never married, over forty, a little bitter

the flurry

It sounds as if you’re already dealing with your feelings in many productive ways, and they just haven’t delivered results. Yet.

That doesn’t mean they won’t. It can take time for the dividends of your choices to become clear to you. For one, I think they’re being obscured by the newness of this phase of life for your peers — and the fact that each is traditionally launched with a party. When you’re in the flurry of weddings, showers, housewarmings, etc. — and it is typically a flurry — you’re seeing many people who are at the height of their joy with these milestones.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, just realistic — some of these marriages will unravel; some of these houses will be money pits; some of these kids will be difficult and wear out their parents, who will love them nonetheless but who will give up a lot of other valued things to make it all work. The highs and comforts inherent in marriage/house/kiddos are real and significant, but so are the lows, and the mehs.

And this will become steadily more apparent to you as your friends and family get beyond the cake-and-gifts phase, and celebration mode gives way to the rigors of daily life. (If we had showers and receptions for singleton milestones instead, would the jealousy jump sides? Discuss.)

This will happen, possibly, as your “new/fun” activities and travels evolve into deeper commitments and pleasures.

the inactive

From age 32-40 I was actively looking for a partner. I did a lot of online dating and dissected my romantic travails with my friends. A few would get annoyed with me, saying they didn’t want all our conversations to be about dating, but I think my behavior was pretty normal for my age, as 32-40 is the home stretch for creating a certain kind of family.

I get that annoyance now though, as I no longer consider myself actively looking. I’m open and hopeful but no longer go to events or places solely to meet men, and I no longer do online dating. My immediate goals do not revolve around marriage and children. Occasionally I now find myself bored with conversations about dating, but I try not to show it.

People are where they are and feel what they feel. Sometimes a romantic relationship is the top priority, and no amount of shaming is going to change that.


But Prof Finkel is absolutely right. I’ve been concerned by the taxing duties of conventional coupledom for my entire adult life. So much so that I’ve reached 36 with only one relationship beyond 18 months and have no plans whatsoever to give up my action-packed life of freedom and my starfish sleeping position again. But such is the pressure to find fulfilment through a soulmate, who will supposedly make all my dreams come true, that I became concerned that there was something wrong with me. A commitment-phobe I surely must be? Admittedly, there are times when I wish there were a ready-made wine buddy in my living room after a hard day but, on the whole, I’ve always felt that I thrive best being single with a reliable and meaningful lover whenever I can find one.


Perhaps, with all the recent media attention on the large population of single people, the stigma is starting to wane:

Yes, you’re still “great” and more than capable of living a happy, fulfilling life, whether or not you’re involved with someone romantically. But also know that feeling waves of self-doubt and insecurity are totally normal. You may never want to get married or even be monogamous — or you may be open to the possibility of meeting someone without actively looking for a relationship.

With barely half of U.S. adults married as of 2011 (a record low, according to the Pew Research Center) and delayed marriage on the rise (the median age for women at first marriage in 2011 reached 27, a record high), the conversation about singles is shifting. Considering the ever-growing population of women living abundantly happy lives without a partner, how could it not?

the mean reds

It’s not just my eyesight that’s declining in middle age, it seems to also be my desire for close friends.

Over the years I was lucky enough to have some great friendships, but for one reason or another, they ended, and I no longer miss those particular women and have adapted to life without that kind of closeness. I’ve met some great NoMos lately and am happy to hang out, but I no longer have expectations. Whatever will be will be. I have some armor up, but that feels like a hard-earned and necessary survival tactic.

One of the things I do miss is the opportunity to share my WTF moments. It takes close, trusted friends for that. A WTF moment, in my book, is when someone gets something (a job, a financial windfall, a partner, another child, etc.) seemingly randomly and/or unjustly. It’s one of those moments that throws everything you’ve thought or been taught into doubt and makes you think life is truly unfair and/or random and/or meaningless.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is indeed often unfair, random, and meaningless, so I have less need to discuss those moments of surprise, and of course I realize that you can never really know what is going on in someone else’s life and all you can do is concentrate on your own journey. I don’t think, however, that it’s catty to want to discuss those things, as, at bottom, it can feel like the meaning of life has been thrown into question.

I put some of my WTF moments in this blog now, but they are entirely watered down and absent of detail, as I’m still paranoid that something I write could get back to someone, and I wouldn’t want that to happen. My intention is not to be mean, but to grapple with meaning.