never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: January, 2014

the trying

I love this quote by T.S. Eliot, as it sums up how I’ve learned in the past year that the only things I have control over are my own actions:

For us, there is only the trying.
The rest is not our business.


I have been with Badass the past two to three days and evenings (NB. I choose my words carefully) hearing about beautiful women (It is the lot of not beautiful women to hear the virtues of the beautiful ones extolled, ad infinitum and we must keep our peace).

Oh yes, the men who go on and on about beautiful women! They are to be avoided, in my opinion.

Another trend that makes me gag are the men (from liberal comics to, apparently, hard-core Christians), who brag on and on about their “hot wives,” as if that is the most important quality in their partners (and the only one they bring up repeatedly). Glad to see people (including men) speak out about this:

defining roles

Right now, in our society, I’d say, yes, being a mother is the most defining role a woman can have. Sadly. Sadly for women who won’t be mothers – and sadly for women who are mothers.

For the childless amongst us, the deep deep wound of not having a child to love is sprinkled with the salt of society not deeming us ‘valid’ because we’re not mothers. In the world’s eyes we don’t count because we have no real – important – role.

The women who write ‘mum’ in their Twitter bios; the journalists who declare a woman a mother or not in the opening sentence about her; the people who won’t quite look you in the eye and utter a pitying ‘Oh’ when they hear your story… They all know how definitive The Mother is.

And for mums? I have some friends who no matter how much they adore their children, no matter what they’d do for their children, no matter how grateful they are for their children, they feel they are now lost to their children. Their ‘Oh I’m just a mum’ shrugs aren’t false modesty — they’re cries for help from women who feel cripplingly subsumed by this title: being a mum is everything; being them, not so much.

But being them, being us, should be our defining roles. Everything we are, everything we can be and do, that’s what should define us. Isn’t this view dismissing and stifling and insulting and hurting women everywhere? Mums or not. And aren’t we – the world – missing out hugely if we don’t salute achievements – personal to global – just because they don’t have a placenta attached? ‘Yes, she cured Cancer. But…’ *lowers eyes* ‘she was only an Aunt…’

– See more at:


If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that finds such insurrections threatening, not least because they make us less predictable and therefore harder to control. This is one reason we’re constantly reminded of the importance of leading a happy, balanced life—the kind of life that “makes sense” from the viewpoint of the dominant social order. Many of us have, in fact, internalized the ideal of a happy, balanced life to such an extent that we find it hard to imagine alternatives.

the whisperings

Fact: I once met a beautiful, vibrant 80-year-old innkeeper, who pulled me aside when she heard that I was getting quizzed about my status as child-free. She whispered in my ear, “I would have been just fine without children. It’s not as big a deal as they tell you.” And as for marriage? (She had been married twice). “The sex is good for three years and then all we wanted to do together in bed was the New York Times crossword puzzle.”

string theories

Not sure about this book but I thought this was an interesting comment string:

alchemy-flying 1 day ago
I discovered the same thing over 20 years ago. The pool of qualified applicants becomes much smaller the older one gets. After seeing the difficulties some friends had with blended families, I decided long ago not to date women with children, so that eliminates a majority of the pool right away. What remains are a lot of women that turn out to have personality disorders and poor mental hygiene.

Even women with grown children don’t interest me. Since I’ve never had children I really don’t want to hear a continuous report of what their kids or grandkids are up to. Women that had children to raise usually never had time to develop other interests, so all they have to talk about is their children. And that’s not the least bit interesting to me!

jentay 21 hours ago
@alchemy-flying It is SO apparent that you struggle with meaningful connections. Saying that people who have children talk about them because they have no other interests? You obviously have never felt the kind of deep love you can only have with your off-spring. I have the richest life, background and interests than most people I meet (without giving too much away about what I do) and I have to remind myself all the time to stop talking about my kid. You know how when you fall in love you can’t stop telling people how wonderful that person is? Same thing. Wanting to talk about your kid has nothing to do with interests. It’s about being in love with your family.

alchemy-flying 19 hours ago
You have children and I don’t. We live in two separate worlds. If I had children I’m sure I would feel the same as you. But I never found a suitable partner to have children with. Now, I’ve aged out of that part of life. What you said about having to remind yourself about not talking too much about your children proves my point. Many divorced women unfourtunately had to raise their kids on their own and work at the same time, thus leaving them no time to pusue other interests that a single man such as myself might find interesting.

