never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: June, 2012


This post on the blog “Living My Life”

led me to another post on finding one’s purpose when one is childfree

One of the five keys that is mentioned, “release the need to be socially validated,” has been particularly difficult for me.  I would imagine it would be a stumbling block for a lot of women, as we are primed, as a gender, to seek validation from others.

The blogger expands her point:

Another vital step in finding and claiming your life purpose is letting go of the desire for validation and approval from others. It takes a lot of courage to make life decisions that are not validated by our society. When many of my friends began getting married and having babies, I observed that everywhere they went people were smiling and congratulating them. Their life choices were an occasion for celebration and gifts, while my own life choices to remain unmarried and childfree were cause for thinly veiled disapproval, pity and confusion.

No matter how independent and self aware you are, its comforting to think that those around you agree with and approve of your life choices. It can be disheartening to realize that from now on you will have to either let go of this luxury completely or find inventive ways of giving validation and approval to yourself.

I’ve always agreed with the sentiment that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  These days,  I don’t hear much in the way of disapproval over my life choices; once I passed forty, I stopped hearing much of anything at all.  I live more in a vacuum of indifference than the state of active disapproval I sometimes felt in my thirties.

In turn, I’ve become indifferent to social approval.  That’s a muscle everyone should develop eventually; I feel like I’ve had a decade’s head start.


Mr. Osmond could be speaking of my former, smaller city of residence–in many ways a sweetly provincial place– in Portrait of a Lady, Chapter 24:

Mr. Osmond talked of Florence, of Italy, of the
pleasure of living in that country and of the abatements to the
pleasure. There were both satisfactions and drawbacks; the
drawbacks were numerous; strangers were too apt to see such a
world as all romantic. It met the case soothingly for the human,
for the social failure–by which he meant the people who couldn’t
”realise,” as they said, on their sensibility: they could keep it
about them there, in their poverty, without ridicule, as you
might keep an heirloom or an inconvenient entailed place that
brought you in nothing. Thus there were advantages in living in
the country which contained the greatest sum of beauty. Certain
impressions you could get only there. Others, favourable to life,
you never got, and you got some that were very bad. But from time
to time you got one of a quality that made up for everything.
Italy, all the same, had spoiled a great many people; he was even
fatuous enough to believe at times that he himself might have
been a better man if he had spent less of his life there. It made
one idle and dilettantish and second-rate; it had no discipline
for the character, didn’t cultivate in you, otherwise expressed,
the successful social and other “cheek” that flourished in Paris
and London.  “We’re sweetly provincial,” said Mr. Osmond, “and I’m
perfectly aware that I myself am as rusty as a key that has no
lock to fit it. It polishes me up a little to talk with you–not
that I venture to pretend I can turn that very complicated lock I
suspect your intellect of being! But you’ll be going away before
I’ve seen you three times, and I shall perhaps never see you
after that. That’s what it is to live in a country that people
come to. When they’re disagreeable here it’s bad enough; when
they’re agreeable it’s still worse. As soon as you like them
they’re off again! I’ve been deceived too often; I’ve ceased to
form attachments, to permit myself to feel attractions.

the fight

Because, believe me, the system is not going to gladly give you what you want. You are going to have to fight for it. Whether it is expanded human rights, more free time, economic and social justice, environmental protections, a good education for your child, a safe neighborhood: You are going to have to fight for these things.

This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and camp out at Zuccotti Park (though that wouldn’t be such a bad idea if you didn’t have the baby). (p.s. apropos of nothing, isn’t it cool that Zuccotti Park is on Liberty Street?) It just means don’t blame yourself for feeling bad when you’re being mistreated by an economic system that is fundamentally set up to mistreat you.


I did get out this week with a tennis group and played some games.  The group consisted mostly of men, and they were gracious and welcoming.  I will continue playing with them, but OMG, they hit the ball hard and fast.

Several years ago, in another attempt to meet new people and especially men, I joined an amateur dodgeball league.  I was scheduled to get lasik surgery around that time so had to wear my glasses for a few weeks.  My ophthalmologist, naturally, frowned upon the dodgeball idea.

The referee at the first game explained that it was against the rules to aim for someone’s head, so I felt it was safe to play.  First game, first maneuver, a ball smashed into my face and sent my glasses skittering across the floor.   And that was the end of that.

A few years later, I joined an amateur softball league, where I also met some men, although I had minimal playing ability and was, in fact, afraid of the so-called softball.  I found it painful to catch.

I’m currently in possession of an old mountain bike, so I could find a group and hit some mountains, or I could get back into surfing, or take up rock climbing or skiing.  All good ways to meet men, I’m sure, but perhaps not for a middle-aged woman with an autoimmune disease.  Must I master death-defying maneuvers in order to meet a guy?

I guess I could take up golf.

curve power

“The curve is more powerful than the sword.”  -Mae West

I’m feeling a bit “Mae West” these days.  For one thing, my chest, is, well…bigger.  This can happen in your late thirties and forties, although nobody informed me of this possibility.  I also am getting a bit of that belly fat that one is supposed to fight, although I’ve read that it’s a good thing, as belly fat produces estrogen, keeping you young and easing you through the decade ahead.

My meds, furthermore, might be causing me to accumulate some extra pounds, even as they allow me to rev up my activity levels.  There’s been some writing over on Sex, Lies, & Dating in the City on this (, to which I’m very sympathetic.

I am, however, trying to embrace my new physique, as I don’t think I have a reasonable alternative.  My gym has been offering belly dancing workouts, and I’ve been shimmying with the rest of them, if not the best of them.  The experience not only reminds me of Satin Rouge, but also of a book I read and enjoyed a decade ago called Snake Hips:

heading south

In my earlier posts about the dearth of films concerning single women over forty, I forgot about the film Heading South with Charlotte Rampling.  It is about a trio of middle-aged women who journey to Haiti in search of younger sex partners.  I wish the film had been better, but it does address not only issues of exploitation but issues of older women feeling “left on the shelf.”

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

There is nothing exotic about the Haiti depicted in Laurent Cantet’s adaptation of Dany Laferriere’s stories about middle aged American women whose role reversal in the sex tourism trade is a refined and complex version of what many Australian men find enticing in Asia. The sky is forever overcast like an omen, and the atmosphere bristles with the socio-political clash of touristic bonhomie and resident oppression.

The women are older than the teenagers they seduce with money and/or gifts, so they can once again touch youth – both metaphorically and physically. But the film’s tone is more robust than that sounds, with Charlotte Rampling energising her scenes and Menothy Cesar adding a complexity to his character of Legba that helps define the film’s dramatic throughline. Karen Young is terrific as the strangely naïve yet determined divorcee coming to rekindle a special holiday romance, and Lys Ambroise is a melancholy presence representing the indigenous Haitians who have seen all the foreigners come and go, didn’t like any of them and now have to suffer the ignominy of oppression under their own people.

Sex and politics is a heady mix, and Cantet uses these elements to great advantage; the script stumbles in its oblique treatment of a pivotal dramatic incident in the final act, but even so, the film makes for an engaging and haunting experience. The mise en scene is powerfully evocative and the demons revealed by the key characters ride rampant through our imaginations.

Review by Louise Keller:

Hot sex in the Haitian sun is the main thrust of Laurent Cantet’s Heading South, but melancholy and loneliness are the film’s key emotions. Women over 40 flock to the palm tree lined idyllic beaches where hunky and attentive Haitian men are sex toys for the taking. The film is a mix of fascinating voyeurism as we glean an insight into the lives of three women who escape their everyday lives to ‘have fun’ in the sun. Cantet’s exploration of love, lust and loneliness is at its best when we watch the women on the beach expose their emotions, but his attempt at including more (such as a documentary-like revelations about each of the women, and a clumsy head-on encounter with political voodoo) is less successful.

‘You didn’t come here for a tan,’ says Charlotte Rampling’s Ellen to Karen Young’s Brenda, who has just found her feet in the sand. But it is clear that nobody comes to Haiti for a tan. The attraction is sex on legs, and the price tag is flexible – dollars or gifts. Rampling portrays a lonely and somewhat desperate 55 year old woman who tries to give ‘a free reign’ to the charming Legba (Menothy Cesar), but her outwardly free-spirited attitude is caught up by the combination lock of her heart. She is relaxed but cannot help reveal her jealousy when Ellen arrives. Ellen makes no pretence about her notions of romantic love; after all it was while holidaying here with her then husband, that she met Legba in a life-changing encounter.

