never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: December, 2012


In the end, however, perhaps the most compelling part of this long correspondence is de Beauvoir’s flawed humanity.  Already mid-life when her affair with Algren began, by the time the letters conclude, she is still a vibrant woman in possession of one of the greatest minds of her age, and yet she repeatedly dismisses her own sexuality as done-with, grandmotherly and passé.  Her insecurities about her womanhood play a far greater role than one having heard only the hype of this libertine trio might expect in limiting her future with Algren.

2012 in review

Thank you to my top commenters and to everyone who has been reading along!

If you feel comfortable doing so (and I understand if you don’t), in the comments section of this post please share your story, how long you’ve been reading, if you’ve found the blog helpful, if your feelings or situation have changed over the course of 2012, and/or anything else you think is relevant.


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 87,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


In preparation for reading The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London, I did a little research:

But why do the knives have to come out when it comes to the subject of maternity? Nancy’s “Waspishness” is attributed to her thwarting – she suffered miscarriages and a fertility-ending operation in her late thirties, at which time she divorced, moved to Paris, and became a fabulous success as a writer, fashionista and socialite. Debo dismisses this: “She didn’t have a real husband and children, just the writing, an empty sort of reward.”

Likewise, the married and childless-by-choice Woman, (Pam), took in two of Diana’s sons when their mother was in the lock-up. What thanks does she get? Honks attributes a completely unrelated perceived insensitivity (Pam “had no idea how ghastly prison really was, the lav, etc.”) to her lack of children. Diana sued Her Majesty’s Government for lack of heat, and with proceeds bought a mink coat to wear in jail.

Nancy comes in for the worst scalding. While I noted the novelist’s enthusiastic interest in her sisters’ offspring — full of praise, never jealous, sad or lamenting her own fate – the mothers cannot refrain from attributing her character flaws to barrenness. If she was difficult, my guess it was not due to Terminal Childlessness, but Oldest Girl Syndrome.

In the last batch of letters, Debo and Honks buck each other up, saying that they have their children, grandchildren and “greats” as comforts in old age. No doubt these offspring meant a great deal to the sisters at the end of their lives — they don’t get much mention earlier.

But Nancy left behind something to benefit the rest of the world — satire that transcends poisonous politics and laughs at her own snobbishness. Something, I’d venture, that continues to comfort quite a few other people in their old age. ~~~


‘If one can’t be happy one must be amused don’t you agree? ‘ Nancy wrote to a friend.  It could stand as the motto for her life.  She hid her deepest feelings behind a sparkling flow of jokes and witty turns of phrase, and was the star of any gathering.

Childless and unfulfilled in love she may have been, but Nancy found huge success as a writer. Her fifth novel, The Pursuit of Love (1945), was a phenomenal best seller and made her financially independent for the first time.


“Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Money helps explain why well-educated Americans still marry at high rates: they can offer each other more financial support, and hire others to do chores that prompt conflict. But some researchers argue that educated men have also been quicker than their blue-collar peers to give women equal authority. “They are more willing to play the partner role,” said Sara McLanahan, a Princeton sociologist.


I am a person who makes New Year’s resolutions, but they are not about improving myself per se as they are about things I want to try and do in the coming year.  One year, long ago, I resolved to make one new dish a week, which is how I taught myself to cook, creating a binder full of favorite recipes  along the way.  Another year, when I was growing tired of my city of residence, I decided I would go to at least one new place or event a week in order to make things “fresh” again.  I do find that the years can meld into one another with a “where did the time go?” feeling and that making resolutions helps me take advantage of the year ahead.

Taking pen to paper, I realized that I do have a year’s worth of “stuff” I’d like to do in this city, stuff that could keep me motivated and happy through next fall.  If I move back to my former city, I have a complimentary list of things I’d like to do there, but those things could wait another year.

