Recently 1010ParkPlace profiled Kathy Gutierrez, owner of The Secret Garden boutique in Fredericksburg, Texas. Kathy and I met in 2005, when we were both going through treatment for breast cancer. From the get-go, it was apparent we were cut from a similar mold: Women determined to survive whatever life puts in our path. Here’s part of our conversation that didn’t make it into Kathy’s STYLE INSPIRATION profile:
AT WHAT POINT IN THE RELATIONSHIP DO YOU SAY, I HAVE VAGINAL DRYNESS, BUT I CAN STILL BE A LOT OF FUN?
KATHY: When one of my daughters went away to school back East, I told her, if you come back wearing black, unless you’re covered in turquoise, do not get off the plane. It seemed as though women were all dressing alike, because that’s what they were supposed to do. Once you get to be a certain age, why do you want to look like everybody else? Now we dress to please ourselves; not to fit in. We’re more comfortable in our own skin.
We should celebrate ourselves, and be happy that we’re 40, 50 or 60. It’s so much fun! Those women that thoroughly enjoy themselves at the age they’re at… That’s what I want to be when I grow up. These women who are 70 and 80… They’re fabulous, and why shouldn’t you be fabulous? Let’s enjoy the age we’re at.
BRENDA: Do you think women in the “well over 40 demographic,” who aren’t married, are looking for a man, or are they happy being single?
KATHY: One of my girlfriends once told me, “I’m tired of paying for my own entertainment,” which I thought was funny. For the most part, I think they’re happy. I’ve been divorced 11 years. At the time, I didn’t want to have anything to do with dating because I was so busy with my kids. Then I thought, oh, my gosh! I have to be dating, because that’s what you do. Then I thought, no, I don’t. You don’t have to do anything because other people think you should. A lot of women I know in their 50s and above realize that you’re the one who’s going to bring all the life, and that’s a good thing.
BRENDA: This is the first extended period of time since I was 18 that I haven’t had a man in my life. My trainer recently asked if I’d even gone to dinner with anybody since James died? Other than a business dinner, no. I’m busy building a company. I travel a lot, and I’m okay with that.
For a long time after James died, I still felt married. It was just going to be a while before I saw him again. Then about six months ago—he’d been gone four years by that time—I woke up one day and realized, I’m not married. I’m in this all by myself. I took my wedding ring and had it resized to fit my middle finger. I love this ring! It reminds me of James. No one had given me diamonds before. I used to tell him this was my starter set, so after I launched 1010ParkPlace, I bought myself a diamond bracelet.
KATHY: I know what you’re saying. After the divorce, I kept waiting for somebody to come help me or something, but no… This is all yours! I’m living my dream, but it took me about two years to figure out that I’m in this on my own, and I’d better pull my head up and get cracking. There isn’t somebody on the other side of the door, and the only person who’s coming for dinner are the horses in the barn. Now I’m okay with it, but it took a long time for me to accept that I’m on my own. This is my responsibility and nobody else’s. Now I love it. It’s wonderful.
BRENDA: I haven’t been on a first date in over 20 years! Not long ago this great looking guy in New York City hit on me. He gave me his business card—in commercial real estate, Park Avenue address—and wanted to meet me for drinks. I emailed some of my girlfriends and asked, what do I do? They all said, “GO!” (Laughs.) I never called him. I mean… At what point in the relationship do you say, I have vaginal dryness, but I can still be a lot of fun?
KATHY: I haven’t been on a date in a while, but I’m not embarrassed to tell someone that after breast cancer, chemo and reconstruction, if you want to be in a sexual relationship with me, as a 58-year-old woman, you have to take the whole package. If you’re not interested, that’s perfectly fine, but I would like see the man who at 58, is Mister Stud Muffin.
BRENDA: There are so many women entering this period in their lives who have no idea what they’re facing. Lubricants help, but estrogen’s the only thing that’s going to have a dramatic effect on me and lots of other women. While estrogen’s “the fix,” we shouldn’t take it for a prolonged period of time. I can’t take it, at all, because my breast cancer was estrogen positive.
KATHY: Then you just have to get really creative.
BRENDA: That I can do!
KATHY: It’s like I tell some of the breast cancer ladies who shop in my store: Some say, “I don’t like these hips. I don’t like these boobs…” I tell them, just rearrange and decorate it. Don’t be sad or negative about it. We could be dead, but we’re not, so work with me on all of this. It’s the same thing with the men we meet.
We can choose to be negative or choose to be positive. We just have to say, “Okay, I have this situation. I need your help with this. This is what we have to do, and that’s just the way it is.” You just have to work with it. Besides, we’re past the stage of being prudish. Oh, hell yes! I’m long past that.