Missing The One, Marriage Odds and Other Lies We’re Told

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By now I’m sure most have you have heard about the movie, What’s Your Number? According to the trailers and reviews, it’s about a woman who believes she’s going to wind up alone for the rest of her life thanks to a magazine article that cautions anyone who has had 20 or more relationships: you might have missed out on an opportunity to find true love. Our star has, you’ve guessed it, been with 20 men (oh my!), so she ventures on a journey to see if any of her exes might have been “the one.”

While this is fiction, the scenario rings irritatingly true: there are numerous articles published in magazines every month that make blanket statements about people out in the dating world, which only serve to make them feel this great sense of urgency leading them to cling to bad relationships they’ll later regret or to chase after someone—anyone—else instead of finding him/herself first and waiting until the right fit comes along.

Admit it, you’ve heard some variation of this one: A woman over age 40 has a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than of getting married. In the movie The Holiday, that age was lowered to 35; on the television show Frasier, it was age 30! The original gem, by the way, was borrowed from both a formal (but later found-to-be flawed and unreliable) study about university-educated women in the mid-‘80s—and an article in Newsweek magazine.

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Add to that the science that tells us the fertility rate drops in our mid-30s, and the risk of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities to babies increases, many women of a certain age already feel enough pressure as they date beyond their 20s. One of my friends was so terrified by this, and understandably so due to family history, she rushed to start a family before her 32nd birthday even though she was in the process of getting a master’s to advance her teaching career.

Yes, she did graduate, but she never taught again. She and her husband still struggle financially and frequently have severe fights leading to genuine concerns about divorce. Sometimes I wondered what another year or two where she could teach and save more money might have done to add to the stability of their family, but hey, I respect that they had their reasons.

But I am taking a big detour, so let’s get back to What’s Your Number? The movie plays on the fear that women who sleep with too many men are, well, sluts and, as the astute Simone Grant sums it up, our main character becomes determined not to go over the number 20, thus “goes back through all her past lovers determined to recycle one of them.”

In the NY Post article Simone contributed to, Wrong Number: NY Women don’t worry about their sex lives going too far too fast, the cosmopolitan ladies scoff at the idea that real woman of today would worry about their number. The idea that people discuss the number of people with whom they slept with others seemed old-fashioned, and when asked by your partner, rude. I agree that things like this in general never come up outside the movie screen or chick-flick novels. But in reality, my life has held a few exceptions.

Four or five years ago, my boyfriend at the time, V-Man, and I were talking on the futon while half-watching TV. I’m not sure how or why we got into this discussion, maybe it was something somebody said on a show, but I laughed at the idea of the average woman having only three lovers when she gets married. The V-Man looked at me confused, saying something to the effect that I was like that average woman…wasn’t I?

I looked at him, asking him how many relationships I’d had before him. I said he knew it was more than three. So then he started questioning just how many others had I been with. I told him he didn’t really want to know.

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We did the dance. Is it more than 5? Is it less than 30? And so forth. I didn’t want to tell him because I knew his ideas about me would change, but he forced the issue. Finally, I gave him the number. He gave his, which were a few less than mine. I was younger and woman. He liked to say he was pickier.

I felt more awkward than he did at the time, but I still wonder if knowing changed how he thought of me in general. He liked to think of me as the near-virginal girl, who was a little bit naïve, sweet and old-fashioned at her core. Truthfully, knock out the near virginal, and he wasn’t half wrong about his impressions of me when it came to life in general.

While this conversation we had was within the first year of our long and winding relationship, sometimes I still wonder…

The topic came up again just a few days ago with a guy friend who I went on a few dates with earlier this year, but whom I realized fairly quickly wasn’t the one for me. We’ve stayed in touch, solely over the phone mostly because getting together in person never works out. Anyway, we were talking Saturday night during one of our marathon phone calls where we just cover the gamut of topics: job situations, childhood experiences, music and, of course, former relationships.

He started telling me that due to his strict Christian upbringing, he was a virgin until age 24. While he was shy and unsure of himself at first, he’d quickly made up for lost time in more recent years especially. Then the numbers question came up. Why? For no other reason than curiosity, I suppose.

In fact, I think he wanted me to guess his number first, but we agreed we’d share to be fair. “Is [the number] bigger than a bread basket?” I joked. Anyway, we did the whole range guessing game first. We did the comparison—larger than a soccer team, but smaller than a whole football team? I realize how childish it sounds, but I think once our numbers were revealed, we both felt reassured.

I think it made us both feel like our exploration and appetites were normal. We were within the same number range. I was six years younger in age when I lost my virginity, but he is five years older than I am. We’ve both had our share of very serious relationships, including the one that shocked us when it ended, and we’d both floundered our way past pain and confusion, having fun along the way, while trying to find love again. We both followed our hearts, even if it meant putting it all out there to possibly get hurt again.

