never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: September, 2012

doubling down

Given my recent post “spiraling,” I tend to agree with the commenter almightymonkey:

I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions of this article.

One of the effects of feminism has been that, essentially, the labour market has doubled from what it would of been for my Grandparents generation – and that’s not taking into account the amount of work now done by machines instead of people.

This should of been great news for everyone – Rather than the old ‘breadwinner/homemaker’ dynamic which exhausted men and repressed women, you get two part time workers who share equal responsibility for home and work and who between them live a much more balanced and happier lifestyle, committing more time to both the kids and their own interests.

Captialism, being what it is of course, meant that instead of an improved lifestyle and a fairer, happier society, the mortgage simply doubled (and the rest) in price – parents now have to both work full time to make the same ends that 60 years ago a man alone was able to make meet. There are half the jobs and we need double the money. Funnily enough, that hasn’t worked out too well.


the bitter boob

I just received this comment today; I’m posting it because it is entirely representative of a certain male anger out there, and I figure if I give it a spotlight these men can then refrain writing in from their scary basement apartments (how I always picture them), shouting the same points over and over and over ad nauseum (although I doubt they will).  Never mind that he is responding to my post “instability,” which is referencing an article written by a man– those subtleties are lost on him because he just can’t wait to write in and reiterate his points about cat ladies, feminists, career women, the cock carosel (misspelled naturally), and “aging prunes”.

So one last time, here we go (all future comments along these lines will go directly to the trash):

“We live such long lives now, yet our social world has failed to keep up.”There have *always* been cat ladies. Thing is these represented the exception to the rule not the majority. The wages of feminism, of wasting your youth pursuing a career, riding the cock carosel, and in putting off having a family to claw up the corporate ladder for a job you don’t want all to appease the ‘you go grrl’ feminazis has produced a large crop of very bitter fruit. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for you?“I first felt this when male peers passed me over as “too old” to date when I was only in my thirties, and I feel it now, when it is so difficult to find anyone at all in my forties, and I consider the idea of spending decades alone.”Well cupcake maybe some wisdom tweenty years ago would have helped you – too bad you didn’t have any. You *used to have* the looks to attract a man but you squandered this and now you are an aging prune with no prospects. You spent all your best years screaming and scheming for promotions and only now figure it out that men do NOT care about your many advanced degrees and posh corporate position? Despite the rhetoric you can’t have it all – husband/family OR posh corporate office. You chose, now you regret. A man would get no sympathy for such a decision and since its all about equality I will certainly not offer any myself. And yes, as a 42 year old male with a good job I would pass on you for a much younger woman with no guilt, period. You have nothing to offer me or anyone like me and no, middleaged, Oprah fueled fabulousness is not special nor is your ability to produce power points.“I feel it when I’m tired of my job and imagine plowing ahead another twenty-five years or so with no breaks from the workplace. God forbid we quit a job before finding another one, especially in an ageist job market, despite how much we may need a break.”

Yes well you wanted a mans life and choose that for yourself and what you describe men have done for literally thousands of years. Work sucks, that is why they pay you for it. If work was entertaining and fun you would pay the employer for same just like you pay to go to Disney world or for other entertainment. The only difference here between you and the entire male sex is that we are expected to keep it up, while shutting up, even if we really want a ‘break’ and keep doing this until we are dead. You think you deserve actualy *sympathy* for such a position? How many men in your office will work themselves to death? Mans life – work until you die – no excuses. You girls wanted this claiming that we were somehow denying you something because we were afraid of you beating us in it or whatever. Well – now you have it. Enjoy.

“It’s time to think about these long, undefined periods of life and imagine what can be done with them other than more of the same (especially those of us who aren’t busy caring for families):”

No it is time for work especially for you princess not so much anymore. You chose a career, fine, shutup, showup, and work. You are not entitled to a ‘break’ while others work to support you and your stupid decisions. You are not entitled to sympathy, money, time off or anything else. You must work for your bread because that is the life you chose. We men do not have a choice in this – you did – and you chose our path. Now you live and die with it and I hope you enjoy a fine 3+ decades of cat ownership. Perhaps the next generation will do better – or rather they will if you and your kind would actually warn them rather than trying to pull them into hell with you.

Good day…


The insanity continues, and I’m so glad to not be caught in it:

Some comments (that make me realize I can’t afford kids):

I live in Manhattan with 2 kids and our HHI is about 400k. If you looked at our everyday life, we do not live like rich people. The kids are in public school. We don’t go on vacations. Our clothes are from Old Navy. We don’t own a car. BUT, we save a lot (for retirement and to send the kids to private college – if that’s what they want – which I assume will be around 80k/year by the time they’re 18.) And we choose to live in this ridiculously expensive city. No one is forcing us to live here and no one is forcing that UB mom. Even if she is trolling, I know plenty of people who think the way she does. And most of them send their kids to private school so thankfully I don’t have to deal with them regularly. My kids go to a fantastically diverse school (economically, racially, etc) and I expect they will grow up with an appropriate perspective about wealth.


