Have you questioned your career path, or even dropped off it, to consider your next 20 years? And how about your sex life—how do you keep that interesting over time?
Today we're told there's an epidemic of women initiating divorces. Midlife career change is all the rage. Moreover, even as your earning power is slowly increasing, more of you are questioning the meaning of success, both at work and at home. What does all this change mean? How do you really feel about getting older?
When we posed these questions to eight successful, outspoken women, their answers were unequivocal. Women really are getting better with age: feeling sexy, looking good and searching for new kinds of fulfillment. Yes, there's menopause—and gravity, and recalcitrant males—to deal with. But women of a so-called certain age are reveling in more confidence, a sense of purpose and a lust for adventure—even when they don't know what's coming next.
Here, excerpts from their conversation, moderated by René Syler.
René Syler: Are you happy with the way you look?
Lisa Frey, attorney, 47: There's nothing worse than your ten-year-old son looking at a picture of you when you were 20 and saying, "Is that you?" You just can't believe it. Of course that's me. It looks just like me. And they're, like, "No. I thought maybe it was your sister." You try to figure out why. What changed? Why do you look so different? Same eyes, same nose.
Pamela Laber, former marketing executive, 46: I'm very comfortable with how I am. But I do have this fear of waking up one morning and going, "Oh, my God, it happened."
René: Like gravity just hit overnight, right?
Susan Yoo, Pediatrician, 42: All of a sudden, my body is different. I may be the same size, but the clothes don't fit the same way. I love to eat, but I can't eat the way I used to. And although I exercise regularly, there are certain parts of my body I just cannot make go away. If I could have plastic surgery, I probably would do a little.
René: What's stopping you?
Susan: I feel that aging is a natural process. It's why I don't get my gray hair colored.
Gyliane Morgan, former bond analyst, 44:
I suppose I would change my stomach if I could. I have tried to look different in the past to please others. But I like the way I look these days compared to the way I looked five or ten years ago.
Bebe McGarry, Writer/Producer, 59: In America we want to stop age. In L.A., the neurosis is very high. Your body has to be in shape. Everybody gets plastic surgery. I got my eyes done after my mom died, when I was 41. I'm like, "Oh, my God, they're puffy!" You get your face done and for a while, it can change a little bit. But it goes back to your spirit. When you're happy, that's what's attractive.
René: I had my plastic surgery because I wanted to. My eyes were uneven, I had one eye that was significantly smaller than the other. Two years later, I can tell you it was the best money I spent. And I would do it again.
Barbara O'Dair, Editor, 46: If I could, I would have an entirely new suit of skin made, that I could just put on and pull up. As it is, I've had Botox in my forehead, and Restalyne in my cheeks. I had a job in the media, and I had to have my picture taken and I went on television a lot. I didn't think it was going to be the solution to all of my problems. It was a quick fix and it did the trick.
Lisa: My husband would leave me. He's so strongly against it. He's very much a naturalist.
René: Do you color your hair?
Lisa: I do. And my husband knows that. But he keeps saying, "Oh, you know, I think it looks great when women have gray hair, I love the aging process!"
Pamela: My husband's European, and he has a very similar kind of attitude—"Why would you ever do that? You look beautiful." I feel fortunate to have been married to a man who is very happy with the way I am and proclaims he will be forever.
René: I spend enough money in a dermatologist's office every month to buy a small European automobile. But it's important. Not to my husband, but to me.
Nadia Ghaleb, Interior Designer, 52: I'm becoming a dinosaur in that I haven't done anything, and I feel pressure that I can't be myself because every other face I see has no lines anywhere.
René: Is there something that you absolutely would not wear at this age?
Lisa: My miniskirts are longer.
René: I hate going to formal things, because I hate to show my shoulders. I hate my fat arms. Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em.
Nadia: Sleeveless is hard when your arms start going.
René: Is there anyone in here who has changed her exercise regimen in her forties? I was a runner and had a lot of muscle, and then I leaned down a little bit. I'm happier without my muscles.
Barbara: I'm going back to Pilates, because I don't want to bulk up. We all wanted to look like Madonna for awhile. But I don't want the biceps anymore.
Sex . . .
René: Does everybody have fulfilling sex lives?
Gyliane: When it happens. I think because of the lives we lead, we get so tired and disconnected. There are wonderful preludes to a good time. And there are dry seasons as well. But when we do get together, it's good.
Pamela: It's hard when life gets in the way, and it does on a very regular basis. I'm married to somebody I love, and have a great relationship. But there's that early stage stuff you can never rekindle. Once you've been married for 11 years, you pretty much know him inside and out. So I'm not sure you can re-create the mystique that was once there.
Nadia: At my age, the men who are the most attracted to me are usually younger. Up to 20 years younger. Which is very alarming for me. I don't meet people to date. Most of the world is either young and single, or middle-aged and in couples. And most couples do their socializing together.
I have friends who never had children, and I think they have managed, in 25-year marriages, to achieve more of that ideal that you think you're going to have with your mate. When children come along, they change the chemistry.
Lisa: When you're younger, you have a very vibrant fantasy life. But eventually that goes away. Now what I do is just pick a media boyfriend. At the moment, it's the guy in Motorcycle Diaries. Like, now, he's my boyfriend, you know? Because you have to have something.
René: I was just talking to my girlfriend and saying, "I want to take a trip to New Orleans and party like a rock star. And flirt with all the boys. And then go to the hotel room by myself. That's all I want." What's the harm in that? Tell me there's no harm in that.
. . . and Menopause
René: Does what's happening to you physiologically in your forties and fifties impact your sex lives?
Nadia: Your whole orientation toward sexuality changes. It doesn't mean