never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: June, 2013


I’m amused and impressed by the millennials in my community college classes. They are smart and resilient in the face of what seem like difficult odds. Many are planning to attend grad school in order to get a toehold on a career path, and they are struggling to keep up their GPA so they can eventually transfer into a good university or they are already taking grad school classes while enrolled in community college classes on the side. Most are also working.

I don’t think I’d be up for the daunting task of parenting in such a competitive climate. I don’t have the resources– financial, emotional, familial– that seem necessary to give kids the leg up they need to compete. I am starting to feel relieved that I don’t have that burden.

Today in class I was greedily thinking of all the subjects I would love to take in the fall– more Spanish, more sewing, guitar, Quickbooks. My original plan in moving here was to give myself a break from the workforce for a year and to just take classes while doing some career exploration. Having just completed two decades in the workforce and looking at another two, a break felt warranted.

Then I crossed paths with the old friend who scared me about the job market. Additionally, this is a small town in terms of careers, and if the word spreads that I’m “taking a break” and turning down opportunities, it’s possible it might affect my chances of getting hired in the future. Really hard to say. Finally, when I look at what the millennials are facing, I’m wondering if I should just be thankful I have a career I can jump back into.

I also did think long and hard before passing on those opportunities in L.A. If I end up in a low-level position here due to all these circumstances, I can’t pin it on my roommate. I even refrained from applying for a close-by management job here because my roommate applied and I was hoping for his sake he would get it and hoping for a break for myself.

Some of his behavior has grated though, such as the petulance he displayed while I took some time to consider the opportunities in L.A., his nonchalance about the big step down the ladder I may be embarking on, and his comments about his boyfriend making his life here worthwhile. He had his interview this morning for the management job, and he was whistling (whistling!) as he got dressed. I can’t help but feel that, at bottom, his attitude is “I got mine.” He now has a relationship, a place to live for half the price, and possibly a better job, while I may be facing the shit end of the stick for a year or (God help me) longer. He’s made some ageist remarks in the past that lead me to wonder if the thinks that, since I’m over forty, it doesn’t really matter what happens to me anyway.

There’s really nothing he can do to make this situation different, but showing some grace and compassion would certainly help. I’m wondering if he lacks the maturity I need in a friend.

Long run, I think I’ll be okay here. The job will probably lead to a better one, there are financial advantages to living here, and I’ve got several activities coming up that I’m excited about.

Whether our friendship will be okay is another question.

if onlies’s_like_i’m_suggesting_that_people_should_have_aborted_their_own_children/

Hundreds and hundreds of studies, both qualitative and quantitative, have been done over decades trying to ascertain how only children are different from anyone else. In just about every area studied, we’re not. And where we are the news is good: We tend to be higher achievers and have higher intelligence scores. But because the world has always told us who we are, we tend to understand ourselves in only child terms. If we’re antisocial, it’s because we’re only children. Of course, if we’re incredibly social, we also explain that characteristic in terms of our only childhoods. It’s quite a totalizing narrative. I have found in my own upbringing, and in the scores of interviews I’ve done, that it’s indeed an intense way to be raised. But that intensity has little to do with the stereotypes. I’d also add that only children tend to have parents — especially mothers — who make their lives more about a life outside of a domestic bubble, or incessantly juggling the demands of work and child-rearing. And I think that’s a very important environment for kids to grow up in — one in which the people raising them are more than just workers and parents.

strategic moves

Despite the short-term discomfort, financial loss, and loneliness, I do think that moving back will turn out to be the right decision for me long-term. I may have to get through a difficult year of transition though.

When I was debating back and forth about the move, my current roommate was putting the pressure on, and I tried not to let him influence me. I had lived here before for almost a decade, so I knew the downsides to the job market and the dating scene, and I had to carefully weigh leaving behind a well-paying job and a large urban area for a smaller place with less opportunity.

I don’t know what will happen with the job interview, but chances are I will be working again soon at a much lower-level than I have been for a good decade. My roommate had to make the same adjustment, and he’s still unhappy about it. He has a boyfriend though, and now that the relationship is going well, he’s taken to saying how it’s the only good thing he has going for him and the only thing that makes putting up with the job bearable.

Reader, that does grate, as I am facing the same job situation now but with few romantic prospects of my own. It is further proof that I should never make a decision based on what someone else is pressuring me to do.

Ultimately, though, I’d been plotting out this move for a long time, and although I might have made it later, it would most likely have happened eventually. I also wrote long ago that I wouldn’t make the move for social or romantic reasons but for an easier life and more time for my own creative projects, and that part is proving true.

the woods

Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.

–Dante’s Inferno

During my last few years in L.A., I managed to keep myself distracted with cultural events and various Industry happenings, but a feeling of “lostness” was creeping up on me nonetheless. A lot of that had to do with coming to terms with not having children, but I think I’ve crossed that bridge now. In fact, one of my friends who is a single mother told me that she is beginning to have that same sense of being “lost” because she doesn’t want to make her whole life about her kid and has yet to find other sources of meaning.

