thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: friendships

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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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.

limitations

The two friends talked every night. Not for many years had the spare room walls heard such animation. Mary had received many confidences; it was part of her business in life. To impart, to confide herself was an unfamiliar delight.

Dora was very sympathetic within her narrow range. Outside it she was often astray, and did not follow Mary.

–F.M. Mayor, The Rector’s Daughter, p. 87

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.

the obligatory

I have to confess that a small part of my recent isolation has to do with my healthier ability to say “no.”

As I’ve written before, after two decades of Christmas with my mother, I’ve made other plans this year, and will be taking a trip alone (albeit one that will bring me in close contact with other people).

In addition to that, for the first time, I’ve actually stopped returning one old acquaintance’s phone calls. I met her in my early twenties when in a job and a town I was briefly passing through. I would have been happy enough to have kept in touch with over the phone and via letters, but instead, over the course of the last two decades, she has routinely invited herself to stay with me, leading to some situations that caused me a certain amount of strain. I’m afraid to call her back, which is my natural inclination, because I’m fairly certain she’ll start making plane reservations if I do.

I’ve felt guilty about ramping down this friendship because she is a fellow NoMo, but at the same time, as the friendships I’ve truly enjoyed have faded away, I have become resentful that the ones that are left are all about guilt and obligation. I’d like to change that dynamic, if possible.

Finally, I have a friend here who I do like spending time with, but we have differing desires when it comes to a night on the town. I like low-budget, low fuss, and low ticket prices; she prefers the opposite. I’ve agreed to several events in the past (beggars can’t be choosers, I’ve got to be more flexible, and so on), but decided with her last invitation that it would be unreasonable for her to be angry if I turn down a $100 event that I feel “meh” about. We’ll see.

And so, in the meantime, I entertain myself.

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.”

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.

adaptation

Some excellent answers here. That is all:

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

bright-sided

I don’t know exactly HOW I got over the things in the prior post, other than not denying my feelings, and reasoning and reading my way through them, and letting time take its course.

This is how I feel about each item now:

1. I’m pretty content with participating in activities that get me out of the house and socializing with other people (strangers and acquaintances)– art shows, dance, tennis, yoga, etc. I also have some NoMo friends and have made peace with the fact that they are scattered across the country and this city and the friendships are not super-close. This might at least help them last longer. I recognize and appreciate the freedom I have to pursue disparate interests.

2. I try to maximize the positives and ameliorate the negatives of my location as best I can. I take some heart in knowing that there’s no place that truly accommodates older single people–so I can forget imagining a move will make everything perfect– but most places offer some things that allow one to grow.

3. Just knowing that endless thorny issues are part of most people’s working lives helps. The meditation helps me keep it in perspective, and I try to clock out after eight hours so I can refresh.

4. Time eventually dulls.

5. In regard to romance, I co-exist with uneasy impressions. On one hand, there’s no real reason I shouldn’t expect to find someone as most others have done; on the other, compatible men who are also available and looking for a relationship seem to be unicorns, at least in my galaxy. I just let that one be. When other people pair up, I just shrug and think, “Huh.” I’ve accepted that there’s not much I can do in this regard. Trying didn’t work, so I leave this one up to fate.

6. At bottom, I only rely on myself, and have a strong sense of self as a result.

This may still sound depressing, but I do pretty well. I don’t take anti-depressants. I sleep well at night. I get exercise every day, and I’m generally in a good mood. I do pretty well at work, I look forward to things, I have a solid intellectual life, I love to escape to shows that make me laugh, and I work on my own goals in my personal time.

I don’t discount this hard-won contentment though. I work with a lot of men and every single last one is married. I don’t see them volunteering for this solo living, and most of the people I know who are stuck in it are not doing all that well. I don’t think it’s abnormal to want love and support and companionship; in fact, enragement at going without is perhaps a normal and logical response.

I do feel from all the reading that I’ve done that the points I’ve made are commonly experienced by older women who are single and childless. Some may get lucky or are more resourceful than I am, but I know a lot of women who are less resourceful and/or less lucky. So hopefully some of them can take heart in knowing they aren’t alone.

getting over it

By my reckoning, here are some things I have “gotten over” in the past decade:

1. Getting over the need for a social scene, getting over the need for a social group, getting over the need for a best friend. All while getting over the idea of a close and supportive family of origin.

2. Getting over the idea that there is an ideal place to live. Some are more suited to me than others, yes, but all seem to involve significant trade-offs.

3. Getting over the idea that there is an ideal job. Again, some are more suited to me than others, but all involve the daily grind of solving one problem after another, eight hours a day, and all involve a certain amount of indignities suffered at the hands of the public, bosses, and co-workers.

4. Getting over the realization that I have ended up becoming the type of person whom, at least in some part of my youthful psyche, represented the worst sort of loserdom: single and childless and without some sort of glamorous career to compensate.

5. Getting over the idea that I am guaranteed to find a satisfying romantic relationship, despite being just as able to engage in one as the next person.

6. Getting over the idea that I can truly rely on anyone but myself.

These are pretty big things to process, and it certainly took some time, time that others were often too impatient to grant me:

Being told to “just get over it” is devaluing. It implies that I am making a mistake in processing an event. It indicates that something is wrong with ME because I am in still confused about something that has not been resolved. The statement is emotionally abusive. – See more at: http://emergingfrombroken.com/the-problem-with-statements-like-%e2%80%9cget-over-it%e2%80%9d/#sthash.CzelJbbm.dpuf