thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

muddling through

I remember being worried about turning thirty and then finding it liberating once I passed that milestone and still felt young. I had some of the best years of my life, in fact, from 30-32.

I feel myself once again turning a similar corner. I’ve passed through the worst years of realizing I won’t be having kids and may never get married and am feeling a blossoming of enthusiasm for life again. I’m still facing a number of challenges, but perhaps I’m on the upswing from the lowest-point of the U-shaped curve of happiness that age 44 is purported to be.

At the very least I feel my “muddling through” is par for the course in anyone’s life:

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/18/when_being_single_stopped_being_romantic_partner/

When I was pretending to be the easy-breezy single gal, I was buying in to the general cultural perception that single people occupy some developmental netherworld between goofy teenagers and sober marrieds. But as I cooked my brother dinner or grilled the urgent care nurse about his red-blood cell count, I noticed a peculiar sensation: self-respect. This was difficult, and while it would have been easier if we’d had partners, we were still managing.

Even the small stuff, I realized, wasn’t so small. One night, while sitting on Mark’s couch watching The Simpsons with him, I had a funny epiphany: I was all I ever needed to be. I didn’t have to be pretty or interesting or delighted with my life. I just needed to get the KitKats, to bring movies, to be a good sister.

Mark got better. “Cured,” the doctor said. We both went back to our regular lives and ordinary worries. But I cut the glamour-girl act. I wasn’t glamorous and I wasn’t always happy. I was an ordinary woman, muddling through, and that was more than enough.

the unemployed

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/15/motherhood_isnt_the_worlds_toughest_job/

Yeah, thanks for the props, but I have to say, I haven’t rolled my eyes this hard since Dove’s latest “Ladies are so gullible they think a patch can give them self-esteem!” bit. Let me break it to you gently, everybody. I don’t have the “World’s Toughest Job.” Aside from the fact that I harbor no illusions that what I do in raising my children is more difficult than say, defusing IEDs or putting out oil fires or finding cures for cancer or being a sweatshop factory worker, I also don’t consider motherhood my job. I have a career, one that’s satisfying and challenging and for which I get paid. But being a mother isn’t a job any more than being a spouse or a daughter or a friend or, let’s not fail to mention here, a father is. Oh, it’s work, make no mistake, physically and emotionally demanding work. Work that many of us chose and love. But it isn’t a job and it sure as hell isn’t on a higher moral plane than many other forms of work.

[…]

The fact that I have had and am raising children is not a resume item. It’s not something I “gave up” my life for. It’s sure not as hell a competitive act, one in which I somehow get to beat out every person who isn’t female or doesn’t have kids for best and most. And I don’t appreciate messages that seem to build women up while essentially telling them that nothing they can achieve in life matters more than having babies. You want to thank women, want to show women they have value? Close the wage gap. Challenge the insidious rape culture that exists in the military and in our colleges. Join the fight for our reproductive rights, so we can decide when and if we choose motherhood, safely. Don’t pat us on the head and minimize our contributions outside of the domestic sphere. You think motherhood is thankless, hard work? So is feminism. How about you celebrate that?

three seconds

It may seem like an opinion piece about the financial industry doesn’t belong on this blog, but I believe that the industry creates deleterious trickle-down effects on ordinary people’s prospects for marriage and family:

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/14/paul_krugman_slams_wall_street_for_undermining_our_economy_and_our_society/

tinderness

Have women become the new gay men? And do we want to be? My guess is no, and we never did, but trends have pushed our gender in that direction:

http://metro.co.uk/2013/09/12/is-tinder-just-for-hook-ups-3960399/

Of the nine who replied, only one said she was open to a hook-up. The most common response went along the lines of: ‘Maybe, but I’m not on here for that’.

So what does Tinder think its for? Its tagline ‘Discover those around you’ is much more oblique than Grindr’s mission statement ‘Find gay, bi and curious guys near you’, which seems to set out the state of play in quite clear terms.

But perhaps both apps and their taglines have adapted to their client-base. On the whole, members of the gay community are far more likely to engage in casual relationships than members of the straight community. If you want an example of how men would like to behave in relationships, look for what they do when women aren’t involved.

I imagine it won’t be long before Tinder users realise that Grindr works in the way it does because it’s dominated by men and that with women on board, Tinder will become like every other dating platform, fraught with tension, misunderstanding and frustration between the sexes.

the reset button

http://www.more.com/health/wellness/anti-aging-effects-meditation

Recently, alarmed at my brain’s seemingly swift degeneration (not to mention my impatience, distractedness, and maddening forgetfulness), I decided to try a different kind of mental exercise: meditation. It seemed unlikely that simply sitting, closing my eyes, and focusing on my breathing could help. But after only a couple of weeks — results are quick — I was starting to believe that the best thing to keep my mind calm, cheerful, flexible, and focused is to do nothing, for 15 minutes a day. Meditation made me feel both relaxed and more energetic. I developed a bit of distance between events and my reactions. Someone cut me off in the car? Maybe he’s having a bad day. A promising date didn’t blossom into a romance? Perhaps it’s his problem, not mine. Even at this early stage, I’ve noticed I’m much more able to let go of judgments of myself and others.

trolls

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/theperch/index.php/heraldsun/comments/dawson_case_spotlights_trolls_hatred_of_single_women/

But the whole, despicable, episode has spotlighted an issue that in our love-affair with social media is not discussed enough; one of its favourite punching bags is childless, single women.

Hiding gutlessly behind anonymous accounts, way too many misogynists make sport online of bullying childless and single women, vigorously and often. Now, with demonstrable, devastating effect.

Why women who are not married, or mothers, are singled out for special, sexist poison is a mystery. But any regular user who follows high-profile women will likely recognise this disturbing theme.

