thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

neverland

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/7768700/Babies-are-better-late-than-never.html

For every one of us who is smugly enjoying the fruits of brinkwomanship, there is another sadder woman who assumed that she would pull it off, but failed. I know several who achieved one child, but tried in vain for more. Some never made it. Recently I received an invitation from a successful actor, who used to enjoy seeing friends in a family setting, no doubt assuming that before too long she would have children of her own. Now 50, her latest summons came with the stipulation “No kids”.

adding up

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/fashion/From-Joan-Didion-to-Andrew-Sullivan-some-writers-leave-behind-letters-when-they-leave-new-york-city.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

For Ms. Didion, in other words, money was simply an excuse. The reality was, in the relatively cheap New York of the 1960s, even a Vogue junior staff member like her — making $70 a week — could secure a centrally located Manhattan apartment with a view of, she thought, the Brooklyn Bridge (“It turned out the bridge was the Triborough,” she dryly amended) and pay for taxis to parties where she might see “new faces.” Sure, the early days were tough — “some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat,” she wrote. But in general, she could afford to hang around long enough to determine when she had stayed “too long at the Fair.” In sum, she could afford to fall out of love with the city slowly.

Not so for the would-be Didions of today. In their New York, the nice apartments with the bridge views tend to go to the underwriters of bond issues, not to the writers of essays for literary anthologies. The unaffordability of New York on a writer’s budget is a theme running through several contemporary variations on the theme.

I’ve been enjoying the book Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York written about in the article above; in doing so it’s occurred to me again that many of our stresses are caused by the fact that there’s just too damn many of us:

http://www.populationmedia.org/issues/population/

The world’s population is now more than 7 billion and continues to grow by 82 million people per year. During the last half-century, the world’s population more than doubled. Between 1960 and 2010, the world population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion. In other words, there has been more growth in population in the last fifty years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed. Currently the rate of population increase is 1.2% per year, which means the planet’s human population is on a trajectory to double again in 58 years.

Which of course makes the idea of this movie laughable (and I can’t help but think how much better off the planet would be with less baby food jars, diapers, toys, etc.):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/lifetime-lottery-infographic_n_5297746.html

The combined stressors of too many people competing for jobs, wealth inequality, and the lengthening lifespan (elderly parents to support, the idea of supporting one’s own self through all the extra decades)… it all adds up. It’s no wonder the number of childless women is increasing.

neglect

An old friend of mine is coming into town in a few weeks with her two kids in tow. It will be good to see her, but these reunions are not nearly as important to me as they were a decade ago. The thing is, I’ve moved on.

I hear from my friends who are married with children every few years or so over email, and every five years or so some of them pop into town or we find ourselves in the same place. But we are not on the same page. While they were busy with spouses and kids and couple friends and home building, out of necessity I constructed a whole new life and self, one that was paying far more attention to matters outside that realm, matters they have long since dropped. In some ways I got to live like I was in my twenties again, when self-exploration was king, albeit with the added difficulties of grieving alone and locating age-appropriate activities.

They don’t know this about me though and perhaps I have remained “static” in their minds as I haven’t had big visual milestones to show off on Facebook. Much of this life building has been furtive and carried out in the shadow of benign neglect. I felt this difference starkly at my college reunion; I had the sense I’d been traveling down a different track, but one that wasn’t well-lit.

the reserved

Myself, I am having to adapt to my new environment.

But that politeness is not a temporary shield, not a shell, not a surface: that reserve is bottomless. As a foreigner you will never reach the end of it. I understood the language, but communication was impossible. How could I justify a desire to stand out, to make something of myself in the context of a complicated culture that values fitting in over individualism? How could I even begin to describe this to someone who desperately and rightfully wanted me to follow their clear social cues and talk about the weather? “That’s quite a change,” people would reply, when I said where I was from, and the right response– the only response– was “It is, a bit.”

– Ruth Curry, “Out of Season,” Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, p. 45

pretenders

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/22/my_double_life_as_a_mommy_blogger/

And that’s just the kind of hard-won mom wisdom I would give to myself right now. The time isn’t right yet for the mom portion of my life, even though it’s on my mind more and more. I would also remind myself of that old Buddhist saying, be here now. I know we all have desires and dreams, we all have worries and questions about our lives. We all have wonder and adventure. It just takes different forms. I need to remember to be present in my actual, daily life because there’s a lot there for me, whatever it presently holds.

I had always imagined I would be that suburban mom with two kids, with one keeping me up at night with the stomach flu or complaining about how they won’t eat their vegetables. I never dreamed I would be a writer in beautiful faraway city doing things I never thought I could do. But life is funny like that, and also surprising. Just because you don’t have something now doesn’t mean you’ll never have it. Sometimes you have to pretend something before you can make it real.

the burbs

The burbs. They are easier, safer, less jangling on the nerves. The single men who are around may be more serious about relationships, if I could find any common ground. But with a lifestyle tailored for marriage and family, it’s hard to fit.

http://nypost.com/2012/07/23/you-go-girl-out-to-burbs-for-real-romance/

“In Connecticut, they’re just very normal, very sweet, very unassuming. They don’t have game. They’re steak-and-potatoes American. They don’t care about fashion, they’re not metrosexual,” said Kassner, who hopped on a train to Stamford, Conn., on July 12 for an outdoor concert featuring alt-rocker Matisyahu in order to meet a decent guy.

High-end matchmakers said it’s a matter of time before heading to the suburbs is no longer considered a trend — and becomes the norm.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/27/nyregion/not-in-manhattan-and-not-married-singles-who-prefer-the-suburbs.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

Carolyn Grossman, a 40ish executive secretary, complained that married people segregate themselves from singles, then “stereotype single people as being drinkers and party people.” In the singles enclave in South Norwalk where she lives, she said, town authorities more readily tolerate noise than in a family neighborhood.

