Excerpt

REAL WOMEN WEAR RED

CHAPTER ONE

CYN

“Dear Abby, I’m over 40 and my life sucks.”

I sipped my Hazelnut Roast in the break room of TGI Graphics, placed my cup on the table, and continued reading from the Los Angeles Times to my co-worker Maggie.

“Dear Abby, I’ve been divorced for five years, and I still haven’t found my second chance.”

“Dear Abby, I’m over 40, divorced, and don’t know how to compete in a young world.”

“Say what?” Maggie interrupted.

“No, wait, there’s one more—it’s the real clincher.”

“Dear Abby, I’m over 40, and I’m dating a much younger man who wants to have kids. Am I too old to start a family?”

“BS. Why should life be any different after 40 than before 40?”

Never mind the obvious reason—I wanted to believe Maggie. But underneath it all, I felt the same way as the letter writer. It had been five years since my divorce and my “second chance” still hadn’t materialized. I got the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach something was wrong whenever I thought about it. I tried to dismiss it, but then sleep became harder and harder to sustain throughout the night. I tossed and turned, woke up, and stared at the ceiling, searching my mind for answers that never came. If I dared mention it, people snickered and suggested something about “hot flashes” and “that age.”

“Well, I’ll tell you I wasn’t going through that.” Not yet. But I was at an age when I came to the depressing realization my life wasn’t working. It wasn’t so much I was unhappy. It was the uneasy feeling my life wasn’t moving forward.

“You’re not going through what, Cyn? Are you still moaning about being over 40? You’re still young yet.”

“So, how come my second chance hasn’t arrived?”

“Okay, listen to Mother Maggie cuz I’m gonna tell you what you should do. Book a Caribbean cruise, dye your hair blonde, and paint your toes pink. People will think you’re a young girl of 30.”

That was easy for Maggie to say. She was still in her thirties and never married, so how did she know what it was like to feel over the hill at 40-something? Maggie did seem to have her finger on the pulse of the singles’ world. But did I want to be a “girl?” And what was up with the color pink? Guess it went along with being a “girl.

Maggie had an answer for that too. “L.A. men are fake. Isn’t that why it all went wrong with your ex?”

Actually, my ex and I were both from the Midwest—Ohio, to be exact. But knowing that didn’t phase her—Maggie was on a roll.

“Besides, on a cruise, you’re bound to meet men from other parts of the country. In civilized areas such as the East Coast.”

She might have a point about men from outside of L.A. Maggie was from New England and she swore the men were different there—nice without being boring. If only it weren’t so darn cold, we’d probably both go back there to find one. Maggie said a cruise would be a way to meet a guy from colder climes without enduring the cold. Would they relocate to L.A.? Hmmm. Wasn’t so sure about this plan, but it was worth a shot.

“If I book a cruise, will you come with me?”

“No, Cyn. Women in groups scare men. You’re much more approachable by yourself. You must go alone. Leave it to me—I’ll book just the right cruise for you.”

Two days later I was face down on Maggie’s bed in her apartment, L’Oreal (“because I’m worth it”) Preference for Blondes, #9½-NB for Natural Blonde piled on my head with my nose stuck in a Cosmo—the magazine, not the drink. A vodka martini, straight up, was my drink. None of these silly, girly drinks for a woman like me, although Maggie insisted I was going to attract an old geezer if I kept drinking martinis.

“Get with it—you gotta drink a colored ’tini. There’s Appletini, Baby Blue Martini, Berry Berry Martini, Bacardi Limon Martini, Key Lime Martini, Chocolate Martini, and the Ultimate Cosmopolitan just for starters,” she said the last time we were enjoying “Ladies Night” at the downtown Embassy Suites bar just two blocks from the office.

I flipped through the magazine, back to front, in my usual fashion. “Older Women and Young Men—How to Snag a Boy Toy” caught my attention. Hmmm… a younger man? There it was again. First Dear Abby and now Cosmo. Boy toys, pink, and girls.

Not sure if I could start drinking pink drinks and call myself a girl, but if that’s what you had to do these days to get a boy, I would consider it.

But did I really want a boy? That sounded like a plaything. I was looking for something more serious. But how did I really feel about having kids? Women my age who found younger men were pressured into having a family. On the other hand, women my age who had met older men were stuck with grown children. They were the second wife and the kids didn’t always accept them. So which way did I want to go?

“Here, stick out your toes,” Maggie commanded, holding a giant bottle of hot pink polish.

“No pink,” I protested.

“Oh, yes, Cyn, you must do pink.”

Maggie had started calling me Cincy, or Cyn for short, because I was originally from Cincinnati, but my real name was Kate, or rather Katherine. I’ve now changed my name, my hair color, and even got a pair of special prescription contact lenses—for those with “eyes over 40.” Who would recognize me now? Taking on a new identity was one thing but wearing pink was another.

I handed Maggie the bottle of “New York Red.”

“No, that’s where I draw the line. I may dye my hair blonde, I may drink pink drinks, but I am not doing pink toe polish. Red, that’s my color. After all, real women wear red.”

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