never married, over forty, a little bitter


In between picking up and finishing numerous other, skimmable books, I finally finished Sister Carrie (I now realize how difficult it is these days to sit with a long novel).

Focusing on young, inexperienced Carrie and the two older men she becomes involved with but does not love, the novel does a superb job of demonstrating all the factors that play into romantic relationships:  personal strengths and weaknesses but also family of origin, chance and luck, financial resources, the wider economy, desires, age, connections, life experience.

I’m sure every woman who has unexpectedly found herself single and childless in her forties feels, at least occasionally, that she misplayed her hand somewhere.  Certainly many outside observers hold that opinion.  Dreiser’s novel brought to the forefront how little we are in control of in those matters, especially when we are young, inexperienced, and lacking in resources.  I think we can all forgive ourselves!

Another novel that I recall playing with these themes is House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

Next up for me as far as classics go is Henry Miller’s Portrait of a Lady, but I’ll have to find that one on audiobook.

the other side

Years ago, when I was living in my former city, I was resting by the side of a popular lap pool and overheard the conversation in the lane next to me.  An attractive man, divorced with a few kids (I picked this up from the conversation) and perhaps five or ten years older than me, was confessing to a male friend that he was afraid, after his last passionate break-up, that he was never going have another relationship with a woman.  He hadn’t met anyone he’d found attractive since and worried it was all over for him sexually– that perhaps those days were over.  His friend nervously rushed to deny that this would be the case and seemed uncomfortable with the conversation.  I was secretly wishing the man would notice me but certainly could not have injected myself into such a sensitive moment.

I thought of him last night because I was listening to a mental health podcast (The Mental Illness Happy Hour) in which a popular, older radio personality was being interviewed, and he expressed some of the same fears.  He worried he would never meet another woman or have sex or get married again and also feared becoming impotent.

Demographics are certainly in men’s favor as people age, but it seems they too feel the difficulty of locating a compatible mate as an older person.

Of course, luck plays a large part for everyone.  As proof, two years after I moved away, I visited my former city and returned to that swimming spot.  It was in the middle of a weekday and almost deserted.  Lo and behold, that same gentleman was there, and as I sat sunning myself by the side of the pool, he came up to me and initiated a conversation.  When I revealed that I was just visiting from another city, his face fell.

Argh.  Timing!