thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: ageing

the landscape

I too have always loved Heather Havrilesky:

http://www.theawl.com/2013/10/ask-polly-how-do-i-find-true-love-and-stop-dating-half-assed-men

Now imagine for a second that someone writes to me and says, “Look, you’re just ok and you’re old and you’re wasting your time on this bullshit.” (Um, no one does that, because this isn’t Salon.) But imagine that someone does tell me that. And imagine that I spend several hours of my time explaining why I’m awesome and my work here is incredibly significant to the health of the planet, and I fucking matter and I have great ideas, brilliant fucking ideas, I’m a genius, and seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? Suddenly this tepid bit of flotsam is taking up my time, and instead of turning away from it, I’m making claims that my work is deeply important (which, well, is a highly subjective stance).

[…]

Please note: this world also devalues free-flowing, emotional discourse from a woman unless she’s also funny AND sexy. If you’re not super fucking hot and funny first, you can go fuck yourself, ladies.

[…]

Because tepid is everywhere. Tepid is the air we breathe. Listen to me: We can’t do anything right. We can’t say what we mean, we can’t be ourselves, we can’t age, we can’t talk about feelings, we can’t fuck up. This is how it feels to be a woman, motherfucker. The world is filled with human beings who want us to shut up and shake our asses, point blank, the end. Can you fucking imagine if we had our own Kanye? For her to have Kanye’s power, and get invited on Kimmel, of course she’d have to be a mega-hot, funny as shit woman who walked around looking exactly like the chick in the short skirt who eats giant hamburgers on those Carl Jr. ads, but instead of eating a hamburger she’d be saying FUCK YOU, YOU ARE A SEXIST FUCK. I mean, sure, we have our women who look mortal and say this. Are they on TV? Rachel Maddow, she’s on TV. How many people in that bar would even know who the fuck she is? Who listens closely to Lena Dunham, who is gorgeous by the way? No, she’s not shaped right to listen to, right? She’s too full of herself? She’s too annoying?

Let’s not fall down that rabbit hole. All I’m saying is, here we are in a fucked up world. And even when you find your species, or at least your genus, you still are sometimes just a piece of ass to the best of them. Not even because they’re incredibly sexist—maybe they’re just pragmatic, or ambivalent in this case. They don’t happen to love you, is all. They don’t think you’re a math genius or a historian, and they’re gonna call bullshit. They think that when you talk, you’re wasting their time a little. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Sure, you want those guys and their futons and their best friends Sean to go fuck themselves, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil. But once they don’t love you, who the fuck cares about them? Were those dudes in the bar sexist, or did they just think I’m sort of bossy and repellent? Who the fuck cares?

You’re hunting a very small group, that’s all. Your target demographic, it’s small. There’s more than one of them, but they’re not everywhere.

That doesn’t mean your odds are bad! You will find love. Believe me. But in order to find it, I think you have to prepare yourself for a life alone, and be at peace with that. It’s a real tightrope walk. I get that. But you won’t tell tepid to fuck off if you don’t believe in your heart that you will rock it out one way or another.

In order to tell tepid to fuck off once and for all, you MUST recognize that life among those who don’t appreciate or understand you is bullshit. You don’t want to live that way. You don’t want to be badgery and lonely while you’re with someone. You’d rather be alone.

What will make ALONE look good to you? You have to work on that. Because single life needs to look really, really good, you have to believe in it, if you’re going to hold out for that rare guy who makes you feel like all of your ideas start rapidly expanding and approaching infinity when you talk to him. You need to have a vision of life alone, stretching into the future, and you need to think about how to make that vision rich and full and pretty. You have to put on an artist’s mindset and get creative and paint some portrait of yourself alone that’s breathtaking. You have to bring the full force of who you are and what you love to that project.

[…]

You have to do a lot. And you have to do it all against a backdrop of indifference that, as you get older, curdles into a kind of disgust. But you know what? We have each other. We have worlds within us, you and me. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside of themselves. This indifferent landscape will rise up and give you love if you share what you have inside, if you dare to believe in your potential even as people tell you it’s a mirage, if you ignore the ones who are allergic to free-flowing, emotional discourse from YOU. They are everywhere, and they don’t matter. God bless them. Come on their Hampton blouse, and move on.

