Over the past seven months, I’ve sold a home, purchased a new home, gone through family health scares, and dealt with health issues with my two “babies.” Throughout all of it, one thing has remained fairly consistent; at least . . . Unsolicited commentaries and criticisms from grown men . . . I must be “old and bitter.” It’s an interesting conclusion that almost all men like to jump to, when a woman doesn’t agree with or placate them. “You must be old and bitter,” they say.Soon, I will be at the midway point between 40 and 50 years old. According to the World Life Expectancy website, a woman like myself, in the United States, can live an average of 82 years. So yes, I am just a few years past halfway. However, I don’t know that it makes me “old.” Even Dictionary.com defines “old age” as, “the last period of human life, now often considered to be the years after 65.” Therefore, I have a solid 20 years to go, before I am truly “old.”Bitter, however, is a little harder to define and determine. My thumbs venturing back to the smartphone screen to research the definition of “bitter” on Dictionary.com, all it says is, “characterized by intense antagonism or hostility” and “resentful or cynical.” Hmm, this could be interesting, and to be fair, worthy of investigation.I was recently contacted by someone I knew in high school. We had reconnected half a decade ago, discussed possibilities of friendship and romance, and even met up for dinner. At dinner, he wound up stiffing my sister (as we met with other friends) with a $100+ alcohol tab of his, while he dashed out to an ATM that seemed to never deliver any money. Then, over the course of three years, he did everything from stand me up, ask me for “dick pics” of other men I had been involved with, spoke incredibly ill of his girlfriend (whom I did not even know existed until six months into our reconnect), and was just an overall ass. He was full of insults, demeaning behavior, and generally poor manners. I would likely have to be mentally unsound, in order to have had any interest in him, in the end. Yet, he still felt it necessary to track me down in my newest city of residence, plan a trip to visit (uninvited), and harass me almost the entire time he was here. A barrage of “won’t you come out for a drink” texts, quickly followed by, “You’re a bitch” texts, and of course the . . . “You must be old and bitter.”About four years ago I met someone and fell for him pretty hard. It didn’t work out as a romantic relationship; however, it seemed to be a really great friendship. We were friends through other relationships and involvements,. I was a shoulder when he needed one. I was transport and support when he needed it. I was included in his life, his child’s life, met all of his friends, and spent time with him almost daily. I don’t know that many of his girlfriends even spent nearly the amount of time with him that I did. And at times, it almost felt as though I was never apart from him.About 8 months ago, we had a falling out. It was just one of those things that happens, when you spend too much time with someone, whom you’e not legally bound to. I was constantly compared to his girlfriends, I was giving more than I was receiving, and I was emotionally and mentally spent. Even worse, I was in love with him. I had to break away, and I did. I separated myself. I couldn’t stand how I felt, and how he made me feel . . . Never quite good enough, never quite matching up, always somehow letting everyone down. It’s a terrible place to be, and it was making me mean and resentful.In my breaking away, I decided to move 250 miles away, and be closer to family. I bought a house, and quickly got swept up into dishonest sellers, home repairs, family turmoil, accidents, surgeries, medical diagnoses, and so on. I was more than busy. And then four months ago, I got a text. The message alert rang in ears with hesitation and apprehension. He missed me. He had a lot going on, and wished I was there. He needed me. And the old, “What if it was you all along? What if the perfect girlfriend is my best friend?” “Stay alert,” I thought. “Proceed with caution,” I warned myself, but I felt that I needed to proceed, just to see where it would go. For six weeks, I heard “I love you,” “I miss you,” “I’m moving to be with you,” and “I want to marry you.” Still, I was guarded. After all, I knew him, I knew how he was with women, even though I still loved him.After six weeks, and a visit to see him, it all imploded in grand fashion. Not for lack of me finally buying in and giving it a chance. Not for lack of me not being giving, loving, and accepting. And not for me not heeding signs or warnings (there were very few). He had been seeing someone else, lying about it, and creating a story so immense and ridiculous, that I am still in awe that anyone would’ve believed it. Really, most surprisingly, the other woman believed it, even with an obscene amount of evidence to the contrary. He painted me as “crazy,” “needy,” and even tried to portray me as some sort of “thief” (after he returned something of mine that he had taken). It seemed as though he created a grand skyscraper, just to push me off of the top and laugh as I tumbled down, but . . . My proverbial parachute opened. I held my ground, stood up for myself, and got the better of him in a smart, well-planned, well-executed, and hilarious way. The details of the story are great, but not appropriate here and now.In the midst of all of this, other, bigger things were happening. Thankfully, these things (though some upsetting) constantly demonstrated how trivial and ridiculous the drama caused by these men was, and is. It still stung, but it was in perspective. And in the meantime, I’ve watched him, and his new girlfriend, spiral into some of the meanest and most ill-mannered and hateful people you would ever meet. They deserve each other, and I am happier for the near escape.Back to the issue at hand . . . Old? No, not quite yet. Bitter? Well . . . After all of it, I have not been antagonistic, nor have I been hostile, but I have stood my ground. Cynical? Yes, I will admit to that. After almost 45 years of life, which has included horrible people who have made it their mission to try to tear me down, make me feel like nothing, and tried to make me into a joke, probably. Resentful? I do resent the bad things that have been done to me, who wouldn’t? But I am not resentful 24 hours a day. I am well aware of, and grateful for, my family, my closest friends, my career, my education, my wonderful “babies,” my home, and so much more. I am lucky, and not resentful overall, at all. So, really, no, I’m not bitter, either.The older we get, the more knowledge we gain. That experience turns into warning signs and cautionary gut feelings. You learn not to ignore those, as much as we would like to live in the moment. Therefore, instead of “old and bitter,” I would say that I am, “experienced at life.” A vast and notable difference, really. I don’t jump into things without considering the potential consequences, especially when it could involve some of the things that I am so grateful for having. And no one should, really. Reckless abandon is really for the young. The really young. The ones who haven’t quite learned what’s worth holding onto and what’s worth letting go. So call me, “old and bitter,” if you want and if you must, but I will counter and proclaim, “EXPERIENCED!” every time with pride.