thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: ageing

pencil to paper

http://thoughtcatalog.com/katie-devine/2013/09/im-35-and-im-glad-i-dont-have-kids-or-a-husband/

I am the sales rep, I am the apartment dweller, I am the car leaser. Nothing too permanent, nothing that lasts. It’s a life lived in pencil instead of pen. It can be erased in an instant.

I’m not where I always thought I would be at 35.

the upside down

https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/help-desk/bank-robbin-in-brooklyn/#rf8-5159

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

[…]

What I will have to say to you, by the end of this, is that anyone who has found a way to transform anger into purpose and even some measure of peace about work has learned to reckon with two contradictory truths:

Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.

[..]

With my butt up in the air, I have meditated on how everything is an illusion and tried to learn to detach from my boredom with bending over, jumping back, and putting my butt up in the air, trying not to think about the possibility that one of yoga’s most important historical functions has been to help people cope with a caste system cultivated by the Aryan invaders of India in 1500 BCE and institutionalized by the British invaders in the 19th and 20th centuries, a system organized by color like South Africa during apartheid, in which the lightness of your skin coincided with your class and thus the kind of labor you might do. To believe that because you were born dark-skinned and a servant you must remain a servant until your next reincarnation is perhaps easier when you have learned to endure repetitive compulsory movements, especially when the dominant movement is to prostrate yourself with your butt up in the air, while practicing detaching from your desires. I have tried not to think about the fact that more and more Americans are finding this practice incredibly helpful, if not necessary, to keep this whole thing going.

[…]

But I suspect that for most of the members of the upper 10 percent, and even the 1 percent, the real story is different—it is the system that is exploitative, and they have chosen to fight for a position in that system that is the only way to have a kind of personal power that should be everyone’s right. Do you think that if they weren’t so scared of falling into our position, so many people would choose to work in finance, for example, an industry built, in large part, on preying on the debt of others? Employment in that sector is currently the one of the best bets for ensuring one’s basic needs are met, and sending one’s children to college, if they want to go, and getting to live where you most want to live, and traveling to other countries, and getting good health care, without going into debt. It’s not bad to want these things, it’s just that everyone should have them.

skipping it

Since my first job in my early twenties, I’ve tried to be careful about “wishing my life away,” thinking about nothing but my next vacation (or, as I got older, retirement). To this end, instead of putting all my hopes and dreams into exotic vacations, I tried to find activities I was excited about that I could look forward to on a weekly basis.

And yet, I’m starting to feel like I’d be willing to give away the next ten years of my life to get to retirement already. That makes it sound like I’m seriously depressed, but I’m not. I just don’t have high hopes for this particular phase of my life. The physically uncomfortable transition of menopause is looming, I can’t count on finding romance, the activities I enjoy are pleasurable but no longer thrilling (salsa, swimming, etc.), and I can’t seem to get excited about taking a vacation since I’d have to travel solo, which has also lost its thrill. Additionally the novelty of exploring California is gone. I’m in a job that overall I’m happy with and appreciate having but my career field has never been my dream. The new challenges that come with promotions are helpful, but I’m less and less interested in the field as a whole. Finally, while my new home is pleasant, I can’t shake the sense that I’m just “passing through” and without a family I will remain on the periphery.

The pull of just doing my own thing, sleeping in and having time to read retains its hold on me. In the meantime I continue to look for things that will seize me, engaging me with today as opposed to tomorrow.

scrapbooks

I’ve written about this before, but I have almost no interest in seeing movies or watching television anymore. Today I have even less interest than when I started this blog. This is probably fairly common as one ages; after all, the targeted demographic ends at age 34.

But I think there is an even bigger reason, which is that I no longer feel a part of the culture. I am at the exact midpoint of life, and this year closes the book on the first half. That tale didn’t end as expected, and I no longer believe in or identify with the major story threads promulgated by our society.

Daily meditation likely adds to this strange feeling of being outside the accepted narrative.

Blogging is probably the ideal format to tell my arc-less story. There are no big turning points or neat endings, just buffetings, false starts, recoveries back to baseline, and ferreted scraps pointing the way to fellow wanderers.

the squandering

I had a place I could afford to write and live in alone in New York City, and I was squandering my time there. I tried not to think about that, and so I stopped noticing. But the years ticked by, quite linearly I might add, and somehow one day I was twenty-eight, and the next I was thirty-eight. I assumed I’d have that rent-stabilized apartment forever, which at twenty-eight seemed like a great thing for a struggling writer. But at thirty-eight, still lonely and with few details of my life changed, I started to imagine that I’d grow old and die alone in that run-down shoebox, and it scared me.

— Sari Botton, “Real Estate,” Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, p. 158

When living in Hollywood, I, too, was scared of becoming one of those odd older women still living alone in a small apartment, hanging on to a rent-controlled space. Yet none of my moves seem to help me escape that fate.

Ms. Botton, on the other hand, despite being a self-proclaimed odd bird and die-hard loner, did eventually meet her match, a fellow artist and peer (42 to her 39). They married and shortly thereafter left NYC.

I’m almost at the end of the book and I can’t quite recall if every essay ends with the writer leaving NYC with a partner or spouse and (excepting a few cases that I can recall) one or two children in tow. They still miss the excitement of New York, but it seems to me that those feelings are tangled up with nostalgia for their heady days of youth.

One of the essayists moves away with a spouse and a child she adores in order to live in Europe, where she can afford to stay home and write. And yet, she still rues the fact that she can no longer live in New York. I am inclined to roll my eyes and think “boo hoo, poor you,” but I realize that a lot of people would look at my life– decent job, living on the beach– and feel the same. I do count my blessings.

