never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: August, 2012


In the subject line of your letter you ask, “Am I nothing else now that I am a mother?” If that is not a political question, I don’t know what is. This is a political situation.

Your husband is obviously unhappy. But his is a privileged unhappiness. That is the awful paradox of how families preserve sexist relations in the larger society: Your husband is not happy in his bleak cocoon of numb anger but he is doing what he thinks he is supposed to do. Because he is the privileged one, he can sit quietly and watch everything fall apart to no one’s benefit but no one will say that he was an asshat for doing so. They will blame you for what you have been driven to by your unhappiness, by your isolation in your marriage. That is what I fear will happen if you leave your husband for this man you have fallen in love with.

latching on

As recently as a year or so ago, I believed that the marginally-employed yet creative-and-smart wannabe actors, comics, and screenwriters who fill this town would be interested in a woman with a stable job and benefits that could be shared with a partner.  Having kids was starting to look less and less likely, and I was becoming increasingly open to the idea of partnerships where the tradeoff was something other than the man being the provider.  I figured a “creative” could bring lots of other things to the table, such as an entry point into a more exciting community, invitations to fun parties, creative inspiration, spark.  I could bring the health insurance and stable income.

I once heard a comic do a bit on this idea, in which he said, “I don’t understand my friends who say they don’t want a relationship.  If you meet a woman with health insurance who is okay with this whole comedy thing, I say, latch on boys.  Latch on.”

I have since learned, though, that most of them in fact don’t want a serious relationship, or if they do, they are already in one and probably already settled in their careers.  The rest are too focused on making it in a cutthroat business, and if they haven’t made it, they don’t want to be tied down with responsibilities.  Or at least that is what I tell myself.  They may also be waiting to make it so that they can settle down with a much hotter babe.

Now, when I meet an aspiring creative, my first thought is that he won’t want any kind of real relationship.  I met one in a bar a few weeks ago.  An aspiring actor and filmmaker, which made my heart sink.  He was a bit tipsy and was talking too loudly and spitting on me.  Over the course of the conversation, however, it came out that he had a real and responsible day job, was my age, and could keep up with some of my offbeat literary references.  I opened to the idea of giving him a chance, as he lived in my neighborhood.  Geographic closeness is huge here!  He did, though, tell me that his parents had recently lost all their money.  AGAIN with the upfront confession of “I have financial issues,” which as I’ve said before seems to be code for, “I don’t want a relationship.”

Anyway.  He texted me his contact info and some email exchanges happened and then… nothing.  Lesson learned again.

out there

There are a small number of single women in my current city with whom I have gone to social events in the last  few months.  One is in her twenties and lives an hour to the north.  Another one in her twenties lives about half an hour to the west.  One is recently divorced, in her late thirties, has a child, and lives an hour to the south.  The fourth is long-divorced, in her fifties, and lives a half hour to the east; she has gotten back in touch since her recent break-up with a boyfriend.   I know them all from work.  North and west know each other but the rest don’t.

I appreciate being able to invite these women to things so that I don’t have to always go everywhere alone, but it’s not really enough to make me feel secure.  I wouldn’t call on them in an emergency (well, maybe the woman to the east).  We talk about work and dating and being single, but our conversations are too infrequent for sustaining depth.

I am still thinking I should move back to my home state because at least I have family there.  It’s difficult to imagine growing older with such tenuous real-life connections.

Thankfully for my psychological health there is the blogosphere:

In my Real Life, I can count the single/childfree close friends who are my age on ONE FINGER (I’m looking at you, Kathleen. Wait. You’re almost a decade younger than me… LOL.) Everyone else has a boy/girlfriend, a live-in partner, a husband/wife, or at minimum one child.

But on the Internet? There are a TON of us. I was lucky enough to meet some of these people at the BlogHer conference, and I hope to meet many more next year (I’m planning on pitching a session idea for My Peeps). And I know from just reading Going Solo that there is a HUGE population of singletons out there in America — and in the world.


…look around. What messages are you getting? …we are different. In HUGE ways.

So I battle the outside and inside voices that beat me down for being single and childless. I work on my mental health every day to find the strength to be enough just as I am. It’s hard work! I’m completely serious. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m worthy and special, despite SO MANY commercials, movies, books, and magazine articles that speak otherwise. I have to fight to keep my childfree head above the water sometimes. I feel like a failure sometimes. I get my feelings hurt a lot. I feel ostracized and outcast. I end up questioning my purpose in the world.


One of the most difficult yet motivating aspects of entering my forties has been the realization that there is no longer a someday.  This is it.  There is no longer a good rationale for pushing the life I want to live, or at least the meat of it, into the future.

