a new career after divorce

One Woman’s Story: The Making of a “Gorgeous Grandma”

At age 45, I had a terrible divorce. I use the word
terrible because it was something I had neither expected nor
wanted. After 25 years and two college-age sons, my husband
phoned me from out of town to say he was not coming home. He
hurt me so incredibly by walking away without even talking about
it that I could not forgive him. I had been so tuned in to
his needs that mine were secondary for 25 years. What was I
to do? What did I want to do?

While married, I had returned to college, which made him
unhappy – even though he had given his approval. After the
divorce, I finished school because I did not know what else
to do.

I was graduated at age 50, cum laude, and was very proud
of my achievement but, after spending years as a struggling
student, I was lonely and at odds with myself. I sold our big,
suburban home and moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Boston.
I thought a new environment would refresh my life and help me
start anew.

It didn’t work.

Looking for the ideal situation, I held a few jobs over
the years and moved from city to suburb again. Each time I
interviewed for a new position I felt overqualified, over-
educated, or discriminated against because of my age.

Out of desperation, I decided to work at an upscale
boutique department store. Although I did not like that either,
I needed the money. Ironically, from this job came many
subsequent changes. To avoid boredom at work, I began to
write newsletters to my customers who were mostly over 50 and
unhappy with themselves. My inspiration to write a book came
from dealing with these women on a daily basis.

I decided one evening that I had a lot of information I
wanted to share and that if I were going to do anything
worthwhile in my life, I had better start now. The following
day, I purchased a computer and began a computer refresher
course at my college. I then began an outline for a book,
spending many nights researching and writing until 1 or 2
in the morning.

When I told a newspaper friend about my project, she had
her editor review a few articles and, lo and behold, almost
overnight I became a newspaper columnist. Within a year’s
time, I was syndicated and my column, “A Guide for Gorgeous
Grandmas,” had a readership of over 150,000.

The real change in my life occurred when I returned to
the career office at Wellesley College. Because of the
encouragement of the Director at that office to do the book
and any other projects related to “Gorgeous Grandmas.” I began
to smile again – perhaps the first real smile I felt in my
heart for many years. I had found a calling, a purpose, a
raison d’etre. And someone believed in me and my work! It
was almost too wonderful to be real.

What brought these changes in my life? It was the
recognition of my self-worth from my new identity as a writer
plus the ongoing encouragement I received from the Director
of the Career Office. I woke up, finally, to realize my value
as a person, not merely as a wife. I recognized that I had
educated myself, experienced the highs and lows of being single
and very lonely, and I had finally found a genre through which
to express myself and feel valued. I decided no only to finish
my book but also to mount a website where women over fifty
would be celebrated, respected and appreciated.

Stepping Stones: The Value of a Mentor

Alice spent many years after her divorce searching for
direction and self-fulfillment. Through her relationship with
her mentor, she began to believe in herself and was able to
move forward with her work.

During difficult moments in our lives, our sense of self
can become threatened, undermining our self-esteem. As we
develop our identity during childhood and adolescence, many
aspects of self-esteem come from the validation of others.

By the time we reach adulthood, we have internalized our
sense of self and become more comfortable with our identity.
At times of change, we again need a source of external
validation to help restore self-esteem.

Because mentors offer positive feedback and validation,
they are valuable at these times of change. During transtion
and beyond, it is helpful to take advantage of another woman’s
experience, knowledge and understanding. Through encouragement
and collaboration, a mentor can support us emotionally.
Knowing we are in a safe place allows us to express ourselves
freely and explore new ideas.

The mentor’s perspective can help us focus our thoughts,
consider our options and begin to implement our choices. Her
experience can provide information, resources and objective

Our relationship with a mentor can empower us to take
our own steps, restoring our self-esteem. We can each say,
as Alice did, “I began to smile again – perhaps the first
real smile I have felt in my heart for many years.”

Recommended Resources to Explore


You have just read the story of Alice Solomon, the creator
of this unique website. Gorgeousgrandma.com focuses on the
needs of single women over fifty. It offers resources on
health, beauty, relationships, business and travel. In
addition, it includes excerpts from newsletters, advice and
the opportunity to participate in discussion groups.

“Learning From Other Women: How to Benefit from the
Knowledge, Wisdom and Experience of Female Mentors”
by Carolyn S. Duff.

Through personal stories about mentoring relationships and
experiences, this book provides a practical guide for women
who want to enhance their lives and careers. The author,
Carolyn Duff, encourages women to reach out a take advantage
of the wisdom and experience of other women. After reading
this book, you will recognize the unique and positive
opportunity that women can provide for other women.

Resources for Career Change

Although the web is a vast source of information, don’t
forget to also take advantage of you local resources, such
as area newspapers, employment agencies and colleges. Many
colleges now have programs or courses that specifically
address the needs of the midlife student. In addition, you
may want to contact civic, cultural or religious institutions
for information and training.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) HerMentorCenter, 2002