And yet. There are so few stories out there about women like me, women whose stories don’t get tied up at the end with the nice pink bow of marriage and kids (even if it happens a decade later than the norm), that I feel compelled to convey the reality of it, warts and all.

slumps

I am trying to patiently wait out this period in my life, appreciating the solitude to a large extent but also hoping that this year is as lonely as it’s ever going to get. I feel like I have nowhere to go but up in terms of social connections!

http://www.webmd.boots.com/depression/news/20100929/unhappiest-people-are-in-their-late-30s-early-40s

Across Britain 2,004 adults aged 18+ were surveyed during the summer. They revealed that:

One in five of those aged 35-44 feel lonely a lot of the time, or have suffered depression. 5.1% say they have no friends at all.

Nearly one in three aged 35-44 think shorter working hours would improve family relationships

Communication is the biggest problem for over 800,000 35-44 year olds

25% wish they had more time for their family and 23% wish they had more time for their friends

14.2% of 35 – 44 year olds described their sex life as “dull” or “disappointing”

Tyler says 35 – 44 is when life gets really hard: “You’re starting a family, pressure at work can be immense and increasingly money worries can be crippling.”

neverland

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/7768700/Babies-are-better-late-than-never.html

For every one of us who is smugly enjoying the fruits of brinkwomanship, there is another sadder woman who assumed that she would pull it off, but failed. I know several who achieved one child, but tried in vain for more. Some never made it. Recently I received an invitation from a successful actor, who used to enjoy seeing friends in a family setting, no doubt assuming that before too long she would have children of her own. Now 50, her latest summons came with the stipulation “No kids”.

neglect

An old friend of mine is coming into town in a few weeks with her two kids in tow. It will be good to see her, but these reunions are not nearly as important to me as they were a decade ago. The thing is, I’ve moved on.

I hear from my friends who are married with children every few years or so over email, and every five years or so some of them pop into town or we find ourselves in the same place. But we are not on the same page. While they were busy with spouses and kids and couple friends and home building, out of necessity I constructed a whole new life and self, one that was paying far more attention to matters outside that realm, matters they have long since dropped. In some ways I got to live like I was in my twenties again, when self-exploration was king, albeit with the added difficulties of grieving alone and locating age-appropriate activities.

They don’t know this about me though and perhaps I have remained “static” in their minds as I haven’t had big visual milestones to show off on Facebook. Much of this life building has been furtive and carried out in the shadow of benign neglect. I felt this difference starkly at my college reunion; I had the sense I’d been traveling down a different track, but one that wasn’t well-lit.

pretenders

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/22/my_double_life_as_a_mommy_blogger/

And that’s just the kind of hard-won mom wisdom I would give to myself right now. The time isn’t right yet for the mom portion of my life, even though it’s on my mind more and more. I would also remind myself of that old Buddhist saying, be here now. I know we all have desires and dreams, we all have worries and questions about our lives. We all have wonder and adventure. It just takes different forms. I need to remember to be present in my actual, daily life because there’s a lot there for me, whatever it presently holds.

I had always imagined I would be that suburban mom with two kids, with one keeping me up at night with the stomach flu or complaining about how they won’t eat their vegetables. I never dreamed I would be a writer in beautiful faraway city doing things I never thought I could do. But life is funny like that, and also surprising. Just because you don’t have something now doesn’t mean you’ll never have it. Sometimes you have to pretend something before you can make it real.

the burbs

The burbs. They are easier, safer, less jangling on the nerves. The single men who are around may be more serious about relationships, if I could find any common ground. But with a lifestyle tailored for marriage and family, it’s hard to fit.

http://nypost.com/2012/07/23/you-go-girl-out-to-burbs-for-real-romance/

“In Connecticut, they’re just very normal, very sweet, very unassuming. They don’t have game. They’re steak-and-potatoes American. They don’t care about fashion, they’re not metrosexual,” said Kassner, who hopped on a train to Stamford, Conn., on July 12 for an outdoor concert featuring alt-rocker Matisyahu in order to meet a decent guy.

High-end matchmakers said it’s a matter of time before heading to the suburbs is no longer considered a trend — and becomes the norm.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/27/nyregion/not-in-manhattan-and-not-married-singles-who-prefer-the-suburbs.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

Carolyn Grossman, a 40ish executive secretary, complained that married people segregate themselves from singles, then “stereotype single people as being drinkers and party people.” In the singles enclave in South Norwalk where she lives, she said, town authorities more readily tolerate noise than in a family neighborhood.

“They just don’t seem to have any conception that there are other people besides themselves,” she said of married couples.

Ms. Thompson believes that suburban single women are distrusted by their married counterparts.

“Even if you go to a P.T.A. meeting, the husbands are carefully guarded,” she said. “You’re made to feel you should stay on the outside.”

http://www.nextavenue.org/blog/after-superstorm-spinster-finds-community

Being a single, childless woman in the New York City suburbs has never been easy. My neighbors all moved here “for the children” — for the quality public education, backyard swing sets and cars that didn’t require usurious garage bills. They wonder, not unreasonably, what I’m doing here. I sometimes wonder, too, even 16 years after moving back to New York following a decade in California.

At the time, I was unwilling to return to a dark hamster cage in the city I had lived in most of my adult life, where nature is largely confined to parks and potted plants on fire escapes. But once I reached a certain age — I’m now 65 — living here became more than just a matter of being a social pariah, with few friends whose lives don’t revolve around their families. Sometimes it’s dangerous.