never married, over forty, a little bitter


I was listening to a podcast with David Seaman this week in which he referred to himself as an “amplification journalist.” I love that term. He used it to refer to his gathering of articles others have written about the NSA and then amplifying them so that people can understand the true scope of the issue.

In today’s world, news scrolls by so fast that I think this is a necessary role. Otherwise no conclusions can be drawn and we’re left with nothing but information overload and confusion. The term in some sense captures what I’ve been trying to do here. I started with a premise– being an older and single and childless woman and the factors that can make me feel bitter about it– and have tried to capture not only my own experiences but what I believe to be the best of what has been written on the topic.

More on amplification journalism here:

The David Seaman podcast:


I think at this point in my life, the projections I have to deal with as an older, childless, single woman are often worse than the actuality of living as one.

My roommate, for instance, has shown a tendency to befriend over-forty, single, childless women. I have wondered about this proclivity. Given his ageism, might he believe that such women have nothing else going on in their lives so they will indulge him? It’s highly ironic if so, as I’m out every night with classes and activities while he’s on the sofa.

More on stereotypes:

Another aspect of the spinster stereotype is the relegation of the individual to the role of caretaker. Since unmarried women stayed at home, they were expected to take care of elderly or ill relatives, selflessly devoting their time and energies to them. And why not, since they had no life of their own.


Peach (1998) says that when women have not been biological mothers, they are expected to fulfill the role of “social mothers.” Since a spinster has no children of her own, society expects her to step in and fulfill a generic mothering role when called upon – it’s her duty. This societal duty is clearly depicted in Now Voyager when Charlotte takes on the responsibility for caring for the unwanted child of her lover, a man she can never marry. Neither the child’s psychiatrist nor the natural mother has been successful caring for her, so it becomes Charlotte’s duty to step in and be the social mother. We are left to conclude that Charlotte’s ultimate self-sacrifice of caring for this unwanted child is a noble, and perhaps expected, thing to do since she has no child or husband of her own to care for.

This role of social mother is also portrayed in Summertime (1955) between Katherine Hepburn and the homeless local boy who tags along in the guise of being her protector and guide. The boy represents what is missing in her life and when he disappears at one point in the film, she is worried about him. Her care and motherly concern for this street child fills society’s expectation of her as a social mother.

In The Woman Alone, O’Brien (1973) addresses society’s fear that spinsters might just find their unmarried role satisfying, and that they might be able to feel complete without marriage and motherhood:

“Underlying all the criticisms and attacks on women along through history has been the uneasy fear that women who seek alternatives to marriage and motherhood might very well find them satisfying. The images of themselves that women have been presented with (and helped perpetuate) are intended to discourage or intimidate. And even though as a nation we are committing ourselves to cutting back the birth rate, women who do not marry pose questions about the structure of society. Those questions are difficult to articulate, because they are so deeply rooted in our anxieties about what we are. If women are allowed to flee on their broomsticks, couldn’t they possibly destroy all that has been so carefully put together by men?” (p. 74).

the inevitable

The roommate has been given thirty days notice. I de-escalated the situation while pursuing my ultimate goal of removing the person from my life. Now I just have to get through an uncomfortable thirty days, perhaps the last of my time off before I have to go back to work.

I’ve also acknowledged my own role in this. I saw some signs before we moved in together and had some misgivings. After initially proposing the idea of us living together, I later suggested it might not be a good idea, but he was gung-ho and I wanted to try living with a roommate so I went ahead. I ignored the advice given to me here months ago to remove him because I wanted to give things a chance.

On the other hand, I hadn’t seen him in over a year before I moved back and, while I had inklings, had no true sense of the extent of his internet addiction and the changes (or intensification of underlying traits) in his personality until we lived together.

Between this incident and the one with the irate woman in L.A. that occurred during my last few weeks there, I once again understand how people can make the decision to cocoon with a loved one once they’ve found a sane and reasonable partner. I’m so tired of this kind of ugly drama and hate that it’s part of my life. Yet I try to remind myself that, despite the fact they drain the bulk of my emotional resources, these people represent only a small sliver of my acquaintances.

I’ve also realized that I have a sixth sense about which people will react poorly when I draw boundaries, and I avoid doing so with them because I want to avoid an ugly scene. What I’ve learned is that you can have the ugly scene upfront and avoid a whole lot of heartache down the road, or you can put it off and just delay the inevitable.

zig zags

I went back and read the last few weeks of posts on this blog and see that my feelings about leaving L.A., the job search, being unemployed, having a roommate, and living in this new city have see-sawed rather wildly.

That’s the benefit and the drawback of a blog versus a book, I guess. On the one hand, a blog gives an accurate representation of the ups and downs of a journey and the reversals of thought that happen in the face of ever-changing input. On the other hand, there must have been many points when readers thought, “Huh?” Points in which things didn’t make sense because of all the contradictions.

For that, I apologize. All I can say is that acting on a dream and then adjusting to the reality is not a straight road.