real life

"A letter to my ex-husband’s new girlfriend."

If you’re looking for advice about options surrounding fertility, pregnancy or counselling, always consult your doctor.

To my ex-husband’s girlfriend,

You are a professional athlete. You have represented your country in your sport. I’m told you’ve worked as a motivational speaker for teen girls. And yet, recently, in an effort to insult me, you said I was OVER THE HILL.

In fact, your exact words were, “You are nothing but an old, over the hill mum.”

“Over the Hill?” What hill? A professional athlete of a certain age might struggle with hills, but quite frankly if there’s a hill for me to get over, I’ll drive.

Is your boyfriend also over the hill? He’s five years older than me. Or do you just reserve your judgement for women?

I’m a little concerned about the disparity between your public persona and private self. With your thoughts about women, I’m balking at your influence on my sons.

I turned 48 a few weeks ago. I know my body isn’t as toned as yours. However, if my life revolved around my body, as yours does, I’d be a babe. I used to be hot. My boobs were amazing. Ask your boyfriend. But breastfeeding kids and gravity buggered them up.

I do exercise, but nothing more strenuous than yoga or a walk with girlfriends and never over hills. I have other old girlfriends who are into running, and ocean swimming and all sorts of sports. I really admire them. But it’s not my thing. I’m a bookworm. A writer. I’m busy working full time to support my children. Juggling all that really eats into my jogging time, which I’m grateful for.

Here’s the thing… while my breasts have gone south and I carry a few extra few kilos, I never actually look in the mirror and dislike myself. Never. I haven’t for years. Should I?

ex husband new girlfriend
"I see myself loudly and clearly and I love what I see." (Image: iStock)
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In the past I’ve written about getting older and about finding a way to not… disappear. Most women suffer invisibility at some stage, usually starting in their early forties. We women take an emotional, psychological and spiritual beating in our forties, but those of us who make it through the portal, as a friend of mine calls it, discover profound lessons and rewards. We over the hill women learn a number of very important things, one of which is this:

How the world sees us, how other people see us is meaningless. What’s important is how we see ourselves. We become visible again through our own eyes only. And I see myself loudly and clearly and I love what I see.

Just to clarify, this is not an “aha moment” that one gets reading a groovy meme. It’s not the self-love that we acquire through some affirmations and a kelp smoothie. It is a process women go through, often for years, born in the flames of mistakes and f*ckups and pain and tears that weave rivers of lines across our skin. Once we’ve grown used to the weight of loss and the impermanence of everything, something shifts. At this point, we build a new foundation on acceptance and self worth. It is hard-earned and rock solid and quite frankly, beautiful.

Listen: Mamamia Out Loud discusses: who owns frozen embryos after a breakup? (post continues after audio...)

And it means that despite your laughter over the phone, thinking you’d really got me a good one… you just sounded like a bit of a twat. You do realise that, if you’re lucky, you too will be my age one day?

Unlike you, I love older women. And I’m damn fine about ageing. As the saying goes, Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” I have always nurtured female friendships with women of all ages, but have been particularly blessed with many much older female friends. These teachers and mentors and wise women have shaped me and taught me that there is actually no such thing as over the hill.

There was 80-year-old Peg with a passion for playwrights and who drove like a demon, and 87-year-old Marjorie who always dolled up when I took her for lunch, and Gen in her seventies who wrote a book of poetry as she travelled Europe by train. And my dear Zina, who received an Order of Australia for services to the arts and died at 84 with seven glorious women (of which I was one) around her bed. Right up until her final moments, Zina was a gorgeous, vibrant powerhouse of femininity and beauty and wisdom.

We should all be so lucky to one day be over the hill like those women.

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"I have always nurtured female friendships with women of all ages, but have been particularly blessed with many much older female friends." (Image: iStock)

My teenage son has many female friends, and I love having them around. But for these girls to reach their true potential there needs to be a shift in how women relate to each other and how ageing is perceived.

How will that happen if their role models are people who criticise other women based on their age or appearance? There is no solidarity in that. That one comment from you told me so much about the type of woman you are.

“You are nothing but an old, over the hill mum.”

You criticise me for being a mum? What does that say about my children? How is it meant to be an insult? It’s a blessing. And not one I take lightly at my age.

I am of the age group where many women who wanted children, didn’t have them. A number of my friends are at an age where they have now accepted that painful reality. To use “mum” as an insult, not only insults all the mothers who work their guts out parenting every day, and all the mothers who sacrifice their time, and dreams and money to put their kids first every day… but it’s also an insult to the women who dreamt of doing that, and won’t ever have the opportunity.

The fact is I don’t give a flying saggy tit what you think of me, but for some reason my ex-husband thinks that you are a decent enough person to have around my sons. So your perception of what is beautiful and worthy really bothers me.

"If you don't know how to treat other women, then what type of influence will you be on my sons?" (Image: iStock)
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I’m raising my boys to see beauty in all women. I want them to respect women of all ages, but how will that happen if their potential stepmother sees the world through such ill-informed eyes?

Your boyfriend was in another long-term relationship after me. She was great. My sons and I love her. You know her… she’s the woman you tracked down on Facebook with a message telling her that she was “nothing but casual sex” to your boyfriend. It’s good you clarified that because she was under the impression that for seven years she was loved.

Anyway, I’m relieved your lines are hazy about what hurts or humiliates people, because you should have no problem with this public letter expressing my concern.

I’m concerned that your behaviour might mean you don’t understand how women should treat each other. And if you, a woman who has represented her country, inspired others via social media and is in her thirties doesn’t know how to treat other women, then what type of influence will you be on my sons?

I get that you don’t like me. I came first and, being a winner, that bothers you. You don’t want a silver medal. But in future when you insult me, choose something that doesn’t make you look so… scared. This insult was nothing to do with me. It is a reflection of who you are.

If you’d ever like to take an honest look in a mirror, I can lend you mine. I suspect it’s a kinder mirror than yours.

Mamamia's Infertility Week shines a light on the joy, the pain and everything in between when it comes to creating  families. To read more from Infertility Week, click here.

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