I realize that by living for someday, I nailed down some (much-appreciated) security, but I permanently lost some opportunities, too. Now is the time to bring the ones I have left into flower.

If it had always been my dream to secure a top administrative post, I would be in a good position to live out that dream now.  But to do so, for me, would be living for someday again, because I would only be doing it for the money, so that someday I could live the life I dreamed of for myself.

After all, when is someday going to start?


Just recently I’ve been hatching the same plan:

Skip Town wrote:

Why oh why must we make ourselves suffer? It’s better to avoid situations that make us feel bad, instead of forcing ourselves to attend an event we don’t want to attend. Is the wedding invitation supposed to be a subpoena? Is it a crime not to attend? If I am not sabotaging someone else’s wedding, then I’ve done nothing wrong.

Here’s how I’m going to cope. The next time a relative sends me a subpoena, I will book a vacation. Oops sorry, I will be out of town that week/weekend. They usually subpeona us early enough that it should be easy to plan the summer vacations. Have one subpoena for July and one for August? Book one week vacation in July and another one in August! Out of vacation time? Book a weekend trip! No money for travel? Drive/bus to see a friend who lives in the next town an hour away!

I enter online sweepstakes as a hobby, and I am entering trip sweeps like crazy; in case I need to prepare for the next wave. Even if I don’t win, I will at least book cheap vacations nearby if I get subpoenaed!


If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on. Instead, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (which collects data well into adulthood), none of these things is occurring. Not one.The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it. And it’s all thanks to supply and demand.


At my very first full-time, professional job, I would ride a train in from a parking lot every morning.  I remember feeling pretty miserable on that train.  Working full-time was a rude shock, and I despaired at the thought of doing it for the rest of my life.

Compounding this feeling was the fact that I had moved from a fun, youthful city to a sleepy one where I didn’t know a soul in order to gain professional experience.  I had been too inexperienced in the ways of the world to realize that in a lot of cities in the U.S., there’s not a whole lot of social life to be found after college.  This was also pre-internet times, so I had to wait for the mail to arrive to hear from friends or for the weekend to arrive so we could talk on the phone.  There was no such thing as surfing the net at work or emailing your buddies.  It was grim.

Only a few months into the job,  I signed up for a photography course at a local junior college.  I loved it; this was back in the dark(room) days.  I had a small crush on my much older professor and started going to clubs at night to photograph people, eventually creating the publicity photos for a local band.  All of this activity tided me over for the year, and then, nonplussed with working life in the U.S., I decided to try living abroad.

Developing this resourcefulness served me well in my working years to come.  I always offset the dull routine of work with hobbies, eventually falling in with lively creative scenes.  In the back of my mind, however, I thought my life of living alone, working full-time, and “getting out there” would eventually end, and I would get married and possibly have kids.

In my thirties, I was talking to a friend once about the vagaries of dating and she said, “We are resourceful women.  We should be able to figure this out.”  Unfortunately, my resourcefulness only seems to come in handy in so far as steering my own, individual path; other people are another ball of wax altogether.

It’s hard for me to believe that twenty years later, I’m still living alone, working full-time, and filling my free time with hobbies.  It’s led me to question the whole system.  If there’s no pay-off, for what am I working so hard?

the dark side

I’m finally starting to feel better physically, and this week is going better than the last two.  Generally, I wake up feeling fine and look forward to surfing my favorite websites.  I’m busy (usually too busy) at work, and I have a few coworkers with whom I can have meaningful conversations.  When I come home, I usually go to a class in yoga or dance.  Then I read for as long as I can stay awake.

All good until my head hits the pillow, when that same old feeling of unease bubbles to the surface.  I still think it’s from not having at least one really good female friend with whom I can discuss moving forward in my life without a traditional family.  I’m feeling enthusiastic about the plans I’m formulating for my future, but I can’t deny that I’m currently in a lonely place.  I related to this post today:

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

back up

We see some friends just grow old and tired of fighting [to maintain this way of life], especially when not backed up by solid love connections.

–from Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, p. 51

cutting to the chase

I love listening to these two ladies in conversation:

I agree that when you are dating online, it’s best to meet ASAP.  I hated having to talk on the phone with someone I hadn’t even met yet.  It’s so awkward.  I also hated scheduling an evening around a phone call.

Also there’s some interesting discussion of what happens when you are a bit too old for OKCupid but not quite ready for seniorville.

Thus far, I’ve resisted any thoughts of returning online– my recent dates have all resulted from real-life encounters.