“They just don’t seem to have any conception that there are other people besides themselves,” she said of married couples.

Ms. Thompson believes that suburban single women are distrusted by their married counterparts.

“Even if you go to a P.T.A. meeting, the husbands are carefully guarded,” she said. “You’re made to feel you should stay on the outside.”

http://www.nextavenue.org/blog/after-superstorm-spinster-finds-community

Being a single, childless woman in the New York City suburbs has never been easy. My neighbors all moved here “for the children” — for the quality public education, backyard swing sets and cars that didn’t require usurious garage bills. They wonder, not unreasonably, what I’m doing here. I sometimes wonder, too, even 16 years after moving back to New York following a decade in California.

At the time, I was unwilling to return to a dark hamster cage in the city I had lived in most of my adult life, where nature is largely confined to parks and potted plants on fire escapes. But once I reached a certain age — I’m now 65 — living here became more than just a matter of being a social pariah, with few friends whose lives don’t revolve around their families. Sometimes it’s dangerous.

special deliveries

One of the first things I did upon my last two moves was to stock a cabinet with ramen and ginger ale and crackers. When I lived in L.A., all the restaurants delivered, which was wonderful in general, but especially so when I was sick. I had no guarantees of hot soup delivery in my last abode and in this one, so I stocked up. Thankfully I’ve since found a few places that are able to deliver me hot noodle soup when the need arises:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/aging-in-place_n_2563750.html

So what have I learned from a hellish two weeks?
People our age who choose to live alone belong in cities, with plentiful take-out-food options, friends close by and apartment building superintendents to deal with the rats in the basement.

42

I did not find this article nearly as offensive as the commenters, because it’s still (unfortunately) a radical notion to some that a woman in her forties could be thought of as attractive, and I agree about the determination to be free (although less sure that’s a recent thing only):

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/42-year-old-women

There are many reasons for the apotheosis of forty-two-year-old women, and some of them have little to do with forty-two-year-old women themselves. In a society in which the median age keeps advancing, we have no choice but to keep redefining youth. Life lasts longer; so does beauty, fertility, and sex. And yet forty-two-year-old women are not enjoying some kind of scientific triumph but rather one of political and personal will. A few generations ago, a woman turning forty-two was expected to voluntarily accept the shackles of biology and convention; now it seems there is no one in our society quite so determined to be free. Conservatives still attack feminism with the absurd notion that it makes its adherents less attractive to men; in truth, it is feminism that has made forty-two-year-old women so desirable.

On the other hand, point taken:

http://thehairpin.com/2014/07/42

OK, Tom. To borrow another phrase, “Are you trying to seduce me?” I am actually 44, so I hope my collagen-intelligence ratio is still in your ballpark. Oh, I just looked you up on Wikipedia and I see that you’re 55. Oh, yeah! That is such a hot age. It’s like, you’re still alive, but only for about 30 more years.

square one

A couple of commenters have mentioned that they prefer the personal posts, but I go through periods of hesitancy in terms of revealing my life on a public blog, and at other times I have things I want to write about but feel like a broken record. Especially now, as I’ve started to feel I’m back at square one, waking up on Monday feeling less than enthused about the long work week ahead.

I know a woman who used to work in this area for a good chunk of her forties. She told me she would drive elsewhere on the weekends for a social life, although the temptation to just stick around was strong, as it is so easy here. Another woman, a big reader, told me she thinks of herself as a resident of Los Angeles and acts accordingly.

I’m only at the halfway point in my explorations, but the picture is becoming clear. This is where I work, live, shop, go to the beach, and exercise, but my imagination will likely bloom elsewhere. At the moment the one thing I’m excited about is a small show that occurs on the weekends and is about twenty miles away. The sense of expansion has been worth the trek.

double Ms

Although I don’t have kids, I’m in a care taking profession, and I know I’m going to be tired of it all by my fifties. I’m starting to appreciate the fact that I won’t have that middle M to contend with on top of everything else:

http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/7-14-14-sandra-tsing-loh-sandwich-generation/

Loh calls these women the triple-Ms: middle-aged mothers in menopause. “You’re losing your nurturing hormones and you don’t feel like taking care of people any more. But you’re at an age when suddenly you’re caregiving.” Loh has two adolescent girls and a 93-year-old dad, and like other triple-Ms, she’s starting to feel like her multitasking is getting out of hand.

Handling my elderly parent might be more than enough. Very interesting quotes here from (childless and single) author Jane Gross’s A Bittersweet Season:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/daddy-issues/308890/

In the space of three years … my mother’s ferocious independence gave way to utter reliance on her two adult children. Garden-variety aches and pains became major health problems; halfhearted attention no longer sufficed, and managing her needs from afar became impossible … We were flattened by the enormous demands on our time, energy, and bank accounts; the disruption to our professional and personal lives; the fear that our time in this parallel universe would never end and the guilt for wishing that it would … We knew nothing about Medicaid spend-downs, in-hospital versus out-of-hospital “do not resuscitate” orders, Hoyer lifts, motorized wheelchairs, or assistive devices for people who can neither speak nor type. We knew nothing about “pre-need consultants,” who handle advance payment for the funerals of people who aren’t dead yet, or “feeders,” whose job it is to spoon pureed food into the mouths of men and women who can no longer hold a utensil.

[…]

I know that at the end of my mother’s life I felt isolated in my plight, especially compared to colleagues being feted with showers and welcomed back to work with oohs and aahs at new baby pictures. I was tempted, out of pure small-mindedness, to put on my desk a photo of my mother, slumped in her wheelchair.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 151 other followers