The Queen of My Self

By Molly Fisk

Well, I seem to be having a mid-life crisis. I hoped to avoid this by staying very busy in the middle of my life, which was around age 37. Even though many Baby Boomers pretend middle age begins at 75 and old age doesn’t really start until a few days after you’ve died, some of us have enough common sense to remember that two plus two equals four, or in this case, 37 plus 37 equals 74. Seventy-four sounds young the closer we get to it but is in fact a reasonable lifespan, and longer than both my parents lived. I’m frankly a little surprised I made it to 60, and perhaps that’s part of the problem.

Do you remember the day you realized you weren’t ever going to be a ballerina? This strikes a girl at about 15. Real ballerinas start dance classes when they’re six or seven and continue in a somewhat driven and fanatical manner for a decade, appearing in the Nutcracker each of those years. They wear their hair slicked back in a bun and walk with their toes turned out like ducks down the halls of American grade schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’re also, pretty clearly from the age of six, built like gazelles: long of leg, narrow of hip, small of bosom. The rest of us, built like an assortment of other African animals, carry on happily ignoring pliés and at some point realize it’s too late: we aren’t going to be able to catch up. Our 15-year-old bones are too old to slip easily into fourth position, and American Ballet Theater is now out of reach.

It’s interesting facing this sort of loss at 15. It’s both shocking — because it’s real — and silly — because most of us didn’t want to be ballerinas in the first place, and we’re so young almost every other option is still open to us. But I bet if you interviewed ten random women on the street and asked when they knew they weren’t going to be a ballerina, each would have an answer for you. I’m not sure if there’s a parallel situation for boys — perhaps Major League relief pitcher.

I did not turn out to be a ballerina. I’m also not a mother, and lately, now my friends’ kids are having babies, I’m aware I’m not a grandmother, either. This doesn’t really bother me… much… but it opens the door to the question, “Well what the heck am I, then?”

A very cold draft is blowing through that door.

I’ve been a waitress, house-cleaner, sweater designer, bookkeeper, Fortune 1000 lender, investigator for the EEOC. A poet, a teacher, a speaker, a radio commentator, a painter, a radical life coach. Also a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, girlfriend, fiancee, and landlady. I’ve been a bridesmaid, a cocaine addict, a rower. I’ve written six books and sung Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Boston’s Symphony Hall.

My question is, who cares? What does any of this matter? And what am I supposed to do now? If you think of an answer, please drop me an email, before I tear out all of my nearly completely gray hairs.


* ***
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus