never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: family

baby steps

Glad this is not only about parents:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., on Thursday introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a piece of groundbreaking legislation that would have employees contribute .02 percent of their wages in exchange for an earned benefit of 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds their monthly salary. This leave can be used by men and women to stay home with a new child, care for an ailing relative or attend to their own personal medical needs. It is precisely the kind of law that would make the much discussed “life-work” balance more manageable for working American families — particularly the working women to whom these responsibilities so often fall.

Unfortunately, like most legislation that would help working families (and working women in particular), it has very little chance of passing in this Congress.


…Sabina’s path of betrayals would then continue elsewhere, and from the depths of her being, a silly mawkish song about two shining windows and the happy family living behind them would occasionally make its way into the unbearable lightness of being.

Though touched by the song, Sabina did not take her feeling seriously. She knew only too well that the song was a beautiful lie. As soon as kitsch is recognized for the lie it is, it moves into the context of non-kitsch, thus losing its authoritarian power and becoming as touching as any other human weakness. For none among us is superman enough to escape kitsch completely. No matter how we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, p. 256

the crowded street

I’m almost finished with The Odd Women by George Gissing and recommend it highly. It feels amazingly contemporary. I kept checking to see if it was really published in 1893.

Another one I’m enjoying, which I downloaded through a free trial at audible, is this:


“It is the duty of every man, who has sufficient means, to maintain a wife. The life of unmarried women is a wretched one; every man who is able ought to save one of them from that fate.”
— George Gissing, The Odd Women, p. 93

I wrote earlier about how George Gissing’s book The Odd Women, published in the late 1800s, has caused me to reflect on both how things have changed and how they have remained the same.

The passage above, spoken by a male character who remained engaged for nearly twenty years while he built up the means necessary for marriage, reminds me of some of my dating encounters in Los Angeles.

One man I dated for a while, a man who is nearing fifty, still shies from marriage because of his failure to launch his career. I doubt he will ever marry at this point.

Another fortysomething man I briefly dated came from a wealthy family and was their last living child, as his only sibling had passed away. He wasn’t traveling the world or devoting his time to worthy causes or a demanding career; on the contrary, he was spending his time having fun with entertainment industry projects and decorating his newly-purchased home.

He showed no interest in getting married or having children, and I admit, I judged him for that. It seemed unmanly. With all the people out there who struggle to afford children, he could have easily provided for a wife and kids, and I’m sure his parents, who are deeply religious, would have been thrilled to have grandchildren. To top it off, he was one of the last people I dated before I had to go on medication and kiss the idea of having kids goodbye.

And yet. If I want to see a world in which single life is accepted, a world in which people aren’t forced into unhappy marriages, I have to respect his choice to remain single with a dog as his favored companion.

The problem is, we’re not there yet. The world is still in transition, so my judgments are too.


Based on Maynard’s story and my experience, I recommend that a single person contemplating adoption look carefully at their motivation and at the resources for support that they could bring to single parenting. Recognize that raising an adopted child is not the same as parenting a biological one. Try to separate your real feelings about parenting from negative external stereotyping of a single, childless person. Consider alternative ways to have children in your life. In research for my book, The New Single Woman, I found that one of the six criteria for living a satisfying, long-term single life was a connection to the next generation. Such a connection does not depend on raising a child. I include many examples of single women without children who created rewarding relationships with children and young adults.

One needs a community and friendship network to adopt successfully as a single parent, but such support also forms the basis for a happy single life without parenting. As a society, we need to reevaluate family as only one among alternative ways to live a good life.


Unfortunately, when joblessness drags on it creates casualties, and mine are mounting. To wit:

My mother. Her emails and phone messages offering (perhaps) well-intentioned but ill-informed, condescending, and downright clueless job-hunting advice may well cause me to have a rage-induced stroke someday. She is bored and lonely, and I moved here partly to ameliorate that, but right now this plane is going down and I have to get my oxygen mask on first before I can think about helping someone else. I have refused her recent suggestions of a visit as I think it would not be healthy for either of us right now.

