by Pamela Stone
My husband swears that he’s married to a trophy wife. You know the type. A tall, willowy woman with bleached blonde hair and fake boobs, loaded with expensive jewelry.
In truth, that is not me. (My boobs are mine, all mine.) However, I am ten years younger than my husband. When we married some people joked, “You’re robbing the cradle, Jack.” Yes, it looked that way. On our honeymoon, my husband, who was 36, sported a neatly trimmed beard. Standing next to me, he looked like a foreign spy who’d just kidnapped an 18-year-old.
Well, 30 years later, I no longer look like a trophy wife. I’m 25 pounds heavier, my hair has spots of gray, and my figure is traveling south. Because I’m from Dallas, though, I’ve learned to accent my best features. I have green eyes, fair skin, and a flashing smile. However, my crowning glory is my hair. It is shoulder length, thick and moves when I toss my head. I do this a lot. Especially when I’m seated next to a good looking man.
My figure? Well, I attend aerobics class and the gym at least three times a week. Slowly, I’ve built up muscles in my legs and upper arms, which makes me feel good, but I don't get the chance to dress up in slinky dresses and show them off. Why? Because as my husband ages, he’s lost his zest for living dangerously.
When we first married, he whisked me off to Europe for five weeks. We traveled to Spain, Switzerland, Austria, and last but not least, Paris. I talked him into this, and he gladly obliged. After all, he was thrilled with being married to me.
At the time, I had a killer smile and frosted blond hair. All through Europe, people would smile, saying, “You look like Doris Day!”
Unfortunately, after thirty years, I may have lost my sunny Doris Day looks.
It’s probably because I’m worried about our lack of retirement savings, Jack’s dwindling life insurance, and our house with the leaky roof. But that’s not all. My husband’s declining health worries me. He refuses to exercise. He has a bulging disk in his back, sinus headaches, high cholesterol and higher blood pressure.
In the past year, he’s been laid off two jobs. The first one was after 10.5 years. And the second was after only four months. Suddenly, I realize that his talent as an advertising copywriter is not getting him the jobs he used to get. It’s not that he’s less talented, but his age is catching up with him. Maybe it’s because 30 year-olds are interviewing him. Maybe it’s because his hair is now completely white. (We’re thinking of dyeing it.)
So, here I am. A person who has spent most of her life looking up to her husband and enjoying being taken care of. Now, it’s me who has to become the breadwinner. I don’t have time to think about my hair growing gray. I’ve got to get my hairdresser to lighten the blonde streaks and ask my manicurist to slap on fake nails. My seamstress needs to alter an expensive suit, so it fits me. After that, I must go to a dentist and get my teeth whitened.
It’s most embarrassing. I feel like the new me is a fake. Then, I have to leave my work as a self-employed writer and author and sell myself as a marketing specialist. That takes nerve and a touch of insanity. I often retreat to the back of my closet and practice using a loud, theatrical voice. The next day, I pick up my telephone and start calling everyone I know, telling them I’d love to work for them. Some of these statements are true. Some are huge lies. But I feel good doing this. It’s a lot better than filling out a resume and emailing it to an HR person with the brain of a parakeet.
I’m hoping that I’ll discover this new job, this new life, before we run out of cash. Before we have to ask our son to drop out of college due to lack of funds. And before both my husband and me become chained to our beds — due to intense depression. I’m hoping that this new me will like herself. And will learn to fly.
With a little more practice, I should be ready.
Are you becoming the breadwinner in your family? How are you adjusting? How is if affecting your relationship with your husband or significant other? If you have experiences to share, please email me your responses to: email@example.com. Also, you can view my website at: www.pamstonewriter.com.
Pam is an author, journalist and lecturer specializing in public relations, advertising and corporate communications. She's served on the staffs of the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald. Her articles on women, senior and family issues are distributed by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times syndicates. Pam's articles on women's issues were featured on the the Phil Donahue Show and the Bertice Berry Show.
In 2001 Pam authored A Woman's Guide to Living Alone: 10 Ways to Survive Grief and Be Happy. Currently, she's writing a book about long-distance caregiving. While serving on the advisory board for Home Instead Senior Care, Ms. Stone became their national spokesperson. You can connect with Pamela through email