never married, over forty, a little bitter

feeling scroogey

I’ve noticed that a lot of my straight friends have replaced their profile pics with the red equal signs. Well guess what? They are all married! I can relate to this writer (who is gay) in that I’m afraid to say “bah humbug.”

Another one of my gay friends, a male who is single and unlucky in love, expressed the same sentiment to me the other day.

Thank you to one of my readers for sending this along!

Saying this aloud feels dangerous. My Facebook page, awash in red equal signs, is group think in iconic form. In fact, about ten percent of my 660 Facebook friends have the red equal sign or some version thereof as their profile image and most of these friends are straight. Friends post about how this is the “most important civil rights issue of our time.” I want to be moved by this huge show of solidarity, and in a way I am, but I am also scared of the absolute and unquestioned faith that marriage is good and thus deserving of special rights. I am also puzzled by the gay marriage movement’s refusal to advocate for legislation to support all American families, not just married ones.

Several of my straight friends have chastised me for expressing doubts that federal recognition of same-sex marriage is a necessary goal for anyone who wants a better and more just world. As a lesbian mother for seventeen years now, I find this “straightsplaining” (like mansplaining, but when straight friends explain homophobia and civil rights to their queer friends) both sweet and sickening. Sweet because I am glad all my straight friends care so much about my family’s civil rights that they are really fired up about the Defense of Marriage Act. But sickening because in their hurry to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians, they seem to forget that I am- like the majority of Americans- unmarried.


I remember having these same thoughts. Oh the irony:

It was at my second job out of college I worked with a woman who was 42, child-free, single and living alone. And I remember it being almost a revelation to me that “Wow, she didn’t have kids. Like, she’s past that point in her life now that’s even an option.”


I remember in a weird way viewing her as slightly alien because she was the first adult woman that I could recall who was “40” and didn’t have a husband and kids. It felt like “Oh I want to avoid that fate.” In fact I may have even told friends “I don’t want to be in her situation when I get to that age.”


While I now know many child-free, single adult women, my friends who are close to my age are all paired off, and many have started having kids. None of my closest female friends who are older than 35 are both single and child-free.

This 42-year-old coworker I met when I was 24 was really the first time I understood the idea that not everyone was married and not everyone would have kids. But it was not the time that I realized that this state of being a child-free, single adult women does not necessary mean one has a life of unhappiness. I think I still struggle to realize this fact.

shifting focus

The problem with public rhetoric surrounding this issue is that when we ask “What’s at Stake in the Marriage Debate?” (as does this article in the Charlotte Observer), the answer – “1,100 Benefits” – is meant to make us support marriage instead of question it. Readers are supposed to agree that “everyone” should have access to these benefits, when in fact we should be asking, why should my marital status determine whether or not I have access to benefits that others don’t?

Until we stop talking about marriage as though it has to do with love, popular discourse will not change. Shifting our focus to the “unromantic” realities of marriage – recognizing the various privileges that are granted through marriage – is the only way in which we can begin to deconstruct the institution and the benefits tied to it. It is the only way in which human equality, between marrieds and unmarrieds, can be achieved.

movie lovers

Ebert’s quote resonates with me because I’m occasionally seeing my “go nowhere” guy and in a recent conversation about movies, we agreed every time. “That movie was terrible” and “that was a great one.”

Despite the fact that he can’t commit and has a lengthy list of issues, I love talking to him. And that’s a rare and precious thing.


I think perhaps I’ve passed the point where I could handle all this:

I have three boys ages 5 and under. I’m not complaining about that. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I know that there are people who would give anything for a house full of laughter & chaos. I was that person for years and years; the pain of infertility is stabbing and throbbing and constant. I remember allowing hope to rise and then seeing it crash all around me, month after month, for seven years. I am working on another post about infertility that will come at a later date.

But right now, in my actual life, I have three boys ages five and under. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week when Isaac told my sister-in-law that “My daddy has hair all over.” Or when Elijah put a green washcloth over his chin and cheeks, and proudly declared, “Daddy! I have a beard just like you!” Or when Ben sneaks downstairs in the morning before the other boys do, smiles at me, and says, “Daddy and Ben time.”

But there are also many moments when I have no idea how I’m going to make it until their bedtime. The constant demands, the needs, and the fighting are fingernails across the chalkboard every single day.