never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: December, 2013


When I posted that I was weary in preface to Glahn’s post – saying “I grow weary of metaphors in church that always deal with parenting or marriage. I grow weary of hearing other women define the pinnacle of female identity as motherhood. I grow weary . . . perhaps I am jealous, but I do not think so. Instead I think I am living the life God has given me to live, and it is right for me to do so. Sandra Glahn reminded me of that today.” – a friend, a man I admire, suggested that I might be denying the fulfillment that some women get from mothering. I started to cry.

diner’s club

Mrs Cunningham said she was inspired to help by James’s “bravery” in taking out an advert and rejected the “good Samaritan” label. Instead, the 52-year-old councillor said James was helping her and John to deal with what is normally a difficult time of year.

She said: “We have not got any children and I find Christmas quite lonely myself because I had miscarriages in the past.”


It’s that time of year for counting blessings and I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Gateway Women forum is (now over 1000 members strong):

Even though I’ve passed through my grieving process, I still “wobble” occasionally. In just the past year, some of the women I’ve had long, intimate talks with about childlessness have gone on to find partners and/or get pregnant, and if it wasn’t for the forum, I imagine these instances would have once again triggered profound feelings of failure and a 24-hour loop in my head going “what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me.”

Instead, I check in with the forum and realize I am far from alone and that every sentiment I’ve explored in this blog is echoed there many times over. It’s been my virtual support group, and I can’t imagine how I’d be feeling without it.

Thank you Jody Day!


The holidays can bring up childhood traumas and emotional angst. They can be a huge trigger for feeling lonely when you are single. I am tired of all that. My new idea is that I am back to embracing the childlike wonder of it all. I am done with the woe-is-me-I’m-single-at-the-holidays thing, and I am going back to childlike wonder.


I’m also trying to figure out whether I should rent my place or sell it this time around.

I have enjoyed the “safety net” feeling this condo has provided me– the sense that I have a home in the world.

So why would I sell it? Because although I’ve made many acquaintances here in the past six months, and I’ve reconnected with two or three friends in a way that could have grown stronger if I’d stayed, and I have some sense of how I could build a community here, at the present moment I don’t have strong enough ties to warrant a visit back after I leave. So why keep the property?

I may rent it for a year just in case, but I think holding onto it long-term is holding onto a fading illusion.


I was restless in my thirties in this city; watching my chance to have a family pass me by led me to believe I needed a bigger playing field for both dating and jobs.

Now that I’ve accepted I won’t be having kids, and my relationship desires have been pared down to happy companionship, and my pleasures in general have become much simpler, I could be quite content here. It was an adjustment at first, but I’ve settled in.

And now I have to leave.

I think I can be happy in my new spot as well; it’s just a strange feeling to move without much in the way of ambition propelling me.

The holidays are intensifying my sense of melancholy about this. My friends are having downtime with their families, while I’m gearing up for another solo journey.

Bad timing, but hopefully by the spring the emotional dust will be settled.


The stress has begun. Not the holiday stress (although that isn’t helping), but the stress of negotiating a job offer and a cross-country move. Again, I’m doing this all alone, performing all the roles that a couple could divide between them. My personality is already massively deteriorating under the strain.

I did take one break today to go to a bookstore and stumbled right into a book called The Gift of Job Loss by Michael Froehl. And what a gift! I read it all in one sitting and found it enormously validating:

Although his focus is on people who are laid off or fired, his advice resonated with me. He recommends to resist all the pressure to rush into another job but rather, if possible, to take time off to travel, learn a language, improve your health, take up hobbies, clear out your belongings, investigate career and location changes, reconnect with family and friends, and so on. His theory is that we work for thirty or forty years with only one or two weeks off a year (in the U.S.), so a short break of three months to a year in one’s forties is sorely needed and is barely a blip on the radar in the large scheme of things.

I’m sad I have to interrupt my Spanish classes– I think I could have reached a certain level of fluency by the end of 2014– but I also agree with Froehl when he advises that one has to be prepared to end one’s sabbatical early if a great offer comes along.

And all things considered, this job is a great step for my career and finances. It isn’t necessarily the direction I thought I’d be taking, but not everything is under my control. I think I’ll be happy with both the job and the location, if I can just get through the move.

I did have a dinner date with a gentleman about ten years older than me who quit the rat race a decade ago and then bought a small business that allows him to work outdoors. Now that his daughter is leaving for college, he may pare down the business and get a roommate so he can work even less. It made me a bit sad, as my original intention in moving back here was to do something along those lines. But then the roommate situation fell apart, the job search dragged on, and things began to look bleak. I’m just going to have faith that I can reconsider the “easy living” dream in my fifties.

