never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: June, 2013

the matrix

I was talking on the phone last week with a single, childless friend of mine who lives across the country and is currently working at a stressful, full-time job. She’s a smart and considerate woman who doesn’t know what advice to give me in terms of job decisions, as she’s facing the same issues herself. “We can’t seem to figure out how to escape the matrix,” she said.


My current options are thus:

Take a 20-hour clerical job within walking distance of my home, perhaps keeping up the Spanish courses for another 10-hour commitment per week. Hold on to the housemate. Pull in enough income with the job and the housemate to just barely squeak by. This scenario is close to my original vision.

Take the full-time professional job for more than twice the salary of the clerical position. I’d have no financial worries, but with commute time and lunches added in, I’d be committing to 50 hours per week. The housemate could stay or go. I’m not sure yet whether he is going to work out, but if he leaves and I take another full-time job, I’m back where I started.

I figured out after considering these options that there IS a way to escape the matrix, and that would be to take a half-time professional, as opposed to clerical, position. Naturally that is not on offer.


As I’ve been getting out on the town lately I’ve been reflecting on the last two decades and evaluating which kinds of activities I’ve met people at in the past (be they friends or boyfriends) and which kinds I haven’t. Here is my assessment:

art shows and events– I’ve been to a bunch of fun and interesting ones, but I’ve never met a single person at them. Never.

readings and lectures– I love to read but ditto. I’ve never met anyone, and oftentimes readings can be dreary.

concerts– Once in a blue moon I’ve met someone, especially if there is seating that is conducive to conversation.

dancing– I’ve met a lot of people through dancing.

sporting events– I rarely go and have never met anyone.

playing a sport– I’ve definitely met a few people that way.

classes– Same; I’ve made lots of contacts through classes.

singles events– Never, or at least not any contacts I’d want to pursue.

bars– ditto

sitting in a restaurant– My mother likes to suggest this one. I’ve never met anyone this way.

forevers and for nows

One thing about getting into my forties is I’m starting to truly realize that nothing is forever.

I think the first half of my life was spent in pursuit of the job, career, boyfriend, activity, social group, or place that would feel perfect and therefore permanent to me. Now I realize that things are never perfect, but they can work out pretty well for a while. Then it’s time for the next thing. The only constant is change.

I like the idea of a roommate, but this particular roommate situation may not last more than six months or a year. Maybe in the particulars every roommate is a problem, although I hope not. It’s heartening for me to realize though that I just need to figure out if this roommate is working for the time being and not for years ahead.

Same thing with my next job. There’s now an opportunity for a part-time clerical position within walking distance of my home, which would allow me to continue taking classes and to enjoy some free time as well. I wouldn’t want to be a clerk forever, but for a year or so it could be just right. On the other hand, if I end up in one of those full-time jobs, I’d probably only be in it for six months to a year before moving into something more appealing.

None of it is forever.


When I first moved to L.A., I did some online dating, attended various events, joined a few organizations, and travelled around the area to see the sights. I felt the excitement of being in a new city, but my life was pretty random. I hadn’t plugged into any one activity or scene that really engaged my attention.

Almost three years in, I heard a performer on the radio who really made me both laugh and think. Some time after that, I joined Facebook and ended up “friending” him. And some time after that, I posted something emotional on my page, and he, out of the blue, responded with a heartfelt email. In our writing back and forth he mentioned a podcast he participated in, so I started listening to it. The podcast then opened up a world of people and activities that engaged me for the next three years.

In moving back here, I wanted to concentrate more on my own hobbies than on a social life because I wasn’t sure what the social opportunities would be. I am enjoying the Spanish and the sewing and the cooking, but I’m still trying to get out and about before I get trapped back in another job.

I’ve been attending several events a week, and while they’ve been fun, it’s struck me that I’m in the “random” phase again. Nothing in particular is sticking; I’m simply traveling from event to event. I’ve realized that as much effort as I put into getting out, finding something I’m passionate about will come down to luck and chance.

Hopefully at some point the stars will align and something or someone will grab my attention in that way that gives focus to my life and a reason to get out of bed and get going in the morning.

the bottom of the curve

“Middle-Aged? Join the Misery Club”

“Depression: 44 Age Most at Risk”

“Happiness Curve Bottoms Out at 44”

“Middle-Aged Misery Spans Globe, Study Says”

“It’s Official: Happiness Resumes at 50”

“Aging Really Is Depressing (Until 50)”

“Middle Age a Low Point for Most: Study Found Age 44 Marked the Peak of Depression for People Around the Globe”

“Midlife Misery: Is There Happiness After the 40s”

“The Midlife Crisis Goes Global”

“More People Fight Depression in Mid-Life”

“Mid-Life Crisis: Unhappily There’s No Escape”


Barbara Miller of ABC News in Australia summarized the results of the study in an article she authored, noting:

“Those approaching middle age like to think that life begins at 40, but research suggests that just a few years later we are at our most depressed. Scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom who studied happiness and depression levels in 80 countries, have pinpointed 44 as the most unhappy year of life. But they say we shouldn’t get down about it, as many 70-year-olds are as happy and healthy as young adults.”

Miller continues, “Happiness is a U-shaped curve according to the research. As middle-age approaches, the average person will slide down the U to hit rock bottom at the age of 44. They’ll be stuck in that trough for quite a few years but by the time they are in their 50s, assuming their physical health is intact, their happiness levels will go up and risk of depression goes down.”

dream life

When I first got to town, I was taking classes at a yoga studio in which there were several pregnant women in the classes and lots of pregnancy talk. I wasn’t bothered by it like I used to be. Progress!

