Our cover story on the way women baby boomers are facing the turning point of middle age prompted readers to share their tales of transformation, self-discovery and starting over. Some women argued against waiting until 50 to break loose from life's confines. And some men felt just plain left out
Your article on the midlife transformation of women was wonderful [Aug. 22]. Female baby boomers are pioneers in innovatively facing a new stage of life. Just as teenagers break away from childhood to begin preparing for adulthood, women (and men) in midlife must depart from traditional adulthood and grow in a different dimension. Like teenagers, we have the opportunity to dream: to imagine different scenarios for the future, to go to school, live in a new city, take a trip. But we need to close the gender gap. No longer separated by unique family roles, women and men have a common agenda: to find new purpose and cement relationships, to kick up and have fun.
For many years, the idea of a man having a midlife crisis provoked laughter. How many cartoons and jokes are there about middle-aged men buying motorcycles and contemplating the meaning of life? It turns out that women think they too need a good midlife crisis, only now it isn't the subject of jokes. It is "a major turning point in their lives." Men in a midlife crisis are usually pictured as balding and paunchy. In contrast, the women you featured are all attractive and in shape. They seem empowered by their crises. The disparity of all that is enough to make me question my male existence. Perhaps I'll buy a boat and go looking for the real me. It seems to be the thing to do.
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, U.S.
The onset of middle age does not have to be a crisis; it can be an opportunity. Women of the baby-boom generation should remember the adage: "One person can make a difference." My awakening came weeks after 9/11 when I examined my purpose in life. Today I am a consultant for children with learning disabilities. Every woman should believe that she can make a difference by herself.
Amherst, New Hampshire, U.S.
In your report, columnist and life coach Jane Glenn Haas advised midlife women to put themselves first. Haas writes that "it's O.K. to have a facial, travel by yourself or have a relationship without a wedding ring." Although it's very healthy to take good care of yourself, selfishness can lead to unhappiness; whereas sacrificing for loved ones brings lasting joy. Having an affair, while potentially exciting, can be emotionally destructive. Physical intimacy outside of marriage undermines self-esteem. Women need to make emotionally healthy choices.
Buffalo, Minnesota, U.S.
Having obtained a master's degree as a nurse practitioner with a specialty in women's health at 51, I am starting my own health-care practice at 57. You're right to applaud women who embrace midlife. For those of us over 50, things just keep getting better. It is a true time of empowerment.
Audrey C. Van Voorhis
Port Orchard, Washington, U.S.
Your story was overblown. We all go through soul searching, men and teenagers included. Women should remember that everyone has the choice of being content or miserable. If they choose to be happy, they won't make poor choices that cause a crisis. Women are capable of being decision makers, and we can determine how to improve our life choices.
Cornelia A. Holt
Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.
Given the advances in reproductive technology, I was surprised that your story didn't mention having a baby as some women's response to middle age. I'm 49, and my husband and I have a 4-year-old son who fills every day of our "middle age" with joy. Midlife and motherhood are a great combination!
Provo, Utah, U.S.
A Mother vs. the President
Although I am not related to antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan [Aug. 22], I am ashamed that she shares my family name. Of course, I support her right to voice her opinions, but I seriously question her motives. I too am a parent who lost a son serving in our military. Also, I'm a U.S. military veteran. But I certainly do not believe President George W. Bush should speak to me personally to justify his decisions about the Iraq war. I believe Sheehan was anti-Republican and anti-Bush long before her son chose to join the service. In fact, I think that her son's death is being used to further her personal beliefs and, perhaps, to achieve her 15 minutes of fame.
I was horrified to read the statement of California widow Jennifer Harting that Sheehan is "dishonoring her son by depicting America so negatively." That kind of thinking gives the government carte blanche to do whatever it wants, knowing that people will follow like sheep. "My country, right or wrong" is a great idea if you're running a totalitarian regime. In a pluralistic democracy, we need the Cindy Sheehans to speak up and honor their fallen children by telling the truth as they see it.
Morristown, New Jersey, U.S.
Harting stated that "a soldier's job is to follow the President no matter what." It's terrifying to think any intelligent person has that attitude. A President is just a man who is fallible. As we note the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, we recall that the same logic produced blind obedience to orders by the Nazis and the Japanese militarists.
When my brother died in Iraq, we accepted his death with grace and reverence for his service. Sheehan's conduct is embarrassing and dishonorable. The media portray her as a hero, a David vs. a Goliath. I see a weak woman who has sacrificed her son's honor in favor of indulging her pain and furthering her own political agenda. When Sheehan accuses the President of killing her son while she gives a pass to the Iraqi insurgent who actually ambushed him, she disgraces those of us who have carried on with honor. What a shame that she is famous for doing so.
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
How does Bush, who calls himself a "compassionate conservative," ignore a grieving mother who has made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause the President has championed? I cannot picture Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton treating Cindy Sheehan that way if she had lost a son in a conflict on his watch. We deserve better in a Commander in Chief during wartime. Cindy Sheehan deserves better. And U.S. serviceman Casey Sheehan deserved better.
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
Iraq's Nervous Neighbor
As your report "inside iran's secret War for Iraq" made clear, the Iranians are attempting to gain influence in Iraq [Aug. 22]. I don't blame them. The U.S. saw fit to invade and occupy a country because of a nonexistent threat. The occupying forces have nothing (religion, language or culture) in common with the Iraqis. Iraq imposed a war on Iran that lasted eight years and killed more than 300,000 Iranians. The future of Iraq is not yet certain. So why shouldn't Iran be concerned about its troublesome neighbor? Anything else would be irresponsible and fail to ensure the security of Iran.
Your report captured both sides of the controversy over the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and provided details about what the settlers are going through [Aug. 22]. I am a supporter of Gaza disengagement and find it difficult to believe the settlers did not realize they were on borrowed time from the minute they began living on occupied land after the 1967 war. For a true peace, Israel and its settlers must realize that a Palestinian nation has to be created. The sad part is that Jews and Arabs had lived together in the region peacefully for centuries, but now it seems that the only way to achieve a lasting peace for the region is to separate their cultures.
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Your article about Gaza portrayed a rosy image of Zionism. That picture, however, is painted with the blood and tears of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, people who were forcibly evicted from their homes by Zionists. You should have had more balanced reporting.
"The Settlers' Lament" was one of the most poignant and moving articles I have ever read. That the Israeli government has ignored the pleas of its own citizens is disgusting. The courageous Gaza settlers deserve kudos for resolutely staying on in the face of immense hostility. Those poor souls have paid for their right of abode with their families' lives, blood and honor. How can Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ignore their sacrifices in such a brutal manner? What is the point of the existence of the state of Israel when it displaces and harasses its own?
The evacuation of Gaza settlers brings into focus a defining phenomenon of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 30 years, the Israeli settlers built thriving agricultural enterprises on coastal sands despite daunting security challenges. What do the Gaza Arabs have to show for 60 years' habitation on the same strip of land? State-of-the-art arms smuggling, obsessive incitement of hate, corrupt leadership by warlords and 4 million Palestinians still receiving U.N. refugee relief. It is time for the Palestinians to stop blaming Israel for everything and start dealing seriously with their own social and political dysfunction.