I hope anyway. Froehl points out that we never know how much time we have left, and thus in our forties most of us begin to grapple with our disappointments and reconsider the paths are on. He advocates for a “break” because he thinks it makes more sense to take one in the middle of our lives than to tack on another year at the end– an end we may never live to experience. I’m so glad I had my break!

At the end of the book Froehl recommends the following titles, which I will have to check out as well:

guilty pleasures

Quite a few Gateway Women members are spending Christmas alone, by choice or by circumstance, and what I’m hearing is that they are looking forward to it as a sort of guilty pleasure. What’s interesting is how many of their relatives and friends are coming out of the woodwork aghast at this and trying to persuade them to spend Christmas with them (even guilt-tripping them into doing so to make themselves feel better!) It does seem strange when society is quite happy to let single, childless women spend every other day of the year alone without giving it a second thought that they think we might combust if left alone on December 25th! Perhaps it says much more about them, and their sense of social panic about us than anything else, including genuine thoughtfulness. There are times when we would welcome an invitation, but if we’ve said we’re happy to spend Christmas alone, why pester us so?

the maldives

If only some of my friends and relatives would get the memo:

Try to imagine a house that’s not a home,” sighed Mud on their 1974 No 1 single, Lonely This Christmas. “Try to imagine a Christmas all alone.” A Christmas all alone? What’s the problem? I’ve spent Christmas all alone for years, and I can’t think of anything better.

By “alone”, I really mean alone: without family, friends or, usually, neighbours (the woman next door did once bring me a slice of Christmas cake wrapped in a napkin because she was worried about me). And it’s glorious – 24 hours when I don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything I don’t want to. I look forward to it like other people look forward to a week in the Maldives. That’s what it’s like: a week in the Maldives, compressed into one day, in a terraced house in south London.


I get impatient when friends tell me they “admire” my way of celebrating Christmas, and that they wish they could do the same. So why don’t they? Obviously, it wouldn’t work for everyone, but happily single people with no kids could find it a revelation. For those tempted to give it a whirl, I suggest getting in ample food and whatever your poison happens to be, and the new book, DVD or music you’ve been yearning to get around to. Having said that, the most important thing is attitude. Being alone is only lonely if you want it to be.

Somehow, the image of a family happily unwrapping Christmas gifts is greeted with joy, yet a solitary figure sitting by the fire, sipping a glass of wine, and reading or contemplating her past, present and future is less than palatable. Why? And why do those of us who choose to spend Christmas alone have to endure unending condescension and pity from the likes of those who think that being together is the worst fate that could befall someone, especially towards the end of the year?

This makes Christmas very hard for those who have no family or friends descending on them this festive season. We may not actually like our family – in fact, we probably remind ourselves annually that there are more family arguments and even homicides at Christmas than any other time of the year – but if we’re on our own, we feel their absence acutely. I know I have. And endless repeats of Love Actually and the Fezziwig scene in A Christmas Carol only make this worse.

But the fact is that more and more people are spending Christmas on their own or with one other person, or just with the cat. We live further from our families. We remain single longer. We have children later. We get divorced more often. So there are fewer and fewer teeming households out there for Uncle Jamie to arrive at with his pile of presents. In any case, he has probably ordered you something from Amazon that will be delivered ready-wrapped by post, or bought you shares in a goat. Yet those of us without a house full of guests guffawing under the plastic mistletoe tend to feel bad about this, as if we are the only ones left on our own this Christmas.

There is also the matter, this time of year, of mass behavior. Everyone is expected to participate. Annoying as this may be for cultures that do not include Christmas as part of their traditions, it is also annoying for those of us raised in the culture but wishing to have some control over how we pass through these days. Every year, it feels like all the secular autonomy we have so desperately struggled for over the years passes out of our hands when we are dealt the annual trump card of Christmas. Sure, play your hand the rest of the year as you see fit. Pretend to be independent the rest of the year. That’s all very cute. But this is Christmas, damn it! Resume your family role!

I celebrate your independence as I celebrate the independence of this nation from all superstitious tyranny.

The crowd is a tyrant, and you must resist. By resisting the tyranny of Christmas, you save your own soul.


Wonderful conversation here. I too have noticed a much greater compassion in myself this past year; I had chalked this up to all the kundalini yoga and meditation. Greater credit may belong to my having gone through the grieving process over being childless. I also feel a much greater sense of identification with and compassion for all marginalized groups: