never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: friendships


Most of all, I miss men who value and are attracted to the intelligence of a woman. I had so many male friends back then. If one had to leave for class, there were 10 more who might walk in the door. I had plenty of options, and each friend had a special talent or skill that intrigued me. They were all solid individuals that each shone with incredibly bright lights. Every so often, something would happen that would remind me I was a female, but most of the time, I was included as a genderless equal. It’s hard to explain. Yes, we were men and women, but we were also academics. Our gender didn’t matter as much as our minds. Our ideas freely flowed without our genitals making a difference.

As I’ve aged, gender has become an incredible force to be reckoned with. I first knocked into it in the workplace as a young woman. Then, it became more obvious in my friendships. As time went on, lines got drawn. Males separated into one group, and females went into the other. Couples formed, marriages happened, and more lines were drawn. Then came the kids — the fully-formed Families. I wouldn’t even call them lines now. They’re walls. Big, ugly walls with no handholds.

lip service

One of the fascinating things about the book is the portrayal of your friendship. Our cultural reference points for female friendship seem to be either the Sex and the City ideal or the folksy Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Or, we’re talking about “frenemies” and the “toxic friendship” aspects of how women can relate. But yours is such a loving portrait of your day to day; I found it hard to believe that a friendship that close wasn’t competitive or codependent at times.

But it was! We did have that; the difference is that we dealt with it. Caroline and I had both suffered those terrible breaks that women have, that empathic failure–the, Well, never mind then, goodbye, and you start to drop away from each other. We were so attached, and both of us were so loyal, and our MO in the world was to go toward a problem as opposed to away from it. I really wanted to write about the struggles that we had, I could hear Caroline saying to me, “You can’t make this all happy.” We were incredibly competitive and all we did was sublimate it. We arm-wrestled and she beat me; I’d try to beat her in the pool. I knew I had to talk about the struggles and how piercing they can be.

One of the most heartfelt aspects of the book is the way you write about your love for her–it feels very clear and pure and unapologetic. And you’re not writing about your parents or child or partner; you’re writing about your best friend. We often give lip service to the importance of female friendship but we don’t talk about the possible depths of that kind of love.

That was paramount for me, and I’ve been really appreciative of the reviews that have gotten that. In a reading the other night, someone asked me if I ever had that horrible disappointment where people would go, “But it was just a friend.” It’s jaw-dropping when someone does that, because if your friendships are primary, as this one was–grief is not a stair-step of who gets the most attention.

– See more at:

the shapeless

It almost feels like your life is not worth that much because if something were to go wrong there would be nobody behind left without a mother, as I am a childless woman. A childless woman is like a shadow – you may or may not notice it on the wall. It doesn’t have a shape nor does it make a sound and it disappears in the night like it never existed. I remember the conversations around the water cooler. Women always talk about fashion or cooking until somebody starts talking about what her child.

You can have the knowledge of Einstein or have Newton’s intelligence; nothing will deter a woman from talking about her child, while you, the childless woman, can hear yourself carrying your own conversation – talking to yourself, quiet, just an extension of the water cooler.

My lack of children made me lose some of my best friends. No, we did not argue and parted ways because we did not agree on who should be the next president of the United States. We suddenly had nothing in common, our two ways conversations became a one speech dedicated to the little bundle of joy they had. Their lives changed and so did our relationship. My contribution was a gift or just sitting on my chair and listening. We could not share emotions, thoughts, feelings, and advice.

transient states

That left us with two choices: find a friend group that felt like one big family, or build a bigger family of our own. We love our friends, but California is a transient place. One glance at a kickball team photo from 7 years ago would reveal that only 10% of us still live here. We’ve still got the same sized group, but it’s something of a revolving door these days. It’s become difficult to want to get too comfortable with anyone.

So here I am, back in transient California, but without the option of building a family.

I’ve realized that my former life in L.A. is over. One friend is likely moving away, another has had a baby, and the rest just live too damn far. It feels like it’s time for the non-relationship to finally end, and it’s unlikely I will want to spend two hours in the car to see a five dollar show with performers with whom I only have the slightest connection.

The slight reconnections I made in my former city have already withered, except for one woman who is going through the IVF process. If she succeeds, I see that one withering as well.

