never married, over forty, a little bitter


Her fellow actors were odd but unexciting, their way of life haphazard, their behavior opportunistic. Like the artistic and literary circle which Mary Jocelyn penetrates, they turned out to be dirtier and cattier than expected.

–Janet Morgan, Introduction to The Rector’s Daughter, p. xiv


This is how I felt at 36 and again at 42:

Wet starts in 2009 in my mid-thirties when I was single and working in Silicon Valley. I was never a girl to worry about an engagement ring. I was more likely to ask, like Peggy Lee did in her hit song from 1969, Is that all there is? In fact, I had become famous as a non-settler when I wrote the book Quirkyalone, which launched a movement of people who choose not to settle in love.

I felt disappointed and disillusioned that actually I had settled. I was burned out, unfulfilled, bored, and hopeless about love, fearful that having written Quirkyalone would only attract singleness into my life.

My resume was amazing, but my life felt very dry, like a giant to-do list and there was no more satisfaction in crossing anything off.

I wanted the script of what a woman is supposed to want: a husband, house, maybe one child, but then again, I didn’t really want that either. The real problem was I didn’t know what I wanted.

romantic comedies

I’ve actually met some men “in real life” lately and do find that method vastly preferable to online dating. Although nothing appears likely to work out, at least I’ve had some fun distractions, and I’ve maintained my sense of humor through it all.

The man that is most appealing to me is around my age (although a couple of years younger, which might as well be 100 years in Hollywood logic). He is of course a creative and was friendly and polite but ultimately, from all appearances, disinterested. The usual pattern. Interestingly, I sometimes get criticized by friends for going out in jeans and a nice shirt, so the particular night I met him I went a bit over-the-top and wore a hot little dress. Later I heard this guy talking on a podcast about how embarrassing he thinks it is when women dress up to that extent. Argh!

The second was smart and fit and young-looking but I got a sense that we were of different generations and figured he was about ten years older than me. As it turns out, he’s closer to sixty than I thought. It is true that the men who have seemed most keen on me have been ten to twenty years older, and there are dating gurus who would say I am shooting myself in the foot by not considering them seriously. I have several friends who have found very happy relationships with men fifteen to twenty years older, but my gut tells me it’s not for me. I’ve been very attracted recently to some men who are fifty, but late fifties is a bit too far in the distance.

The third was in the sweet spot age wise, probably a couple of years older, and in great shape, but seemed a little rough around the edges. He made a joke about the idea of reading books. I found him on Facebook and his politics are so polar opposite of mine that there’s no way it could work.

Life goes on.


My interests and experiences are also rather varied, so when it came to dating in my post-collegiate years, I was pretty compatible with whomever came across my path. Whatever his disposition or lifestyle — night owl, outdoorsy, intellectual — I simply adjusted. But as I got older, dates became more of a chore, and I left them feeling deflated rather than elated. I didn’t understand what was happening. Was the thrill of discovering someone new gone? Had I become less interesting? Why did I find so many men disappointing? The answer (I came to in retrospect) was that the guys hadn’t changed, I had. As I got deeper into my thirties, my values were no longer the ones I was raised with, and my life purpose and interests became far more defined. Consequently, there were far fewer men who were going to fit into my parameters. And that’s OK. Because after a life of expansion, while it seems contradictory, zeroing in on your passions and the people who share them will actually expand your life and broaden your horizons.

book mates

Mary liked the long Dedmayne winter evenings. In October, as regularly as the leaves fell, she began the winter habit of reading her favorite novels for an hour before dinner, finding in Trollope, Miss Yonge, Miss Austen, and Mrs. Gaskell friends so dear and familiar that they peopled her loneliness.

— F.M. Mayor, The Rector’s Daughter, p. 24

neglected gems

I’m writing this conclusion after reading May Sinclair’s Mary Olivier, which is a remarkably similar book. Calling them intellectual spinster lit is sexist shorthand and unfair, a reductive approach to careful, sustained exploration of female identity and social status and opportunity, with the addition of energetic minds and consciousness, and the subtraction of romantic “solutions” and entanglements. It’s an effort for a heroine to live with herself and not be defined by a relationship with a man. Sinclair goes further than Mayor does, and Mary Olivier has the feel of a significant modernist text, and it, or at least she, Sinclair herself, maintains a minor reputation that should definitely be more substantial. I’m working on that vein. But in many ways I’m more interested in this even more obscure and neglected text and author. comparison to Sinclair points to Mayor’s seriousness and the ambition of her story and the way she tells it. And I wonder if The Rector’s Daughter isn’t the true neglected gem, especially for our own tastes and time. Strong recommendation, for an intriguing, highly readable and engaging, out of the way text.