never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: February, 2014


HOBSON: So the pressure is even greater to have children?

SANDLER: I’ve heard that from a lot of people. I mean, certainly in the 1950s, it was a very different thing, when one was sort of understood to be a mother first. But it’s funny how after feminism, to a certain extent, and when we rely on women as such an important part of the marketplace, when we celebrate self-reliance and individual choice as hallmarks of what it means to be an adult in America today, this is the one thing that kind of refuses to die; that if women do not choose to have children, our culture does not know what to do with them. They must be lacking something. They must be non-nurturing. They must be refusing to participate in our norms.


HOBSON: What are the consequences that you learned about in your reporting, that we should be thinking about if many people are choosing to go child-free?

SANDLER: You know, it’s a good question, and there are a lot of different answers to it. You’ll find a lot of conservative economists who think that this means the end of our economy. There are some people who believe that this will be the end of our military. There is a lot of hand-wringing amongst people who believe that women’s purpose is really to have babies.

I am not one of those people, and I see a very different way of looking at this – which is that I don’t believe that we have yet really come to terms with what women’s freedom truly looks like, and yet even though we depend on women so much now in the marketplace and in furthering our culture, we have an expectation, and we don’t have policy to support that expectation.

The disconnect between the realities of motherhood and the realities of a modern working life are quite dramatic, and they’re especially dramatic in the United States. I recently published a book on what it means to have an only child, which is actually my personal choice, and so I’ve spent years now, talking to people about how these choices are made. And I have yet to find a single person who thinks about the larger social implications of their own possible birth.

transient states

That left us with two choices: find a friend group that felt like one big family, or build a bigger family of our own. We love our friends, but California is a transient place. One glance at a kickball team photo from 7 years ago would reveal that only 10% of us still live here. We’ve still got the same sized group, but it’s something of a revolving door these days. It’s become difficult to want to get too comfortable with anyone.

So here I am, back in transient California, but without the option of building a family.

I’ve realized that my former life in L.A. is over. One friend is likely moving away, another has had a baby, and the rest just live too damn far. It feels like it’s time for the non-relationship to finally end, and it’s unlikely I will want to spend two hours in the car to see a five dollar show with performers with whom I only have the slightest connection.

The slight reconnections I made in my former city have already withered, except for one woman who is going through the IVF process. If she succeeds, I see that one withering as well.

The childhood friend who sent the photos of her kids keeps in touch intermittently, but our correspondence goes like this: I tell her of an interesting happening in my life, she sends photos/news of her kids. If we hadn’t been friends before, we’d have little reason to keep in touch. Far too little in common.

I like my new co-workers and see us getting along well but don’t necessarily see any of those relationships going farther than work. It doesn’t help being the boss. I’ve met some nice people out and about, but I’m in that unsure place in regard to when or how my next friendships will develop.

I met a man recently with whom I have a ton in common but I’m unsure of his sexual orientation. His correspondence with me is unpredictable, and I’m refusing to take it personally. I confess, though, that it would be wonderful to have a private, shared world with someone, a place I could retreat when I felt the void in the larger world.

pyramid schemes

When I first started out, I had not the merest iota of self-awareness. I didn’t really know what I was doing or why I was doing it. I just practiced the poses. Little-by-little, however, things started to percolate upward. During my practice I noticed that my breathing affected the results. I began to study my breathing, an autonomic process I had always taken for granted. Much less strenuous than the poses, so why was I becoming more and more aware of it?. Not only during my practice, but in every other activity: walking, driving, lying in bed. Little did I realize.

Where my exploration differed with the Maslow diagram — I failed at the Belongingness & Love Needs and the Esteem Needs stages. Had I been obliged to master these stages before attempting the final stages in Blocks Two and One of the Maslow, I would have been condemned to perpetual failure. Only by jumping ahead to the Need to Know & Understand stage was I able to succeed (reach the top of the Maslow pyramid) and ultimately work my way back down to Block One to complete the work on the stages I skipped.


It’s been more than a year that I’ve done an hour of kundalini yoga (just about) every single day. I can tell it’s had an impact.

It’s subtle, but I have a general feeling of warm contentment, and even when I’m completely stressed out, the feelings of anger and frustration are muted.

