never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: January, 2013


But the gender imbalance in China is one of too many men. There are an estimated 20 million more men under 30 than women under 30. So why the pressure on women to marry — specifically, educated, urban women? Huang Yingying says it has something to do with men wanting to marry down.

“There is an opinion that A quality guys will find B quality women, B quality guys will find C quality women, and C quality men will find D quality women,” Huang says. “The people left are A quality women and D quality men. So if you are a leftover woman, you are A quality.”

But it’s the “A” quality women the government most wants to procreate, to improve the ‘quality’ of the population, according to Leta Hong-Fincher.

the dismantling

It’s weird to think of moving. In addition to my daily routines, there are the clubs I like here, the museums, certain monthly events, hiking spots, a lap pool, my dance and yoga classes, the podcasts of local mini-celebrities. Moving will require another great psychological dismantling.

On the other hand, my connections are to places, events, and hobbies, but not so much to people. I like some of my co-workers and have those few scattered friends who I hang out with every other month or so, but there’s no tight-knit group, best friend, or significant other. Because of that, my feeling is that once I’m done with the job, there’s no particular reason to stay and try to make it work here.

hollow victories

I spoke with a friend of mine today, a never-married woman who has spent the last several years on the opposite coast working in a prestigious position. She is around my age, fit and attractive and well-educated.

We both admitted that we are unhappy but afraid to leave posts that have provided us with decent incomes, impressive identities, and access to people high on the food chain. None of this has done us one iota of good socially or romantically, however, and we are both stressed out, frustrated, and ready for a change. I confessed that in my heart, I have become extremely envious of people in much less “desirable” jobs but with much less stress in their work lives.

My potential year of idling is morphing into a year of big, big change.

the flip

My friends and acquaintances who are moms often talk to me about the things they do with their children on the weekends– the Pixar films, the gymnastics lessons– as well as their visits to their children’s schools and the meeting of their teachers.

These activities do seem to bring them feelings of purpose, connection, and joy, but 2013 is proving to be the “big flip” for me in that, when I hear these stories, the only thing I feel is palpable relief that I don’t have to deal with any of it and a lack of understanding as to where in the hell people find the time.

My hours off work are crammed full with swimming and dance and reading reading reading and cooking and the occasional night on the town with friends and once in a while a movie or TV show. I am waking up to the fact that it’s just how I like it! The burdensome tasks I have to carry out for myself– laundry, doctor visits, cleaning up– are more than enough.

I’m sure if I had children I would adjust, but I don’t, and I realize I’ve gone too far down the other path now.

risky behavior

Recently I finished a memoir called Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid With the Cowboy I Love by Jessie Knadler. Knadler left her (admittedly flailing) magazine career in Manhattan to marry a younger “cowboy” and live with him in rural Virginia. I was taken with her new life of canning, sewing, and chicken-raising, but she admitted they were often dirt-poor and the manual labor she assisted her husband with was grueling. She got very honest near the end, when her frustration with her husband’s non-analytical, pro-military, county-western-music-loving, Christian persona had grown to the breaking point and she was left lonely and wondering if they had anything in common. She was also angered over the fact that she had completely overturned her life, lost her ability to make money, and was the one making all the changes so that the relationship could work. She then got pregnant and ended up embracing her situation, even though it meant toughing it out alone when her husband was next deployed to Afghanistan.

I enjoyed the book but wondered if the “happy ending” was a bit forced. Perhaps Knadler, like all of us, simply needed to overlay meaning on her story and justification for her choices. She insinuates repeatedly that getting married makes one a “real woman” and is the path to maturity, as is motherhood, but I maintained an intellectual distance to those claims. Like all of us, it sounded as if she was grasping at meaning during a difficult time of career and lifestyle disillusionments.

The thing is, in my twenties, I had chances for relationships with similar types of men, and I turned them down, believing that our religious, political, and intellectual differences were simply too vast. Although I envy aspects of her “back to basics” life, I don’t think I would have lasted in her marriage. I would have felt too lonely. Of course, now I am literally alone, at least in terms of a romantic partnership.

