never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: January, 2013


My husband and I were lovers for years before our marriage, and we still had great sex and a laugh a day. But the long, dark baby years, during which somehow I’d become the earner and he the miserable stay-at-home mom, had crushed the fun out of our lives. Inside the house together with the kids, I felt starved for oxygen, but no amount of jogging could fill my lungs enough to release the sensation of being trapped. I couldn’t stay, and yet I couldn’t go.

zeroing in

A gay male acquaintance of mine, when I told him I might be leaving, was one of the few people who zeroed in on loneliness as a possible factor.

“I have many female friends who tell me they have a very difficult time dating in this town,” he said. “I’m lucky because I have a boyfriend and a tight-knit group of friends, and we hang out together on the weekends.”


This is interesting to me because although I feel my autoimmune condition simmering beneath the surface, my daily kundalini yoga and meditation practice seems to keep it at bay:

Now, researchers at UCLA reveal that a straightforward meditation program, lasting only 8 weeks, decreased loneliness in seniors. Additionally, understanding that being lonely is linked to a rise in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can stimulate a range of different diseases, the team analyzed gene expression and discovered that this same type of meditation considerably decreased expression of inflammatory genes.

In the study, published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Steve Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and psychiatry and a member of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, and team reveal that the eight-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which teaches the mind to simply be attentive to the present and not dwell in the past or project into the future, effectively decreased the feelings of loneliness.

the slow boil

Every year for the past five I have seen stress increase at the workplace… getting out to save my health:

“While many Los Angeles residents recognize the impact that stress has on the body, the numbers who are stressed about money, work and the economy continues to be cause for concern,” said Los Angeles-area psychologist Dr. Michael Ritz , the public education coordinator for the California Psychological Association. “And more than four out of 10 Los Angeles residents have seen their stress increase in the past five years. It’s important people pay attention to signs of stress, because stress can affect your physical and emotional health, especially if not managed properly.”

The national survey found that reported stress levels have stabilized from the highs of the economic crisis; however, they remain higher than what is considered healthy. Furthermore, Americans who serve as caregivers — providing care to both the aging and chronically ill — for their family members report higher levels of stress, poorer health and a greater tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors to alleviate that stress than the population at large.

PR Newswire (

the future

I agree with the New York Post article that Los Angeles is an exciting, dynamic place, but I also think it is a very difficult city for the working person such as myself:

The problem with articles like this one is that they’re most likely written by professional travelers/food writers looking for certain things and then finding what they were looking for, they write about it. In that process, though, they ignore the rest of what’s in front of them. They see the city that they expected to see, and write about it that way. Not from the perspective of a resident, but a tourist. One with a lot of cash, too. I’m happy they found the great places to eat in such varied spots as Downtown, Venice, Hollywood and Mid-City (and I’m happy for the restaurateurs and club owners, that they’re successful, really, that is an accomplishment).

But the overall impression you get from their story/review is of a city rich, laidback and carefree – of course, Los Angeles has that Entourage-y aspect. But that’s not the norm. The norm is that it’s a very difficult city in many respects: financially, socially, employment-wise, ecologically challenged, a diverse place but not without that tension.


IN 2007 Lauren Greenfield, a photographer and film-maker, found the perfect subject for a documentary. David Siegel, a self-made billionaire in his 70s, together with his trophy wife Jackie, a former model more than 30 years his junior, were in the process of building the largest private residence in America: a 90,000 square-foot (8,400 square-metre) monstrosity in Orlando, Florida. Modelled on the palace of Versailles, it would feature 30 bathrooms, ten kitchens and an ice rink, among other luxuries. This was the American dream writ large and ridiculous, with protagonists who were deliciously ripe for satire…

Without staff, the Siegel household descends into chaos. Pets die, dog excrement litters the kitchen floor, and David recedes into his office, emerging only to grumble about the electric bill. “Do you get strength from your marriage?” Ms Greenfield asks. “No,” he snorts with characteristic dismissiveness. “It’s like having another child.”

exit lines

“On to your next adventure.”