Politics crash into cupid’s euphoria, and suddenly there is ugliness in the lovers’ tropical paradise. The final act is long and tedious, and the climactic twist confusing. There is much, however, that is enticing about this glimpse of life where sex is a commodity for women in search of a little attention. The performances are so real, we can almost feel their shame.

the mona lisa

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to become a better listener– to speak less and listen more and not interrupt.

I find, however, that if too much time elapses between intimate conversations, I am in danger of letting loose with an uninterrupted, rapid stream of updates when someone calls.  It is like an explosion of pent-up thoughts needs to occur before I can relax and become a good listener again.

In regard to the topics on this blog, I was finding myself being indiscreet before I started writing about them.  I can recall a hike with an ex-boyfriend in which I aired some of my frustration and anger.  He didn’t seem to mind, but I remember thinking that perhaps I needed to either find another outlet or employ a therapist.

The blog has been an immense help.  I no longer feel the need to try and connect in conversation on these topics and can talk about other things with acquaintances as well as just listen.

oh lourdes

I recall reading an interview with Madonna once about having a child and she said something to the effect that before motherhood her life was “me, me, me” and now it is “me, me, her, me.”

All different types of people have children for all different reasons, but I used to wonder why my self-centered acquaintances would have them, as parenting requires so much self-sacrifice.   It’s beginning to make sense to me though.

Socializing with adults is tricky and requires constant negotiation.  They are not easy to bend to one’s will; they require compromise.  It’s difficult, furthermore, to form friendships as one ages and to feel like one is an important member of a social circle.

Children, in contrast, are generally inclined to love and adore their parents, and, as a parent, one is in charge of the show.  One can fully retreat into parenthood, feel like a saint for doing so, and garner attention and admiration through one’s offspring.

On RHONY this past week, Aviva stated that she loved nothing more than to stay home with her kids and was content to decline party invitations to do so.  Her home life did appear quite cozy and appealing, and her kids are cute, but is she hiding behind her family?

Growing up, my family did all the usual things– purchased Christmas trees, threw birthday parties, worked on homework together.  And yet, looking back, I don’t think we were a family-directed family.  My sister and I were never “best friends” with our parents or with each other.  None of us ever said we preferred spending time with each other over socializing with others.  My parents liked to stay home and read, but they were other-directed, as in, more interested in the lives of their friends and other people than in their family unit.  My sister stopped at one child because she said she didn’t want parenting to take over her life.

My mother now says she regrets that we aren’t all closer to each other and that she doesn’t have a bigger family, but I think that is only because she is finding socializing difficult as an older woman alone.  If she had her druthers, I’m sure she would prefer a full social life with her peers.  Studies have shown that is what makes most older adults happiest, not spending time with their children.

on the move

A friend of mine told me the other day that I should consider moving to somewhere else besides my former city of residence.  The idea of moving back does slightly bore me, but I have roots there, family nearby, property I own, and years vested in that city’s pension system.

I’m also unsure if I have it in me to start all over again in a city where I know no one.  I fantasize about Canada occasionally, but my last move took a lot out of me;  adjusting to my current city of residence has been, at times, overwhelming.  I was also in better health then, as I hadn’t developed the autoimmune disease.

Finally, when I undertook that last move, I was leaving behind a community in which I had firm footing.   In the last six years, in contrast, I’ve been standing on quicksand, and the effort involved has weakened my resolve.


More Madame Merle, Chapter 19, Portrait of a Lady:

But Madame Merle sometimes said things that startled her, made
her raise her clear eyebrows at the time and think of the words
afterwards. “I’d give a great deal to be your age again,” she
broke out once with a bitterness which, though diluted in her
customary amplitude of ease, was imperfectly disguised by it. “If
I could only begin again–if I could have my life before me!”

“Your life’s before you yet,” Isabel answered gently, for she was
vaguely awe-struck.

“No; the best part’s gone, and gone for nothing.”

“Surely not for nothing,” said Isabel.

“Why not–what have I got? Neither husband, nor child, nor
fortune, nor position, nor the traces of a beauty that I never

“You have many friends, dear lady.”

“I’m not so sure!” cried Madame Merle.

“Ah, you’re wrong. You have memories, graces, talents–“

But Madame Merle interrupted her. “What have my talents brought
me? Nothing but the need of using them still, to get through the
hours, the years, to cheat myself with some pretence of movement,
of unconsciousness. As for my graces and memories the less said
about them the better. You’ll be my friend till you find a better
use for your friendship.”