never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: September, 2012

just adopt

Informative post on Gateway Women about adoption:

Given that I’m single, over forty, and have a chronic illness, I honestly don’t think I’d qualify to adopt a child.


Last week I stayed in all weekend, happily  plowing through my stack of books until that moment when I realized, “Oh.  I should have made at least one social plan.”  It was a bit too much alone time, even for me.

With that in mind, I circled a couple of events this weekend and was determined to get out and about.  Unfortunately, I was laid low by some kind of evil virus and was unable to do much besides convalesce for three days straight.

Spending all that time cooped up alone made me realize again just how lonely this city can be.  If I can’t get myself out to an event, I will languish in silence.  I actually found myself longing for a roommate or someone to just drop by.  Podcasts helped to pass the time while simultaneously making me feel frustrated at the lack of conversation in my life, relieved only by phone calls to my former travel bud.

One night, after spending an entire day alone and sleeping, I settled on the couch to flip through the poor offerings on TV– mediocre sitcoms from the nineties and a Kardashians marathon.   I hit a kind of deeply melancholy, existential low at that point.

I had planned to write a post this weekend about the potential areas a single, childless person can devote his or her energies and the pros and cons of each:  spirituality, creativity, politics, career, love relationships, community.  I couldn’t find the motivation, however, and I started to worry that, by putting my thoughts down in this blog, I have neglected to create the kinds of relationships I need IRL to call upon when I’m feeling low.  Something for me to think about as I recover.

All was not lost, however, and with the help of ibuprofen, I did go through with a date today, and it was enjoyable.  A positive sign and a needed boost.


“The assumption in newspapers is that women choose to delay motherhood for career reasons, which implies selfishness. “Also, anxiety over women putting careers before motherhood demonstrates the strength of the motherhood mandate — in our society motherhood is considered more important for women than other occupations, such that they should be prioritising it. Furthermore, there is evidence in the media of a resistance to women ‘having it all’ ” says Kirsty.

“For a lot of women it isn’t a selfish choice but is based around careful decisions, careful negotiations and life circumstances such as the right partner and the right financial position. These women are effectively responsibly trying to produce the best situation in which to have children, which is encouraged societally, but then they are chastised because they are giving birth when older, when it is more risky.”


…caring for my newborn was a whole new adventure– I finally had a project, a purpose, a something-to-do!  At this point in my life, I was glad to be doing things this way.  If I were younger and still climbing the career ladder, if I hadn’t traveled as much yet, if I were still craving the party scene, I might feel differently, but because the baby came so late in the game, I didn’t feel torn about staying with him all the time.  The big slowdown of my career, which initially seemed like such a curse, actually felt quite fortunate now.  Rachel Dratch, Girl Walks Into A Bar, p. 210

At the prospect of their adolescent children flying the coop, some middle-aged mothers feel panic, while others can’t wait to have their time back, time they can use to spread their wings, unencumbered by other people.  Many of them will ditch their husbands while they are at it.

As a never-married, childless woman, I feel pressure to continue spreading my own wings over the next few decades.  After all, I have so much freedom!

The thing is, having flown solo for two decades now, I have the undeniable urge to nest, a la Rachel DratchIt would, in fact, be a great time for me to have a family, but since that does not appear to be in the cards, I have a neat little dilemma on my hands.

Along those same lines, I’m sure I will enjoy the solitude of my upcoming trip, the one that is shaping up to be solo.  I will read, and hike, and sightsee, and ponder.  If I had my druthers, though, I would like to be planning this trip with someone.  When I debate whether I should plan a trip out of the country next spring, I can’t seem to work up the enthusiasm to do it alone.

