never married, over forty, a little bitter


If I have to head back to the salt mines, I suppose I should feel some gratitude for the four to five months I’ve had off. I’ve done quite a bit during these months.

I took a short trip in which I learned some new recipes and cooking methods. I got rid of piles of old clothes, numerous broken appliances, and several pieces of furniture that had seen better days. I made it through a tower of books. I gave my condo a facelift. I practiced yoga every day and took a bunch of mid-day dance classes. I upgraded my technology skills. I enjoyed leisure time in L.A. and time to explore a bit in my new location. I spent a few weeks with my mom. I bought a rice cooker. I got a sense of what sewing entails and brushed up on my Spanish.

Not bad. It’s been a sorely needed sabbatical.

survival tactics

I’m eating well, doing yoga and meditation daily, going swimming and walking, seeing old friends when possible, and going out to events a few times a week. I’m still feeling uneasy from the uprooting, but I was uneasy in L.A. as well.

I miss my non-relationship guy, as we had good conversations and a real connection despite everything. I’ve written a couple of new men on an online dating site but my hopes aren’t high.

It seems I am going to have to utilize every trick in my bag to make it through middle age. I’m not suicidal, but I do have the sense of numbing out a little until I (hopefully) settle in here.

He calls the first “low belonging,” and it’s the most intuitive idea in his formula. Joiner argues that “the desire to die” begins with loneliness, a thwarted need for inclusion and connection. That explains why suicide rates rise by a third on the continuum from married to never been married. It also accords with the fact that divorced people suffer the greatest suicide risk, while twins have reduced risk and mothers of small children have close to the lowest risk. A mother of six has six times the protection of her childless counterpart, according to one study. She may die of work and worry, but not of self-harm.

The need to belong is so strong, Joiner says, that it sometimes expresses itself even in death. “I’m walking to the bridge,” begins a Golden Gate Bridge suicide note he cites. “If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.” The writer jumped. He was alone, and so are more of the rest of us. Unattached is the new fancy-free, a strategy for success that translates to later marriages, easier divorces, fewer kids, and a tendency to keep running toward the next horizon, skipping family dinner in the process.

Twelve years and a tech revolution after Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone, his treatise on the decline in American community, the institutions that used to bind America together have, if anything, crumbled even further. People tell surveyors that the world has become less helpful, trustworthy, and fair. It’s a place where you work longer at more deadening jobs for less pay, your life pulsing away with each new email, or worse, each additional hour on your feet. What’s deadly about all this is the loss of what Joiner calls “reciprocal care.” When people have no shoulder to lean on, they feel more isolated, and that isolation can be lethal.