If a spirit were to appear tomorrow, tell me I was going to pass away, and give me the option of either traveling to the next dimension or returning to earth in any scenario of my choosing, I would most certainly choose the former.

I don’t know if these feelings of non-attachment to this planet mean I’m enlightened or defeated.

I do know that I only felt a slight pang when a childhood friend emailed me pictures today of her two gorgeous children.


The current job system is based on the idea that jobs redistribute wealth: capitalists made profits, the profit was distributed when workers got paid, and the workers again helped the capitalists to amass wealth. So it was like rain: the profits rose to the top, but then they came down like rain in the form of wages.

This is now no longer the case in the same way as it was before. It is very possible now for people to make very large sums of money without employing anybody, either by buying whole companies in leveraged buy-outs and piecing them out like a butchered cow, or by having factories that employ very, very few people.

One of the really frightful aspects of this situation is that we have something like a third of the population working at an utterly insane pace, and on the other side, close to half of the population is obviously underemployed. It’s crazy.

less is more

The more I talk with people, the more I find this to be true:

So perhaps the best way to understand the data Wilcox has put forward is that a lot of people would enjoy working less. Men would; women would. They share some motivations and not others. Sometimes it’s based on guilt or exhaustion, other times for genuine pleasure. But the fact that mothers are happier when they work part-time than when they work full-time probably doesn’t tell us much about the state of women’s roles in the workplace. More likely, it suggests that very few Americans — male or female — want to work as hard as Sheryl Sandberg works — or, for that matter, as hard as they themselves are working right this very minute.

strip mall reduction


Wise words here and following some of these steps (unknowingly) helped me to bounce back from my own recent setbacks:


I saw a show this weekend that was filled with twentysomethings singing their hearts out about love and passion and sexual attraction. I can of course recall having had those feelings myself, but it’s been a while, and I’ve learned so many hard lessons in that realm that my happiness now derives from delicious moments of solitude.

I also saw the movie Frances Ha. I didn’t love it, but I liked the ideas it conveyed. A twenty-seven-year-old woman begins the film with an intensely close female friendship, a boyfriend, several peripheral friends, and the pursuit of a dream career. Over the course of the film, the friend abandons her, the dream career is lost, and the peripheral friends and lovers fade away. All that is left is Frances, alone and lost. And yet, she recovers.

As much as we tout the importance of love and friendship and family, isn’t that the ultimate lesson of maturity, the one we finally learn after a multitude of break-ups? That one has to be able to stand on one’s own two feet and that we must first be our own best friend.

the cleaving

I can already tell my life is going to cleave into “before this job” and “after this job.” It’s going to be intense. I’m struggling physically to meet the challenges of ten-hour days and multiple demands and have had to make some tough choices already as far as friendships go.

I told an acquaintance here “no” in terms of being an audience member for her (again) because it would have involved an hour drive somewhere, problematic parking, and several hours sitting in a theater for an event I cared little about seeing. She got snippy and the friendship, such as it is, is probably over. I have another friendship here I value, but this person likes to go to high ticket/ high trouble events, while I prefer low ticket/ low trouble ones. Because it’s unreasonable to think that we should always do what I want to do, I agreed to one of her choices this weekend and spent three hours in heavy traffic and, in total, six hours on the endeavor. I’m numb with exhaustion. I can’t keep that up.

The “non-relationship” man in my life, the one who is sweet and has been there for me in other ways, continues to want to hang out, but I’m at my breaking point there too. He is acutely sensitive in many ways, but had he committed to a relationship years ago, I most likely would not have made the last two brutal moves alone cross-country. In this current job, I have minimal time for socializing, and the little time I have feels like it would be better spent forging new connections that could provide more practical support. I can see the end there too.

On a more positive note, I did finally have that coffee with my favorite writer, and we had lots in common. Don’t know how that will evolve, if at all, but it was interesting to hear him say that he has few friends in L.A. and struggles to make connections. He has seriously considered moving back to his smaller city of residence, a city that is much like the one I just spent nine months in, but he has the same reservations about it that I did. He’s quite successful, so it seems that it’s L.A. that’s the challenge.

He’s also childless, and we discussed the challenges of friendships with friends who have kids. He joined a book group so he would again have people to discuss books with!