never married, over forty, a little bitter

racing ahead

I decided I needed to get out this weekend, even if it meant making an hour drive somewhere. I scoured the papers, located a really interesting event that I could enjoy alone, and bought a ticket.

Because said event was in the same neighborhood as a man I had written off as a romantic possibility, I emailed him and asked if he wanted to go. I figured it couldn’t hurt to make a platonic connection. He enthusiastically agreed, and we had a good time. We have a ton in common, but I was happy to leave it at that, as there are reasons I doubt it could be something more. He extended the evening into drinks, however, and it took a romantic turn.

As much as I hate to admit it after all this work I’ve done to get to a place of calm acceptance, I was in a better mood than usual the next day. I let my mind stray into “what if” territory. What if something could work out, what if I finally had a story to tell, what if I could start making plans with someone, what if, in the absence of children, I could have a partner.

His behavior, however, leads me to believe that my “what ifs” will likely remain just that. It’s way too early to tell, but there are some signs. If it doesn’t work out, I will have learned something valuable– that despite being an introvert and enjoying a large amount of solitude, I’m forcing myself to adapt to more of it than I prefer.

Unlike in my youth, however, I don’t find these detours fun if there’s no serious intention behind them. They knock me off my hard-won center and take precious time away from other goals. And I’m simply not in a good place to weather more disappointment.

In the midst of all this, a high school friend of mine, a woman who married in her early forties and called her wedding day “the best day of my life,” posted a photo of the newborn she just adopted.

unmarked territory

Women talk to women about babies. It is the all-purpose icebreaker, the way women mark territory and establish their identity. I can’t recall how many times I have been seated on the dais with other women, preparing to talk about female empowerment or human rights or economic development in Africa. Within five minutes of arrival, though, before the microphones go on and the public conversation begins, we are all talking about kids. “You have children?” “Yeah.” “Me, too. How many?” Just like those infernal forms in the doctor’s office. Number of children. Number of pregnancies. And so forth.

You might have thought that this would have changed by now, that once women had joined the Senate and piloted fighter planes, their status as mothers would have become less relevant. But it hasn’t. Despite what feminists of all stripes had desperately hoped, once women become mothers, they are still largely defined– both by others and by themselves– by the children they bear.

— Debora L. Spar, Wonder Women, p. 145