While I was as subject to raging hormones as any young adult, I never really viewed sex as an end in itself. Even in my late teens I saw sex as means to what I really wanted: deep philosophical conversations about the meaning of life.
Naturally inquisitive and introspective, I was drawn to the tragic character. Angst-filled and searching? Brooding? Charismatic misfit poet? That was the man for me! This penchant for the lost soul, coupled with my firm and lovely figure, made me the perfect companion for the man in mid-life crisis.
Like the classic tale often told, I was eventually seduced by a college professor at the end of my freshman year. In a move that would be considered career suicide today, my professor asked me to refrain from taking any more of his classes so that he could date me. Then he kissed my hand in the middle of a group of students. He was twenty years older than me. Two years later we were married.
There I was at 21, married with two step-daughters nearer my age than my husband. They struggled. I struggled. In many ways, I was following the footsteps of the women before me and it was killing me. Although I couldn’t quite name them, I sensed there were things I needed in my life that a middle-aged man from a different generation could not give me.
I had this growing panic inside, not unlike the feeling you get when you realize you have passed your exit on the highway and don’t know how to get back on the right road. I had now entered a traditional marriage with roles clearly laid out for me. Of course, there was a catch. I was a college graduate with a dream of being a psychologist. I had to go to graduate school.
The gap between my husband and me only widened when I left to pursue my PhD, 200 miles away. Living on my own for the first time in my life, I began to learn many things about myself. I didn’t watch TV. My husband owned five and turned them on the minute he entered the room. I had music on continually. I now had friends my own age. I loved vegetarian cooking; my husband loved meat and potatoes. I started to love my life. I was just discovering it, after all.
As graduate school progressed, our marriage became increasingly strained. My husband displayed no interest in meeting my new friends or hearing of my studies. We were polar opposites – he was thinking about when he might be able to retire while I was fantasizing about my first job. Gone was the passion we once had. Gone was his fascination with me and mine with him.
As the Fates would have it, an old high-school flame visited me in the midst of my angst and confusion. My own Ghost of Christmas Past, he revealed so much I thought I had lost. Suddenly I felt young again. I was only 24, but the strain of my unhappiness had aged me. My past and present lives in painful contrast before me, I succumbed to the temptation and tried to travel back in time.
Of course, what seemed an oasis was only a mirage. After a single evening my old love returned to his life, leaving me with mine; its pain and confusion unbearably evident now. Feeling trapped in a failing marriage, I used the only power I thought I had to meet the ache for companionship and connection that my husband could not fill. Angst-filled and searching? Brooding? Charismatic misfit poet? Since I now understood them so well, men in mid-life, or any other existential crisis, gravitated toward me.
I recognize my life at that time was one big cliché in many ways. What seemed so sophisticated at some points and tragically hip at others I now recognize as the meanderings of a confused young woman with needs and powers she didn’t understand, desperately trying to figure it all out. Some of the people she tried to figure things out with were no doubt as confused as she was. Some just took advantage of her.
Next up: A Ladybug’s Life is Overrated