never married, over forty, a little bitter


A friend of mine went through infertility hell a few years ago. When we learned of one another’s journeys, we were both glad to have an empathetic shoulder to lean on.

Then she became a mother, and developed infertility amnesia.

whipping posts

In addition to this recent falling-out with the roommate, I had a falling-out with one of my few NoMo friends this year that reminded me of a falling-out with another NoMo friend years ago.

In all three cases (and, I admit, in smaller types of instances), I was more or less accused of never being happy and being a broken record in terms of my complaints, specifically around dating and jobs and friendships.

So I got the message. I’m just too much for a lot of people. I started putting those thoughts and feelings in this blog instead and doing my grief work here. My other interests don’t feature here unless they relate to the theme of this blog, but I can assure you I do have them!

If anything, that is what irks me about those accusations. With all three friends, it was implied that I’m not doing anything to help myself. Yet whenever I mentioned my passions or the proactive steps I’ve been taking, none of them picked up the thread. They showed no interest in discussing the authors or podcasts I love. Unless it was something I suggested because it related directly to them, they didn’t pick up the books I recommended. They didn’t ask any questions about the shows I produced. They weren’t interested in seeing my pictures from my travels or asking questions about them. They asked zero questions about my dance classes. They showed no interest in hearing about my foreign language class. They asked no questions about my continual reevaluations and changes in direction in the face of setbacks.

I mentioned these things, but conversations never resulted. One of these friends actually suggested I take up yoga due to “never being happy,” apparently not having registered the fact that I already do yoga every day.

I have a few friends who did pick up those threads, and although I do discuss jobs and relationships with them, we talk about all those other topics as well.

These three friends were, however, happy to use me as a sounding board for their own relationship and job issues, and I always obliged even when I wasn’t particularly interested. Only when our problems coincided did they want to hear mine. Yet the thing that seems to have eventually infuriated all three– and seems to have remained a burr in their heels to the point they didn’t take notice of instances when I’d moved on– is the apparent nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of my voice discussing the difficulties inherent in the dating, social, and job markets of today.

I get it. My role is the eternal giving tree. When their job or relationship problems were momentarily resolved, mine should have been too. I’m uninteresting as a loser in the romance and job markets and an inconvenient reminder of potential loneliness and economic hardship.

And out of those fears, I become a whipping post.

the posts that bind

As the prior article I posted from Stephanie Wood illustrates, social media can make us feel lonely even as it purports to bring us together. It’s complicated, in other words.

Here’s another perspective I appreciate, although the emphasis on sharing photos of children is exactly the kind of thing that can make the childless feel isolated:

The point of this anecdote is not that he didn’t regard my Facebooking of him as an invasion, but that he wanted me to do for him exactly what I was doing for myself: share something funny (along with a tip to some cool tunes) with his community.

We need this. Modern society blows communities apart, splits family and friends across continents, isolates us in our cubes, and works us too hard to have as many physically embodied connections with each other as we would like. We’re always fighting alienation. Any new parent, I’m sure, recognizes the syndrome. The combined tasks of parenting and earning a living send a torpedo blasting through our real-life social networks.

One meaningful reason why we value social media, even though it is problematic in so many troubling ways, is precisely because it helps us stitch our exploded communities back together, and keeps us in closer touch with the people we love. We’re not taking and sharing more pictures right now (by several orders of magnitude!) than at any other time in the history of human civilization because we’re all irresponsible tramplers of each other’s privacy! We’re doing it because it fulfills deep-seated human needs for connection and intimacy. I cherish pictures of my brother’s new baby down south in San Diego because I am sadly too far away for regular physical check-ins. I know my sister, who was present at my daughter’s birth but now lives on the East Coast, loves as many updates on her niece’s activities as she can get. Friends of mine who’ve moved away, former work colleagues whom I hold dear but now rarely get to see — we all feel more in touch, more present in each other’s lives when we share anecdotes and pictures of our children with each other.

eleanor rigbys

This is not easy to say. You will jump to conclusions. You will think that I am socially inept, or difficult, or weird, or boring. How uncool I must be. A loser, a failure, flawed. In the 21st century, it’s okay to admit to having a mental illness, but admit to being lonely and watch people back away. The stigma is immense.

