never married, over forty, a little bitter

smoke and mirrors

Yet most of us insist that New York is the only place we’d be happy, just as parents insist their children are their greatest sources of joy. Maybe the same phenomenon is at work: New York creates moments of transcendence, and that’s all that matters. Or maybe the belief that New York is the best place on earth is what Gilbert calls a super-replicator—a myth necessary to the flourishing of a culture, just as certain genes are necessary to the flourishing of the species. Gilbert theorized that our beliefs that money and children will make us happy are super-replicators—without them, civilization wouldn’t survive. Modern civilization wouldn’t survive without its large cities, either. (Take that, red states.)

And maybe, too, there’s something to all this abundance, all this aspiring, all this choice. For all its confusions, choice is also a source of hope, and for many of us, hope is itself happiness, whether it’s predicated on truths or illusions. This isn’t the sort of thing that gets borne out in surveys. But it’s the stuff of fantasies, novels—of being human. As Julian Barnes asks in Flaubert’s Parrot, “Isn’t the most reliable form of pleasure . . . the pleasure of anticipation? Who needs to burst into fulfillment’s desolate attic?”

fallen petals

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was thrilled at the anonymity and excited by the prospect of being surrounded by seventeen million new people, many of whom, at least in the areas of town I frequent, are “creatives.”

I don’t regret the move, as it got me through what has to be the most difficult period for childless-by-circumstance women, age 37-43. Although I dated quite a bit, especially the first few years, I also had fun exploring and learning about this sprawling metropolis, and I feel proud of myself for doing so and for accomplishing something even while I didn’t accomplish the thing— marriage and children.

The very anonymity I found thrilling when I moved here, however, now leaves me cold. When I consider taking that potential job and staying on, it feels like it would be a long, lonely slog.

In this last year I’ve had to do a reality check in regard to my social life. While I cross paths and am friendly with a few musicians, actors, comics, and writers, I am not actually friends with any of them. My social life consists of a few random co-workers and women from my dance classes, none of whom I see all that often. My dating life, outside of a past liaison that lingers on, has come to a standstill.

I could recreate this same social life anywhere— I don’t need to pay a premium for it like I do here.

And you do have to pay a premium here. If you want to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, go out to eat and on the town a few times a week, take a vacation or two, and tuck away 5-10k a year in savings, you have to pull in about 80k a year. One thing I’ve realized is that almost everyone I know who stays long-term is either from here, went to college here, or is married. They are either living with extended family, living with a partner, living in inherited property, or, in one case, holding on to a large, rent-controlled apartment for decade after decade.

I am none of those, so I’d be a fool to stay on.