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the scorched earth

Mary tried to be fair, but her jealousy was beyond all bounds. Possibly Mrs. Herbert had been shy. Possibly she might be something more than beautiful, rough, rude, brainless, vulgar. This was Mr. Herbert’s serious permanent choice. She had been an amusement, a very small incident. “But I am superior,” she thought.

— F.M. Mayor, The Rector’s Daughter, p. 152

Sometimes the old dog in the corner can still be roused; it will, on occasion, still prick up its ears or wag its tail. This particular old dog will, on occasion, even be roused enough to leave its solitary cushion, if a smart, witty, sensitive, like-minded soul comes around.

This weekend I made a bold move; I reached out to someone I barely know in an attempt to forge a connection with someone I’ve long identified with and admired. I put aside my sense of shame and took a chance, something I do about once a year, when I realize that any semi-satisfying relationship of any duration that I’ve ever had resulted entirely from my efforts. In the midst of my communication, however, I heard from a decades-old friend, someone I normally keep at a bit of a distance due to a long history of empathy fails. Long story short, wires got crossed, paragraphs were sent to the wrong person, and I ended up revealing a lot more to Mr. A (as I’ll call him) than I ever in a million years would have wished to reveal to him or almost anyone else.

Modern communication being what it is, however, I have no certainty that Mr. A received the messages. If he has received them, he has not responded. The power of vulnerability, indeed.

On a bigger level, I don’t know what, if anything, the universe was trying to communicate to me. “Shed old friendships that are standing in the way of more fulfilling ones” or “stick with the ones who actually call, no matter how frustrating and dispiriting they can be.”

In any case, in a week in which there has been a public outpouring of sympathy over a celebrity, I could have used a small show of kindness from Mr. A. On one hand, I could be totally humiliated over this; on the other, Mr. A could find the whole thing funny or touching and reach out. It appears, however, that there will only be silence; perhaps I don’t rate a response.

This old dog, however, with a head so weakly raised, easily returns to slumber in the absence of encouragement. There was nothing to be roused for, after all.

The internet is not much help in moments such as these. At worst, it provides the glib platitudes one encounters enough of IRL; at best, there is a feeling of “me too” solidarity and connection. What is missing is an empathetic ear that can take in all the specifics of the disaster that has happened; even better would be an empathetic ear that has some general familiarity with the players involved. This used to be known, back in the day, as friendship.

In my student period I was acquainted with a group of friends; of this group two were always my favorite. Over the decades, those two have only grown in my estimation, showing kindness, creativity, and wit in our encounters. They have both become writers. There was another member of that group whom I cannot recall saying a single thing of substance, intelligence, or charm, and who was unable to give me the time of day when I first moved to L.A. She moved here with no real career plans and ended up marrying a successful writer and having a brood of kids. It feels like she is living the life I would have liked to have lived. I was reminded of her again in all of this, because she is loosely connected to Mr. A, and were she a nicer person, I could try to glean some insight from her. Were she a nicer person, in fact, perhaps I would not have had to advocate for myself in the first place.

I feel, at this point, that I must just let all the embers die. The embers of unsatisfying friendships from my past as well as the last remaining embers of certain kinds of hopes for my future. That I must sit with the dark void for a spell, here at the bottom of the U-shaped curve of happiness, at age 44.

the culling

http://blog.socialjane.com/2014/01/Friendships-in-our-40s.html

I am not sure if this stems from the fact that when you turn 40 you gain a different sense of your own mortality or if people just become grumpier, but there is something about your 40s that makes it harder to sustain unfulfilling friendships. I have watched several of my other friends go through this and for each there came a point at which they became much more particular about whom they were willing to spend their available time with. For me, this has meant letting go of toxic people, frenemies, and people who were nice enough but just didn’t add much to my life. If you are used to having a large group of people you call friends, this culling of the herd can leave you feeling a little lost and lonely, even if it was your choice.

drains

If there is one trait I could repeatedly isolate in the men I was wildly attracted to in the past, it is that they did exactly as they wanted and felt no need to burden themselves with the idea that they should put themselves out in the name of being “nice.”