Herbert Bowers has been homeless and transient, he lives in public housing, he is largely estranged from his family, he is asthmatic, a diabetic, and has bipolar disorder. But what are my excuses? I have been transient, too – I’ve lived in six cities, two overseas, and the one I now call home is not where I grew up, went to school or studied.

Circumstance has also played its part. Forty-something, I find, against hope and expectation, that I’m a lone ranger, child-free and, for now, partnerless. The roaming packs of merry, unattached 20-somethings and 30-somethings that were my lot in other cities are packed away in photo albums. The roaming packs of my generation in this city gather at kids’ sports or droop over their homework.

And so here we are, Herbert and I and countless others, confronting “the sad, helpless, monotony of the self”, “the locked room” of oneself, as Irish writer Colm Tóibín described the loneliness of his protagonist in The Master. The substantial connection, the nourishing meeting of minds, the intimate, quiet and calm moments of understanding – well, they are rare jewels, to be marvelled at and longed for.

Read more:

smiley faces

In line with my prior post:

I sometimes get into conversations with taxi drivers, and since most of them are new to the city, I often ask them what they miss about the place they came from. Almost always, they name very ordinary pleasures: a slower pace of life, a café where they could sit around and talk to friends, a street where they could play kickball without getting run over. Those who miss these things enough will go back home. That means that the rest of us, statistically, are more high-strung, hungry and intent on long-term gains—traits that quite possibly correlate with intelligence.

But I think it’s also possible that New Yorkers just appear smarter, because they make less separation between private and public life. That is, they act on the street as they do in private. In the United States today, public behavior is ruled by a kind of compulsory cheer that people probably picked up from television and advertising and that coats their transactions in a smooth, shiny glaze, making them seem empty-headed. New Yorkers have not yet gotten the knack of this. That may be because so many of them grew up outside the United States, and also because they live so much of their lives in public, eating their lunches in parks, riding to work in subways. It’s hard to keep up the smiley face for that many hours a day.

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the airwaves

Despite getting no sleep the night before, I had a pretty good interview yesterday, and I may be employed soon. If not, I’ve reframed this time as my “year off” (my original intention) and my interviews as “career exploration.” If nothing comes through by, say, April, I will have to either take something unappealing or seriously consider returning to Los Angeles.

I wouldn’t hate being back in L.A. but the the act of moving back is incredibly daunting, and I know that working there again would be quite stressful.

One thing I continue to miss, and the thing that pulled me there in the first place, was being around people at the top of their game. Overall the population is more educated here, but when it comes to top writers and comics and filmmakers and so on, they are in L.A. and New York. There’s a handful here but I never come across them.

I found another podcast I love and eventually figured out that, yep, the podcasters are out of L.A. and sometimes hold live tapings in my old neck of the woods. One of them is young and cute, but the thing that appeals to me about him is his razor-sharp smarts and analytical ability. He’s engaged to a cute actress, and it’s one of those rare instances that give me a pang of envy because she gets to be in love with and spend her life with such a smartie.

I’m still listening to my other podcasts– all out of L.A.– and reading my favorite authors from there. Not having quite that level of wit and intellect here is something I miss.

In my twenties and thirties I had some really sharp friends in this city, but most of them have dispersed to the coasts, and the ones who are left are busy with families or their personal lives and their edges have dulled a little. They just aren’t as fully immersed in the world of ideas, which is the only world I’ve got left. I definitely appreciate the niceness of people here, but that niceness comes with a decorum that can prevent people from going really deep or speaking against the grain.

The difference now is that I’ve lived in L.A. and realize that you can be in the same room with or even interact and work with all those creatives, but there’s an invisible barrier. They’re overwhelmed with building their careers, and if you can’t help them (or aren’t incredibly hot, I suppose), they don’t have the time. In that respect, there isn’t much difference between encountering them live and reading their work or listening to or watching them from another city altogether. That’s the hard truth, as much as I still hate admitting it.

One of my brightest friends here was in the process of moving to L.A. just as I moved back to town. I went to his goodbye party and remembered how nice it is to be around very funny people and to be included in the conversation, as opposed to an audience member, like in L.A.

He’s gone now, and I don’t have much choice but to content myself in the role of long-distance fanhood and the knowledge that even if I’m not personally involved with people who fire my brain, it’s nice to know that they exist.