Excerpt: 'The Ropes'

Around that time my husband and I were working with a female divorce mediator, which turned out to be fortuitous. Most of the meetings took place at my house, and she told me she was quite enamored of my decorating style. She decided to make it her mission to turn me into a professional interior decorator. With her relentless support and encouragement, I started my own business.

Slowly, I started to regain my bearings and equilibrium. As I began to work with clients and fulfill their expectations, I also began to realize my own goals. I had a renewed self-esteem and confidence, and soon a new hair color. Not long after, there was the occasional date. Within months, my business was flourishing and I was going out nearly every night.

To my surprise, I realized I was happier than I'd been in a long time. I had risen up like the phoenix, but little did I know I was about to be struck down again. I had just turned sixty, even though I knew I didn't look it, when I wandered into a street fair in the upscale southern California neighborhood of Brentwood. As I strolled through the array of kiosks and booths a woman began frantically waving her arms in my direction.

"You! Come here!" she shouted.

Curious, I strolled toward her.

"Are you married?" she asked excitedly. I shook my head and she shoved a piece of paper under my nose. "I have got so many men," she cooed, "that would die to go out with you!" Now I realized she was running a booth for a dating service. "You're absolutely gorgeous! I'll have you married by the end of the year, I promise."

I was so pumped up by her pitch that I was already planning what designer would do my wedding gown.

"Let's get going," she squealed, pressing a pencil into my hand. "Wait 'til you see how many wealthy bachelors I have for you!" I was mentally choosing my bridesmaids when she said, "By the way, how old are you?"

Batting my baby blues, I said, "Sixty."

The enthusiasm drained from her face, and she snatched the paper from my hand as if taking matches from a toddler.

"I can't help you," she said icily, taking back her pencil as well. "You're too old."

My self-esteem deflated like leaky balloon. Dazed, I wandered through the crowd with her words echoing in my head so loudly I was sure everyone else could hear them, too -- "You're too old, you're too old, too old, old, old, old. . . ."

By the time I reached my car I was fighting back tears. I felt obsolete and invisible, as if I didn't deserve love or even happiness. Too old, old, old . . .

Then I got mad. Wait a minute, I thought, I haven't even peaked yet! And how many other women have been made to feel this way -- even by members of their own sex? I knew then that I would make certain that this second part of my life would be just as fabulous -- if not more so-- as the first part.

This is no longer the world that Helen Gurley Brown described to us in her 1962 book, "Sex and the Single Girl." We believed the little mouseburger when she told us that being single was bliss. Perhaps so, but these days it's quite a bit more complicated and sometimes it's downright frightening. The world has changed and so has a woman's role in society. Women know a lot more now, but we need every iota of that knowledge to survive, and we need to share what we've learned.

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