thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: envy

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.

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globe trotters

http://www.biographile.com/how-to-trade-awesome-for-awesome-qa-kristin-newman-himym/32312/

The idea that everything should be goal-oriented – with the goal for women so often being that we’re all supposed to get married and have babies, and if you’re doing something that’s not taking you toward that goal, that you’re somehow off-track or wasting time – I wasn’t ready for that when everyone said I was supposed to be. I worried, but that was the truth, and I hope that honoring that and not forcing myself to do something I wasn’t ready to do helps me have a happy marriage now. A lot of people get divorced because they feel that it’s time before they’re ready, and then they implode. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I watched it happen to my mother and some of my friends. Being single for a long time is like getting on a plane by yourself, which is absolutely terrifying: You’re alone, and you don’t know where you’re going. In life, we never know where paths are going to lead, but that’s the only way to happiness, right?

Interview here: http://www.gregfitzsimmons.com/2014/07/18/kristin-newman/

Her sentiments are nice, but as I’ve written before, she ends up getting married, and in the podcast interview discusses how she and her husband plan to have a baby someday (which is optimistic considering she didn’t marry until forty). I also couldn’t relate to her thirtysomething single life: the money she must have been making, the three to six months off a year for travel, the large group of globetrotting single/celebrity friends she was able to bond with when her other friends got married.

I did have a lot of fun going out dancing in my early thirties and then exploring L.A. in my late thirties, but friendships with people my age were few and far between and I was working like a dog through the economic downtown. I don’t know many single people who have had her type of life.

adaptation

Some excellent answers here. That is all:

http://ask.metafilter.com/254947/Help-me-adapt-to-the-idea-of-being-childless

impressionism

Some interesting experiences this week.

I attended an event where I met a woman from Portland who has been living in Los Angeles for about three years. I’d guess she is in her thirties. She isn’t crazy about her job, she just broke up with her boyfriend and dreads reentering the L.A. dating scene, she feels like she barely sees her friends because they all live far from her, and she has no family here. She’s considering moving to an area of the country where she has family but fears she’ll miss the stellar music acts she enjoys seeing in L.A. easily and cheaply.

I told her what she is going through is perfectly normal, and I just went through it. She was visibly relieved, as was I to be reminded again that the pluses and minuses of living in a city this size are experienced by all of us transplants.

I met a man at this same event who got his degree just a couple of years before me but is now head of a huge organization. He’s gay and has a partner. It made me wonder that if I hadn’t spent a great deal of my twenties and thirties distracted and depressed by the idea that I should be getting married and having kids, as well as not taking my career seriously because I assumed I eventually would do so, I’d be in his position now. He methodically climbed the ladder while I questioned my career and choices and journeyed down several blind alleys. Yet I don’t regret my forays into living abroad, other career paths, and the private sector. I would probably always wonder if I hadn’t travelled those paths.

Finally, when I first started writing this blog I mentioned my envy of a woman I know, someone who got a pricey arts education, dropped out of working in the field after a year because she didn’t like the politics, married a man from a wealthy family and had several children, and then after decades of not working got written up for some artwork she’d done in a studio in her house. I think it’s pretty common for women who’ve been supporting themselves for decades to feel irked by the dilettantism of wealthy wives. At that point in particular I felt like I’d been toiling in the understaffed, unappreciated trenches for far too long.

Recently this woman’s artwork came up again, and this time I was able to shrug it off. So she’s dabbling and putting some pieces in shows like a million other artists. I could do the same but have little incentive to do so, as I already earn a living and have derived self-esteem from having a career and supporting myself. When I do creative projects, they are just for my enjoyment. I don’t need to sell anything, and I don’t have anything more to prove.

yearning

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130403071957.htm

“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.

amplification

While social media has the potential to make a big world smaller, to bring people of all kinds together, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship, its downside is bleak. Let’s face it: We don’t always experience joyous excitement when scrolling through photos and posts of our friends doing well, enjoying a vacation, or having fun together. Prosperity, pleasure, or an unexpected bonus in someone else’s life can stab you with pain. It might make you depressed or even ill.

Imagine my therapy client who has fertility issues. What does it feel like to her every time she opens Facebook to find a post from yet another former high school classmate announcing her pregnancy? Consider your neighbor who has been unemployed for a year logging onto Google+ only to discover that his longtime friend was recently promoted—again. Sure, there are plenty of people online congratulating one another, sharing in joy, and finding vicarious happiness in the success of others. But envy can be powerful and decidedly unpleasant.

Social media amplifies unintended slights or emotional injuries. Most of all, it exponentially increases the likelihood of social envy.

– See more at: http://www.rewireme.com/explorations/handle-facebook-envy/#sthash.FrgEQVvb.s4sKQ40v.dpuf

the outcast

So. Elliot Rodger.

I don’t want to say much because I have no idea what his issues were, and I could only stomach his videos for a few minutes. What seems apparent, however, is that he felt entitled to a certain type of woman– blonde, pretty, popular– and that his entitlement was likely fed by the surrounding culture. Unsurprisingly, those women seemed to be the only ones on his radar, and even then, he failed to grasp their humanity. The other apparent thing about him was his loneliness, alienation, and anger. He was angry that “undeserving” men were able to get women, but his racism and classism fueled his perceptions of “undeserving.”

The main reason I’m bringing him up, however, is that he gives all us lonely, bitter, skulking, single bloggers a bad name!

At least some of the “ick” factor I got from him has to do with my own sense of shame. So I just want to say it’s easy to feel alienated when you are single and childless. It’s common to give in to to the impulse to skulk about Facebook. It’s normal to have WTF moments when observing that some seemingly terrible people manage to get married and/or have kids when you haven’t been able to do so. It’s hard not to lapse into bitterness occasionally. It’s ordinary to find oneself without close friends, as they have all disappeared into coupledom and parenting. It’s common— and healthy in the absence of alternatives– to turn to the internet as an outlet (ahem). None of this makes you a pathological freak.

I have known many lovely, sociable, competent, attractive women who have unintentionally ended up single and childless, who have felt all those things, and who have found a great sense of community and solace in blogs and forums and books aimed at them.

I have felt all those things. And yet, I’m once again seeing the silver lining in my situation (like the clouds, that silver lining comes and goes). As a single woman, you still have to work, and you are more likely to be stuck in a stressful job than the married women you know. You have to do all the household maintenance and sometimes have to take care of elderly relatives. But. You don’t have to go to kids’ birthday parties or to Disney movies or take a child to the orthodontist or help out with homework. There are still slivers of free time to pursue the self-development that often gets curtailed when people start the cycle of birth/childhood/schooling all over again by having kids.

Rather than continue to pursue what I’ve missed out on, especially when it’s becoming clear that that ship has sailed, I have an opportunity to develop in some unusual (if unheralded and even unnoticed) ways. I’m feeling the urge to seize that again.

tolerance levels

http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2007/09/retired-and-sin.html

I’m a retired career woman, divorced over 10 years, age 57, and never had any children. I admit that for a long time, being “childless” bothered me…like I was missing out on one of life’s most wonderful gifts, but as the years passed, it bothered me less and less. Now I’m sort of glad I don’t have children and grandchildren. I love my independence. I’ve pretty much given up on the thought of being married again, and I’m okay with that too.

My best friend from childhood has been married for eons and has two children and so far, two grandchildren. Her entire life revolves around her family, kids and grandkids, and she rarely has any time to herself…but she loves her life. I used to envy her, but now I realize that’s just not the kind of life I could tolerate at this age.

I enjoy my nieces and nephews when I see them, and am close to my brother and sister. I value my family highly and am blessed with many very good friends. This is all okay with me now. I don’t feel “left out” because I’m not babysitting grandkids every day or every week. I like my freedom and my private times.

Posted by: Melinda | Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 01:37 AM

juxtapositions

http://bookssnob.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/the-rectors-daughter-by-f-m-mayor/

Pushed about from pillar to post, belonging to no one, Mary’s life appears a shadow next to those of the married, busy, fulfilled women she is surrounded with. The quiet, desperate sadness that fills her days is amplified by the fact that everyone around her is so busy with their own happy and exciting lives that Mary is all but forgotten, and her unhappiness goes unnoticed. Worst of all, she must watch Mr Herbert and his wife’s unconventional, explosive, yet happy marriage unfold before her, forever wishing she were the one he had loved enough to marry. It was this juxtaposition of the emptiness and fullness of what a woman’s life can hold that pained me the most. Like Mary, I wondered at the unfairness of how some can have everything they dream of, and others nothing. Even if, as Mary does, you force yourself to make the best of things, that raw pain in your heart that lets you know you are not truly content can never really go away.

I felt Mary’s pain all the way through this searingly honest portrayal of a life that did not hold the promise its heart dreamed of. I so wanted Mary to be loved, I so wanted her to have the children she desired, and the home and husband of her own she longed for and would have so enjoyed. But it didn’t happen, and I couldn’t bear it, largely because, as I said earlier, I fear this fate so much for myself (yes, despite only being 24!). This is such a brilliant book, worthy of being a classic, really, in that it so perfectly encapsulates how limited unmarried women’s lives could be before the advent of feminism, as well as being such a tenderly, movingly written portrayal of the often stark, disappointing realities of life.

assumptions

http://candormagazine.tumblr.com/post/211502843/woman-writer-writer-mother-a-conversation-between

RZ: I was a writer and teacher before I was a mother but so much of my mental and physical energy is spent in my role of mother. Am I more a mother than a writer now? I’m not sure. I don’t think I can really separate them enough to measure them against each other.

It is interesting that despite our many similarities, we don’t know each other very well. Over the years our paths have crossed from time to time, but we’ve never become friends. Is it because I have children and you don’t?

I know that I’ve made assumptions about you, about the kind of nonmom you are.

I’ve always imagined that you went to parties and stayed out late and slept with various handsome men (and maybe women too) and had beautiful clothes that were not machine washable and that your body functioned in ways that did not surprise, alarm or amaze you. I felt sure that you went to sleep late, woke up late, and read the newspaper at breakfast. Your apartment, as I pictured it, was quiet and peaceful but not very tidy. Your life was your own. Your read books voraciously but were sometimes lonely. You traveled and went to writer’s colonies and applied for fellowships and teaching jobs that might require you to move to other states or countries for a few months. Your mother worried that you weren’t married and you told her that her alarm was antiquated and sexist.

