never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: May, 2012


This past month a former intern of mine, a woman in her early twenties, announced her pregnancy on Facebook.  No big surprise, although she had been in the midst of a professional job search.  Perhaps she figured she might as well get pregnant since she hadn’t found a job.

At the same time, an acquaintance of mine from my years spent living abroad, a woman just past forty, announced her pregnancy, also via Facebook.  That one was harder for me.  She was one of the last of that group to remain childless.

As I’ve written before, I’ve lived several lives and have been part of multiple communities, from high school to college to grad school to living abroad to dance to theater to all my various jobs in various cities.  It seems that almost all the people I have known from those diverse phases have gone on to marry and have children, leaving me feeling a bit alienated from each community I’ve participated in.  Sometimes I feel painted into the loneliest corner on earth.

I finally got around to creating “categories” on this blog (see bottom of page) and have been slowly slogging through over 300 entries this week, categorizing them.  I’ve barely made a dent, but going back and starting at the beginning of the blog has been enlightening.  I definitely feel that I’ve gotten to a better place as this year has moved along, but those late-in-life pregnancy announcements still have a way of dragging me back.


Lately I’ve been immersed in listening to a Raymond Chandler novel on audiobook.  I’ve never been a reader of the mystery genre, but now I do see the appeal.  Detectives tend to be loners, and the genre’s mood feels adult in a way that is becoming absent in our culture.

risky endeavors

This viral video encapsulates so well my recent post about my past fears over having children:

The thing is, having children is risky.  It’s always surprising to me how things turn out.

Years ago I knew a woman in her thirties (an age that seemed ancient to me at the time) who was determined to find a husband and have children.  She had been through a drug problem and struck me as a bit cold and self-interested; it was difficult for me to picture her as a mother.  She was not conventionally pretty, but she did end up getting married and went on to have beautiful twin girls who look nothing like her.  I have no idea what kind of mother she turned out to be, but the girls are picture perfect on Facebook.

On the other hand, I know of a woman who was in love with a man who refused to settle down and start a family.  In her thirties she broke up with him and married a man she was not attracted to and didn’t love.  He had fertility issues, so she utilized in vitro and ended up having premature twins with massive, long-term health complications.

You just never know.


Years ago I learned that, out of loneliness and habit, I will easily end up in social situations in which I am banging my head against a wall.  My remedy for that has been the “cold turkey” approach.  For a period of time, I will simply stop calling a certain person or stop showing up at certain events.  It’s always painful at first, but eventually I will feel relieved to have left the situation behind and will no longer miss it.   By that point I can encounter the person or persons with a neutral emotional response.

These past few months I’ve been going through all that again.  I decided to take a break from one scene and immerse myself in a completely new one, if for nothing else to be around new people with new passions and new perspectives.  I felt lonely, bored, and disconnected for a while, but now I feel re-centered.

I re-encountered some of the old acquaintances this past weekend.  One of them, a man who had flirted with me while involved with a woman he ended up marrying, went into effusive praise over his wife.

I felt nothing.


survey says

“It’s unclear whether having children gives our lives meaning, or whether kids just satisfy a preset societal idea about how we ought to be extracting meaning from our lives” writes GOOD’s Amanda Hess, adding that “it should give us pause that women report locating meaning in their lives through something that does not actually make them happy. ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and ‘what is the meaning of my life?’ are two questions that should not be so easily confused.”



Most people I know will, in a well-intentioned spirit of inclusion, invite everyone they know when they throw a party.  It’s a nice gesture, but the result is often a random, ill-matched bunch of guests.

When I do actually get around to entertaining these days, I try to put a little more thought into the guest list.  I don’t like having to exclude people, but I know everyone who attends will have a better time if, at each party I throw, I bring together a different group of people for specific reasons (and there’s also the necessity of whittling down the invitees, as I live in a small apartment with no backyard).  Last year I actually managed to pull off a dinner party with about sixteen older singles that was 50/50 male female, and  yes, all the men were straight.

I was reminded of this over the weekend because a female acquaintance of mine threw a small, erotically-themed party with a 50/50 male female list of invitees.   I believe three or four of us were ever singles while the other three were divorced parents.  I went in with some dread, as I don’t know the hostess well and knew none of the other quests.  It was indeed awkward in the beginning, but by the end of the evening we were all relaxed and rolling in laughter.  I’m glad I stuck it out.  It was an entertaining, adult evening.

The other party I attended over the weekend was a toddler’s birthday party.  Now I realize that there are many single people who are delighted to be included in such events and in fact are hurt when they aren’t invited.  I am not one of those people.  I went, though, because the mother who invited me has been a good friend and has attempted in the past to invite single men to her family gatherings for me, albeit without much success.