And when I envision my next ten years, I don’t see myself roaming the world solo.  Perhaps, instead, enjoying the solitude of a cozy hobbit hole somewhere.

the september issue

Getting kids up in the morning, driving them  to school, helping them with their homework… those things I am happy to skip out on:

For my mom friends, September is a time to get back into the feverish daily pace of Beat the Clock – “How will I get Johnny to soccer at 5:00 when Melissa has to be at softball at the same time?”, “Oh no – it’s already 9:00 p.m. and I forgot to get to the store to pick up the Lunchables!”,  “How in the world am I going to get all of us ready and out the door on time?”  “How many times have I told him to get off the computer and get his homework done!!?”  It’s a time for being stretched too thin, worked too hard, living the life of a mouse on a treadmill – spinning wheels and getting nowhere fast for 9 long months.  Following that is summer “vacation”, which means 3 months of fun and relaxation for the kids, and nonstop madness for mom.

As a childfree woman, September is a completely different experience.  It’s that pretty time of year when the sun sits a little lower in the sky and starts to cast a warm glow over everything.  It’s that wonderful month when we can turn the air conditioning off, open the windows and say, “ah….”.  It’s the best time at the Jersey Shore – the hordes of tourists are gone, but the ocean is at its warmest, the nights are cool and beautiful and the restaurants are still open for business.   It’s a time when I still get that little flutter of nervous butterflies and the intense urge to buy myself some notebooks and pens, even though my school days are long gone.  It’s my time for setting new personal goals and aspirations, thinking about what new adventures to plan, and feeling excited about the impending fall and winter holidays.

the waters

September is turning into information gathering month for me, thirty days to figure out just where things stand with the people in my life.  Testing the waters.

I decided to throw a dinner party, inviting a few old friends and lots of new acquaintances in an attempt to mix things up.  So far, two friends are definitely coming, sparing me the awkwardness of sitting in my apartment, wondering if anyone at all was going to show.  No one else has responded though.  It’s a bit eerie.

I also have an upcoming out-of-state trip planned for October, part of which will be spent at my college reunion.  Initially I thought my long-term travel bud could accompany me on some of it, but he has moved and started a new job and can’t get away, leaving me with an extra bed I could potentially fill with another friend.

I have one on the other side of the country who has been living a very similar life to mine and with whom I have illuminating conversations every time we speak.  The problem is, she is an unreliable responder.  She has typically gone weeks– months, even– before responding to an email or call from me.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and left  her a phone message asking if she wanted to come on the trip.  It took eight days for her to respond– not bad for her, but not great to me– with a “sounds appealing but probably not.”  It’s not the response that gives me pause but the length of time I had to wait for it.

I asked another former friend of mine from college, now divorced with kids, if she wanted to split a room during the reunion and she indicated in her response that she assumed (wrongly) that I was planning to stay in some fleabag motel as opposed to the nice, recommended hotel lodging.  Apparently she has not updated her image of me in twenty years.

Another part of the trip was going to be spent visiting an old friend of mine.  She is a freelancer and it’s always been hard to plan vacations with her.  She tends to go for the big, long, spontaneous trips, whereas I, with my meager two weeks off a year, am stuck with the short, not-too-far, and carefully-planned-months-in-advance ones.   I had let her know almost a year ago that I wanted to see her while in the same state for the reunion and had kept her informed of my plans.   Due to a sudden need for surgery, however, she has decided to travel to Europe for the month before she has to go under the knife, which means she’ll be gone while I’m there.   Totally understandable, while at the same time, sending a message.

I don’t seem to be too angry over all this, rather disappointed and yet grateful to be arming myself with the information I need to make future decisions.  Who is out there?  Is it time to close the door on my past and look to developing new relationships, ones with weight?  The answers are trickling in.


Being childfree feels a lot like being the underclassman who always befriends seniors. Every year you start again with a group you like, only to have them graduate and leave your ass behind. By the time your own senior year rolls around, you’re surrounded by strangers.


Rachel Dratch’s memoir Girl Walks into a Bar is as engaging and funny as I expected, especially the dating stories.  I definitely related to her decision to swear off the charming “creatives.”

Some relevant passages to this blog–

On looking for love, p. 97:  I personally went in waves, between shut down/not looking and getting out there.  Then, when I could no longer stand “getting out there” another minute, another night at a bar I didn’t want to be drinking in, another party on a night I felt like staying home and watching TV, I would duck back into the comfort zone for a while.  Then the comfort zone would start to scare me and I’d hurl myself back “out there” again.  Until someone again told me, “It’ll happen when you’re not looking!”

On cynicism, p. 122:  By this point in my life, I had become quite cynical.  When meeting new guys, I would just assume “not interested” or “attached,” and move on to a state of pleasant surprise if signs pointed to the contrary.  And now, I was learning, signs pointing to the contrary still had to be viewed with a heaping dose of cynicism.

On attending baby showers, p. 138:  “Oh just look at him,” says new dad.  “Is there anything better than this?”  And congratulations!  Ding Ding Ding!! (Balloon drop/confetti) You have just won the contest of  “Things not to say to a forty-two-year-old single woman who is spending her Sunday afternoon at a baby shower.”  Is there anything better than this?  No.  That’s what I keep hearing over and over again and that’s what I’m “missing out on” and the whole world has babies and it’s the life experience and if you don’t have it, YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO LIVE BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ANYTHING BETTER THAN THIS AND OH! IT’S TIME TO GATHER ‘ROUND AND LOOK AT TINY PANTS!

On acceptance, p. 139:  But here I was at forty, forty-one, forty-two, now forty-three.  I kept moving up the window of fertility and possibility, trying to block out the statistics with which I was bombarded, but to be realistic, I started to adjust to the fact that I wasn’t having kids.  I was trying genuinely and oh so gradually to become OK with that;  I had to focus on the benefits of my life… sure, I’d still have mornings where I’d wake up thinking, “Wow.  I may be alone forever and never have a family.  I may miss out on a really  big LIFE THING,” which could create a rising panic in me.  But for the most part, I realized that as we grow older, we adjust and roll with what we have in the present, though it may not be the future we had dreamed up for ourselves in the past.  I was forty-three years old and I was actually seeing the benefits of not having kids and was accepting my fate after all those years of struggling.

On having a late-in-life baby, p. 239:  Single Ladies, Former Me’s, Trouble Conceivings, Gay Men Wondering, and the two Straight Men who are concerned about having a child in a timely fashion– I know babies can be a delicate topic, because I lived on the other side for so long.  If a baby is something you are struggling about, I would just say, don’t be like I was and let your fears dictate your future.  I think I would have been too scared to explore what my other options were if I hadn’t had the divine intervention of the Hawaiian Volcano gods.  Because I have found that having a baby in your life is pretty wonderful.  I have to be honest about that.

So there you have it.  Dratch is like many of my friends, traveling down that same road of fear and acceptance with me, then suddenly hitting a fork and taking off in another direction, while I continue on “the road less traveled.”  Her career on the skids, she is now in the fortunate position of having a new project to engage upon for the next couple of decades.

I, on the other hand, need to keep an eye out for the Lizz Winsteads on my road.


But rather than ask the larger questions about why men are delaying childbearing in the first place and whether that could change, some of the proposed solutions are to simply lean on technology: Bank your sperm for later use, advised an editorial accompanying the Nature study. “Freeze your eggs!” became the clarion call on the web and social media in the days after the report was released.

“That’s just nonsense,” said Dr. Harry Fisch, a fertility specialist in New York whose book, The Male Biological Clock, was largely ignored when it came out a few years ago. “It’s a Band-Aid. What we need is change. Economic change. Social change. Lifestyle change.”

…the U.S. fertility rate has been dropping in recent years, with the steepest decline among men and women with some college education, to about 1.1, which is lower than the countries with a fertility “crisis” like Japan, Spain, and Italy, far below the 2.5 level for U.S. women with no high school education, and lower than the 2.1 level required to replace the population. Scandinavian countries like Sweden, where parenthood has also been delayed, actually have among the highest birth rates in the developed world, the result, said Indiana University sociologist Linda Haas, not only of supportive family policies, but flexible workplaces and a sweeping commitment to gender equity, which makes it easier for men and women to have both meaningful work and quality time at home.

The American workplace, meanwhile, is still designed to reward the kind of Ideal Worker who doesn’t exist anymore, if he ever did—a single breadwinner with no family responsibilities and no desire for a life, someone who is ready and willing to work 24/7 for 40 years straight.

Could a ticking male biological clock take on the Ideal Worker and reshape the workplace? Perhaps not on its own. Perhaps not anytime soon. But it could be part of a “cresting wave” of change, said Ellen Galinsky, who studies workforce trends and directs the Families and Work Institute. Galinsky has found in recent years that both men and women report they want more time for life and flexible hours, autonomy, and engagement at work. More men are reporting a desire to be involved fathers and feeling just as much or more conflict between work and home as women. Galinsky said some enlightened workplaces are responding to a shifting economy, aware that the most productive, creative, and healthy workers aren’t necessarily the ones with their butts glued to the chair in the office for 10 hours straight.

…but change is hard. That point hit home when I ran into my friend’s son, 22 and just out of college. Ben hadn’t even heard the news about the male biological clock. And while he, like the rest of Gen Y, plans to have the kind of work that still allows him time to canoe and play the violin, having a child in his biological prime is the last thing on his mind. He has friends with close to $100,000 in student loan debt. They are struggling to find jobs. Once they find one, they don’t expect to stay in a job for long or anticipate a job with benefits like healthcare, much less paid parental leave or on-site childcare. Ben told me he looks at the cost of houses and wonders if he’ll ever be able to afford to buy one. And, a good student, he’d made particular note in a sociology class of the fact that raising a child to age 18 in the average middle-class family costs close to $300,000—with the childcare bill second only to rent or mortgage—not counting college. “I saw that and thought, ‘Oh crap, I’m not having kids any time soon,’” he said. So when could he see himself starting a family? He shrugged. “Before 40.”

In the end, I was lucky. I have two beautiful, healthy children. And I hope, as studies have found, that being an older parent has made me calmer, more patient, and able to spend more time with them. But I’d like to imagine that the future for them will be different, more forgiving, where choices about how to work and when or if to have children and how to share caring for them with their partners are real choices, not dictated by outdated workplace culture or social norms. I’d like to imagine that their career paths could look more like winding trails across a broad field with all sorts of interesting, rewarding, and profitable places to go at different times and at different paces rather than one narrow ladder to be scaled at full speed at any cost. I imagine them in smart workplaces that understand that people who live well, taking time for family or to go canoeing or to play the violin, actually do better work. Will the male biological clock be enough to get them there? We’ll see.


I did manage to see Bachelorette today but was only mildly amused.  I didn’t find any of the characters likable (although Isla Fisher was great in her role) and think the movie should have ended with the three single females sitting on the bench, wondering if they were going to be okay.  Instead, in the final scene, two of the three seemingly have found partners and the third has found someone, albeit a cad, with potential.  God forbid a movie doesn’t end with the message that everyone, no matter how far they go astray, will get partnered up eventually (but then, I am the bitter babe).

It seemed to me that these characters, all in their early thirties, were being ushered off the “single lady” stage at the age in which the Sex and the City women were just getting started.  That’s how I read it, anyway, although from this interview it sounds as if the director meant to leave the characters’ lives in a far more uncertain place:  

There was one scene that made an impression though.  It was a scene in which the characters played by Lizzy Caplan and Scott Adams finally kiss, and it was one of those movie kisses that slays me.

This year I’ve had flashes of feeling so– I’ll just come out and say it– middle-aged.  Foregoing the raising of children, visiting the gym daily, and eating well, I’m realizing, doesn’t stop the onslaught of time, and having a chronic health condition doesn’t help.  I have started to consider whether it’s all over for me, romantically speaking.

In a lot of ways, putting romance on the back burner has been beneficial, in that I’ve focused on relishing other things in life, things I have some control over, such as cooking, going for a swim on a sunny day, catching a show at an art museum, or buying new music for my car.  I’m lucky to have had some cinema-worthy kisses in my past and think it’s healthier to view them as the icing on the cake rather than the whole damn dessert.

Less healthy, though, is the way I’ve stomped down my romantic desires out of the fear that there’s no longer any way to satisfy them.  I see a kissing scene done well, and they rise back up.

It seems I’m not ready to forego the icing just yet.