The best of: What’s sexy…

man-cooking With the exception of the day our story ran on CNN.com, the “So, what’s sexy” post drew the most traffic to the website. Ever. While the title had something to do with it, I have a sneaking submission that the majority of site hits came from women (of all ages) with the solitary mission of staring intently at Alex O’Loughlin’s absDisclaimer: I have to admit that even today when I look at that picture, my eyes glaze over and I think “that is just absolutely ridiculous” (in a good way) — And while the devil on my shoulder (intent on helping me increase site traffic) toyed with the idea of including the words “Alex O’Loughlin, abs and sexy” in each and every future post, the mature, 40-year-old woman in me realized that that just wouldn’t be sexy.

So, what is sexy – besides the abs of course? Confidence, a man with a great voice, romance, intelligence… Here’s some of what Women at Forty find sexy…

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Esther Kane: On Closure

closure Editor’s Note: In today’s post Esther Kane talks about finding closure in relationships. In it she shares the story of a woman who finds herself repeating the negative messages she’d received from her father in her current relationship. In these situations Esther suggests using letter writing as a tool for finding closure.  I’m definitely going to give the exercise a try. My hope is that doing so will put an end to some of the gnawing conversations I still have with myself over mistakes I’ve made in past relationships. Maybe it will do the same for you…

In my therapy practice, the work lately seems to be about helping clients release and let go of ‘unfinished business’ from the past; whether it’s an old romance that still niggles away at their psyche, healing from a past trauma, or coming to terms with one’s family-of-origin and learning to reposition oneself in our families as the adult women we are now, rather than reacting like the child we used to be.

For example, one client came to me because she was having trouble trusting the new partner in her life, even though they were getting along and he treated her very well. She couldn’t shake the belief that he would one day discover that she ‘wasn’t worthy’ of him and trade her in for a prettier, younger version.

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A Jamaican Beauty- Part 2

Jamaican Beauty “Sometimes parents teach us what not to do.”

We were alone, my mother and I; my father was never present, and clearly, I idolized her, placed her high atop the throne I’d built just for her. But unfortunately, I did not bring her down to wonderful but flawed human being as I grew to and through adolescence. For me, she thundered down, crashing and burning. I watched helplessly as my mother turned her life, my definition of her, over to a man who was far from worthy of her. Forty had come, and I was growing up, and in her view, away. Insecurity trapped her into thinking she had reached the end of possibility. She gained too much weight, chain smoked, stopped caring for herself. She had alienated everyone, including me, for him. I listened one night, devastated, as he yelled at her, calling her dumb, calling this goddess “bitch.” The devastating part was the tearful, sobbing apology that served as her reply. This man brought out the very worst in her, and she turned her anguish inward and fell into herself.

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No more Mr. Nice guy, errr girl…

Businesswoman.

I wrote this last year after the nature of a few of my relationships changed. I realized that it wasn’t the other person that changed, it was me. I’d decided I no longer wanted to pretend to be ok with the way things were, and as a consequence, I was probably no longer considered  by them to be very nice. Welcome to my “new nice.”

A friend recently released a children’s book called Nice to be Nice. She’s also a blogger, so we frequently find ourselves discussing the nice and not so nice behavior of the people around us. Whether it’s the mother allowing her toddler to scream his way through the grocery store, or it’s the man who, tiring of the display, smacks the kid square in the mouth, something’s just a bit off in society today. I think some adults have forgotten, and many kids just don’t know that it really is nice to be nice. That said, as I get older I find myself embracing a different kind of nice.

In my twenties, being nice meant having conversations with people I knew were lying to me, and not calling them on it. It meant being so concerned about hurting someone else’s feelings that I allowed them to hurt mine. It meant being aware of people’s negative attitudes but pretending to be ok with it anyway. And it meant doing things I didn’t want to do, even when I knew doing them wasn’t right for me. I did all of those things because I wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to rock the boat, and I wanted to avoid having certain conversations with certain people, at all cost.

But I had a light bulb moment almost ten years ago. I wrote about it last week, in the best advice I ever got.  It was during this conversation that my friend asked me why I got so upset when she did and said the things she did and said. The same things she’d been doing and saying for years. She was absolutely right to ask the question. And for years, I’d been too “nice” to tell her that many of the things she’d done had hurt me deeply. To preserve the friendship I let those things slide. As a result, I grew to resent her, and more importantly myself, for not thinking enough of myself to end a friendship that had become toxic. I vowed then, never again to be “so nice” that I lose myself in the process.

For the most part, I’ve kept my promise.  While the 20’s me would ignore my spirit telling me “girl, now you know something is wrong with this picture”  the soon to be 40 me has a BS meter so finely calibrated that I can spot a crock while it’s still being formed in someone’s head and shut it down before it has a chance to do damage. It’s a great skill to have.  Having it means that sometimes I stop BS-ers dead in their tracks. As a result, BS-ers do not think I’m nice. Neither do people who always want something for nothing, people who take others for granted, nor do the married men whom I immediately shut down when they, wedding ring securely on ring finger, “just want to holler at me for a minute.” These people don’t think I’m nice, and I don’t want them to.

Over the years, I’ve lost sight of my “new nice” a few times, but these days it’s much easier to be me, even if it means someone doesn’t like me. I help old people cross the street, offer rides to friends in need and genuinely wish real joy and success for everyone who crosses my path. I celebrate when the underdog wins and I’m frustrated when the greedy seem to prosper on the backs of the weak.  I’m as nice as the next guy – or girl. But I’ve tempered my niceness with a bit of wisdom. My mother would call it discernment. I call it my “new nice.”

Have you redefined your nice? How? Share your definition of nice in the comment section, on our Facebook Fan page or on Twitter @womenatforty.

Christine asks – Have we really been alive this long?

christine-eclavea-mercer-head-shot-13 Christine Eclavea Mercer describes herself as a “freelance writer and all around geek.” On her blog Frog In North Georgia, she writes about technology, humor and “pretty much anything else that comes to mind.”  I first ran this post last year after Christine tweeted, “Thoughts on turning 40 next year. And gosh, have we really been alive this long?”  In her post Christine talks about being welcomed by her grandmother with kisses, a lunch of grapes, cheese and baguettes, and a jar of Nivea Daily Nourishing Cream…

In 2010, I will turn 40. I spent my twenties educating myself, growing up, working, and traveling. I did much of it badly. At 27, it finally occurred to me that if I ever wished to procreate I should find myself attracted to nice men, instead of the bad boys of my youth.  Else I would be childless forever, or a single parent.  I did not find either of those options agreeable.

My standards certainly changed in my thirties.  Before that I imagined success the way children do, that one must be the CEO, the President, the Astronaut, the Prima Ballerina. I was taught to aim high like the Air Force.

Continue reading Christine asks – Have we really been alive this long?