And I do have a very high emotional IQ. I’m well aware of who would be a good match for me and who would not. I would never date anyone only for the purpose of sexual gratification. Common life experiences and similar interests and goals as well as a physical attraction are the keys for a fulfilling relationship.

Ken727 10 hours ago
@alchemy-flying@jentay As a single guy I can definitely see where you are coming from. And I agree with you about children and family often drastically shrinking the boundaries of a person’s world. I’ve dated quite a few women with children and, by and large, this has been a key “problem”. The children seem to become not just the biggest part of their world but the entirety of it. They sometimes literally have no other interests except their children. Often they don’t even have any friends who aren’t also mothers. It’s a totally closed feedback loop. One wonders why they even make the effort to date, unless it’s just so they can have a new person to talk about their kids with. To a childless person this can all seem really sad and stunted. Maybe it’s not in reality but it sure appears that way from the outside.

Of course, this is not always the case. I have met and gone out with women who have kids and still have a personal life of their own with their own individual interests and passions. But, let me tell you, they are rare specimens indeed.


I’m also hugely excited about an event I’m planning to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8. It’s called the Red Dress Parade and is part of the Southbank’s Women of the World Festival. Think Greenham Common meets Sex in the City. It’s intended to address the feeling among childless women that we’re invisible in society. We will all be wearing red dresses, looking fabulous, drinking cocktails and parading proudly through London. I see it as the childless woman’s equivalent of Gay Pride.


Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like non-work?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” Historian Mario Liverani reminds us that “ideology has the function of presenting exploitation in a favorable light to the exploited, as advantageous to the disadvantaged.”

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.


It’s beginning to look like we should have taken the other New Deal. We need to explicitly shift toward working less — to reorient the consumption-leisure tradeoff towards the latter on a social level — and share the work that remains more evenly. The sociologist Juliet Schor says we could work four-hour days without any decline in the standard of living; similarly, the New Economics Foundation proposes we could get by on a twenty-one-hour workweek. Meanwhile, David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot suggest that the US could cut energy consumption by 20 percent by shifting to a schedule more like Western Europe’s, with thirty-five hour workweeks and six weeks of vacation — certainly not a panacea, but hardly impoverishing for a start. In a study of industrialized nations over the past fifty years, Schor, Kyle Knight, and Gene Rosa find that shorter working hours are correlated with smaller ecological footprints.

door number two

The thing I like about this city, the one I am about to leave, is that I own property here and thus, if I wanted, I could procure a pet or a roommate. There is a wide range of cultural activities here as well, and there are plenty of urban farming and gardening opportunities. And, had I gone back to work full-time, I could have potentially sold my condo and bought a house. I also liked having family within driving distance.

At the end of 2013, however, I had three job possibilities, and none of them were in this city. One was in a tiny rural town, more of a bedroom community really, about thirty miles away. I could have bought a house there and planted a garden and gotten a dog and maybe even some backyard chickens. There was not much there in the way of a town center, however, and probably few single people. There were no other businesses and opportunities for meeting men seemed slim (although you never know). My family would remain in driving distance, but I feared I’d feel like an exile there. There was one homey, artsy restaurant and a few yoga places, but that was about it.

The second possibility was a high-level job back in the L.A. area in a desirable beach town. Walking/biking commute to work. Lots of single people and more opportunities to mingle with the opposite sex. I’d have to go back to paying high rent for an apartment though and wouldn’t be able to get a pet or have a garden. And of course I’d be far from family again.

The third option was to return to my old org, working in an urban setting in L.A. Some of the openings were appealing but logistically problematic.

In the end, I went with option two.

Just as I was packing up, I received a phone call about an interview for an ideal job three miles away from my condo here. It was a dark moment for me. Did I let myself down by not determinedly sticking it out here? But that job opened months ago, and after I applied, they reopened it. There are also several internal candidates, and I’ve been passed over many times already by that organization. So I tell myself that it probably wouldn’t have happened for me anyway.

A tenant for my condo dropped into my lap (relative of a friend), so I’m renting the place out here, at least for the first year. The tenant is about the same age I was when I bought the place. She has the same last name as me and a similar first name. We worked abroad for the same organization.

Perhaps it’s a sign that this place was right for me at one stage of my life, but it’s time to move on permanently.