SM: I think we both made assumptions about each other based on the popular stereotypes associated with New York women. I certainly did. I thought your life consisted of reading banal storybooks, making instant oatmeal, and doing laundry. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel fulfilling. I considered an obviously complex and evolved person but went straight to the stereotype, which is basically a failure of my imagination.

You’ve read my memoir now, so you know that my life and my relationship to my body are not as you describe above.

I don’t know if the severe limits on my life have been greater or lesser in degree, or similar or different in type, to the limits on your life, a mother’s life.

RZ: I agree that most assumptions about mothers and nonmothers are erroneous.

For example, a few months ago I sent a YouTube link to a movie I made about my son’s home birth out to everyone on my email list. I was surprised when you responded. I had assumed you wouldn’t be interested in my movie. I thought you might find it overly sentimental or possibly disgusting. But you said it inspired you. How? Why?

SM: “Inspires” as in fills me with breath and hope, as in somehow both increases and decreases the mysteries surrounding motherhood and birth.

During a high school internship program at a local teaching hospital, with a teenager’s total assurance that I would be a doctor when I grew up, I watched a vaginal birth and came close to fainting. The attending doctor had to take care of me while the mother was in labor. It was almost funny. So I was surprised by how clean and simple the birth process seemed in your movie.

I am genuinely interested in the lives of mothers inasmuch as I am interested in the lives of people in general, but I’m separately fascinated by some mothers’ apparent conviction that nonmothers are shallow, that mothers suffer and feel more deeply than nonmothers. It seems as if these mothers want to shun me because I’m not a member of their sorority—hell, I didn’t even show up to rush.

RZ: I’ve never thought that you or nonmothers in general are “shallow” but clearly I’ve made a lot of other uncomplimentary or idealized assumptions. Perhaps I should have spent more time thinking about what you and I have in common or about what I have lost in the years in which I signed on so completely to the world of mothers and the idea that we are different from nonmothers. How does such a perception affect women? What can we do to change things?

SM: The problem with sustaining the dichotomy between mothers and nonmothers, of course, is that in doing so we weaken all women against the reigning culture of men.

James Baldwin is supposed to have said at Berkeley, that no white man, no matter how wretched, would want to trade places with him. Well, no man, no matter what color, would want to trade places with me.

RZ: Maybe because I’m trying to justify my own path or maybe because I truly feel this way—I don’t know—but I’ve spent my whole life assuming that (to bring it back to James Baldwin) no mother, no matter how wretched, would want to trade places with a nonmother. So I’m back to the dichotomy.

SM: I find it hard to understand that feeling.

RZ: Obviously I’m exaggerating. Some women do not want to be mothers. Women have abortions or give children up for adoption or responsibly avoid pregnancy, but by and large, despite the fact that motherhood is not physically, logistically, financially or socially supported, most women do become mothers at some point even if they don’t choose a particular pregnancy or child.

Is this because of a cultural message that motherhood is the ultimate goal for women? Why do so many women become mothers?

And how can I discuss my feeling of having chosen the “right” way, the only path that makes sense to me without being offensive? Motherhood, it seems to me, is both extremely difficult but also and ultimately, the greatest privilege. I guess I fear nonmothers’ scorn and envy when I say these things.

SM: It is hard for me to understand mothers who assume I envy them, or who assume that motherhood is my goal.

But the problem here is that the dialectic of mother versus nonmother isn’t a perfect one. Every mother has also been a nonmother, so only they know the difference. Nonmothers simply can’t have this perspective.

It’s generalizing an individual belief—that my, or anyone’s, experience of womanhood should be considered the ultimate experience for all women—that’s the problem.

RZ: I can see how my assumption that motherhood is (or should be) your (or anyone’s) ultimate goal would be offensive and problematic. I need to think about what’s led me to embrace such an essentialist view of womanhood.

SM: My friend J., the mother of a severely disabled child, finds the mother/nonmother dialectic deeply problematic. She knows that not all mothers are in the same boat.

I find that dialectic problematic, too, because I know that not all nonmothers are in the same boat.

There’s a vast difference between the life of a committed artist and the life of a person who gets paid to take orders forty hours a week and spends the rest of the time entertaining herself.

There are very many ways to live a nonfulfilling life. I have found several. But from where I’m standing, plenty of mothers seem to have found them, too.

What I want to know is: what do thoughtful and insightful mothers know that I can’t know?

RZ: So much of being a mother is learning to tolerate discomfort. There is an athleticism to motherhood, a kind of torture-victim’s resolve. Nursing a child is like a spiritual practice, a meditative disciple, a consecrated patience. I imagine I might feel this way about yoga if I had time to do yoga. Also, I would give up my life for my children but not for my husband and not for my parents and not for my friends….

SM: That might be it — the essential difference between us. I don’t know anyone I’d die for. That is a fascinating dialectic