thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: January, 2012

lonely while feminist

The book “Approaching Eye Level” by Vivian Gornick has some great insights on life as a single woman.  I recommend the chapter “On Living Alone,” which includes this passage (p. 141):

It was the early seventies, an exciting time, and a great many women shared the excitement.  We had become converts to the women’s movement.  When we met, all of us, in public places, coming together again and again for the pleasure of elaborating the insight and repeating the analysis, the world expanded into an extended companionateness of extraordinary dimension.  This companionateness exhilirated and sustained…

But the closeness was a function of the moment– that moment when feminism had felt revolutionary– and when the moment passed, the comradeliness passed with it.  Then it was as though I knew a great many people, but none of them knew each other.  The illusion of an integrated life evaporated.  It was back to urban social life as I had known it before my marriage: fragmented and highly strung, marked by the tension and withdrawals of exacerbated lives and personalities, friendships that were always in and out of phase.  Without domestic companionship, it startled me to see, daily connection was by no means a given.

The chapter “What Feminism Means to Me” is another good one, and it includes this gem (p. 69):  I have endured the loss of three salvation romances– the idea of love, the idea of community, the idea of work.

On a similar note, I read recently that in their later years, Susan B. Anthony asked Elizabeth Cady Stanton to live with her, but Stanton instead chose to move in with her two children, crushing Anthony.  A bit on that here under the section entitled  “Disappointment for Susan B. Anthony”:

http://digital.films.com/play/MZDYMH#

something borrowed

One of my first posts was on not “getting the memo.”  Although I’d been feeling blindsided for years by the fact that seemingly every last person I’d ever grown up with had married and had children, I borrowed that phrase from this post:

http://singlethirtysomething.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/i-didnt-get-the-memo/

While the author writes that she is tired “of having women sidle closer to their husbands when I’m around,” I’ve additionally experienced more than one man suddenly grabbing the hand of his girlfriend or placing his arm around her shoulders while I chatted with him, as if he was afraid I was going to pounce.  Ugh!

bees

Everyone these days is so busy, busy, busy.

I understand, as I am unbelievably understaffed and overworked at my job, and it is affecting my ability to have a life outside of it.  It would be much easier for me to give up on everything else and put 100% of my energy into the job, but I’ve always been much happier when my main focus is on stuff outside of work.  Having that outside focus makes me happier overall and allows me to put the job in perspective.  I then feel like job-related problems and setbacks roll off my back.   Of course, when I am in love, I float through the day (flip side– after a break-up I am short-tempered with customers and co-workers, and the job feels unbearable).

I just went through a big, publicized, months-long project at work that brought me into contact with all types of people and placed me at some high-powered parties.  I had zero energy left for anything else during that time, but I figured I’d be meeting lots of new people through the job, and maybe that would lead to something.  Naturally, I was wrong.  The smoke cleared and seemingly nothing had changed for me socially except that I had met a few nice, new co-workers.

As I invite people to take part in my new theater project, I feel guilty that I am impinging on their time.  They are likely as overwhelmed as I am.  I know everyone is scrambling to make money or figure out how.  At least one person has responded that he is, in fact, simply too busy and another one hinted as much.   I’ve got one person on board, so I will soldier on, but I do have the feeling that perhaps we are all simply too busy, and this should be my last show.

turning points

In my mid-thirties I hit a big turning point, realizing that I may never have children.  My move across country was largely motivated by my need to “hedge my bets.”  I wanted a bigger dating pool, but I also needed to look forward into a childless future and determine where I might be happiest ending up.

Forty-one has been another big turning point in that I feel like the window to have children has permanently shut.  Friends insist it is not too late, but to me that is wishful thinking, and I’m ready to get on with it– no more waiting games.

It seems too early to completely throw in the towel on finding a partner, but now that online dating feels like a dead-end, I am looking a few years ahead and facing the possibility that I may well still be alone.  That changes the game once again.  Is this where I will be happiest, if I am without a partner or community of friends, or would I prefer living in a tighter-knit, although more highly-partnered, smaller city?

I wonder, readers, what were your turning points?

in case of emergency

I hate filling out the “in case of emergency” line on doctor and HR forms.  I have to put my mother’s name, and she lives halfway across the country.  There’s really no one in my current city I’d feel comfortable writing down, especially now that I don’t have a roommate.

The primary emotion that I feel when I consider dying in some horrific car accident or from some freak medical condition is embarrassment.  If I was in my apartment, who would find me?  If I was found in a car accident, who would they notify?  Once my mother was notified, how would she know which friends of mine to tell, and how would she know how to contact them?  Who would she even invite to a memorial service, if there was one?  Would my Facebook page linger on for weeks before anyone caught on?  I further imagine my workplace broadcasting an email through my large, geographically spread-out organization, which is filled with employees I hardly know and many of whom I’ve never met.

It simply won’t do for me to perish at this particular moment.

 

social typology

Proving that I think way too much about these things, I order social life into these patterns:

a best friend— the person you check with on a regular basis, who if  you are lucky is connected to your other…

close friends— a few people with whom you can talk with in-depth, and who you can discuss each other with, who if you are lucky are also part of a…

group— aka an “urban tribe,” a number of people, maybe ten to twenty, who are friends with each other and with whom you regularly hang out with, who if you are lucky form part of a…

social scene— a large, diffuse number of people who are connected to each other through a common interest, such as a particular style of music or a particular sport or a common career field or a love of Burning Man, who hang out together through consistent social avenues and who provide vitality to any particular group as well as a fresh supply of new friends and romantic partners.