“It’s time for you to move on.”

“Good for you.”

“I’m inspired when people make a big change.”

Nice sentiments all, but they are pretty much the exact same things people said to me seven years ago when I was contemplating moving here. Unlike my well-wishers, I know I will face many of the same issues all over again after “moving on.”

Several exes have also said the “good for you” line, which stings a little. They mean well, but it’s hard for me not to hear, “We don’t want to partner with you, but we will cheer you on!”

I do have faith in my timing, however, as it has always served me well. It does feel like the right time to make the leap.

One by one, the initial hopes behind my move here were dashed, so I grabbed on to the possibilities that presented themselves instead. Then I became frozen for a time because of the economic freefall.

But. One cannot remain frozen forever.


I am good at being alone, it’s one of the things I like most about myself. I’m proud of it. Knowing that aloneness is something I’m not only comfortable with, but crave, has meant that I seem to need less of it. As long as I can close a door, or walk away, or sit by myself, I’m fine. Being alone makes me feel powerful and peaceful. It makes me feel like my brain is a gold mine, and I’m so lucky to have this imagination. Being alone has always felt deeply indulgent to me, like a day off or being able to buy whatever you want. I can subsume the need, of course, if I have to, and there’s a part of me that thrives on crowds and bustle and ambient noise. Too much, though, and I get cranky and sad and thoroughly unpleasant.

I am a person who needs a lot of space, not the physical sort, but the distance from others kind. I’m pretty sure I can’t go on vacation with someone because I’d be grouchy if I couldn’t spend at least 60% of the time alone, wandering the streets or reading. This is something I’m pretty sure (very sure, actually) that a few people in my life find this disarming—because eventually you’re supposed to stop being by yourself and find someone to be with instead. You stop being a solitary creature with your own space and start building a space with someone else. And then you add more people to that space. You should do this for a lot of reasons, but also…you don’t REALLY want to be alone, right?

We have bought this, I think, the idea that being alone is something we should avoid at all costs. Women who are alone, who live alone after a certain age, who aren’t partnered, are pathetic and deeply suspicious. Men who are alone are either oversexed, perpetual teenagers, sad, asexual creatures, or creepy perverts. Being by yourself is not a choice anyone in their right mind is supposed to opt for.


I’ve definitely seen this kind of reasoning behind-the-scenes:

Married women with kids who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009 had a 31% lower chance of finding a new job than married fathers with kids. But their alter-egos — single women without kids — were taking less time to find new jobs compared to similar men. In fact, single women who weren’t moms had a 29% greater chance than single men without kids of finding a new job.

The study didn’t examine the reasons behind the disparities, but Serafini has a pretty good idea what may be at play. “When making hiring decisions, employers have assumptions about mothers,” says Serafini. “There are stereotypes that they will be less productive employees because they will have to pick up their kids and leave work early.”

Read more:


A woman in her late twenties named Kerri writes of her experiences as a mother. There are several young mothers in the class, and on the breaks Kerri and the others gravitate to one another. They talk shop: of nutrition and playdates and tantrums and sibling rivalry. Their conversation is lively. As the semester progresses, I note their growing addiction to one another’s company; the breaks can’t come fast enough for the group to assemble and compare notes. They seem pleased with life. They glow with satisfaction and take a vaguely superior stance toward the younger women in the class, who are not yet in the game of motherhood. Kerri makes the others laugh and has a large laugh herself.

From reading her writing, I know what her new friends probably don’t, that stay-at-home motherhood has been something of a disappointment.

Now when I look at Kerri, I see not just a student struggling under the weight of school and family responsibilities. I see a woman gripped by a quiet, middle-class despair, the same despair that spawned the work of Betty Friedan and some of the dark domestic poetry of Anne Sexton, whose “Cinderella” we read in class.

Kerri smiles and jokes with the other mothers, but I’m now in on her secret. I see her struggling with guilt about what she feels, carefully watching the other mothers and searching for clues to answer the big question: Are they really as fulfilled as they seem?

–Professor X, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, pp. 146-147