This, of course, can be taken to the extreme, but I was too far on the other end, apparently, and envied their ability to say no. My twenties and thirties were a time of exploration, yes, but mixed in there was a lot of guilt and obligation. A lot of feeling like I should accept every invitation that came my way (largely due to being single), and then a certain amount of anger that, when all was said and done, I exhausted myself with little in return.

In the last few months I’ve experienced some of that again, as, being new to town, I’ve extended myself for people I’m not particularly interested in, and in return, they have cancelled plans at the last minute, shown up late, or promptly disappeared when a significant other appeared on the scene.

So when people tell me that I can be friends with people I don’t have a lot in common with, I take it with a grain of salt. I haven’t found it all that rewarding. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to just be around people, but time is limited, and when you get older, you want to do what you want to do, and doing otherwise will not necessarily be reciprocated or rewarded.

I’ve read a lot about how, as people get older, they tend to shed the friends they don’t enjoy and hang on to the ones they do. A problem in my life is that most of the ones I really enjoyed have been lost over the years, either to a falling out or to marriage and family, and I was primarily left with the ones who drained me.

My schedule this week was filled with a bunch of obligations I wasn’t excited about and that prevented me from doing one or two things I was interested in. Despite the guilt, I did cancel one… one small step at a time.

day jobs

I feel like I’m entering a period of life when childlessness will feel like a blessing:

Thank God the girls are away for another ten days.
In my twenties and thirties I was into expansion.
Nearing fifty, I am now in retreat.
Full of loathing for this mortal coil, I just want to step outside the shell of myself, leave it behind like a wrinkled skin, and drift on, perhaps becoming a point somewhere beyond, hovering in space like an infinitesimal dust mote.

[…]

…now I have lost that dreamlike forty-ish haze I was in during nursing and babyhood and toddlerhood, when the peach fuzz of my daughters’ cheeks made for a heady narcotic, when my heart thrilled at all their colorful pieces of kinder art, when I honestly enjoyed… baking birthday cakes. Almost fifty now, when I squat over to pick up their little socks and snip quesadillas into little bowls and yank fine hair out of their brushes, as I have now for the thousandth time, I feel as if I’m in a dream, but a very bad, very sour-scented dream. I have totally, finally, lost the will to continue this day job of motherhood.

–Sandra Tsing Loh, The Madwoman in the Volvo, p. 177 & 212

the back nine

http://www.golocalprov.com/lifestyle/dear-john-midlife-boredom-how-do-i-get-excited-about-life-again

…nothing’s really wrong, but nothing is really great either. Like my job: I make excellent money in a prestigious career, but the truth is, I hate it. Quitting is not an option because I need this income, so I just grin and bear it. It’s a fake grin, though. I feel terrible thinking of all the good, struggling people who would kill for my job, but even knowing that, I feel how I feel. I don’t have a girlfriend, but I date as much as I want to, and it’s the same thing. Nobody really excites me. I feel like I’m on the back nine of my life and I’m just running out the clock, to use a couple of sports metaphors. To meet me, you wouldn’t know I feel this way, and it is a low-level kind of thing. I don’t think I’m depressed (because I feel like all my feelings are grounded in reality – I have a reason to feel this way) and don’t misunderstand me; this is not a desperate cry for help. I just can’t seem to shake this feeling that everything really good that was ever going to happen to me has already happened, and now everything pales in comparison.

cuanto cuesta

This is why I keep up my Spanish:

http://www.livingabroadincostarica.com/blog/2011/08/a-reader-asks-can-i-live-on-20kyear-in-costa-rica/

At present I work as a metal worker. I am a shop foreman in a steel/aluminum plant with 30 men under me. I have always been a man of the left (social democrat, democratic socialist, trade union type). I want to simplify my life, I am done with the rat race, and I just cannot do it any more. I want to live intentionally. If you know any community or communal style living, like a religious or spiritual group, I may be interested.