In my college years, I had all four in one place.  During my years in the dance scene, I had some isolated best friends but also the other three groups all connected through dance.  I was at my happiest in those two situations.   After I left the dance scene, I had a best friend and was involved in a couple of isolated groups, which then dissolved due to romantic pairings and break-ups.  Now I would say I have a few isolated close friends (though not a best friend) and a social scene, but no friends or groups within that scene.  I’m currently hanging out on the fringes of said scene, wondering how long I can hold on without some real connection there.

 

technology

There are so many ways to communicate and stay connected now: blogs, Facebook, email, twitter, cell phones.  Ironically, it often seems that ease of communication has also made it easier for us to “not respond” to each other, to blow each other off.  I’m sure we are all familiar with unreturned emails, with Evites that go unanswered, with calls that are infrequently returned.  It’s another aspect of modern life that can make being single confusing and maddening.

Quirkyalone has a related post here:

http://quirkyalone.net/index.php/2010/11/04/the-disposable-dating-syndrome/

mover

One of the things about Facebook that’s been eye-opening for me is the number of people from my birth city who are still living there, hanging out primarily with the same friends from high school.  Of course, lots of people have moved on, but they also seem to primarily have remained friends with their high school buds.  I tend to have random friends from all the different periods of my life:  high school, college, grad school, my life abroad, the dance world, etc.

I also have remained in touch with a few friends from each of the different cities I’ve lived in, which in my twenties, totalled six different places.  I should have cut that by at least half, but I inherited an unfortunate tendency from my mother to pack up and move when things aren’t going well.

By my late twenties I decided it was time to pick a place and buckle down for the long haul.  I moved to the mid-sized city, generally a well-regarded place to live, and stayed there for eight years.  The first several years were great, as I got involved with the dance scene and had some of the best years of my life.  Once that dissipated, and my efforts to find a replacement community didn’t pan out, I felt some initial stirrings that it was time to move on.  Instead I redoubled my efforts to make things work, finding an ideal position within my workplace and buying property.  The next four years, though, were not all that great, and I felt like all I was doing was staying in place, watching what was NOT happening for me (marriage and kids).  Finally I decided to move yet again to a city I’d been curious about for a decade.

Several of the friends I left behind, friends my age who were single when I left, have since married and had children.  Apparently fortune does not, in fact, favor the bold.  Learning of their marriages naturally threw me into emotional turmoil over the choice I made to leave, but then I wonder how much worse I would have felt if I had stayed and those things didn’t happen for me.

I’ve been in the new city for five years and am now wondering if I should move back to the mid-sized city, where I still own property.  I’ve written about this in several posts already, so I hope I’m not repeating myself.  I feel like, despite the greater numbers of single people and job opportunities here, my life has ended up pretty much the same.  I’m living alone in an apartment, I have a few scattered friends, I’m back in the career I’ve grown weary of, and I’m not dating anyone and have run out of ideas on how to change that.  I love that there is more to do here and seemingly lots more single people, but it’s an expensive and stressful place to live and I have no family ties in the state.  It’s hard to imagine growing old in this place, “dying alone in an apartment”– a fear an acquaintance recently voiced to me.  I’m pushing hard on some of my socially-oriented creative projects but am straddling the line between hope that I can find a community and the fear that everyone my age is busy with their own lives and families and it’s just too hard to find a social life again.  I’m definitely out and about, but it doesn’t seem to result in much.  I don’t know if that is because people are uninterested in me or just unaware that I’m out there, searching.

I’m giving myself one more year here.  I will try.  Stay tuned.

rehab

Occasionally I’ll watch one of those reality shows like Celebrity Rehab in which some completely down-and-out, crack-addicted, living-in-the-gutter person will clean up his or her act and then lo and behold meet the perfect romantic partner, marry, and have a baby.

It’s the American success story, writ large:  lose weight or get a good job or stop smoking crack and all your dreams will come true.  This is a bit hard to take for someone like myself, given that I’ve spent two decades employed, healthy, and non-addicted and yet have ended up alone.

The reality, of course, is that most people who sober up have to face the lonely slog of life in the trenches just like the rest of us.  The book “51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life” is a book that does a good job of demonstrating that.

religion

I’m not a conventionally religious person and generally describe myself as “agnostic.”  I certainly do not attend church regularly, even though some people find community there, and my mother insists that church is a good place to meet single men.  Single men I would not have a lot in common with, or at least one big thing, methinks.  In any case, I have read that single people often feel left out at their churches.

The older I get, though, the more wisdom I see in believing in God or some type of higher being.  I tend to believe that relationships with other people are the most important thing in life, a belief that today’s society seems to embrace.   The problem is, my experience has shown that relationships with other people are inherently unstable, if not fickle, frustrating, and just plain unrewarding.   I can see the appeal of believing that there is a higher power that loves you no matter what and is looking out for you, one that could put relationships with mere mortals into perspective.