I know a lot of women who are over forty and divorced and/or childless, but I only know approximately eight (not counting the famous) who have never been married and don’t have children. That sounds like a decent number, until you consider it is out of all the women I have ever met, from high school, college, grad school, various jobs in various cities, numerous hobbies, and a stint abroad.
Of the eight women I can think of, two have problems with alcohol and one with food. One has been in serious relationships the whole time, so hardly counts. I’ve had falling outs with four of them but am pretty sure they are still single. Two of them don’t actually turn forty until this year. That leaves two who are definitively over forty, never married, and childless and coping (and often thriving) in healthy ways, such as traveling, reading and learning, creating, becoming spiritual, building careers. All eight, to my knowledge, wanted to get married, although some had marked ambivalence, and none intentionally remained childless.
When I attended my college reunion, it struck me how deeply unusual my life has been. Others may have been living in Thailand or making esoteric documentaries, but as a woman who has been living entirely outside marriage and motherhood, I felt I had them beat in terms of unusual life trajectories.
Sometimes, these days, having steeled myself for so long through so many disappointments, I feel oddly outside the human experience, unable to relate to the common emotions inherent in the typical life cycles of others. Other times, admittedly, I feel like the kid in the orphanage who is facing the dawning realization that nobody, in fact, is coming for her.
And yet, recently, I am able to relish the uniqueness of my situation and the possibilities it provides. As I’ve written before, I now wish I had been one of those women, small in number, who never wanted to marry or have kids, so I could have been constructing such a life from the get-go, instead of wasting time pursuing the conventional path. It seems to me that my life would have been absolutely mind-blowing had I done so, but perhaps I wouldn’t have survived this long!
One of my intentions for this year is to “wobble” less– to spend less time in grief over missing out on those typical female experiences- and to embrace my situation more. I feel like my meditation practice has started opening new doors for me, and I’ve got a list of things I’d like to explore this year.
Life has suddenly become a lot more interesting than it has been in a good, long while.