never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: July, 2012


Despite the name, babysitting is one of the most enjoyable, active jobs I’ve ever had.  I would take my charges to the swimming pool or the park or the ice skating rink, and if the child was a baby, I could read during naptime.

I’ve actually considered nannying, but it feels socially unacceptable considering my education and work experience.  Also a little weird, given that I would have liked to have spent a portion of my life staying home with a child of my own.


A had a conversation with a friend of mine this week in which we discussed our bleak work options.  One option is to find a job in which you are appealingly sequestered from the horrid public, but then you usually have to sit in a tiny cubicle for eight hours a day.  The second option is to find a job that offers more freedom of movement, but those almost always involve long days of waiting on the aforementioned horrid public.

I said the only solution is part-time work.  Either option is bearable if it’s only for half a day.

no apologies

And when someone suggests that his lifestyle might be, well, selfish? “Selfish means you’re doing something for your benefit to the detriment of others. If I choose not to have kids, that’s not about being selfish, it’s just about being a realist. I like ‘em but I don’t want them,” says Atkinson. “It’s more self-absorbed than selfish really. But I make no apologies for it.”


Perhaps I was intended for permanent childlessness, as I have always lived in the hipster parts of town:


According to USA Today, the fertility rate has plummeted to its lowest point in 25 years and isn’t expected to rebound anytime in the next two years, meaning that if the economy keeps sucking because it refuses to learn some good etiquette, America’s birthrates could be stunted for a long time. In 2007, birthrates were at a peak of 2.12 children per woman, but, as soon as the economy passed out naked on the coffee table, those rates fell 12 percent. They’re expected to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year.


Carrie: Maybe you could just stop by tomorrow and say: “I hear you had a baby. How’s that going?”
Samantha: I have no time. I’m booked all day. I have my hair appointment, and I’m returning a vibrator before that.
Carrie: Hair and a vibrator?
Samantha: Yes, that is my life, and I don’t have to justify it.

In my early thirties, when I first heard that bit of dialogue on Sex and the City, I laughed.  Now I find it so much more than merely amusing.  I see Samantha as representative of all childless, single, over-forty women who have spent their lives feeling little validation for their choices, as if nothing they do is as serious or worthy as having a child.   In the face of potentially losing another friend to motherhood while feeling the subtle interior and exterior pressure to prioritize her friend’s new role over her own pleasures, she is holding ever more tightly to them, to a seemingly silly degree.

I can relate.  While it makes logical sense that I would meet up with my new-mother friend at her home and around the schedule of her baby, over time the expectation that my needs should take a backseat does get grating.

I might substitute dance class and comedy shows for vibrators and hair appointments, but all the same, I don’t have to justify   them.

the village

I have a friend who is one of three sisters in her family.  Two of them (including my friend) have no children, and they have gone through mourning over missing their chance to be parents.  They weren’t in the right relationships though and didn’t have the money to go it on their own.  The third sister, despite being in a rocky marriage, had three children.  Her marriage eventually broke up, and she was left raising three young kids, two under five, and commuting an hour each way to a stressful, professional job from her house in the suburbs.  It sounds as if her life is in chaos and the kids are suffering from it.

I see this pattern in my friendships.  Some women foregoing the motherhood experience due to practical concerns; others ignoring those concerns and forging ahead with one, two, and sometimes three children despite lack of money and/or a supportive partner.

It is hard for me to know what to say when these women, struggling to raise one child, announce their intentions to have more, usually because they believe children should have siblings or it is their dream to have a large family.  I have a lot of beliefs and dreams, too, but that doesn’t mean that reality always aligns with them.  I sometimes encourage the idea of stopping at one, but mostly I keep my mouth shut.  Somehow, in our society, it is seen as cruel to suggest to someone that they aren’t in a position to have children.  Given that I am childless, my advice could also be written off as sour grapes.

And yet I wonder how supportive the childless are required to be to the heedless.  It does take a village to raise a child, and these children will be supporting the oldsters one day.  Also, if these women lived in a village in another country, having children would be easier and they would have a lot more institutional support.  Is it their fault that they don’t?  On the other hand, having foregone motherhood myself because I understood the reality of raising children in this country, it puts me in a frustrating bind.  I buy gifts and offer support through the first one, but I begin to falter when a tenuous situation is purposefully compounded.