Let’s do some math:
400K to start with – 30% taxes (low est) – 15% savings (high est) – 50K nanny – 80K school (for 2, highest possible) – 48k (mortgage and condo fees, low est.) = $52,000 year for family of 4 to eat, get transportation (NB: car not covered above), be clothed, have books and entertainment, see doctors, buy gifts and take vacations, etc. That’s $1000/week left of $7,700/week pre tax income. It is most certainly not nothing. It’s nothing close to poverty, but it doesn’t strike me (as a NYC-dweller) as very rich.

I recognize that many many many many people make less than $1000/week and survive just fine, living quite well, depending on their location. And no one should complain about $1000/week. But it’s all relative and while I think griping like this should be kept private, it’s not 100% absurd.


We live such long lives now, yet our social world has failed to keep up.  I first felt this when male peers passed me over as “too old” to date when I was only in my thirties, and I feel it now, when it is so difficult to find anyone at all in my forties, and I consider the idea of spending decades alone.  I feel it when I’m tired of my job and imagine plowing ahead another twenty-five years or so with no breaks from the workplace.  God forbid we quit a job before finding another one, especially in an ageist job market, despite how much we may need a break.

It’s time to think about these long, undefined periods of life and imagine what can be done with them other than more of the same (especially those of us who aren’t busy caring for families):

The old map of life, which guided us for generations, was rapidly becoming an anachronism.  What’s the category for people like me? There are a growing number of us who can be classified as neither-nors. Neither young nor old. Neither retirees nor of traditional parenting age. Tired, perhaps, but neither ready to be retired nor able to afford it. The truth is, I will probably be working for another twenty-five years, the second half of my adult life.

…while we’ve been remarkably adept at extending lives, our imagination and innovation in remaking the shape of those longer lives have been struggling to keep pace. In the words of anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, we’re “living longer and thinking shorter.” The situation is beginning to fray, especially in the period of life that is emerging between traditional midlife and what used to be occupied by retirement and old age. It’s fair to say that this condition constitutes a long-standing problem, one that existed even before longer lives and changing demographics made it a much bigger one. The territory between middle age and old age has long been shaky ground, “unstable social space,” in the words of cultural historian Thomas Cole.

As the “third act” notion suggests, the reality is that the end of middle age is no longer, for most people, attached to the beginning of either retirement or old age. (It’s like the transcontinental railroad, started at both ends, designed to eventually meet. However, the two ends of this project — life — don’t meet anymore.) Individuals left in that lurch, in this unstable space that has no name, no clear beginning or end, no rites or routes of passage, face a contradictory culture, incoherent policies, institutions tailored for a different population, and a society that seems in denial that this period even exists.

Never before have so many people had so much experience and the time and the capacity to do something significant with it. That’s the gift of longevity, the great potential payoff on all the progress we’ve made in extending lives. Realizing these possibilities will require the courage to break from old and familiar patterns that once were our friends but just don’t work any longer. It means considering ideas like “gap years” for grown ups, new kinds of internships and fellowships for Americans moving beyond midlife, remodelling higher education to help retrain people who have been working for 40 or 50 years, even the creation of new kinds of investment accounts to help cover the costs of transitioning to new careers.

search results

As testament to my hunger to find at least one intriguing figure from my past who has remained both vital and childless, I spent a good chunk of my day googling the filmmaker I admired so many years ago (two decades, in fact, but who’s counting?).

The thing that has cheered me the most is that not only did she move to a major, global city (albeit on the opposite coast) at the same late age I made that leap, but she didn’t begin co-producing films until her early forties, and she didn’t put out films she’d directed herself (not one, but two thus far) until her mid-forties.  She has received a fair amount of press and acclaim for both.

I loved discovering that her two decades in media and the arts didn’t begin to coalesce into her own major projects until she was in her forties.  It appears, in fact, that she is just getting going.

Perhaps my fear that there’s nothing up ahead is a tad premature.

continuing narratives

At 22 I was fascinated with a woman, a filmmaker, who was about five years older than me.  She seemed to have a delightfully bohemian life, rooming in a ramshackle house with several other aspiring artists, throwing parties in which she would toss back her head and laugh, her long, golden hair shaking and her cheeks blooming.

We crossed paths seven years later, and I recall thinking that she had lost her spark, with her newly serious demeanor matching her colorless face, heavier physique, and dark, severe hairstyle.  I may have also been unconsciously judging her for being older and unmarried, although she seemed beyond all that to me.   I heard she moved to New York City a couple of years later, and I once saw her name in the credits of a documentary I enjoyed.

I found her profile on Facebook recently.  Her hair is now long and soft brown, her clothing is casually hip, and she wears a pleasant, satisfied expression on her face. She is childless and appears to be unmarried but with a new boyfriend by her side.  Her profile is filled with artfully composed photos and snapshots of a diverse batch of friends.  She’s directed her own documentary and has been interviewed about it in a number of sources.

