never married, over forty, a little bitter


In contrast, we can be reasonably sure that prehistoric human societies were non-hierarchical, egalitarian and cooperative, as are the majority of today’s hunter-gatherer societies that have survived, and that human nature still tends towards these instincts. They – and we’re not only talking homo sapiens here, but possibly also antecedents like homo erectus – are believed to have had strong ties beyond their bloodline, with individuals in a group caring for children who were not their own. Members of a society who were reproductively useless – such as women too old to bear more children – would have still been valued, as humanity was apparently not synonymous with reproduction or social status. Early art venerated the female, not male, form, and so matriarchal societies may have been common. As kinship was not the main motivation for cooperation, it meant language, technology and friendships spread within and between groups more easily. From computer modelling of social interaction, it appears that egalitarianism may be an inevitable consequence of human-level intelligence.


When the term “middle age” came into general use in the late 19th century, it was principally in a socio-economic setting. Empire and industrialisation had expanded and enriched the middle classes, and women who had finished raising children could enjoy another decade or two of vigour and relevance. Middle age was actually admired: these women were mature, worldly creatures who had, as the modern saying goes, “freedom to” as well as “freedom from”. The negative tarnish came with the mass production of the 1920s and the theories of scientific management that underpinned it, sharpening our association of youth with productivity and middle age with decreasing efficiency.


A few weeks ago I was surprised to read that a weekly comedy show was taking place at a bar here; I trekked down to check it out one night but there was no evidence of it happening, and since the venue consisted of small tables of people on dates or with friends, I didn’t stick around. I haven’t seen it advertised since. Then the little boho spot around the corner closed down. This weekend I checked out a group that (I hear) was once large, vibrant, fun, and eclectic; only myself, one other woman, and an elderly couple showed up. One half of the couple joked, “I bet you were hoping to meet some single men.” My solo state is both remarkable and irremediable, it seems.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to try another group and in July I’m looking forward to a big weekend event. And of course, beach weather is coming and I’ll be spending lots of time in the ocean.

By fall, though, I think I’ll have a pretty good sense of whether there’s anything for me here socially. I do treasure my alone time but am not sure I’m ready to become a complete hermit just yet. When the days grow short, I may have to start driving into L.A. every weekend in order not to wilt.