My fling. Given that he is in a position to help me in my job search but hasn’t done so and hasn’t even invited me to parties and events that would help me network within my area of interest, I cannot bring myself to respond to his sexting. The fact that he has shown zero concern over my job search and, rather than bolster my confidence as other friends have done, has instead questioned my skills, makes me feel about as amorous towards him as a dying sloth.

My friend in similar circumstances. I have a friend here who is in similar circumstances in all aspects of her life, but her approach to them is so diametrically opposed to mine that I think it’s better for both of us to avoid conversation. We’ve always gotten along, but there’s an edge, as it’s obvious we disagree so heartily on the issues plaguing us.

My former co-workers. Awkward. Enough said.

The “positive thinker.” I have a friend here in his early sixties who I like very much, but he was out of work for years and years and then scored a job when he wanted one because his best friend runs a major organization in town. He keeps telling me I’m being way too negative and I have no way of knowing that I won’t find a job here. It is hard for me to bite my tongue, but I’ve been doing so because I like him and don’t want yet another casualty.


Quite a few women had been inspired by the daughter, mother, grandmother triad traveling together who seemed to be genuinely enjoying each other’s company. For my part, I had been watching this reunion as though I was Margaret Mead, observing the customs of a miraculous and magical family unit utterly unlike my own. Mainly I was astonished by Michelle, the granddaughter, who answers the question “What inspires you?” with “I know people who hate their parents. And hate their birthdays. And hate getting old. But I look at my mother and my grandmother and I think, “How can I not look forward to that next stage?'” Amazing, I thought, unable to remember having had a single moment like the one she was describing, trying not to dwell on images of my frequently unhappy mother and depressed grandmother.

— Merrill Markoe, Cool, Calm & Contentious, p. 242

the bad daughter

My mother is a woman who has unfortunate tendencies toward insensitivity, uninformed ideas, contradictory advice, and hysteria. Since she is nearing eighty and unlikely to change, I’ve tried really hard not to lose my temper with her and to spend some quality time with her.

If the job market was friendlier here or I had some support from a partner, this would be easier to accomplish. Since neither of those things are true, I’ve come to dread talking with her on the phone. I’m trying to remain calm and positive in the face of adversity; unfortunately she is no help in that regard.

I feel guilty about it, but I cannot be a good daughter when things are not going well, and she makes them worse.

the independent

My mother has been married several times and, after being widowed, moved five times in the past fifteen years, twice following a boyfriend and two more times recovering from that. She’s lost a lot of money on all that moving around.

It would be nice if I could find a job here because I’d be three hours away from her, which is just about perfect. I’m within range to help out if needed, but I’ve got my own life. Since she is now approaching eighty, this was one of the reasons I moved back.

When I talk about having to go back to California, she insists she’ll go with me and we can live together. I am not keen on this idea. Financially it makes sense, but it would certainly strain my mental health. It also irks me that she spent her life married but expects me to be happy to spend my remaining vital decades living with my mother.

She’s never been happy living alone; I suppose this is why:

Widows and divorcees are more likely to need other people to rely on than women who have never been married. Pauline Bart, a sociologist who has studied depression in middle-aged women, believes that marrying young often precludes success in living alone. “Women who have never married generally value privacy and independence above intimacy and companionship,” she said. It is hardly surprising that a woman who has spent twenty years fixing family dinners, talking about the bills with her husband, hanging up his shirts, and living a noisy, full life will sorely miss it even if it was unhappy.

— Patricia O’Brien, The Woman Alone, p. 159


I’ve never been interested in dating a man with children; I’ve written on here before that I don’t think we’d be able to relate to each other.

That belief has hugely limited my pool of available partners, of course, but after reading Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin, I think I dodged a bullet. According to Martin, not only do stepmothers have it much tougher than stepfathers, but childless stepmothers tend to have it the toughest of all. I can’t imagine coping with all the tension that seems endemic to the role.

Although Martin eventually found her footing with her husband and stepkids, the reviews of the book on Goodreads confirm that stepmotherhood is no walk in the park.