never married, over forty, a little bitter

crib notes

Your mom sounds like she was a pretty loving, enlightened, and engaged lady.  Why was accepting your sexuality so hard for her?

Solomon: Well, I think there are a couple of pieces to it. As I describe in the book, when I was a kid, homosexuality was generally accepted to be an illness. And a crime. And a sin. I don’t think she was particularly hung up on the “sin” piece, but it seemed like an illness, it seemed like a crime. I came of age in the age of AIDS. I think there was just a sense from her point of view, especially as someone who had grown up in the ’40s and ’50s, that I was consigning myself to the margins of society and that most of the people she knew, who had ended up so marginalized, hadn’t been very happy. I wrote in the book about how we had these gay surrogate “uncles.” So she wasn’t hideously homophobic. She was happy to have them with us for all of our holidays and so forth. But I think she thought that it just didn’t look like as happy a way forward. I also think that she was very…I’m lingering over the word “obsessed”…very deeply engaged with the idea that having children and a family was the meaning of life. And she thought that as a gay person, I wouldn’t have a family, and that that was tragic. So it contained both a critique and a compliment.

It was lovely that she thought that having children was the most important thing in life. That meant a lot to me. And I think she thought that I undervalued the conventional in some ways. She was very original in her thinking, but she had a relatively conservative way of interracting with the world. 


 In a completely separate project—I have been working on a Ph.D.—and it deals with motherhood. And I think the women in the study I did for it, that I’ve been interviewing longitudinally…I mean, you aren’t a mother and then you are a mother. That’s a huge shift in identity. And you can love your child, and not actually love the identity of being a mother. Or you can really get off on the identity of being a mother, and not really connect very much with your child. They’re really sort of separate. So I feel like all these parents were cast into this new identity and some of them ended up finding community there, and a new focus in their life, and wonderful things out of it, and some of them ended up finding only pain and horror in the experience. But either way, they’re profoundly changed. But they want both: they want their child to be okay and they want to be okay.


In a recent New York Times Magazine article on trauma, a reporter talks to two psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, about their research on trauma suvivors. They started their research by interviewing survivors of severe injuries. They went on to survey older people who had lost their spouses. “Person after person told them the same thing: they wished deeply that they had not lost a spouse or been paralyzed, but nonetheless, the experience changed them for the better.”

Patterns emerged. Among the trauma survivors:

– they found a renewed appreciation for life;
– they found new possibilities for themselves;
– they felt more personal strength;
– their relationships had improved;
– they felt spiritually more satisfied.

fringe dwellers

On this podcast, at about the 25 minute mark, author Gillian Guthrie explains that childless women often feel like “fringe dwellers”:

This weekend, I attended a holiday party in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.  As I suspected, most of the guests were homeowners and had children enrolled in pricey private schools.  There was lots of cleavage and long blonde hair.  One man talked to me about his golf game.

I felt like some sort of Sally Bowles character, a woman from the boho part of town where everyone resides in apartments.  At fortysomething myself, I did have to wonder about how different my life is from theirs.

Nonetheless, they were a fun and welcoming bunch, and as it turned out, at least half of them, if not more, were divorced.  A few brainstormed to see if they could think up any available men for me (none, as it turned out).

Today an ex-boyfriend from decades ago called to check in.  Divorced himself, he inquired as to how I was getting on, and what I planned to do with myself.  We discussed his family– parents divorced, father now deceased, five siblings amongst whom three are divorced and remarried, one is single, and another is gay and partnered.  We discussed my divorced mother, my divorced sister, and I reflected on my three male cousins– all successful and more conventional than myself– amongst whom two are divorced, one remarried.

I made a joke about people worrying my single state when they themselves have been divorced.  He replied that divorce is common now– people last a while, then divorce, then find someone else.  I’m starting to think there isn’t much difference between these former marriages and my former relationships, except I suffered through zero paperwork.

I will give this man credit for mainly dating women his age (and in one case, older).  His recent relationship with a woman more than ten years younger didn’t work out, and he thinks it was because she was too young.  That gives me a little faith.