According to clinical psychologist and best-selling author Judith Sills, perhaps at no time in human history are women in a better place in which to enjoy their lives — even our romantic lives, which we may have thought were over.
That's one of the reasons why Sills wrote her latest book, Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted.
It may be a long title, but there's a short reason why Sills made the effort to help us realize how wonderful life can be at any age.
"I decided to write this book now," she says, "because we have a profoundly different set of opportunities and expectations at 40-plus, 50-plus, 60-plus than had our mothers and certainly our grandmothers before us."
With the stereotypical grandmother of old, Sills continues: "Top on her list might have been matzah-ball soup and Hadassah, and certainly, the three Gs: grandchildren, gardening and God.
"Today, that same woman … is still interested in all those things, but she might also be having breast implants or Botox. She's also at the gym, sexually alive and emotionally interested."
Get Back Out There!
Turning her attention primarily to the possibilities of dating for women of a certain age, particularly those recently out of long marriages, the author advises older women how to get back "out there" and how to contend with the anxiety that can ensue after a long period of celibacy.
Getting Naked Again "is not, nor should it be, your full-time activity," insists Sill.
"It's icing, high heels and gravy. It's functional, it's flattering" — a man who will tell you, when you definitely need to hear it, that you look amazing — "it's supportive. And it certainly can be sexually satisfying — if you allow it to be."
Based on her many years in practice — and some hundred interviews conducted around the country with single women, as well as single men from their late 40s to their early 80s — Sills discovered that both sexes were hesitant and anxious about getting back into relationships.
"I did write the book for women, but then I heard from men who said they were no different. They struggled with the same problems — maybe even more — because they don't have as broad a social network as women do.
"And that was a big eye-opener for me."
So, for either gender, Sills offers the following points: "Most people think getting back to dating is a scary thing. That's true. It can also be horrible, anxiety-provoking and sometimes hugely disappointing.
"At the same time," she continues, "it can be exhilarating, fun — something that makes you giggle, gives you a feeling you haven't felt in years, and is the upside of being single.
"So if you look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'Ugh,' or realize you no longer look the same as you did in your early 20s, well who does? Realistically, who cares where you went. What's important now is where you're going."
Concluding her book with No. 10 from her list of "dos and don'ts," Sills advises, "the better is the enemy of the good," which she now says that she wished she'd used at the start of the book.
"That speaks to the core element, to the secret to happiness in all stages of your life," she says.
"See and savor what is being offered, rather than reminding yourself of what is missing."