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‘Excuse Me, Do You Mind My Asking?’In fact, "yes" we sometimes do since you so politely inquired.

March 31, 2017 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

From the first frequent query of “How are you?” to the more intimate, “Do you have good chemistry and are you sleeping together?” we’ve found in our single status after 50, nothing seems off-limits. Whether it’s illness—“Is he in pain and suffering?” to financial, “How are you managing and was your settlement good enough?” the questions never seem to stop—like rapid-fire bullets in a war zone. And we’re the target. 

We love the concern of acquaintances, good friends, and family…sometimes, depending on our mood, the question asked, tone, and our relationship to the interrogator. However, we wonder if the sharing economy has brought forth a belief that everything should be shared and nothing is sacred, almost down to our financial net worth, sexual mores, and our mental health. 

This sharing obsession is obvious, but we are unsure how to respond to nosey questions without seeming snarky, rude, angry, or secretive. Like the Citi: "Date” Double Cash Card Commercial says, “Wouldn't it be great if everyone said what they meant?” It would be a delight to put intrusive questions to rest by responding: “It’s absolutely none of your business. Would you like us to ask you variations on these questions? How would you feel? ” 

We don’t say what we mean, of course, and more often take one of two very different paths. Sometimes, we’ll quickly change the subject—“Have you tried the Caesar salad yet; it’s quite divine.” Other times, we’ll give a bit of an answer such as, “We’ve become very close friends,” without divulging any space that’s between us when we’re horizontal between the sheets. And at other times, we just have to be blunt when the follow-ups won’t let up. The questioner will say: “You’re not giving me much to chew on; come on, share how great he really is….you know…in bed.” 

Let us speak bluntly here and explain where we’re coming from, what we’d like you to know or feel comfortable with, and what we hope you won’t ask us or anyone. 

Life has been really tough at times for us as we started to navigate—and continue to do so—our new lives as singles after long-term marriages. We relived our experiences ad nauseum right afterward and as we wrote our book, Suddenly Single after 50 (Rowman & Littlefield), wrote new blogs, were interviewed, gave talks, and signed books. Yes, it’s become easier to talk about our situations. One attendee even asked Barbara after a talk: “How come you don’t sound angry anymore?” She replied, “I was so angry back then and still could be but that would mire me in sadness and stop me from living a healthy happy life now.”   

We really prefer to live in the present, stay optimistic, and not share the worst and also most intimate details. If we answer, “We really don’t want to talk about that,” please respect our wishes and don’t reframe the question. We’re not at a White House press conference, and our answers won’t impact national security. Let us share when and if we feel ready; otherwise stop prying, please. 

Here are the questions we wish you’d avoid asking. Think them if you wish, but please keep them to yourself. Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick was advised on an episode of The Good Wife, to say, “I’ll get back to you,” we might, too, or maybe we won’t, but in the meantime don’t ask because we won’t tell: 

  1. I heard you’re dating. How serious is it? Are you living together?
  2. How often do you see each other; daily or a few times a week?
  3. Do you stay at his place or yours?
  4. What’s it like to be intimate when you’re this age? Is it good or better? And does he have any erectile problems ever?
  5. Do you love each other, really love, or is it just about companionship? He has said he loves you, hasn’t he?
  6. How do you share finances—split them or does he pick up the check all the time and if not, why not? Don’t you feel odd paying for stuff if you do?
  7. What about when you travel, who pays for the tickets, hotels, meals out?
  8. Do you like his kids, or how come he doesn’t have kids, or how come he never married? Isn’t that a bid odd? Are you sure he’s not gay?
  9. How well financially were you left? How good was your settlement? Have you had to change your lifestyle at all? Are you living it up?
  10. Where do you spend your holidays? With your family, with his, or do you try to bring everyone together, or avoid everyone and go away?
  11. He seems so different from XYZ, or are they really similar?
  12. Do you get depressed ever when you think about what you went through? Do you still sometimes feel really down?
  13. I can’t believe how well you are handling everything. Is must be really hard. How do you do this?
  14. I can’t imagine being in your situation, alone at this age, and having to deal with so much. It’s really bad isn’t it?
  15. Why won’t you talk about your relationship more?
  16. Why won’t you talk about what’s it like to be single at this age?
  17. Why won’t you explain why you’re not living together when you’re together so much of the time? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
  18. Do you think you’ll remarry? If not, why?
  19. What do you think of his family and his friends?
  20. Is sex better or worse at this age? CENSORED!

 

 

 



2 comments

  • barbara

    Apr 03, 2017

    I would add “Aren’t you afraid to reach out to a complete stranger online? How do you know he isn’t scamming you?”

  • Jeanne Kempthorne

    Mar 31, 2017

    People do presume on friendship, don’t they? But these questions don’t invite intimacy as much as they betray prurience. I think one answer it is good to always keep close in hand is the question: Why do you ask? If the answer is something like, Because I love you and care about you, you can respond, thank you so much. I love you, too, and I’m fine.


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