never married, over forty, a little bitter


Gigi is thinking about dating on a whole other level. “I don’t know if I told you, but I’m no longer dating. I’m not looking for it. I’m not asking for it. I don’t want it. I’m serious. I am no longer dating.”


“Marriage and children would have been great back in my twenties and thirties,” she explains. “But now love and children aren’t things I need to focus on. I don’t want to feel like I have to stop what I’m doing with my life now that I’m still alone in my forties. This is my life now and I’m going to live it as I see fit. I’m living a life other than marriage.”

–Melanie Notkin, Otherhood, p. 174

Suddenly, this year, I need reading glasses. There is probably no better symbol of middle-age. I’m tired.

It’s been a strange time to start over in a new place, but I realize I have to make it work here. I can’t easily quit and find another job in a few years. I either have to retire from here or, perhaps, in another five years move up to an even more demanding position elsewhere. I’m not sure I’d want to do that in my fifties, but it’s either up or out.

As I’ve written before, remaining single and working at a demanding job near the top of the ladder isn’t where I wanted to end up in life, but I’m also aware that my choices are swiftly dwindling. My last move brought that into stark relief. I’ve tried many things to change the pattern I’ve been in, and none of them have worked. I’ve now moved into acceptance.

The problem with the term “career woman” is that it’s anachronistic; it’s from a generation ago, when a woman who worked was an outlier, a rebel, a feminist. It’s really not relevant to today, when half of the modern workforce is made up of women: single, married, divorced, widowed, and everything in between. Having an income, whether it’s a one-earner or dual-earner household, is no longer a choice for most North American women. It’s a necessity. –Melanie Notkin, Otherhood, p. 184

This weekend I was unable to make it up to a festival I used to enjoy in my old stomping grounds, so instead I went to some events in this area. I did get up to my old neighborhood one day last week, and the three friends I was going to meet for lunch and coffee all had to cancel due to family and work obligations. I went to a couple of my favorite restaurants alone, and the food wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, especially after all that farm-cooking I did in my former city.

It’s time to accept where I am in life and make the best of things in this particular place. Bloom where I’m planted. I may or may not meet someone; that is up to chance as I’m not actively looking, and indeed have few options for actively looking. I’ve accepted that friendships too may be few and far between. But I’m okay. The truth is, I’m getting too tired to spend time feeling sad about what I don’t have. I need to conserve my energy for the things that I do have.

And I turn thirty six. Summer rounds into fall… rounds into winter… rounds into spring… rounds into summer, and there it goes.

A guy I might be interested in isn’t interested in me, or one who’s pursuing me isn’t moving me. There’s another party, another disappointment. On Sunday, I shop for new jeans or new shoes or a new dress for dates I don’t have. Dates with men I don’t meet.

…soon after that, I take a week off work and travel with other singles… I make new friends, and I feel like my life is fresh and new and has potential. And yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


And I wonder to myself how many plane trips I would have taken with my family. How many vacations we would have had together. And how, now that I’m forty-three and being honest with myself, I know I’ll never have that. I’ve passed that life; I’ve missed my flight.


But then, as summer once again rounds into fall… rounds into winter… rounds into spring… rounds into summer, and we reach the end of our fertility, certainly not the end of our womanhood, we grieve less as we embrace life as it is, no longer focusing on what it isn’t or what we aren’t.

–Melanie Notkin, Otherhood, pp. 222-229

the damned

Once I was in my thirties, I was no longer feeling eligible among that Orthodox Jew crew. I had aged out. But my naiveté hadn’t. And so on Sunday, I’d buy a new dress for temple the following Saturday. I kept trying.

But by my mid to late thirties, the pattern got to me, finally. Groundhog Day, I thought to myself when I awoke one Saturday morning. I can’t do this again. And I didn’t, ever again.

— Melanie Notkin, Otherhood, p. 141

Sometimes I look back at my dating life in my twenties and thirties with regret. I am most attracted to offbeat, creative, nonreligious, politically liberal guys, but they can be less family-minded than more traditional men. I did often date outside of my comfort zone with men who were more conservative, but in the end, those men never felt right for me, and I wonder if that also was a mistake in that it drained my time and energy.

In her book, Notkin ponders whether she should have spent so much time pursuing Orthodox Jews. She regrets that she didn’t look outside that conservative, tight-knit community.

It just goes to show that you can be damned either way.

the bermuda triangle

I believe that women, in regard to dating, begin wrestling with the ageism issue as young as thirty, which is a bit ridiculous, if not tragic, considering the length of lifespans today. Not to mention that, in my opinion, a woman in her thirties is at her peak in many ways and is an ideal partner.

But many men will avoid seriously dating a thirtysomething woman out of fear of being immediately pressured into marriage and babies. If the woman then remains single into her forties, she is looked at askew for remaining solo. Older men who don’t want more children may at that point be interested in seriously dating her, but overall, available men are even thinner on the ground and often well into their fifties.

Melanie Notkin’s Otherhood confirmed by suspicions:

p. 45 In fact, once I had emerged from the Dating Bermuda Triangle, somehow it became acceptable to share with me that dating women of a certain age was unacceptable. It was as if finding love before thirty-five made a woman up to standard. After that, she was assumed desperate.

It made me wonder if some people believe love is only for those who have found it.

Once I turned forty, I seemed to exit the Dating Bermuda Triangle. Now older men are relieved to know I’m no longer at an age where they feel the collective pressure by women about marriage and children. I am once again dateable.

I’m unsure what the answer is since you can’t make people date who they don’t want to date, and most thirtysomething women will indeed want to get married and start a family. I have seen many of my thirty-and-fortysomething friends find love, marriage, and babies with men close to their age, however, so it does happen.

I guess the only thing that would help is if more men understood that if they are planning to wait until their forties or even fifties to start a family and hope at that point that they’ll be able to find a woman under thirty-five, they are going to discover that finding that younger woman and having kids at that age will not be easy.