While I don’t think I’d ever tell any of my girlfriends my number, I think telling someone felt freeing. See, that wasn’t so bad. I’m not a freak. I’m just a single older girl in the modern world. And wherever my number ends, with whomever it ends, I will still love myself in the morning. And I think in some way subconsciously or otherwise, my partner/husband will be grateful for the time and experience it has taken me to find him.

Finding Your Voice Again

- soundunwound.com

As a songwriter and musician, I truly have an appreciation for all different kinds of music. While I admit country music doesn’t make up a majority of my music collection, anyone who has listened to the radio over the last two decades has heard of the country crossover superstar Shania Twain. With mega hits like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”, “From This Moment On” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” Twain had major commercial appeal, largely with the help of rock producer and co-writer Robert “Mutt” Lange.

Fifteen years into her marriage to “Mutt” (if that nickname isn’t a heads up…), Twain’s husband asked for a divorce. While the country singer attempts to take some of the blame off her husband, attributing contributing factors of a breakdown in communication and the very demanding lifestyles each led as “workaholics,” the day after Lange asked for a divorce, Twain found out the main cause for the ultimate split in their marriage: he was having an affair with one of her closest friends.

I’d vaguely heard of the couple’s break-up, but until reading about it over the weekend, I hadn’t known that Twain, in turn, had gone on to marry this former friend’s now ex-husband…Wait, run that by me again. What??

Oh My Twisted Heart -reeh0

Doubting that this was simply a story of sweet revenge, I was sucked into watching the first episodes of the new documentary on Oprah’s new television network, OWN, of Twain’s journey back into performing after having left the spotlight in 2004.  I felt this overwhelming desire to find out why a woman would marry the ex-husband of the bitch who stole her own husband.

In one of the first episodes of Why Not? With Shania Twain, the singer herself says of the new relationship, “It’s twisted, but so beautifully twisted.” Yet hearing the story, it kinda sorta makes sense.

This woman had been Twain’s confidante, who understood her concerns in the marriage. She seemed genuine and sincere, offering words of sympathy like, “I don’t know where you find strength.”

Now, Twain says, “She’s a great actress. She deserves an Academy Award.”

Fred, who had become good friends with Lange, was the one who discovered the affair between his wife and Mutt in a concrete way. Fred told them Twain should be told about the affair, but when they wouldn’t, he did.

“I never really saw that coming,” Twain said. She had to grieve the death of love, a friendship and “anything innocent.”

Fred and Twain helped each other get through the aftermath. He was going through the exact same thing that she was, but they also found that, through spending more time together,  they had much in common and were building a beautiful friendship.

Twain didn’t want to fall in love again, not trusting it. But she allowed Fred into her heart, and the couple became engaged in 2010. They married this past January.

Waiting In Black and White by overcoming_silence

Yet Twain’s recovery did not come as simply and completely as new love. By not allowing herself to fully grieve these most recent losses, the loss of both her parents in a car crash when she was 19, or the scars of domestic violence and extreme poverty in her family growing up, Twain found she was losing something even more sacred to her identity.

Losing a sense of trust, honesty and compassion, Twain said, “I lost my ability to express myself.” And with that, she lost her voice for singing.

In one episode, she consults with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon Livingston, whose book on losing both of his sons really resonated with the singer. Livingston tells Twain that by not grieving, by being “more brave than you need to be,” she has literally affected her voice.

Continually berating herself even in small, casual rehearsals with trusted childhood friends and fellow musicians, Twain seems determined to talk herself out of heading down the journey back to performing again, back to full recovery. Her anxiety weighs down on her every time she opens her mouth to sing, causing her to feel like she’s choking.

“What if I can never sing again?” Twain asks. “I’ll have lost my best friend.”

Twain’s sister and co-singer knowingly says, “If she lets her emotions out, she will find her voice.”

The show, this story is not just about Twain. Part of her recovery is seeing how others who have gone through similar losses live another day. Her natural empathy has her reaching out to a family of children who have lost both of their parents.

She admires the strength and bravery of a woman who has not only also had her husband cheat on her with a best friend, but also had two of her four children die at very young ages. Together, Twain and this woman, who has since remarried, bond over an anxiety-producing skydiving trip.

Going back to their childhood homes, Twain and her sister relive the painful memories of hearing abuse in one. Twain finally sheds tears when her sister recalls having to tell a brother that their parents have been killed when he wakes up after the car accident.

By the end of the second episode, Twain has written a new song full of hope and a little joy that she comfortably sings and jams to with her bandmates in their intimate rehearsal space. And it is this about the show that has most pulled at my heartstrings—that familiar struggle of burying emotions, swallowing the negatives of grief, anger and sadness to try to appear strong, like you have it all together.

Not only are you lying to yourself, you are cheating others out of your authentic self and you out of being your authentic self And in the end, you are handing someone else the power over your own voice. Isn’t it about time that you belt one out, straight from your own heart so that everyone can hear?