tock of my biological clock. I continued to date, and work, and live life like the independent single woman that I was. And despite the fact that pretty much all of my friends were married with kids, I felt no pressure to join the club.

No one talked about fertility. No one tapped their watch and said: “Treva, you better get a move on if you want to have babies.” I just kept going, without a care in the world, or a thought to my egg supply.

That is, until I had a scare.

That morning when I saw what looked like mid-cycle spotting (a sure sign of menopause) my bio-clock finally went off, and the maternal urge kicked in.

I ran to my gynecologist. With my feet in the stirrups, he confirmed the worst: I was 43-years-old with diminishing hormone levels, and a fertility window about to shut. If I wanted to get pregnant, I’d have to take immediate action – if it wasn’t already too late.

How was this possible? I was in good shape. I was a personal trainer. Certainly my ovaries were in shape too, no?

“You gotta get on the stick,” he said to me urgently.

But whose stick? I had no husband, no boyfriend, no future prospects lined up. Was my doctor really telling me to go knock myself up? Yes he was.

My situation was officially screwed, and the only way to get out of it was to screw. I wanted a baby that bad, by any means necessary. Forget about romance, courtship, and candle light dinners – there was no time for that. What I needed was to get my hands on some sperm, and fast.

I called old friends, old boyfriends, donors of all kinds, anyone who would lend me some spluge, no strings attached. Some stepped up, some said no, and some just wanted to help me “practice.”

I bought boxes of ovulation sticks, pregnancy tests, macha powder and other exotic supplements to improve my fertility. I bought books on single motherhood (my favorite, “Knock Yourself Up” by Louise Sloan) and joined a Single Mothers By Choice group. I had a lot of sex. Oh, and I prayed a lot too – especially on the toilet while peeing on pregnancy test sticks.

As I liked to say back then: “Keep your fingers crossed and your legs open.”

About a year into my baby quest, I met a guy a few years younger than me who would become my boyfriend and partner on my journey. He was supportive, encouraging, and just as enthusiastic about making a baby as I was (we’re still friends today). We tried and tried, but to no avail. At the rate I was going, even Michael Phelps’ swimmers couldn’t get me pregnant.

It was a fucking hell. Literally.

When that failed, I brought in the big guns: assisted reproductive technology. But after three years, many inseminations, several IVFs, a few embryo transfers, and thousands of dollars later, I finally shot my wad. I ran out of time, money and eggs, and had to give up.

The truth is, I was also tired of trying. And hoping. And praying. The roller coaster of ups and downs, highs and lows left me thoroughly devastated, not to mention broke. “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” I kept telling myself. It’s trite, but somehow it helped bring me closure.

Speaking of closure, my fertility window finally did shut, and as sad as it was, it was also a relief. Trying to hold on to your fertility is like trying to hold on to every last shred of your youth – an ultimately depressing and self-defeating experience.

Looking back, I moved mountains and went to the ends of the earth to get pregnant (hey, you do crazy shit when you’re desperate). Unfortunately, it didn’t yield a kid, but it did give me a great story to tell.

Now I have a new story. At age 51 I met and married a wonderful man (who coincidentally never had children either). Together, we’re starting a new chapter, which has all kinds of options: we can adopt, we can foster a child, or we can rescue a dog.

Or, we can just be. And that’s all right with me.

 

Photo credit: Salon.com

Married People: Who’s F**king?

iStock_000005058065LargeWhen I was single I used to wonder about my married friends’ sex lives. How often do they do it? Is it good? Does it stay good? Is married sex better? I always wondered, but never asked– maybe because I didn’t want to pry, or maybe because I didn’t want to know if the news was bad.

I worried. What if married sex WAS bad? What if it’s boring? What happens if it can’t be sustained, or the excitement wanes?

Is it normal for sex to change once you’re married? What IS normal anyway?

Well, it’s been a few months, and here’s what I can tell you. Even though Robby and I are newlyweds, we’re not in our 20’s and just starting out. We’re in our 50’s and our bodies are changing. For one thing, I’m entering menopause, which definitely adds a new dimension to my sex life. Don’t get me wrong, things are just as hot – it just comes in flashes these days. Continue reading

A Career Dater Finally Quits Her Job

b1110503da138461db47e9ad8643011dOther than a few squabbles about bulk buying at Costco, the transition to married life has been pretty smooth. It’s new, but not weird. It’s an adjustment, but not a tough one. It’s a life change, but one that I welcomed, and probably needed.

After living alone and being on my own for so long, you’d think that marriage would be a total culture shock – and it is – but it’s really not that shocking. Or crazy. It’s kind of normal actually, like I’ve been a wife all my life. Weird.

No, the crazy part of transitioning into marriage was transitioning out of dating– a way of life for me for nearly 50 years.

I was a career dater. I dated all the time, at all times of the day. Breakfast dates, coffee dates, lunch dates, dinner dates, drink dates, even a driving date to the mechanic to pick up my car.

I’ve had blind dates, online dates, chance meetings, dates disguised as business meetings, and one Facebook encounter that would lead to the date of all dates (thank you Robby Scharf, for ending the longest single streak on record, next to yours of course).

After a long and illustrious dating career – one filled with strike outs, some base hits, an occasional home run, and lots of times at bat – I finally and gladly retired. I happily hung up the jersey, emptied out my locker, and said goodbye to the game. I’m using a lot of baseball metaphors here, but you get the point.

In other words, I left the business.

I didn’t realize how much work went into being single until I got married. And let’s face it, dating is like having a second job. I don’t care if you’re a guy or a girl, dating is work. Looking good, spending money, getting out there, going to parties, going to the gym, being charming, being social, being “on,” making an effort, making eye contact, strategizing, chatting, flirting, schmoozing, is all very time consuming, not to mention exhausting.

Online dating alone is like a second job. You spend hours managing your sites, swiping through prospects, messaging, texting, flirting, winking, whatever. You have to sort through profiles, respond to inquiries, distinguish between suitors and posers, coordinate schedules and make plans. Just weeding out the riff-raff is work.

So you can imagine when you’re used to doing it 24/7 and all of a sudden, it stops. It’s like quitting a job you’ve had all your life. This is why the transition has been so peculiar – I mean, one minute I’m hanging out at happy hour with my gal pals, the next minute I’m making my husband a meatloaf, and actually enjoying it.

Hold on. I have to repeat that. “Husband and meatloaf,” two words I never thought I’d say in the same sentence.

Some feminists might gag at this, but I have also discovered that I love doing his laundry, underwear included. Every time I fold a pair of his boxers, I think: Wow, look at me! I’m a wife! And the fact that Robby hasn’t thrown up yet from my cooking must mean I’m holding my own in the kitchen.

Dating might have felt like a second job at times, but I always did it with a good attitude. The key for me (and for any single person out there) is to not take it too seriously, to have fun, and to always keep your sense of humor. That way, it won’t feel like a job. A prison sentence, yes, but not a job.

And here’s the great news when you’re ready to retire: instead of getting an office party and gold watch, you might just get a diamond ring and a wedding.