I think whether I move this spring or the next fall now depends on how long I can cope with the workload at my job and whether things get better or worse in that area.  One thing it no longer seems to be depending on is whether I start dating someone or even if I do or don’t make more friends.  An interesting shift.



Millennial women have taken it for granted that they will pair up with equal partners. But increasingly, there aren’t enough of these men to go around. Women now outnumber men on college campuses, and single, childless women out earn their male counterparts. In fact, as author Liza Mundy writes in her book, The Richer Sex, Millennial women are increasingly finding two options when it comes to romance: marry down or don’t marry. “There needs to be a cognitive behavior change in what are [considered] important traits,” says Mundy. “I talk to so many women who are obsessed with finding men on their level. They want someone as ambitious, engaged, and high-achieving as they are. They maybe need to rethink that to seek a partner who is supportive, rather than competitive.”

Or, accomplished women hold firm in searching for impressive men to help them feel they are getting anything out of the partnership. “They have this list of qualities (smart, has a job, knows something about culture or the world, etc) that seem pretty reasonable, but so few men meet the requirements,” says Melanie Shreffler, a marketing consultant on Millennial culture. “Going back centuries, it was just a contract between two parties. Love and even friendship or liking each other weren’t important. If you were lucky, they developed over time. But now, we think we can find a guy who will be our best friend, our other half, who we will love before we marry. Finding that in a guy that we also find attractive makes the probability of finding a “good match” even less.”

job performance

I completely relate to this blogger’s post:

  • I’m going  into phases of deep despair, because I feel like I’m losing hope in social justice, community-based work- the work that I’ve been doing for years now and that makes me really really sad because if I don’t believe in the work that I’m doing then why I am here. As in, I thought that this was my life’s purpose.
  • I’m bitter, jaded and frustrated.
  • I feel like we can’t make social change because we’re up against these giant systems.  And the gap between the haves and have nots just becomes wider and wider in my eyes as I see it played out in my work. As I start to realize that the people I work with will only get so far in life and will continue to struggle and middle-class people like me will rise farther up the ladder (until we plateau).

My way of handling this lately is through distraction.  When I wake up, I think of writing on my blog.  I might do some kundalini yoga.  I think about books I’m reading while at work and often look up reviews of them.  Sometimes I compose new blog posts in my head, or if I have time alone in my office, I will listen to a podcast or some music.  I also think about what I want to do over the weekend or about a weekday event.  I go to dance or yoga after work.

I give some headspace to the job of course– I couldn’t perform otherwise– but it’s no longer what primarily motivates me.


spoiler alert

Having heard the good reviews, I finally got around to reading Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.  I was intrigued by the premise:

The post-college years can be a relationship minefield. You begin to drift away from the friends who marry and have children significantly before – or after – you do; finding new friends and lovers becomes more difficult as you are no longer routinely thrown together in school with people in a similar age bracket and with similar interests. It is this limbo in which Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are firmly stuck. They are out of college and on their own: in nice apartments in Chicago and crummy shoebox ‘apartments’ in New York; in good relationships and dating idiots who cannot spell their names correctly; in nice, stable jobs and the worst of the worst waitressing jobs. In the middle of all this, they are scraping up cash for bridesmaids dresses, wedding shower presents, wedding presents, and baby shower presents, as it seems that everyone they know seems to be moving into that settled state of coupledom and familydom.

Having recently finished the book, I am feeling particularly ranty.  To be fair, despite being derivative of similar books and TV shows, the book did believably capture the confusion and envy of those years well and the writing itself is solid and often touching.  The ending, however, completely pissed me off and, I felt, betrayed the book’s readership.

