never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: September, 2013

the independent

My mother has been married several times and, after being widowed, moved five times in the past fifteen years, twice following a boyfriend and two more times recovering from that. She’s lost a lot of money on all that moving around.

It would be nice if I could find a job here because I’d be three hours away from her, which is just about perfect. I’m within range to help out if needed, but I’ve got my own life. Since she is now approaching eighty, this was one of the reasons I moved back.

When I talk about having to go back to California, she insists she’ll go with me and we can live together. I am not keen on this idea. Financially it makes sense, but it would certainly strain my mental health. It also irks me that she spent her life married but expects me to be happy to spend my remaining vital decades living with my mother.

She’s never been happy living alone; I suppose this is why:

Widows and divorcees are more likely to need other people to rely on than women who have never been married. Pauline Bart, a sociologist who has studied depression in middle-aged women, believes that marrying young often precludes success in living alone. “Women who have never married generally value privacy and independence above intimacy and companionship,” she said. It is hardly surprising that a woman who has spent twenty years fixing family dinners, talking about the bills with her husband, hanging up his shirts, and living a noisy, full life will sorely miss it even if it was unhappy.

— Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 159

the nudging

For most women alone, finding the power to control their own lives won’t come from shaking their fists. Nor will it come from wishful dreams of being elected to the state legislature and putting together a coalition to change, say, discriminatory employment laws. They need instead to change their relationship to society, to recognize the options singleness can provide, to set out to change what they can change– be it where they live, who they know, or or how they equip themselves for work. There are some women who are exerting power over their lives, and yet they don’t see it in terms of exerting power– again, because of this very alien word. These women are more likely to describe what they are doing in terms of how they feel. “There is something inside you that is nudging you, and then you look back on it and realize it has become a pattern,” said a divorced woman with two children.

–Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 190

the cradle

And finally, if there is one attitude that women alone urgently need to change within themselves, it is their presumption they will marry and stay married. Women should plan from youth as if they might never marry; they should see this not as a bleak fate but as an expansion of possibilities that opens worlds, not closes them. If indeed maturity can be measured by the degree to which one attempts to perceive reality (a definition that appeals to me), then most women who stay deliberately blind to the possible prospects of divorce or widowhood have not yet moved out of their cradles.

–Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 222

the battle

Isn’t it a pity that we can’t grow up first and then get married? Marriage is probably the single thing that holds women back from doing things they can do and being what they can be. It’s beginning to change. The difficult thing is, women have to get out into the battleground if they want to grow, and most normal married women don’t want to experience that battleground. They’re afraid they’ll get out there and find they now live on different planets from their husbands.

–Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 230


Harkening back to Madonna


Ralph Nader was once asked what type of person functions best in his consumer protection investigations. He answered that the one absolutely necessary trait is “not wanting to be loved.” Unfortunately, most women want to be loved more than they want anything else– including respect.

–Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 201

fear and loathing

“I loathe women,” she cried in a mild temper. “What on earth can you say to them, except talk ‘lady-lady’? I’ve enthused over a dozen babies that I’ve only wanted to choke. And every one of those girls is either incipiently jealous and suspicious of her husband if he’s charming or beginning to be bored with him if he isn’t.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned


I wish this last sentence were true… I still have some hope:

Because women alone are dropouts from society of sorts, they tend to overconform in order to be accepted. But precisely because there are so few options open to them, they have a chance to make their own. They do not have to build friendships and life patterns around a husband’s life. They do not have to ask anyone’s permission to, for example, move to the city, where being alone is not considered unusual or strange. They can go out and find supportive people and build supportive relationships, even build a community of their own. (In a sense, I am part of a community of two in the city room, sharing and gaining self-confidence with another woman reporter). They can form organizations of widows or divorced women and shape them to be what they want them to be– not settle for groups of lonely women consoling each other. They can form and join summer communes where women and men alone can share with each other what they wish of their lives. They can choose jobs, not for security, but for challenge and supportive atmosphere.

–Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 200

hard labor

It was a day of hard labor on the organic farm, but I’m so glad I did it. It gave me a glimpse into the life of the manual laborer. Also, I feel proud that at least I’m sticking to my promises to myself during this time off. I hope to get out there at least once a month.

While working, I met some folks straight out of the Paul Krugman documentary, Inequality for All, that is opening this weekend. One middle-aged woman seemed bitter, unfriendly, and bossy initially, but we eventually got to talking. I’ve realized that since there is so much to embitter middle-aged women, I can cut them some slack. Turns out this woman grew up in the area where I worked in Los Angeles. A single mom, she has no health insurance and scrapes by on freelancing. She told me she alternates health-and-yoga kicks with periods of hating everyone. She was interested in my community-college health insurance plan and the coming Obamacare.

A man who was working with us just quit his coaching-and-teaching gigs because he had to spend all his hours with “other people’s kids” and never got to spend time with his own daughter, a toddler.

The woman who stood by me in the assembly line said she recently lost her job after getting in an accident but was able to move in with her boyfriend, who lives outside of the city. She has almost no money but is at least taking advantage of this time “to explore new options.”

Yesterday I received word that I didn’t get that job I interviewed for, and while away today, my roommate moved out. We didn’t say goodbye. It’s good that he’s out, but I’m thrown back entirely on myself again.

Playtime is coming to a close. The job search will begin in earnest in a few weeks. I even applied for a high-level job in a small, provincial, conservative town about an hour away from this city. The pension plan is proportionate. Maybe I could do it and keep my condo so I could spend weekends in this city.

Hard times might require some hard choices.


If contemporary feminism is to pose the kind of threat to the status quo that riot grrrl attempted to evoke, it desperately needs to recoup the demand for redistribution of wealth alongside the ongoing battles for expanded representation and personal evolution. Though a book of riot grrrl zines or even a summer spent at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls might inspire young women to pick up guitars and pens, without the financial resources to sustain these creative pursuits, fewer and fewer women will be afforded the opportunity to make art. In 2011, Le Tigre’s JD Samson published a widely-circulated article detailing her precarious financial situation despite her status as a well-known musician. Describing her lack of steady income, health insurance, and guaranteed work, she concluded by imploring, “Another reason to occupy Wall Street.” Similarly, earlier this year, Kathleen Hanna spoke out in support of Guitar Center employees’ efforts to unionize, noting that without access to a living wage, “Only the trust-fund kids, who don’t have to pound the pavement all day, end up being the ones in bands. This makes for a scene that isn’t diverse or interesting.” As austerity tightens and public funding for arts programs vanish, the possibility of a punk, DIY, arts-based girl riot diminishes, even as new books and films herald its legacy and continuation. – See more at:

the numbers game

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day and the host mentioned that, after a couple of years of doing the podcast, he has now had over a million downloads.

I don’t advertise this blog at all, but I can assure you my number of hits is way less. Maybe 100-150 people visit on an average day, with perhaps 200-300 post views.

1-in-5 women enter their mid-forties childless. I’m unsure what that translates into as far as actual numbers; it must be huge. Yet there aren’t a ton of blogs on this subject; I routinely read only a small handful.

I am guessing this blog pops up now if one were to search the subject, so the question is, where are the readers? Are single, childless women searching out this kind of material? As a reader myself, I’m curious.