never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: October, 2013

little emperors

It may take a village to raise a child but actually no one cares about the village once the child is born, as the world around ceases to exist.

Obviously I am describing a particular style of parenting that co-exists alongside clearly deprived and unhappy children. But I have much sympathy with Rory Stewart, the Tory MP for Penrith, a very thoughtful man who has dared to challenge the reign of the child. We often talk of the existence of elderly people – bed-blockers, immobile, mentally ill – as a burden. For we are too busy anyway with our jobs and kids. Stewart pointed to the huge dismay at youth unemployment and complete lack of interest in pensioner poverty. In an essay in Intelligent Life, he went on to say: “Our ancestors have been addicted to honour, craved virtue and wealth, been hooked on conquest, and on God. But ours is the first civilisation to find its deep fulfilment in our descendants. Our opium is our children.”

Children as the opium of the masses is an interesting idea. Small children may certainly be this and many people’s focus on wider issues immediately narrows once they become parents, even on something such as climate change, which will affect future generations. We just hope science works and open another bottle of wine …


The most interesting takeaway from the paper is that the “motivations for pushback and resistance… were deeply grounded in emotions…. Emotional dissatisfaction is the most frequently reported reason to push back and resist online connectivity….”

Privacy, in contrast, was the least reported reason for pushback.

We are more disillusioned, then, than angry or paranoid. Still lonely, even as we’re more connected than any humans have ever been. The more we check our devices, the more we realize we’re not getting what we really need.


I’m not a Luddite — I am in fact a big proponent of online dating. I’m a big enough fan, and know enough big enough fans, to think it’s here to stay — and that this confers upon its corporate stewards certain responsibilities. Yagan et al may be giving their customers what they want, but they’re also shaping what their customers want, and anything they do affects not just their bottom line but also how countless users experience coupling — how safe they feel, how accepted, how open they are to people they might not otherwise consider, how they treat and think about people out in the real world. They’re not just neutral meeting places where single people bring their own biases and desires. They’re managed services that can influence those biases and desires.


Unfortunately, when joblessness drags on it creates casualties, and mine are mounting. To wit:

My mother. Her emails and phone messages offering (perhaps) well-intentioned but ill-informed, condescending, and downright clueless job-hunting advice may well cause me to have a rage-induced stroke someday. She is bored and lonely, and I moved here partly to ameliorate that, but right now this plane is going down and I have to get my oxygen mask on first before I can think about helping someone else. I have refused her recent suggestions of a visit as I think it would not be healthy for either of us right now.

My fling. Given that he is in a position to help me in my job search but hasn’t done so and hasn’t even invited me to parties and events that would help me network within my area of interest, I cannot bring myself to respond to his sexting. The fact that he has shown zero concern over my job search and, rather than bolster my confidence as other friends have done, has instead questioned my skills, makes me feel about as amorous towards him as a dying sloth.

My friend in similar circumstances. I have a friend here who is in similar circumstances in all aspects of her life, but her approach to them is so diametrically opposed to mine that I think it’s better for both of us to avoid conversation. We’ve always gotten along, but there’s an edge, as it’s obvious we disagree so heartily on the issues plaguing us.

My former co-workers. Awkward. Enough said.

The “positive thinker.” I have a friend here in his early sixties who I like very much, but he was out of work for years and years and then scored a job when he wanted one because his best friend runs a major organization in town. He keeps telling me I’m being way too negative and I have no way of knowing that I won’t find a job here. It is hard for me to bite my tongue, but I’ve been doing so because I like him and don’t want yet another casualty.

the core

I wonder if I will be quite so cavalier next time someone asks me “Why never married, why no kids”. Going for the laugh, now seems shallow – the easy out. After all – these are questions that go to the heart of femininity, to the core of being a woman. The answers we give will define how successful other people – and sometimes we ourselves, feel we have been as a female.

checking out

An acquaintance told me that she has a long-standing friend who is employed at a popular company in town and encouraged me to apply there. I put in an application for an entry-level job, but I didn’t hold my breath. Yesterday the acquaintance told me her friend never answered her email about my application. And so it goes.

I’m now down to one application for a professional job within this city, and one in another city in this state where I have family. I’m not that excited about the latter place, but it does meet my minimum requirements.

Meanwhile, I have six applications in for professional jobs in California, not including the prospects at my former organization. The writing on the wall is becoming clearer and clearer. I’ve stopped investing in this city emotionally and socially, although I do still search the job boards. After the initial depression and anger, my psyche has kicked into survival mode. I find myself more and more envisioning possible lives elsewhere. I have a feeling I’ll be gone sometime next year, possibly as early as two months from now.

I can hit up the temp agencies again starting next week, but the one I signed up with has only offered $10 an hour jobs, and the worst part is that they are not in companies where I could grow into another position. They have been in dead-end sectors, such as childcare. I have a feeling the company jobs are going to young women in their twenties.

I’ve started telling everyone I’m looking for a job, but it hasn’t resulted in any leads. Three or four of my friends haven’t replied to my last messages or texts, so I have stopped contacting them.

Onwards and upwards?

minimum requirements

As I begin my nationwide search for a job, I have been pondering where I would be willing to live. I have come to the conclusion that, in my mid-forties, my requirements are few. I need access to outdoor recreation, a good grocery store and ideally a farmer’s market, and, if not a dance studio, at least a yoga studio.

That’s pretty much it. I am basing that on how I spend my time here– cooking, dancing, going to yoga, swimming in natural swimming holes and biking and hiking and playing tennis. And reading, which I can do anywhere.

I see one married friend and two older divorced friends on any kind of regular basis here. I could have those same friends in a suburb or a small town. L.A. was full of singles, but it didn’t really get me anywhere, and other than going to shows, I spent most of my time doing the above. I rarely took advantage of the good restaurants there because I had few friends to go to them with; if I did utilize them, it was to order in.

I have, of necessity, become almost entirely self-contained.

the egocentric

Not having children isn’t an illness in the usual sense, and it certainly isn’t a life-threatening condition, but fertility experts send women a hugely reactionary message. They encourage them to think they’re failures if they don’t have babies, implicitly dismissing any individual or couple who chooses to remain childless.

There’s a very basic mistake here. For centuries, the fact that most women who had sex got pregnant perpetuated the myth of a universal maternal instinct. I don’t have it and I know plenty of other women who don’t. Quite a few men, I suspect, would be happy not to have children, but couples come under huge pressure from family and friends to start procreating. What few people – especially fertility doctors, most of whom are male and have massive egos – seem to realise is that there’s no evidence for the assumption that having children makes people happy.

the perplexed

This passage from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath reminds me of conversations I have had on the farm:

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car
creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a
single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered.
And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another
family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat
on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the
node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these
two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each
other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the
zygote. For here “I lost my land” is changed; a cell is split
and from its splitting grows the thing you hate–“We lost our
land.” The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and
perplexed as one. And from this first “we” there grows a still
more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have
none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little
food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.
Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are

systems theory

I was listening to an interview the other day in which it was mentioned that, while people in the U.S. are encouraged to live healthier lifestyles, the barriers they face to doing so are largely systemic as opposed to personal.

I suppose that is why I’ve been feeling glum lately; I have the sense that there are so many systemic barriers to living a satisfying life as an older single woman that no amount of personal chutzpah can overcome them.