never married, over forty, a little bitter


I socialized recently with a married woman who is a mother, and I noticed that a big topic with her is marriage and children. Whenever she talked about other people, she would mention that they were married and had X number of children. It’s just not the way I think anymore.

I’m so grateful that I’ve found a number of activities that don’t revolve around families, from a tennis group to a Spanish language group to more dance classes. I met a particularly interesting older woman in the Spanish group; she had been a professional dancer in N.Y.C. and then an organic farmer for twenty years. She had also lived in a number of different countries and had moved to this city on a whim. A long-term single, she is preparing to retire to her home state to be near family and old friends.

Although I’ve been spending time with other single and childless women, thus far I haven’t had the chance to pursue organizations that specifically cater to the “childfree.” I see this as a good sign. My calendar is already full with activities where I feel comfortable.

And I certainly enjoy these activities more than I do “standing around” at a bar or networking event or even seeing a show. I probably always felt that way, but one big difference about getting older for me is that I decidedly prefer learning and being active over showing up somewhere hoping for something to happen to me.


This comment captures exactly what I’m facing on the job market now:

Corporate Refugee 54 minutes ago
One of the keys to our generation is, as one of my undergrad instructors commented, that whatever we are has been subject to the larger population, the boomers. The economy got bad and the boomers wouldn’t retire, so we couldn’t move up. In the meantime, Gen Y has gotten to the point that they are competition for us, and we now have the disadvantage of age discrimination to face.




Hugo Schwyzer’s controversial past has unfortunately caused his disappearance from feminist discourse. I don’t have a clear opinion on him, but I do know he was one of the few male writers to call out other men on their ageism and to take a critical stance on touchy subjects such as this:

I’ve never had to field that particular request, but I do find that men take their cues from porn these days and generally want to act out the scenarios they have become habituated to. All the “acting” gets a bit boring and the creativity and joy of sex has felt stifled to me.


The problem is, with adulthoods repeatedly shipwrecked by economic disasters, Xers might have neglected to track the crossing over. Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the resonant memoir ”In Spite of Everything,” says that many Xers “are always living in a state of triage, always in a survivalist mode. We’re not thinking long-term.”


There is a reason, says historian and generational expert Neil Howe, why members of Generation X have been cast as perpetual adolescents. Their parents – “the Silent Generation” – originated the stereotypical midlife breakdown, and they came of age, and fell apart, in a very different world. Generally stable and solvent, they headed confidently into adult lives about the time they were handed their high school diplomas, and married not long after that. You see it in Updike’s Rabbit books – they gave up their freedom early, for what they expected to be decades of stability.

“The Xer in midlife is facing the opposite midlife than the Silent Generation,” Howe says. “The Silent experienced claustrophobia. Xers experience agoraphobia — everything is possible.”

That’s where this generation gets its reputation as reluctant to grow up. “It’s very hard to mature,” he says. “In order to mature and become an adult, you have to shut off options. The way Xers were raised, there were always options — their parents told them to keep options open.”

But Xers started to see that their options were not as limitless as their parents had led them to believe.


The 40-somethings in Apatow’s film might have to downscale their lavish lifestyle, perhaps losing their luxury Westside manse and cutting back on the private trainer. The economic reality for most Xers is much harsher. According to this year’s Pew study, Xers lost 45 percent of their wealth during the Great Recession. More than a few experts suggest that Xers – finally buying their starter homes in their 30s — unwittingly helped inflate the real estate bubble. They certainly bore the brunt of the collapse.

So just around the time that we were on schedule to settle down, our midlife economic peak became the worst market failure since 1929. “Our entire life has been punctuated by economic disasters from the time we were born,” says Gregory Thomas. “At every major milestone there’s been an economic collapse. There is no rest for Generation X. There’s no time to sit back and think ‘Am I happy or not?’”

For many of us, who waited to prepare things just so before we started a family, the idea of waking up to family-and-career complacency and wondering how we lost track of our youthful dreams sounds like the luxury of a more secure generation. David Byrne’s suburban lament “How did I get here?” has become the more practical “How can I pay my rent?” John Lennon’s love-struck refrain “It’s just like starting over” is, for many of us, not a romantic lark. It’s real life. And it’s a lot less fun.


Many Xers have responded by battening down the hatches, carving out a different path. The writer Emily Matchar has written a book called “Homeward Bound” about homespun, sustainable culture – a cozier, less punkish offspring of the original do-it-yourself indie culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s — as a rejection of what Xers and Millennials see as the false promise of career and marketplace. After 9/11 and then the economic collapse, some Xers even took things to the extreme, digging into their sustainable urban farms as a way of girding for a post-apocalyptic world.


Writer Neal Pollack has immersed himself in yoga in order to cope with financial stress and develop perspective on life. “Money is the one thing that keeps me up at night,” he says. “Downward mobility is a hallmark of this generation. I just feel like we’re not going to pull ourselves out of the hole. But what can you do? You have to be grown up about it. You can’t be dissatisfied and unhappy about it all the time. We don’t have that security – the illusion of knowing that everything was going to be all right. But Gen X always had that feeling that everything wasn’t going to be all right.”


The ongoing avalanche of information about how to retain that nubile body and that youthful glow puts pressure on people – especially women – to do everything that we can to stay fit. (It’s why we get a nostalgic thrill from watching the characters in “Mad Men” drink, smoke and stay up all night – the mere freedom of bald ignorance, of living in a time when you just didn’t know.) Cultural representations of middle-aged women have been unkind in the past, but it’s gotten more unforgiving for boomers and Xers alike. “I think we’re laboring under a different oppressive media image,” says Cohen. “Before, it was the frigid, asexual, overweight, boring housewife. And now we’ve gone to ‘you have to look like Jennifer Aniston.’ If we’re not a size-2 figure and have smooth skin from all of this work, then we think we’re a failure. We look horrible.”


And one thing that’s clear: No one else is going to care that we’re moving into red-Ferrari territory. Sure we’ve been screwed. And there may be no Ellsberg in our bunch, but we drank plenty of American Dream Kool-Aid: the idea of real estate being a good investment, the platitude about working hard and getting a good education to secure a solid footing, and the assurance that you need to follow your dreams and not compromise. We are now the most educated American generation – and the first one not doing better than its parents.

There is a chance that being repeatedly burned by the marketplace may actually help us; our natural skepticism may be something American society needs to hear. Most of our trouble – from the Bush 1 recession to the dot-com bust and the more recent economic pit of despair – has stemmed from unchecked optimism. The Xers have paid for that trickle-down optimism repeatedly.

If we’re going to make the country a better place, more suited to our values, we need to do it ourselves. Middle age is, if nothing else, time to shift out of second gear. If we can’t take a break from the urban farms, put down the knitting and home brewing equipment, and step into politics, business and other kinds of leadership, we’ll deserve our reputation as the generation that never quite showed up. Rather than the sound of silence, we should be hearing our voices – and they should be loud and angry.


My roommate is out of town and, after some wavering, I allowed myself a rendezvous with a former fling. I tell myself it was for “health” reasons, and I do think there is something to that.

The thing that is unsatisfying about this particular fling is that he doesn’t make me feel that good about myself. He’s narcissistic and enjoys praise himself, but he doles out little. He also loves to bring up other young, good-looking, and successful women.

If I know one thing, it’s that there will always be younger, better-looking, more successful, and wealthier people out there, and the comparison game is deadly. One of my most important requirements in a long-term partnership is that my partner and I highly value one another.

This is an interesting article; I’ve certainly found that I get more attention here than I did in L.A.:

There are, of course, beautiful women in other parts of the country. But L.A. is a mecca, attracting the most beautiful. Women don’t look like this anywhere else in the country, and certainly not in the quantity they do here.

L.A. is an adopted city for me, as it is for many. Born in New York, I wonder from time to time what shape my life would have taken if I hadn’t moved here in the 1970s. Whatever else, I would not have been saturated with the sight of so many beautiful women on a daily basis. But then I remember; these are the women whose images are broadcast all over the globe. While most people do not live in L.A., they visit it every day when they turn on the TV or go to the movies. It is safe to say that, to one degree or another, we all live in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.


Going into it did you have a goal of remaining abstinent for a certain number of years?

I hadn’t decided anything. I remember I was 27 years old, and I had begun sexual activity very young, and I said to myself, “Am I happy, sexually?” And my answer was “no,” even when I took pleasure. I decided to wait for something better, and for me something better was supposed to come very soon, you know? It was impossible to imagine such a long time. But now, when I’m looking back, it was nothing, those 12 years.

What were you waiting for?

I was not waiting for love. I think it’s a mistake to think that women are always expecting love. We are expecting to be in good hands, even if these good hands are just for two nights or one week. We’re waiting as in the movie “Out of Africa.” We are waiting for a man, maybe his presence will be rare, but it will be a high quality of presence. So I was waiting for something ecstatic.


What place does sex have in your life now?

After my long-time [celibacy], I met a man and I had a boyfriend for years, but now I’m alone. For me, being alone is not a question. For me, I’m not thinking, “Oh, I am 50 years old, am I young enough to meet a man?” I don’t know what it is to think this way. For me, being in love is being free. It’s not as if I was walking in the streets and looking at all these handsome men and thinking, “Oh no, they don’t look at me!” I don’t see handsome men. Charming men I don’t see, where are they? It’s very, very rare, so I have made up my mind. I’m sure that because it’s rare you have to live between the love stories.

What did your sexlessness change for you? How did it change you?

It was very important. It has opened my eyes. At the beginning I thought that married people were happy together having sex. I was considering my celibacy as an illness. During all those years I talked to a lot of people and I learned that sometimes when you’re in a couple you don’t make love at all. Sometimes when you’re alone you have a very big libido in your mind; sometimes it’s more rich in your mind than in the real-life bedrooms of married couples. Sometimes my friends with boyfriends were less happy than me. Of course they had someone in their bed, but there was a price to pay, you know? My mother used to say that there’s a price to pay for everything. You don’t want to be with a boring man, so the price to pay is to be alone. I think that married people are very big liars, because if they don’t lie to say that they are happy sexually then they are ridiculous. So when a married couple is next to a single person, it seems that it is the single person who is the more pitiful, but maybe that’s not the case.