In my small sewing class, there’s a young twentysomething woman who is engaged and several times she has talked to her fiancee on the phone. Lots of “love you” in those conversations. Again, I seem to have a wall up against letting that stuff affect me now.

I can see, though, why I had to get out of here in my thirties.

I’m still having bouts of terrible insomnia, much like I did when I moved to L.A. I try to just accept them these days, but when I’m going through it, I tend to feel self-destructive. I’ve been experimenting with different thought patterns recently, and when I’m tossing and turning I try to visualize myself as surrounded by the love and adoration of friends and family and their soothing embraces.

The sad thing is, I can’t connect to those images. I’ve had to wall myself up against so much disappointment that I’ve lost touch with those expectations and desires.

I don’t think this is all that unusual. Who among us hasn’t been disappointed with our parents, our boyfriends, our friends? I just think that at this moment in time I’m feeling particularly cut off in every area. My mom is getting more difficult as she ages, I’ve lost the bulk of my former friends to marriage and kids, and the dating landscape is a bit of a desert.

Time to rebuild.


Today, Rich’s reflections on maternal ambivalence and the struggle to lay claim to one’s own experience are familiar. The women’s health movement did much to rectify the medical field’s paternalism toward women, though anti-choice politics have threatened this progress. But as the backlash against feminism took hold in the 1980s, discussions of private and public became distorted. The notion that the two spheres might be reorganized has disappeared from public consciousness, and the question has become whether women can “have it all,” or whether those spheres can be “balanced.” There is now more possibility for humane relationships between the sexes, but little economic and political support for alternative family or communal structures. Discussions of the social dimensions of relationships run constantly up against the idea of “choice.” Feminists concerned with economic and racial injustice recognize these injustices as the limits of choice. Yet even these discussions are often more focused on recognizing those limits than thinking about how a different social context might change things.

– See more at:


I’m enjoying listening to Julia Sweeney’s new book, which is about her adoption of a baby in her forties and subsequent marriage:

At the end of disc 3 she discusses all the confused and ambivalent feelings she has had about romantic relationships over the years, from strong feelings of independence to desperation. I could relate!

Things are smoothing over with my roommate, although I’m still amazed at his laziness. He does work all week, but yesterday he literally laid on the couch and watched television the entire day. I went swimming and grocery shopping and met up with a friend and cooked and cleaned the apartment in that same amount of time. He’s paying me for the food service, so I can’t complain, but it’s been eye-opening.

I’m not saying all men are lazy– many are quite hard-working and productive. But it does strike me as funny that so many (admittedly, not all) women do so much in the way of self-improvement– from dieting to exercising to traveling to spiritual awakening to hair removal to relationship seminars to career-building etc.– in the hopes of meeting a mate who may just, in the end, want someone to do all the work of maintaining the home and perhaps bring in most of the income to boot.

the ultimart

Dr. Oatman, please pick up, pick up! It’s Martin Blank! I, I’m standing where my, uh, living room was and it’s not here because my house is gone and it’s an Ultimart! You can never go home again, Oatman… but I guess you can shop there.— Martin Q. Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank

It’s surreal being back in town. Some people look and seem exactly the same and are living the same lives as they were before, while others have married and had children in the few years I’ve been gone or moved away and moved back themselves. Interestingly, a lot of my hunches about people have been confirmed now that I’m back. In one case, I discovered that a man I found quite difficult to deal with, someone who surprisingly married and had a child after I left town, got divorced soon after the child was born.

Just like with people, some places are exactly the same, while at the same time new projects and developments have sprung up with remarkable rapidity. I can be on one block where everything is completely familiar, and then turn a corner and everything has changed.

There’s a lot of creative activity here, but it doesn’t seem to have the same sort of ambition behind it as you find in L.A. Do the musicians and comics and other performers here eventually want to go professional? Or are they content to stay local or even just perform for fun? Imagine that. I’m trying to wrap my head around that concept again– doing something just for the hell of it.

I do find that I get flirted with a lot more here. A lot more. As well as just chatted up more in general.

The job interview went okay, but they did emphasize that they are understaffed and overworked, so I may be going from the frying pan into the fire. Half my friends think I should take a job to have a job, the other half are bummed I’m not pursuing my dream of time off and a career change. For the most part, the latter half are struggling with the same issues of career dissatisfaction and inability to find something else, so I don’t have confidence they have the answers either. Maybe I should have held out longer before applying for something; I don’t even know anymore.

Sometimes I think it was folly for me to imagine I could “go home” again. I have changed, and this place has changed, and I had mostly settled into L.A. But I don’t think I could have started over somewhere completely new in my forties, and I don’t think I was meant to be in L.A. forever. And perhaps this place has enough of the familiar and the unfamiliar to be the best compromise all around.

attitude adjustment

I’ve been doing some googling on “midlife and depression” to get tips on how to cope with my recent spells of anxiety and low mood and have come across numerous articles on the spike in the suicide rate among the middle-aged.

The comments on this article are worth reading and offer a grim counterpoint to the relatively jaunty tone of most media articles:

I bring this up because after reading the comments I feel like I should be more thankful about the opportunity to re-enter my career.

In terms of dating, though, ack (to echo the comic-strip character Cathy). It does seem bleak.

Also, being “overworked and undervalued” is exactly how I felt the last decade or so:

Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the charity the Mental Health Foundation, explains why women like me are at particular risk. The reason so many ‘older females’ are suffering from common mental health disorders (depression and anxiety being the most common) is because we are both overloaded and undervalued.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook