thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: April, 2013

on the road

Lots of packing up, loading up, cleaning up, and tears. My “non-committal” man cried in therapy last week over me leaving.

It felt so strange to drive away from L.A., especially once I hit the endless desert scrub. I can’t help but worry that I’m driving away from the city of opportunity and into a future of diminished expectations.

Perhaps it is all a desert mirage.

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the glamorous life

I heard an older, childless semi-celebrity being interviewed on a podcast this week. She’s beautiful, talented, ambitious, charming, and witty– in all ways a great role model for the single, childfree life. In the interview, she poked gentle fun at the whole marriage-and-baby ideal.

The thing is, she lives such an enviable life that I felt a bit ambivalent about her attitude. I like that she’s “representing” well, but at the same time, I understand why most women want to get married and have kids. Most of us aren’t famous and don’t have dream careers with plenty of time off between gigs. Unlike me, this particular woman never goes long without a boyfriend, and she is feted in the way celebrities often are, particularly the physically attractive ones. All of my acquaintances in the industry, even if their level of fame is relatively small, receive more emails and invitations than I could ever imagine. I don’t think any of them can quite comprehend how lonely it can get for the average person who remains single past young adulthood.

I have relished all the things I’ve been able to experience as a single person–things I would have missed out on if I’d been part of a couple– and, as I’m trying to stay “present,” I will continue to appreciate my freedoms. I admit, though, that a stable, committed, loving partnership sounds, well… divine.

unusual women

As I push myself through the incredible amount of work it takes to move, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that this entire ordeal– my move across country (and now back)– was initially precipitated by the fact that I had hit my mid-thirties childless and single. I’ve come a long way and not just in mileage.

I had a goodbye drink with a male friend this week. He’s married, nearing fifty, and contemplating adoption. He said the unconditional love a parent feels for a child is an important life experience he doesn’t want to miss out on.

He’s had some health issues, complains of midlife tiredness, and is in a creative career that grants him a lot of freedom but, thus far, not a lot of wealth. My response to him was that not everyone has to be a parent. I told him I had grieved my childlessness and come to accept and even appreciate it. I said I would never advise him because he would most likely make a wonderful father and would enjoy the experience, but he also stands to lose a lot in terms of his career freedom and his chance to slow down and take it easy.

He answered, “I can’t believe a woman is saying this to me.”

On another note, he told me about a recent encounter he had with a colleague’s narcissistic rage which makes my own unpleasant experience look like a game of tiddlywinks in comparison. I guess marriage is no guarantee as a shield.

Also, the man who “flipped out” is married and a parent. I’ll remember that whenever I feel like there’s something wrong with me for being neither.

parasites

I reined myself in last week when dealing with my difficult encounter, but I could have done an even better job. I should never have criticized the woman back and instead should have followed the advice here:

http://www.billeddy.com/articles/hostile_email.htm

I’m not beating myself up over it too much though, as, like the majority of people out there, I don’t have an advanced degree in psychology, and it’s only after I’ve been spurred to seek help in dealing with a difficult person that I learn what I should have done and thus what I can do better next time.

I’ve encountered enough difficult people in my life– (I believe) some with narcissistic personality disorder and others with borderline personality disorder– that I’m slowly learning and getting better with my reactions each time. What does this have to do with this blog? I guess that I find those types of people to be quite canny at spotting the vulnerable spots, and being single is being vulnerable. I try to be honest about the pros and cons of single life, and that’s a definite con.

I do get defensive if friends suggest that somehow I bring these situations on myself. It seems to me that is a case of blaming the victim. We can all improve our reactions, but none of us can completely predict who is a time bomb or what will set them off.

Also, I’ve read that people with personality disorders are drawn to the very qualities that healthy people treasure– strength, competence, kindness, empathy, charm. They prefer to feed on a healthy host, after all.

Unfortunately I’ve had to become less open, friendly, and empathetic with people I don’t know well, but I can’t and don’t want to completely shut off those qualities. It’s definitely tricky!

the eccentric

I have an older, childless, never-married female friend here who has an unusual lifestyle and who could be considered a bit eccentric. She comes across as a more upscale, less bohemian version of Auntie Mame.

A few years ago, a younger, married woman told me she thought this woman was “a bit weird.” I bristled when she said that; I suppose I was feeling defensive. This particular woman is quite colorful, but I can’t help but think that no older, childless, never-married woman can win. That she will be considered eccentric no matter what her lifestyle.

We are pioneers though, and if current trends continue, surely this perception will gradually change. In the meantime, there’s a new post on Gateway Women on how to cope:

http://gateway-women.com/2013/04/20/childless-and-miserable-you-need-to-get-off-facebook/#comments

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the only messages coming back at you are that your best days are behind you, and it looks like you screwed those up anyway. But you were there, you made those decisions to the best of your knowledge. Other women you knew made what looked like much worse decisions at the time, but they ‘ended up’ with a family and are now considered to have ‘got it all right’, whilst your role seems to be some kind of cautionary tale for younger women…

hotel california

L.A. is turning into a haunted house that won’t let me leave…

I just had one of the worst weeks of my life. Between several days of coping with someone who might well have borderline personality disorder, suffering a daily migraine, and getting in a car accident (a week before my road trip), I thought I might just lose my mind.

Despite all, I got back in the saddle this weekend and participated in a big outdoor event and also managed to connect with someone I’ve long since admired from afar.

Things are looking up again, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the big earthquake doesn’t hit before I carry out my escape.

One thought that crossed my mind repeatedly last week was, “Thank goodness I don’t have kids.” I honestly don’t know how I would manage all this if I was also dealing with children. I’ve really turned a corner on that one and know I no longer have the energy to parent. I also realized that I never, ever had the desire to have a child on my own, so I’m glad I never wasted time going down that road.

permanence

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kayhymowitz/2011/06/27/why-do-people-want-to-get-married-anyway/

For all its disappoints, then, marriage still strikes most Americans as the best hope for creating permanent connections. The fact that it doesn’t work out that way for so many couples doesn’t change the longing people have to feel like they belong somewhere with someone. They suspect living together is not the same thing, and they’re right; cohabiters break up at a far higher rate than married couples.

permanence

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kayhymowitz/2011/06/27/why-do-people-want-to-get-married-anyway/

For all its disappoints, then, marriage still strikes most Americans as the best hope for creating permanent connections. The fact that it doesn’t work out that way for so many couples doesn’t change the longing people have to feel like they belong somewhere with someone. They suspect living together is not the same thing, and they’re right; cohabiters break up at a far higher rate than married couples.

piece by piece

Packing up has been making me feel as if my lifestyle isn’t much different than it was at 22, and I’ve been reflecting again on whether I’m really a “grown-up.” Then I stumbled on this:

http://themodernspinster.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/the-invisibility-of-non-moms/

Awhile ago, I met the write Molly Peacock and began, by chance, to talk to her about a piece I was trying to work out about being childless and how hard it was to a) reconcile that fact, in a world where motherhood is revered, and b) how silent the process is because there’s so little written on it, and it’s rarely discussed. What I didn’t know was that she had written an entire book on her choice to be child-free and how it had defined her life.

I devoured Paradise Piece by Piece and, though my childlessness has happened more from circumstance than choice – it would never be my choice – I still related to a great deal of what she wrote. That’s because to be a “non-mom” is still fairly undefined and misunderstood.

I guess that one will be another book I’ll have to get around to reading once I’m settled:

http://www.mollypeacock.org/poetry_prose/paradise.html

How do you grow up if you don’t have children? How do you remake the original love—mother love—into a mature love? Becoming a parent provokes this conversion, but the transformation into adulthood without the bearing of children means metamorphosis. The change is not instant and permanent like parenthood. It is a surfacing into adulthood and a diving down into childhood, and a poking into sharp air again, then a plunge into watery warmth, gradually converting your gills to lungs. After a time, you breathe in air exclusively, just as all adults do.”

Also worth watching (from the blog above):

the universal

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/19/sex-city-bushnell-hadley-freeman

Yet even if the setting can feel very particular, the essential issues Carrie faces as a single woman are universal. There are the married people who try to justify their now regretted life choices by making her feel bad about hers; the friends who are happier when she is single like them, as opposed to in a relationship; and of course, the eternal inner debate about whether she wants to give up her single independence (read: loneliness) for married security (read: boredom). None of these, unfortunately, are exclusive to 1990s Manhattan.