To say you’ve even noticed it is risky, because it gratifies the attention-crazed intentions of the more brutal trolls.

But I think it needs airing that women such as Dawson can face a drip-drip or bash-bash of such disgusting, personally-tailored abuse, in which often their own infertility or involuntary childlessness is brandished as the weapon.

Sexism is one, still too-common thing, but the contempt for women who have not married or for whatever reason don’t have kids, is nothing short of shocking.

recliners

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/02/25/recline-dont-lean-in-why-i-hate-sheryl-sandberg/

That explained it. Some college students, like my friend Suzanne, take aerobics classes. Some college students, like Sheryl Sandberg, teach aerobics classes. Other college students, like myself, lie around the dorm reading novels. Sheryl Sandberg was already busy leaning in. I was busy leaning back on my sofa, with a good book and a nice cup of cocoa.

[…]

Today, most women can make money on their own and acquire rooms of their own — but they still get too little psychic space and too little time for the kind of unstructured, creative thinking so critical to any kind of success.

Perhaps the modern equivalent of Woolf’s “room of her own” is the right to stop “leaning in” all the time. There is, after all, much to be said for leaning out — for long lunches, afternoon naps, good books and some nice, slow hours in the La-Z-Boy.

lotus eaters

If I had found a partner at the age of twenty-two with whom there was mutual attraction and love and who wanted to commit to marriage and kids and who didn’t mind being the sole breadwinner and who made a good enough living to do so and who was guaranteed to treat me well and never leave or die or lose his job (or who would have left me enough money in the case of any of those events), I would have happily acquiesced to being a stay-at-home mom and never entering the job market. I’m guessing most women would.

I would also have liked to have been a supermodel or famous movie actress, or to have inherited a substantial trust fund, or to have won the lottery.

The majority of us, however, have to make contingency plans. The fact that the way we are living our lives is not our first choice, or even our second, but we are in fact “making do,” is not something we like to admit these days, especially in the U.S. Many of us carry this around as our dirty little secret.

Yes, there are some women who, even under ideal circumstances, still want to work; they would go out of their minds without the stimulation of being in the workforce. But my guess is those women represent a fairly small slice of the population. Even those who want to work may be at least partially motivated by the lack of respect and status given to homemakers rather than the desire to hold a j.o.b.

Although many of my wealthy former classmates seem to have pulled off the rosy scenario described above, for most of us, they may as well inhabit the land of the lotus eaters, a place of never-ending bounty that exists only in dreams.

So the rest of us get ourselves a job and then get labelled “career women,” as if we were some small, overly-ambitious slice of the population, instead of the realists we’ve been forced to be.

tweenhood

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4323295-infertility-the-longest-journey/

On the other side of the story is the emotional turbulence that shook me to my core.

I wish I could tell you that I faced adversity with a brave smile, that I refused to let fear, anger and self-pity get a foothold. Instead, I felt more like a person under a dark spell — like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, craving and despising that one precious thing, losing myself in order to find it.

I coped by avoiding. I stopped going to baby showers. I stopped holding babies. I stopped looking at babies passing in strollers. I stopped watching TV diaper commercials and shows where anyone was having a baby. I stopped going to any sort of gathering where someone might ask if I had or wanted kids.

I stopped feeling happy for people who became pregnant. When my older brother e-mailed to say his wife was pregnant with their second child, I burst into tears — first of sadness, then of shame.

I began to think of myself as an “underdeveloped woman,” like a tween girl wondering when she’ll hit puberty like the rest of the gals.

I couldn’t break into that club of women who define their femininity by their power to create, to endure the throes of childbirth, to nurture.

The negativity had accumulated to the point where, as much as I wanted a baby of my own, the mere mention of them had become intolerable.

[…]

At a recent retirement party for one of the nurse practitioners at his Hamilton office, Dr. Stopps — who has worked with thousands of prospective parents over the past 38 years — admitted to me that the one thing he doesn’t understand is the persistence.

Why do people keep trying? Why do they put themselves through so much?

My answer: It’s more than wanting a baby. It’s wanting to fit in, wanting to graduate through the stages of life, wanting to fulfil the dreams of marriage and family, wanting some piece of yourself to remain after your death.

perpetuation

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/03/24/is-the-meaning-of-your-life-to-make-babies/

Yet something seems fundamentally very wrong, or incomplete, with this idea that making babies is the meaning of life. I wouldn’t be jumping with jubilation if my teenage son announced today that he was going to be a father. Do we laud the parents of extremely large Mormon, Hasid, Catholic, and Muslim families as public exemplars of a meaningful life? Do we honor the most popular sperm donor as humankind’s greatest philanthropist?

Even if our genes get perpetuated, our genes are not us. After a few generations of genetic mixing and shuffling, there’s unlikely to be anything unique or identifying about us in our offspring. If your great-great-grandchild has your brown eyes and your blood type, but no other personality or physical traits uniquely identifiable to you, how much of “you” has really lived on? Further, if the idea is to perpetuate our genetic lineage, what if we have children, but no grandchildren?

Fundamentally, as humans, the problem with identifying the meaning of life with having children is this — to link meaningfulness only with child production seems an affront to human dignity, individual differences, and personal choice. Millions of homosexuals throughout the world do not have children biologically. Millions of heterosexual adults are unable to have children biologically. For many adults, not having children is the right choice, for themselves, the world, the economy, or for their would-be children. Socrates, Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, John Keats, Vincent van Gogh, Vladimir Lenin, and Steven Pinker as far as we know did not have biological children. Would we deny the meaningfulness of their impact or existence? The meaning of life for childless adults — roughly 20% of the population in the U.S. and U.K. – has nothing to do with fame, but everything to do with what makes life meaningful for everyone: experiencing pleasure, personal relationships, and engagement in positive activities and accomplishments.

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