Whether due to biological or social forces, most of us expect to pattern our lives around marriage and children.  With seven billion people on the planet, however, humanity may be forced to rethink those patterns.  Those of us who have remained childless, however inadvertently, have actually done the world a favor.  There’s never been so many of us; we are on the frontlines of creating a public image of women who remain childless/childfree.  Like it or not, our narratives continue on without motherhood to guide them, and it’s up to us to prove that older women remain persons of interest outside of the roles of “mother” and even “wife.”

Perhaps the first step is finding a good example of a childfree woman who remains of interest to you.

hanging threads

When  I was in my early twenties and an idealistic, dreamy romantic, I read Jennifer Egan’s novel The Invisible Circus and loved it.  I’d been meaning to get around to Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad; it won the Pulitzer in 2011.  A friend of mine, someone who had a miracle baby at 40, highly recommended it.

I finally read it this month (spoilers ahead).  The plot follows a variety of characters and goes backward and forward in time, but a couple of main characters hold the story together.  One of them, a former teen runaway, begins the novel as a single, childless kleptomaniac.  She is in her late thirties as the story opens and on a superficial date with a younger guy from an online dating site.  By the book’s end, she has found redemption through late-life marriage and children.

A number of other characters also have their most redeeming moments with their kids, and one of the primary methods the novel marks the passing of time is through marriages, divorces, and children.  There is only one childless older woman included in the narrative, Jocelyn, and she appears fairly early on before disappearing.  This is one of the last moments we see her, p. 86-87:

I’m forty-three and so is Rhea, married with three children in Seattle.  I can’t get over that: three.  I’m back at my mother’s again, trying to finish my B.A. at UCLA extension after some long, confusing detours.  “Your desultory twenties,” my mother calls my lost time, trying to make it sound reasonable and fun, but it started before I was twenty and lasted much longer.  I’m praying it’s over.  Some mornings, the sun looks wrong outside my window.  I sit at the kitchen table shaking salt into the hairs on my arm, and a feeling shoves up in me:  It’s finished.  Everything went past, without me.  Those days I know not to close my eyes for too long, or the fun will really start.  

…I can’t help it, I start to cry.  Rhea puts her arms around me.  

“You have three children,” I sob into her hair.


“What do I have?”

…”It was all for no reason,” I say.

“That’s never true,” Rhea says.  “You just haven’t found the reason yet.”

Unlike many of the other characters, we never find out what happens to Jocelyn.  I wonder if Egan, herself married with children, couldn’t imagine what would come next in her life.


At the time she published The Feminine Mystique, Friedan argued that the public image of women was largely one of domesticity — “washing machines, cake mixes … detergents,” all sold through commercials and magazine. Today, American women have more public images of themselves than that of a housewife. We see ourselves depicted in television, ads, movies, and magazines (not to mention relief!) as politicians, business owners, intellectuals, soldiers, and more. But that’s what makes the public images of total motherhood so insidious. We see these diverse images of ourselves and believe that the oppressive standard Friedan wrote about is dead, when in fact it has simply shifted. Because no matter how many different kinds of public images women see of themselves, they’re still limited. They’re still largely white, straight upper-middle-class depictions, and they all still identify women as mothers or non-mothers.



In my thirties, I had friends who refused to jump on the online dating bandwagon and who, although they had been through several relationships in their twenties, seemed to settle into a long-term single state around that time.

I, on the other hand, did a lot of dating from online (and through real-life encounters when I could), so I didn’t envision myself as a long-termer.  I had several short-term relationships as well during that decade, but none of them ever landed on the holidays.

Now here I am, facing my twelfth holiday season alone, and accepting that I have become one of the long-termers, and possibly a lifer.  I’ve used this year to adjust to this reality and am still sitting uneasily with it.  Related post:

party down

I threw my party this weekend.  The good news is that it was a small but solid group of guests.  The conversation flowed and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the food was great.  I know one of the guests was extremely grateful to be invited (she is in the midst of a divorce) and she made at least one friend connection.  I had an enjoyable evening and would deem it a success.

The not-so-good news is that my plan to “mix it up” this time didn’t exactly pan out.  I left off a few of the regulars from the guest list in order to invite some new people with the idea that next time I would invite back some of the regulars with a fresh group of faces.  With this new list, my underlying questions ranged from “Could we be friends?” to “Are we still friends?” to “Can we transition from a dating relationship into friends?”.  Given that none of those people showed, it appears that the answers are “no.”  I suppose the party enabled me to establish where things stand at least.

Of the one-third of the guest list that did attend, they are all people I see fairly regularly.  I had the sense that another four or five people were needed to make things feel like a “party”;  instead it was a more intimate affair.  I had hoped throwing it would give me a sense of expansiveness– the feeling that I could reinvigorate my life here and start mingling with new groups of people– but instead I was left once again feeling that my world here is shrinking.