never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: anger

the upside down

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.


“There is very little research on the desire for fatherhood among men,” Mr Hadley said. “My work shows that there was a similar level of desire for parenthood among childless men and women in the survey, and that men had higher levels of anger, depression, sadness, jealousy and isolation than women and similar level of yearning.


To create a convincing shopgirl identity, then, involved detaching my feminist self and replacing it with a smiley face. I was nudged into these norms of being, sometimes explicitly: “You need to smile more”. At other times I picked up cues from my environment that told me acting a certain way would produce bigger sales, which in turn would lead to financial rewards and positive encouragement from my peers. Actively managing one’s emotions and surveilling one’s self for bad feelings became a daily practice necessary to work productively and efficiently. What results is not a self devoid of emotion but a self full of emotions deemed appropriate, in this case “happy” emotions. However, these emotions were often quite distinct from how I actually felt on a day-to-day basis.


Happiness is increasingly a project of self-management, and not only for the shopgirl. The government’s interest in measuring our well-being and the growth of organisations such as Action for Happiness have reinforced the belief that happiness is an attainable object that we all deserve to pursue in the name of autonomy and self-empowerment. But whose happiness are we working towards? And is happiness even something we should desire? Happiness is often attached to particular objects, like getting married, having children, a steady job and a mortgage. An unmarried, childless, irregularly employed woman may not sit so comfortably in this vision of happiness. The legacy of the female hysteric and the persistence of depression diagnoses in women suggests that happiness is not always an easy object for women to attain. Just as the shopgirl is trained into conducting herself appropriately, to silence our unhappiness is to become complicit in validating a way of life that might be contrary to our ideals as feminists.

So what would a happy feminist future look like? I suggest it should involve the exploration of a form of happiness that did not work towards certain objects, that did not silence itself, that did not seek to avoid or overcome unhappy feelings. It might mean being a troublemaker, ruffling feathers and brushing people the wrong way. It might mean seeing depression not necessarily as pathological but in some cases as a form of resistance to conventional norms. It might mean encouraging the shopgirl to stop silencing her bad feelings and salvage her unhappiness as a political statement. It means claiming happiness as a feminist issue.


There’s a type of employee that does well in my field and probably every field– socially adept but reserved, even-keeled, nicely but conservatively dressed, diligent, creative but within established practices, accepting of the status quo. I call this person “Gwendolyn” based on an actual person I worked with in the past. I have to constantly remind myself “to be more Gwendolyn,” even though I’m constitutionally moodier, more emotionally expressive, more rebellious, and more intellectually inclined. Gwendolyn often doesn’t have to work or leaves the workforce early on to have kids. Her male counterpart, Glen, is in it for the long haul and manages to keep up the mask. Most successful men are “Glens,” as I’m learning from my colleagues.

For numerous reasons that I won’t expand on here, this past week brought the “Gwendolyn” lesson home again. Hard. I was starting to loosen up a bit, but I gotta reel it in. The answer to how I’m doing should always be “good,” and conversation amongst colleagues should stay within the realm of local restaurants I’ve enjoyed. I can be sympathetic to the problems of employees underneath me, but that sympathy only goes one way. It’s just too problematic and confusing for everyone otherwise.

I have also come to the conclusion that I’m stuck for the long haul and that my dream career of “writer” is but a pipe dream. A pipe dream for quite a lot of people, it seems, as evidenced by the comments here:

The “reeling in” required by my job is extra difficult because I don’t have other avenues in which to “let it out.” A woman I know who used to be employed at my workplace had a coffee buddy to vent with; I do not. The dawning realization of the lonely road ahead caused a tightness in my chest and pains in my neck that I’ve spent this weekend working out.

I realized that, for all my low feelings in the past, I’ve maintained a pretty good attitude about my situation thus far. I don’t drink or smoke too much to cope; I always manage to get out of bed in the mornings. I consistently exercise to improve my moods, and I “put myself out there.”

This past week I allowed myself a truly bad attitude for the first time in a while. I wallowed in simmering anger and resentment over the fact that no matter my attitude, nothing ever changes and nothing likely ever will and except for the breaks I’ve taken here and there the decades of my life have all looked pretty much the same and the only thing I have to look forward to is retirement.

Having this bad attitude, however, made me feel like crap physically. So even though a good attitude won’t necessarily bring good things into my life, it does make me feel better, which is no small thing.

In reality, I know I am in a better situation than a lot of people, perhaps most, and have much less to feel angry about. So back to making the best of it.

the mean reds

It’s not just my eyesight that’s declining in middle age, it seems to also be my desire for close friends.

Over the years I was lucky enough to have some great friendships, but for one reason or another, they ended, and I no longer miss those particular women and have adapted to life without that kind of closeness. I’ve met some great NoMos lately and am happy to hang out, but I no longer have expectations. Whatever will be will be. I have some armor up, but that feels like a hard-earned and necessary survival tactic.

One of the things I do miss is the opportunity to share my WTF moments. It takes close, trusted friends for that. A WTF moment, in my book, is when someone gets something (a job, a financial windfall, a partner, another child, etc.) seemingly randomly and/or unjustly. It’s one of those moments that throws everything you’ve thought or been taught into doubt and makes you think life is truly unfair and/or random and/or meaningless.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is indeed often unfair, random, and meaningless, so I have less need to discuss those moments of surprise, and of course I realize that you can never really know what is going on in someone else’s life and all you can do is concentrate on your own journey. I don’t think, however, that it’s catty to want to discuss those things, as, at bottom, it can feel like the meaning of life has been thrown into question.

I put some of my WTF moments in this blog now, but they are entirely watered down and absent of detail, as I’m still paranoid that something I write could get back to someone, and I wouldn’t want that to happen. My intention is not to be mean, but to grapple with meaning.

the reset button

Recently, alarmed at my brain’s seemingly swift degeneration (not to mention my impatience, distractedness, and maddening forgetfulness), I decided to try a different kind of mental exercise: meditation. It seemed unlikely that simply sitting, closing my eyes, and focusing on my breathing could help. But after only a couple of weeks — results are quick — I was starting to believe that the best thing to keep my mind calm, cheerful, flexible, and focused is to do nothing, for 15 minutes a day. Meditation made me feel both relaxed and more energetic. I developed a bit of distance between events and my reactions. Someone cut me off in the car? Maybe he’s having a bad day. A promising date didn’t blossom into a romance? Perhaps it’s his problem, not mine. Even at this early stage, I’ve noticed I’m much more able to let go of judgments of myself and others.

the crazy-making

Needless to say, I never heard from that guy again, the one from a few weeks ago who I admired so much and hit it off with so well. I’ve learned that when the disappearing act occurs I’ll feel irritated and snappy for a few days but then, like most women, I’ll just move on. Pretty soon I’ve forgotten the dude altogether. This is what we’re advised to do, and I’m unsure what the other options would be, but it doesn’t seem to approve the overall dating landscape when nobody ever gets called on the carpet!

You’re finally dating. You’ve worked through the early stages of dating communication weirdness and you’re on the other side. Things are moving right along. You are literally saddling up the horse to ride off into the sunset to Happily Ever After when . . . he vanishes. Poof! Gone, without a trace. Last night he sent you a sweet “Good night, beautiful” text and conveniently left off the: “Have a nice life.” You literally go from talking multiple times a day and seeing each other multiple times a week to checking the sides of milk cartons for his face. WHAT WENT WRONG? Unfortunately, in these types of situations, you rarely ever get real closure. Usually the guy just disappears into the night, never to be seen or heard from again

the helpless

Loved this comment and can totally relate after my long job search (not to mention all the hours I’ve spent on the phone with various corporations between my two moves):


You also notice this horrid bureaucratisation if you have the misfortune of having to look for a white collar job. There never is any contact person to email a resume to or to call; job seekers must go to the company website and “apply”. Those of you who have done this know how awful this has gotten in the last several years.

One is immediately confronted with a demand that you “create an account”. From here on, it’s like trying to log on to a CIA or NSA computer! Give email address; repeat and re input you email address. Then try your luck with choosing a username and password. It almost never likes your first choice of these! You then get a system message that your password has to have numerous criteria, that involve caps, numbers and some character like a #,%, =, etc. Then you will be prompted for the answers to 3 security questions! (Why all this NSA level of security walls and paranoia? Are they that afraid that some prankster or imposter will upload a resume, pretending to be you?!)