Another acquaintance of mine ended up marrying a rough-around-the-edges immigrant and twenty years later has a brood of kids with a somewhat unstable father. In my twenties, while abroad, I had a love affair with a similarly charming but rough-around-the-edges rogue. I was in love with him, but when he visited me in the States it was clear that he didn’t fit in my life. He didn’t mesh with my friends or background and his employment prospects here were nil. I called it off.

In my younger years I was simply not willing to take huge gambles on iffy prospects. Flinging myself on the job market actually seemed a lot safer.

In the last couple of years I was more willing to take chances on iffy men, as my opportunity to have children was winding down, but in retrospect I’m glad none of those options panned out. I could be in a world of turmoil if they had.

Overall, realizing that I did have some choice and agency in my life’s direction has restored a sense of calm to my psyche.


A global poll taken last Valentine’s Day showed that most married people—or those with a significant other—list their romantic partner as the greatest source of happiness in their lives. According to the same poll, nearly half of all single people are looking for a romantic partner, saying that finding a special person to love would contribute greatly to their happiness.

But to Fredrickson, these numbers reveal a “worldwide collapse of imagination,” as she writes in her book. “Thinking of love purely as romance or commitment that you share with one special person—as it appears most on earth do—surely limits the health and happiness you derive” from love.

“My conception of love,” she tells me, “gives hope to people who are single or divorced or widowed this Valentine’s Day to find smaller ways to experience love.”

detective work

Twenty years have taught me that there are no “surefire” rules when it comes to getting married and having kids. None. Women who remained virgins until marriage, women who waited passively for men to find them, women who were aggressive in seeking men and proposing marriage, women who were drug addicts, women who never wore make-up or fixed their hair or wore fashionable clothing, women who were nerds, women who were extremely promiscuous, women who never made a cent, women with demanding careers… all married with kids.

One thing that does seem to hold true, however, is that “water seeks its own level.” And if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that when women who seem ill-equipped for a healthy relationship have gotten married, the relationship is usually not a healthy one.

When I found out recently about another marriage that seemed too good to be true– that upended everything I believed about the universe– I practically started overturning furniture. Why the extreme reaction? I think a combination of a lot of things: the unfairness of our economy, the way I feel taken advantage of in situations surrounding my job, the ways in which societal rewards seem to be particularly ill-gotten these days.

So I did a little snooping, and my faith in my worldview was restored. Things were not, as it turns out, as they seemed.

It all reminds me of that great film, The Big Lebowski:

The Coens maintain a surprising fidelity to Chandler’s critique of wealth in their depiction of the Lebowski family, restoring the moral condemnation that Hawks excised in his depiction of the Sternwoods. Carmen/Bunny is no longer a lone aberration, as the Lebowskis are rotten to the core. The Big Lebowski, in particular, is no kindly, ailing patriarch who inspires loyalty in his Marlowe–instead he berates and abuses the Dude until the Dude makes a key discovery about Lebowski’s fortunes, leading to his only true deduction of the entire movie.

The Big Lebowski, it develops, isn’t even all that big. Maude tells the Dude that her father doesn’t actually have any money; for all of his talk about “achievement” and the importance of a job, he lives on an allowance from his late first wife’s estate. This triggers the Dude’s realization that Lebowski never attempted to ransom Bunny from her supposed kidnappers, but instead used the kidnapping to disguise his embezzlement of a million dollars from his first wife’s charitable foundation. Here the Coens’ film aligns with Sean McCann’s reading of Chandler: the Big Lebowski is if anything more predatory than General Sternwood, his wealth even more illusory. Sternwood at least once had the material wealth of his oil wells before they ran dry; Lebowski is living on the dole while posing as a successful businessman and philanthropist. The film, like Chandler’s novel, “does not have an economy so much as a closed system of blackmail” (McCann 167) with all the characters scheming to grab the same million dollars, most of them ignorant of its true origins. Or, as Harry Jones says in The Big Sleep, “We’re all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel” (168). The Big Lebowski is the ultimate grifter in the Coens’ world, his charade of honest entrepreneurship masking a parasitic heart.

meeting of the minds

The idea that therapists might play Cupid with patients tantalizes patients and therapists. An anecdotal survey of my psychiatrist colleagues suggests that the matchmaking impulse is very common.


At the start of this year, I thought I would be spending it exploring the remaining nooks and crannies of my current city, with the idea that perhaps I’d move next fall. I was reveling in the idea of that exploration.

Then more surprises came along at my job, and I know in my heart I don’t have the energy to make it through another year, so I realized I would be leaving in a few months. Unlike my former vision, the idea of packing it in has unearthed some psychological toxins, and once again I’m sorting through some anger, regret, and sadness.

If it feels like my writing has taken a left turn, that is why…

never land

My dating history has not been quite as bleak as this woman’s, but what is interesting to me about her letter and the comments following it is that she and the other posters are all in their late thirties and forties. It seems that is the time in life in which it begins to dawn on one that things may not turn around when it comes to love:

I was touched by this incredibly sensitive and perceptive response, written by a man:

Geuka Amusa | posted a comment in I’ll be 40 soon and never been in a relationship · 3 years ago

I’ve been meaning to respond to this post for a couple of days now and finally arrived at a place where my heart and mind were ready to collaborate and communicate.

I read this post quite a few times and I agree with so many of the encouraging words shared by previous commenters.

Let me start by saying that though we’ve never met or spoken to one another, I can say without a shadow of doubt that the five paragraphs you wrote told me the following 10 great things about you:

1. You are a thinker and a learner. You characterize this with words like “nerd” (one of my favorite personal descriptors), but you have a thirst for learning. That is the sure path towards growth.

2. You write well and have great communication skills. Your post was very clearly written and communicated so much emotion. That’s not an easy thing to do.

3. You have and are willing to face your fears. You’ve moved at least twice. In addition to often being unpleasant, moving (especially to new cities) can be scary (unfamiliar setting, lack of a support system/social network, new climate, etc). You’ve faced this fear more than once and that shows resolve.

4. You have and are willing to take an honest look at yourself. Your description of your thoughts and feelings just oozes with honesty. That honesty can be an awesome force in peeling away the beliefs you hold that aren’t true and don’t serve you. You just have to wield it.

5. You want to give the love you have inside. Your search for romantic love doesn’t come across as selfish . . . you want to love. That’s what it means to be human and I can feel your desire to fulfill this part of your destiny.

6. You are very persistent. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to convince yourself that you’re not the magnificent being that you are.

7. You believe that there is something larger than you in this universe. This spiritual outlook on your existence evidences your humility and ability to empathize with the journey we are all on.

8. You are unique. There is no one else on the entire planet that can be a better you than you. You’ve got exclusive franchise rights and that uniqueness is a gift to the world.

9. You have great strength. Despite all of the negative things you’ve experienced, you’re still standing . . . you’re still here. That strength never leaves you. It’s a part of who you are.

10. You are not alone. Whether you’re tapping into collective consciousness or interacting with people on sites like this, you’re not alone.

I am quite certain that I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of the greatness that is you. I’m in no way dismissing the negative experiences you’ve described, I’m just choosing to see you as separate from those experiences. When I make that choice, there’s so much greatness in plain sight.

In previous comments, both Jo & Lucinda suggested tapping into your passions and I couldn’t agree more with this sound advice. So far (based on what you wrote) you have not lived a life based on your passions. I think this is something many of us have experienced at some point in our lives for a variety of reasons. Some just haven’t ever asked themselves or been asked “What are you passionate about?” Others may have been searching for the answers for a while and not come up with anything definitive.

Whatever the reason may be I’d like to offer a book that helped me called The Passion Test, by Chris & Janet Attwood. Chris & Janet discuss why passion is such an important part of life and they take you through their process of identifying, evaluating and prioritizing your passions. Our passions are as dynamic as we are. Just as the “now” version of me is a lot different than the twenty year old version was, our passions often change or at the very least, change in priority as our life progresses. This marvelous tool can serve you for years to come.

You offered many labels for yourself in this post. My comment has offered a few additional ones for you to consider. Here’s my last one. Love is who we are . . . it’s who you are too.

“Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward with the life that God intended for you.”
Og Mandino
1923-1996, Author and Speaker