Now that I have a break from the busyness of working and am without my L.A. sources of distraction, however, I am intensely feeling that crisis of meaning. I’m trying to be okay with it, trying to accept that I currently have little in the way of a compass, trying to honor this phase without getting too down about it.

I am enjoying my foreign language course but am not passionate about it. I’ve been getting out and about, and people couldn’t be friendlier or more welcoming, but it may be a while before I find my social niche. I’ve come across attractive men but don’t know if any of them hold potential.

In short, my brain is not currently engaged with any particular thing. I am making sure to eat well and get exercise and meditate most days of the week. It’s still uncomfortable, and my sleep is affected, but all I can do is acknowledge that I’m in a liminal space and hopefully won’t be forever.

How many other middle-aged women feel this way? It seems that these are the crisis years. Hopefully my move was a step in the right direction of being less isolated:

Loneliness and depression are also suicide risk factors. “Older women especially in the U.S. are more isolated and separated from daily human contact outside of work and the internet,” says Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at San Jose State University and the editor of the journal Women & Therapy.

trump card

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” – Kurt Vonnegut

My roommate, after a long period of singledom, has a boyfriend. I’m happy for him. He is gay and a decade younger than me, so perhaps that makes it easier on me than if he were a female friend my own age. We don’t tend to hang out socially so it’s not as if I’ve lost a wingman.

The only thing that has been difficult is when he sleeps at his boyfriend’s. I’ve been spending some portion of every night gripped by anxiety and loneliness, and with him gone last night, all of that was dialed up to eleven. His presence in the next room doesn’t completely ameliorate those feelings, but it helps.

Perhaps there’s a good lesson for me in his newfound love. I could actually drop all my activities, spend my free time on the couch watching TV, occasionally surf OkCupid, and have just as good a chance of ending up with someone!

My recent OkCupid date was not, however, a romantic match. He was in his fifties, I think never-married, and it crossed my mind I might get the impression that he is gay. I ended up having a very strong impression that is in fact the case. That happens to me surprisingly often.

I settled into the date despite the immediate feeling it was not going to happen for us. He was smart and interesting and kind and recently moved here himself. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with him again, but I’d have to delicately move things into the platonic realm.

I am so touched by kindness these days. It trumps so many other things.

straight to the heart

I lived in L.A. at such a weird time. I was vaguely drawn to the comedy scene initially and then pulled in fully once Facebook and podcasts exploded (almost simultaneously). Then the fame game took over. I knew them, but they didn’t know me. It was all so seductive, especially for a single woman alone in the big city, but ultimately, for me, it was a tease.

This is not the fault of the podcasters, although I think they are playing with fire by producing such intimate shows. After all, if I had been socially embedded in a group of like-minded people, I would likely not have been listening to podcasts at all. When I was in college, for example, I never turned on the TV or paid attention to celebrity culture. I didn’t need to– I was surrounded by drama and fun and fascinating peers. It’s only when we are alone that we turn to the media to fill that void.

Maron: Look at Howard Stern, look at [NPR Fresh Air’s] Teri Gross, the medium is more versatile than radio now, where you decide what you want to listen to and when it. People can listen in their car, in their cubicle, at the gym. I get emails from all around the world. I’ve got soldiers in combat listening. I’ve got Americans abroad. They can listen wherever and however they want but I would say 99 percent of the time they’re listening to it in solitary. You’re in their head. You’re talking directly to them. Their relationship with you is very personal. It’s the nature of this medium. Then when people come to my shows and they’re waiting in line to meet me or take a picture or buy a t-shirt or a CD, I know they have an honest and candid relationship because of the type of radio I’m doing. And I respect that. I also realize that I don’t know them at all, and they know me very well, so I try to make myself as available as possible.

the gift of time

And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul
Came up to the top of my head.
And the voice from down at the bottom of my soul,
Here is what it said:

“This man is nothing!
This course is nothing!
If you want something,
Go find another class.

“Nothing”– from A Chorus Line

I’ve written before on here about a faddish partner dancing scene I was involved in during my early thirties. I loved it, but over time the social dynamics changed and it became too cliquish and competitive and I began to feel insecure and rejected in regard to my dancing skills. I do recall a skilled ballroom teacher once telling me that many of the people involved really didn’t know what they were doing in terms of teaching the dance.

I started taking ballet around that time in order to improve my general dance skills. As the politics of the partner dancing world began to wear away at me, I kept up the ballet classes, and I’ve now put in more than a decade of tendues and plies. I like the continuing challenge of ballet, whereas I wasn’t growing in the social dance scene due to the hierarchies involved.

Because of an injury, I’ve taken some extremely beginner ballet classes here, and one of the young women in the class is a teacher in the partner dance scene I abandoned long ago. And you know what? She is truly struggling in this class, a class which is a cakewalk for me. My perspective on those former years has now shifted. Perhaps I was better than I thought or at least had more potential than I was allowed to express.

It’s also possible that the rejection I felt had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that the stars of the scene got younger and younger as the older people left to get married, and I just didn’t fit anymore. In a lot of ways, I think there was a similar social dynamic in L.A. It wasn’t “them” or “me,” there was just no place for me to fit.

Similar to my dance experience, in the late nineties I tried to transition into the dot com world, and despite years of experience in another field, had to start over at the bottom, answering phones. This was at the apex of the boom, and the employees above me thought they were hot shit. I returned to my original career before it all tumbled off the cliff, and, not due to any real desire on my part but more to time and circumstance, I worked my way into some prime positions. Many of my former coworkers, on the other hand, had to start over in other careers, and some of them are in middling jobs now.

I do feel a bit like the tortoise!

the green-eyed monster

Speaking of negative emotions, jealousy is one that tells me a lot about myself.

As I resign myself to going back to work and accepting my lot, I am sliding into insane jealousy over a never-married, childless comedienne around my age who is starting to get bigger roles. She has creative parts in smart projects and has large stretches of time off between gigs. She’s quite pretty so always has a boyfriend. Her beaus are totally my type– not GQ handsome but offbeat, razor-sharp, witty, anti-establishment, cute in a quirky way, right around her age (she seems to have escaped the ageism issue), and socially connected to a lot of creative people. She appears to have a large group of extremely bright friends and acquaintances.

Don’t get me wrong– I don’t want to be a performer. I’ve realized in the past decade that my constitution could not withstand the anxiety. I’d be a drug addict in three months.

What I would like is a smaller version of the type of life she has or to have at least ONE of the things she has. Just one.

She’s pretty, but I’m not hideous. I’m smart and can be funny, but I don’t make my living at it. It doesn’t seem like the divide between us is so great that I couldn’t make some headway in one of those categories, but I’ve been unable to do so. I’ve never had the type of creative job where one goes from project to project with stretches of time off. I haven’t had a long-term relationship in over a decade, and the last time I had a strong, connected group of creative friends was about eight or nine years ago.

I do know lots of other appealing women who are in my shoes, of course, so perhaps this particular celebrity is an anomaly. She complains and has stretches of unhappiness, and I’m sure she doesn’t feel her life is perfect, but it’s hard to imagine her trudging through mine.

tiny buddha

Of course I’ve had moments of wondering if I made the wrong decision by moving back here, but I’ve realized that there are few truly wrong decisions. Things have a way of working out when we make the best decision we can given the knowledge we have at the time.

I liked these posts:

Make peace with your emotions.

Emotions, even ones we assign negative value to, (like fear) provide us with valuable information and serve very specific functions. If you can get over the hostile relationship with emotions, they can be highly useful.

Emotions can:

let you know what’s important to you
prompt you to take some action
guide you toward an aspect of yourself that needs to be exposed and healed
let you know when you’re our of balance so that you can bring it back to center.

Understand that there are no “wrong” decisions.

It really takes the pressure off if you understand that every experience you have, whether you characterize it as “good” or “bad,” is exactly the experience you need to have at that moment. Some choices may lead to more painful lessons than others, but living life in fear of living life is no way to live.

1. Why did you want to pursue this goal to begin with—and has anything changed?

You had a good reason for committing to this plan. Maybe you visualized a financially free future once you started this new business, or you realized you’d live longer and healthier if you lost 40 pounds.

Odds are you still want those things as much as you did before; you just stopped believing you could have them because your attempts have yet to yield results. Now you have to ask yourself: If you push through the discomfort, will it be worth it in the end?

Bottom Line

In the end it all comes down to one thing: change isn’t easy.

Despite your best-laid plans, you will have a few very low points. Your chances of success are often a result of how well you respond to them.

This—the fear, the anxiety and the panic of starting—is just one of the low points.

If you can beat this fear, you will not just succeed at making a new start now, but you’ll significantly improve your chances of surviving through all the future lows.

long-term thinking

When I moved out of L.A., I left behind three potential job opportunities. One would have been a promotion and the other two would have been lateral moves into positions located in two of the toniest zip codes in the country. With one of the latter, I could have walked to work, as I was able to in the position I left.

Now I’m looking at taking one of two potential positions (that is, if I even get an offer) that are several rungs down the ladder. In fact, they are the equivalent of where I started thirteen years ago. The pay is a bit dismal and the commutes are twice as long as I would prefer.

Thus my glumness for the past few days. I’m starting to realize, however, that things are brighter here than they appear.

In terms of the offers in L.A., the promotion would have been a grind and would have removed me from the possibility of meeting anyone other than my coworkers during the workday. In order to have a bearable commute, I would have had to move to an area that would have eaten into all the promotion money. While the lateral positions were in glamorous locations, in reality most of the people in those locations are married, and I probably wouldn’t rate a second glance from the ones who aren’t. If I had moved to be closer to work, I would have paid a small fortune in rent.

The potential job locations here are a suburban area with lots of professionals (most probably married) and an urban location with a hipster flair. Although I don’t have a great deal of faith that I’d find a partner in either place, the odds are greater that I would do so than in any of those potential job locations in L.A. While I hate the idea of commuting, in the long run, promotional opportunities here are in much more desirable locations than they were in my L.A. organization. And reviewing the pension and benefits, I’ve realized that they are much better here.

Perhaps I am rationalizing, but I think I’ve made a good strategic decision in the long term.