I had an inkling that I would be left feeling angry when Isabel, the central character, a woman who works as a lowly publishing assistant, casually mentions, as an aside, that her cute, loving boyfriend, the one she is unsure about because of minor personality differences, is a HEDGE FUND MANAGER.  I wanted to fling the book down and stomp on it at that point.  She brings up his profession only to mention that it’s “boring” and then never mentions it again.  I imagine that even the least mercenary woman in the world would take into consideration the MILLIONS he is likely to make.  I guess we’ve gotten to the point that class issues are verboten in literature.  I haven’t, as yet, found a single review that mentions the ludicrousness of this scenario.  If this is what passes for a good book today, Jane Austen must be rolling in her grave.

On the other hand, I do recall having a few clueless friends who, although working in altruistic, low-paying professions in some of the most expensive cities in the world, never seemed to think much about their lack of savings or pursue relationships for financial gain.  I still think they assumed, although perhaps entirely unconsciously, that a man would come along and save them financially, which is usually what happened.

Isabella later grows tired of the stress of NYC and then gets laid off from her job and is unable to find another.  Despite all that, when her boyfriend, hedge fund Harrison, conveniently (for her) finds himself facing the fact that he must accept a transfer to Boston or lose his job, she balks at the idea of leaving her life and friends in New York and moving to Boston with him, even when he tells her he will float her expenses.  Her mother informs her that life is made of “really hard choices.”  REALLY HARD CHOICES.  As if he is asking her to move across the country to Gallup, New Mexico or the wilds of Alaska without a job in hand.  I don’t think any of these characters would recognize a “really hard choice” if it bit them in the ass.

So at this point, dear readers, you must have gathered how the book ends.  At the ripe old age of 32, all three main characters have been partnered off (one married with babies, one moving to a new city with her boyfriend, one moving in with a boyfriend and discussing marriage).  It’s even hinted at that the one character who seems “childfree” might change her mind.  They have all escaped the dire fate of being mid-thirties and still single, just like the author herself has.  For a book that midway through has the characters discussing their fears of never finding Mr. Right and ruminating over the likelihood that such a thing might happen, this ending, to me, felt like a betrayal of single readers.  I only read it to the end because I thought maybe– just maybe!– there would be some radical twist and one of them would soldier on solo.

Also.  When baby names are floated in the book, they are of course “Ava” and “Lola.”  Alas, this book is not a satire.

So ladies, we got one TV show– Sex and The City— that gave it’s characters an extra decade before pairing them off in marriage, and now we are back to shows like Girls, about twentysomething singles again, and books that assume it’s radical to wait until thirty to tie the knot.  Are we in the fifties?


I realized recently that every time I’ve ventured out alone these past few months– to a used bookstore, a beach watering hole, a meditation class, a jazz club– I’ve met a man.  It hasn’t gone beyond flirtatious conversation and the decision by one or both parties to leave it at that, but I can’t complain.

Recently I had a really nice conversation with a man, someone who has lived his life “outside of the mainstream” as he described it, and when I googled him later realized he was close to sixty.  A friend of mine, a woman my age (early forties), is embarking on her second relationship in the past two years with a man in that age range.  After mulling it over, though, I’ve decided that however sexy, sweet, and mellowed I occasionally find the late fifties/early sixties man, that scenario is not for me.

If I believed that having a romantic relationship, any romantic relationship, was the most important thing in life, I might be more willing.  But monogamous relationships have opportunity costs, taking me away from other things I could be doing, and if the person is much younger or much older, they may end up taking me away from the age-appropriate tasks that are important for me to go through.

It feels almost revolutionary, even in this day and age, to decide that my development is as important as being involved with a man, but there it is.  I’m still hoping to find the person who feels right, but I’m willing to hold out, having my own fun and growing along the way.

scene splits

Just as one can have a romance with another human being, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to fall in love with a social scene and then have things go sour.

Years ago the dance scene was like a passionate, intense affair for me that suddenly went cold.  A recent scene I was involved with here was like the guy who mildly but inconsistently flirts with me when I run into him, but he never goes beyond that.  In both cases, I found that I’d developed as far as I could and it was time for me to get out.

I also found that in both cases it was possible to remain casual friends and still hang out occasionally.