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Starting Over at Sixty: Part 1

I’ve had two committed, long-term relationships in my adult life: the first ended after twenty years, the second is currently ending after twelve.

My first partner, Charlie (I was never legally able to call him my husband) is now a dear friend. It’s hard not to be. We’ve known each other nearly forty years, and we have a lot of shared history.

In fact, he has been one of the mainstays of my support system as I work through my divorce with Aaron, my second long-term partner, but my only legal husband.

This new break-up is nobody’s fault. Aaron and I just realized we wanted some profoundly different things moving forward. The realization was painful, and so is the dissolution process, particularly since both were unanticipated. A year ago, I had no idea I would be getting divorced, and I never thought I’d be starting life over again at this stage of my life. We’ve sold the house, and divided the furnishings, and I’ve moved into a tiny apartment until I can look for a permanent home. I initially referred to my place as a landing pad, but a friend pointed out that it’s really a launch pad, because it’s the base from which I’m starting a new phase of life.

In some ways, where I am now is a throwback to my college years. Back then, my apartment was largely furnished with cast-offs from relatives, and bargains I picked up at thrift stores and second-hand stores. Now, my apartment is largely furnished with the things our real estate agent insisted we remove from the house before it was fit to be shown. And—to flesh out the mix—there are a few things from thrift stores and second-hand stores.

My life is full of makeshifts, now, and for many reasons, not the least of which is that my apartment—in a complex that targets college students—was outfitted for undergrads who own little more than a futon, a laptop, and a beanbag chair. That inventory, as I think of it, isn’t a whole lot different from mine, just now. Cooking in this apartment is a bit of a challenge, because the kitchen has only eighteen inches of counter space, and—like a college student—I don’t have many utensils. I have a one-quart saucepan, and a twelve-quart pot, but I don’t have anything in between. I’d buy a new pot, but there is so little cabinet space that I don’t know where I’d put one. My bed and my work space are in the same room for the first time in nearly forty years. I don’t have a yard, so the dogs have to be walked several times every day, meaning that my work, and social lives are all planned around their needs. And—as was true in my twenties—I’m on a tight budget.

In my twenties, I was impatient with the tiny apartment, makeshift cooking facilities, and the limited means. I was tired of being an adolescent or a student, and I wanted to be an adult already!

But I’ve lived as an adult for a few decades, now, and, perhaps for that reason, I’ve got a sense of what that means. I’ve never lived in a mansion, but most of my homes have had more space than I really needed. I’ve never been a gourmet cook, but I now have a sense of which utensils I actually need, and which ones I just bought because Martha Stewart convinced me I needed them and didn’t know it. I’ve never been rich, but I’ve never been in deep poverty, either. One way or another, I’ll have a future with the right number of square feet. And a yard for the dogs. And the necessary pots and pans. And the cabinets in which to put them.

And, in the meantime, if I’m living like a student in his twenties, well, how many men of sixty get that chance?

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