Of course, given that this is the U.S., it is every woman for herself, and one can have as many kids as one wants but will be left alone to figure out alone how to care for them.  As a village, we need to offer more concrete support, while at the same time, figuring out the limits of that support.

Another one of my friends had a baby on her own, and her father has been a happy and involved grandpa.  When she thought about having a second, however, he said she couldn’t afford it.  She has gotten pregnant anyway and was incensed when she asked him to help financially and he suggested she abort.  It does sound harsh, right?  But is it?  Perhaps he is thinking of the child who is already here.


I was never the type of person to spend a lot of time just “hanging out” with friends, but even so, I do wish I had the kind of job and lived in the type of urban environment that would make socializing less of an exhausting ordeal.  My job takes up so much time and energy and allows for so little time off that I have become extremely selfish about how I spend my remaining hours.  At the same time, I feel guilty about being selfish and perhaps too often say “yes” as a way to compensate.  I can’t always draw the line between selfishness and self-preservation.

One of the reasons I put the non-relationship on ice is that it was impossible for me to spend several hours a week with a non-boyfriend while simultaneously trying to get “out there” and meet new people.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the week for both, and I felt the situation was unfair to me.

Getting “out there” is trying enough.  I attended a birthday party this month that was an hour’s drive away, resulting in a five-hour evening.  I didn’t have time to bring a present, but with that kind of drive I’m prone to believe that getting myself there IS the gift.  The next day I agreed to attend an event with a nice guy I haven’t seen in weeks.  Between lunch, the drive, the wait in line, and the event, another five hours of my weekend disappeared.  I admit that one of the factors contributing to my neutrality on a recent suitor is the fact that he lives an hour’s distance away.  On the one hand, I feel like I should be grateful for the invitations and the dates; on the other, I’m resentful that I’m supposed to feel grateful.

Then there’s my friend with the new baby.  I give her kudos for trying to keep up our friendship, but she was terrible with time management before the baby, so you can imagine the difficulty now.  When she wants to get together, it is not only at her place and on her schedule, but the appointed time is constantly in flux, and I am expected to accommodate all changes.

Given that it was fourteen months before I got my last week off and it will be approximately six or seven before I get another one, I finagled today off in an attempt to maintain my sanity.  I hadn’t taken my car into the shop in over a year, so I got that out of the way, and I bought some birthday presents and actually took a nap.  I wanted to attend an afternoon yoga class I usually can’t get to, especially since I have an early-morning meeting as well as an after-work event tomorrow, but my new-mother friend wanted to get together, so I decided to forego the class and honor the friendship.   Of course, at the appointed time, she called and said she needed to reschedule for an hour and a half later (probably, she would call) but couldn’t do any later than that (so I could attend the yoga class) because of the family pattern to the evenings.  I agreed but in my hunger started my own dinner, thus making me unready when she did call to say she’d arrived home.  While hastily cooking, I received a call from a friend reporting on a health concern (I couldn’t pick up or call her back) and my mother called with pressing news that I addressed, but brusquely.

I arrived late, and my friend commented on it.  My fault, of course… her rescheduling went unmentioned.  The whole visit was rushed, with me playing with the baby for half an hour while she took a phone call and chopped vegetables.   I had biked and needed to get home before dark, causing us to rush the baby’s walk, making me feel terrible.. and so on.  The usual.  I suppose the only blame I feel secure in taking on is the fact that I, this time, should have insisted on rescheduling.


From Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz, p. 75:

The prevalence of “sexiness” and of increasingly more stringent criteria of beauty have had the effect of increasing the subjective importance of youth and consequently the awareness of aging, especially among women.  While until the nineteenth century, an “older” woman (a woman in her late twenties) might have been desirable based on her accumulation of property or money, modern criteria of sexiness, because they are associated with youth and appearance, make women highly conscious of the process of aging and, thus, accentuate the organization of femininity within the cultural category of time (in pre-modern Europe, in 25% of marriages the man was younger than the woman).

This passage struck me as highly reminiscent of one of my earlier laments:


Some weeks ago I had a eureka moment, walking along the well-trodden pavement between the cafe and my house, that never again was I going to be in the business of trying to convince someone.

The one big takeaway from the Eva Illouz book Why Love Hurts is that we currently live in an environment where women feel they have to convince men to love and commit to them.  Like the plankton, I am done convincing.  I have too many other things to do!   I no longer want to spend my time second-guessing a man’s desire or marketing myself.

I’m available if I happen to be what someone is looking for, but from now on I will let him do the convincing.