Once you get past those hurdles, now comes the fun part! You have to fill in a LOT of information (much of which should already be on your resume); pages and pages of it! Even simple questions like city, state and country have to be answered from a lengthy scrollbar list. You can’t just type in “USA”- you have to pick the country from a list of all the worlds nations, which always start alphabetically with Albania and Azerbaijan! Because the US starts with a “U”, you have to scroll way down. Given that most applicants are from the US, it would make sense to put the US first, above Albania. That however is too rational and makes life too easy for the applicant. The purpose of this exercise is to treat people like shit and make them jump hoops. See? You’re already being conditioned for the corporate life to come!

Same goes for a lot of other choices, like school. You have to pick your college from a scrollbar list. Even past employers often have to be selected from a lengthy list of corporations. People can’t be allowed to just input information on their own! Dates have to selected and created from a calendar menu; just typing them in won’t do! Phone numbers are also a problem; they have to follow a strict format. Some sites won’t let you type in the dashes, preferring you leave spaces instead. It helps to also know your country code! Some do ask that! Some will require you to take a profiling test right then and there, with the type of questions that are designed by psychology quacks.

If you leave out necessary information or don’t format something to their liking, one is confronted by an angry looking red letter message telling you to get with the program! Sometimes as “punishment”, all the information you typed in on the page gets wiped out in the reset and you can now re-input all of it again. That’ll teach you to follow their instructions!

After about doing five or six of these, hours have gone by and the person is exhausted and has had more than enough!

How did we become such a shit nation? How did things get this bad? How do we put up with it and why? It wasn’t always like this, but we all go on as if it always was. Some of us remember better times, but that’s a distant and irrelevant memory. We used to have a reputation for being a great nation; but now, the way we treat employees, job applicants and customers, our whole economic system in general- is not an ideal or role model that any other sensible country would want to copy. In a depression/recession where employers are sitting on a lot of cash and not too willing to hire, they are having a field day humiliating people in a buyer’s market for labor.

There’s no solution to this in sight; these corporations are beyond any political and popular oversight and control. That realisation causes me to feel more frustration than any bureaucracy.

the floor

Kundalini yoga and meditation provides me with a floor. A floor to frustration, anger, sadness, and despair so that I don’t fall into the abyss.

Even when I consider men who’ve treated me badly, men with whom all the foundations of a good relationship were present (similar education, interests, and personalities as well as physical attraction) but for whom that still wasn’t enough, my anger has a floor, and I can feel compassion. After all, they wouldn’t reach 45 or 50 still single if they weren’t struggling too.

I’m grateful to have a job, I recognize the kindness of my co-workers and other associates, and I appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. I repeat these things often.

And yet, I often feel brief, lightning flashes of anger. Anger that I’m back in the same old scenario– in a stressful, demanding job with little in the way of intimate support– and that there seems to be no exit. Anger that I no longer have a single reliable friend with whom I can speak to about my anger!

Regret is something I also feel. Regret, perhaps, that I left my last job, because many of my fears about leaving have turned out to be true. Even more so, regret that I left the job and city I was living in before moving to Los Angeles all those years ago. The experience was incredibly enriching, but with no one to share it with, it’s ephemeral. It feels like I might as well have just stayed in the same place, because essentially, that’s what I’ve done.

the muck

This unplanned, unexpected, preposterous potentiality felt like a strange gift — one with the power to lift me up out of the muck of midlife questions.

I wasn’t having a crisis, exactly – I had meaningful work, good friends, my health. I was just so tired of the same-old same. Past pursuits left me limp. I didn’t want to go to the bar, didn’t care about that new restaurant, this literary scandal, whatever next big thing. I had abandoned the dream of a four-star career, and from where I stood the prospect of a few years in babyland looked pretty good. Friends and family had braved that frontier already, had set up homesteads, paved the trails. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but what was? Hit me again, life — give it your best shot. I could totally be a parent.