The birthday party was decidedly less fun, and I didn’t have the fortitude to stick it out.  Each child already had two adults hovering over him or her and hardly needed a third, especially an unknown one.  After a few attempts at small talk and a half hour of watching the children play, there just wasn’t much left for me to do or say.

I also experienced being in the presence of one of those mothers of a small child who simply does not register your presence if you are a single woman.  I understand that parents of young children probably have no time, energy, or interest in befriending a random new single woman, but when they don’t talk to me, or they answer my questions without asking any in return, the only thing left for me to do is stand around and coo over the children, the very ones whose parents are ignoring me.

I can pass on that.


This past week I had lunch with a work friend to whom I confessed my feelings of surprise and envy at seeing the photo of my former college acquaintance in front of her large new house with her husband and three children.

I explained that if I widened my lens, I realized I had a lot to be thankful for, but when I compared myself to the people I considered my peers– my former high school and college friends– I felt I came up short.  There’s something painful about thinking back on all of us at twenty and then fast forwarding to today, where many are living in nice homes with large families and I’m still in a one-bedroom apartment.

My lunch companion, who is going through a divorce, said it’s easy for her to feel the same way when she looks at the wealthy wives in her neighborhood or her high school friends who are able to afford huge homes back in her home state.  In reality, though, she’s much happier now that she has shed the stress of maintaining a house and cooking and cleaning for a husband.  Her workload at home is lighter, and she’s able to treat herself to nights on the town and tennis lessons when her child stays with her ex.

I also came to the realization during our conversation that, on the surface, perhaps my life seems enviable to others;  I could certainly spin it that way.  The actual reality is complex, but I’m glad I tackled the challenge of living in an exciting city; for the time being, it gives me some feelings of pride.

We did both agree that while, on the whole, are jobs are decent, the stay-at-home wives we know are lucky to be sheltered from the dispiriting B.S. we have to put up with on a regular basis.  They have no idea, we think.

one to avoid

Movies such as What to Expect act as if child-rearing were divinely ordained. There’s no alternative on screen to all the insane baby fever. And I do mean insane: There is hardly a shred of believable human behavior in this film. Granted, I haven’t hung out with a pregnant woman for nine months straight, but Banks’s and Diaz’s inanely hyperbolic performances sure do feel like the sort of caricatures that exist only in a Hollywood type’s head. (By the way, it goes without saying that just about everybody in this movie is well-off enough that a baby will present no great financial burden to them. Too bad if you’re sitting in the audience and can’t afford a child—you’re probably not worthy to be a parent anyway.) But the movie’s shrill, hysterical women and emasculated, browbeaten men are explained away because that’s what you gotta live with when you’re having a baby. Even the husbands’ lone single buddy eventually realizes that having a baby is in his future, too. And guess what? He’s cool with it! Not only are babies inevitable in our lives, it’s very important that we understand how great they are. Otherwise, the film argues, you’re not a grownup and you’re not a part of adult society. You’re not one of us.


Learning lessons in one’s twenties feels valuable.  As the NY Times article on “emerging adulthood” mentioned, the twenties is a growth-oriented, self-focused time of life.  As a twentysomething, one feels that lessons can be applied in a timely manner and lead to future success.

Learning lessons in one’s forties is a more muddled experience.  On the one hand, I suppose it’s a plus that I have grown emotionally from the experience of being an “outsider” as a single, childless adult.   On the other hand, painful growth at this stage feels a bit pointless.

At least growth through meditation feels good– there’s that.



I was a fan of Sex and the City, but like many people, was disappointed by the unlikely ending to the series.  Given my experience as a long-term single, I think a more realistic ending would have looked like this:

Carrie would have lost touch with Big years before, only to find out that, at 50, he married a 35-year-old, had two kids, and described his new family as finally giving “meaning” to his life.

As the two ever-singles, Carrie and Samantha would go through a tempestuous period and eventually stop speaking to each after one mammoth fight.

Much to Carrie’s surprise and dismay, stalwart, feminist Miranda would disappear on her after marriage and motherhood.

Charlotte’s friendship would prove surprisingly enduring, but evenings with her would involve staying at home with her children, which, for Carrie, would have limited appeal.

Carrie would realize that writing a dating column into her forties was a losing proposition and so would agree to move to Paris with the dashing Frenchman.  The relationship would become difficult, but she would hang on long enough to become somewhat, but not completely, comfortable in Paris.  She would realize it’s difficult to start over in your forties.

The relationship would eventually end, but Carrie would stay on in Paris, all the while wondering if she should return to New York and fretting that maybe it’s true that “you can never go home again.”

Miranda would reestablish a long-distance connection after getting divorced.

The End