never married, over forty, a little bitter

the boss lady

Of the handful of older women I’d worked with, some seemed to be resentful of me, prone to lectures about how hard they had it in the deeply sexist early days of their career. Others weren’t exactly hostile, but still kind of cold. A few clearly wanted to mentor me, but had to be home at 5 p.m. every day for their second shift. And there was also a whole swath of women aged 30 to 40 missing entirely from the workplace, due to the Mommy Gap, which may help explain the existence of twentysomething bosses in the first place.


When it came time to mapping out the best way to project authority and get the job done without becoming reviled in the workplace, I muddled through on my own. Needless to say, this was exhausting. My “fake it til you make it” approach to boss life helped me project confidence and earn respect, but my unshakeable outward composure took a toll inside. A Gchat transcript from my second week on the job catches me already revealing to a friend, “i haven’t cried since taking this job and i feel like I really need to but i can’t.” (Maybe it was the sheer exhaustion, or maybe this is getting at some deeper personal issues.) Or, a few months later, “oh i just had a tough day and was feeling some boss-lady isolation.”

tolerance levels

I’m a retired career woman, divorced over 10 years, age 57, and never had any children. I admit that for a long time, being “childless” bothered me…like I was missing out on one of life’s most wonderful gifts, but as the years passed, it bothered me less and less. Now I’m sort of glad I don’t have children and grandchildren. I love my independence. I’ve pretty much given up on the thought of being married again, and I’m okay with that too.

My best friend from childhood has been married for eons and has two children and so far, two grandchildren. Her entire life revolves around her family, kids and grandkids, and she rarely has any time to herself…but she loves her life. I used to envy her, but now I realize that’s just not the kind of life I could tolerate at this age.

I enjoy my nieces and nephews when I see them, and am close to my brother and sister. I value my family highly and am blessed with many very good friends. This is all okay with me now. I don’t feel “left out” because I’m not babysitting grandkids every day or every week. I like my freedom and my private times.

Posted by: Melinda | Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 01:37 AM

the guarded

After many years of observation and experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to succeed in a job like mine is to be cool and reserved. Sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to find an ally at work with whom I can share gallows humor, but the higher I go, the more difficult that becomes. Instead I spend a good portion of my energy at work trying to suppress my personality, thoughts, and emotions, even while handling one impossible situation after another. When I slip and let my personality through, I often feel like I’ve made a mistake.

It’s only when I come home from work, shut the door, and am alone that it feels safe to let my hair down. Although I try to retain some openness to “meeting someone,” I can no longer imagine throwing myself into the brutality of the dating market on top of dealing with this job. If it happens, it will have to be serendipitous. Same with friendships. Children have finally come to represent additional conflict and stress at a time in my life when I crave less of those things.

Last weekend I spent almost an entire day at home reading through a stack of brilliant books, and I was delirious with happiness. Few things make me as happy anymore.

Some people may lose heart with trying for connection after their first brush with loss or disappointment; others bounce back time after time. I think I’ve finally reached my personal tipping point. I’m making peace with the idea that the coming years will be about building the nest egg that will allow me to retire to a frugal and solitary but free life filled with good books and, possibly, a dog.

Soon I will do the thing I vowed not to do in that I will sit down with paper, pen, and my various financial statements to figure out when that day might come. It will probably take at least eight years, maybe more. I will continue to schedule in points of light in my calendar, but underneath it all I will be moving steadily toward that goal.