I am 58, and have about 4 years before I can get Social Security, but have a bit of money in my 401k plan (I lost a fair amount in the stock exchange). How much would I need a year to live, renting a house somewhere in a town outside San Jose or around La Fortuna? I have in mind a smaller two-bedroom home with a small yard for my Collies. Could I find something for $500 – $600 a month? I would also need to buy into the national health insurance; would that be about $60.00 a month? I own two motorcycles–I would ship both to Costa Rica, also mountain and racing bicycles.

Could I do it all on $1,600 a month, or about $20,000 a year?

hairy issues

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324591204579037370544014260

What causes this dip? Economic speculations concern financial pressures on sandwich generation middle-agers, with costs for mortgages, orthodontists and tuition, as well as the threat of the huge financial demands of an ailing parent. In contrast, psychologists have emphasized the different psychological challenges of different stages of life. Early adulthood is a time of expanding vistas, ambition and promise; stressors are coped with by conquering them. In contrast, healthy old age is when stressors are coped with by accommodating them; there is greater control of negative emotions, and the clutter of acquaintances has been pared down to the actual friends.

Middle age dangles in between, with the dip in well-being full of the poignancy of the human predicament. Plateaus are achieved in time for us to question whether they were worth it, and things that will never be accomplished loom larger, as we simultaneously accept and deny our mortality.

But as we wallow in this sturm und drang, along comes a study that upends this thinking. In a late 2012 paper in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Alexander Weiss of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colleagues demonstrated something remarkable: Other ape species also have the midlife dip in well-being.

the jaded

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/seven-ages-of-love/the-seven-ages-of-love-40s-942411.html

Because no matter how hard you try to hold on to the idea that love is the only thing left in the world worth believing in the one guiding light you need and a spiritual force to be reckoned with reality is hell-bent on teasing, testing and taunting such notions into submission. And when fairy-tale notions of romance are removed, what are we left with? Is love as pragmatic as two people deciding to support each other until one of them dies? Is love a higher plain that we can ascend to via a combination of behavioural insight and tantric knowledge? Or is love, to return to the lyrics of a popular song, nothing more than “a simple prop” to occupy our time?

the lulling

http://www.centerprogressive.org/lulled-into-numbness/

Successful movement through this Transition Zone accounts for some of the data about that upswing of happiness after the 40s, but not all. A larger source, in my experience, of later life happiness is more likely masked resignation and accommodation: People who more or less give up trying to grow and change. They decide, consciously or unconsciously, to lope along in the life they’ve been living and define that as happiness.

It’s illusory, though, because over time they tend to become “comfortably numb,” emotionally and spiritually. And, increasingly vulnerable to physical ailments, an upsurge of late-life depression, alcoholism or drug usage.

My daily meditation practice has provided me with a lot of benefits. My health has improved and I’m much calmer and more forgiving of others.

It hasn’t changed my actual circumstances though– despite the popular theory of “abundance”– and so, at the same time, I feel numb. Undeniably and remarkably numb. Numbly adapted to my circumstances.

I have trained myself not to expect romantic romantic fulfillment and not to feel disappointment over the lack of deep, meaningful friendships in my life or any kind of consistent intimacy. I have cultivated an appreciation for pleasant diversions and have stopped expecting much more than that in my time away from work. Having recently been bruised on the job market, I have stopped hoping for a job that truly engages me and instead appreciate the fact that I have one I don’t hate and that may allow me to retire early, if I hold my lifestyle steady.

All of this “accommodation” has taken a toll, but I’m unsure what choice I have. I could try online dating again, but chances are slim that anything will come of it, and I don’t particularly feel up to the psychic drain. I already participate in a number of social activities, but rarely do I meet like-minded peers. Occasionally I’m really, really enlivened by and drawn to a performer or artist of some kind, but outside of polite exchanges, nothing ever develops. I don’t see any solution to the job problem, but feel it could be greatly ameliorated by a satisfying personal life, but then that brings me back to the beginning of this paragraph.

I would like to keep growing, but I feel like I am reaching the limits of how much I can grow in solitude.

Accommodation. Resignation. I can’t see a way out.