The childhood friend who sent the photos of her kids keeps in touch intermittently, but our correspondence goes like this: I tell her of an interesting happening in my life, she sends photos/news of her kids. If we hadn’t been friends before, we’d have little reason to keep in touch. Far too little in common.

I like my new co-workers and see us getting along well but don’t necessarily see any of those relationships going farther than work. It doesn’t help being the boss. I’ve met some nice people out and about, but I’m in that unsure place in regard to when or how my next friendships will develop.

I met a man recently with whom I have a ton in common but I’m unsure of his sexual orientation. His correspondence with me is unpredictable, and I’m refusing to take it personally. I confess, though, that it would be wonderful to have a private, shared world with someone, a place I could retreat when I felt the void in the larger world.


I saw a show this weekend that was filled with twentysomethings singing their hearts out about love and passion and sexual attraction. I can of course recall having had those feelings myself, but it’s been a while, and I’ve learned so many hard lessons in that realm that my happiness now derives from delicious moments of solitude.

I also saw the movie Frances Ha. I didn’t love it, but I liked the ideas it conveyed. A twenty-seven-year-old woman begins the film with an intensely close female friendship, a boyfriend, several peripheral friends, and the pursuit of a dream career. Over the course of the film, the friend abandons her, the dream career is lost, and the peripheral friends and lovers fade away. All that is left is Frances, alone and lost. And yet, she recovers.

As much as we tout the importance of love and friendship and family, isn’t that the ultimate lesson of maturity, the one we finally learn after a multitude of break-ups? That one has to be able to stand on one’s own two feet and that we must first be our own best friend.

the cleaving

I can already tell my life is going to cleave into “before this job” and “after this job.” It’s going to be intense. I’m struggling physically to meet the challenges of ten-hour days and multiple demands and have had to make some tough choices already as far as friendships go.

I told an acquaintance here “no” in terms of being an audience member for her (again) because it would have involved an hour drive somewhere, problematic parking, and several hours sitting in a theater for an event I cared little about seeing. She got snippy and the friendship, such as it is, is probably over. I have another friendship here I value, but this person likes to go to high ticket/ high trouble events, while I prefer low ticket/ low trouble ones. Because it’s unreasonable to think that we should always do what I want to do, I agreed to one of her choices this weekend and spent three hours in heavy traffic and, in total, six hours on the endeavor. I’m numb with exhaustion. I can’t keep that up.

The “non-relationship” man in my life, the one who is sweet and has been there for me in other ways, continues to want to hang out, but I’m at my breaking point there too. He is acutely sensitive in many ways, but had he committed to a relationship years ago, I most likely would not have made the last two brutal moves alone cross-country. In this current job, I have minimal time for socializing, and the little time I have feels like it would be better spent forging new connections that could provide more practical support. I can see the end there too.

On a more positive note, I did finally have that coffee with my favorite writer, and we had lots in common. Don’t know how that will evolve, if at all, but it was interesting to hear him say that he has few friends in L.A. and struggles to make connections. He has seriously considered moving back to his smaller city of residence, a city that is much like the one I just spent nine months in, but he has the same reservations about it that I did. He’s quite successful, so it seems that it’s L.A. that’s the challenge.

He’s also childless, and we discussed the challenges of friendships with friends who have kids. He joined a book group so he would again have people to discuss books with!


About six weeks into my tenure here my mind was alerted to two potential trouble spots: the roommate situation and the job situation.

In regard to the employment search, early on I was rejected from a couple of positions in my former organization, and a visit to a placement agency yielded a discouraging response. My friends told me I was being paranoid, and my roommate advised me to just (shut up) and take a low-level, low-paying job that was open at another agency (I pulled out of that one and was later told by numerous people in the know that I made the right decision).

My mother flew immediately into panic mode, but although I felt in my bones that things did not look good, I also thought it would be ridiculous not to press on looking for a bit longer while pursuing the other goals I had in mind when I moved here.

Within those first six weeks, I also developed niggling doubts about the roommate, doubts that were confirmed in the end.

During that time, while I was signing up for classes and moving ahead on my other projects, I expressed my doubts and fears to a friend about the job search and my roommate’s behavior, and she shut me down with a lecture about how I “was never happy.” It felt terrible to be shut down that way, especially as I was right in both cases. We haven’t spoken since.

I thought about sending that friend a holiday card but decided against it. I spent a couple of years feeling disappointed in the friendship yet hanging on, remembering the times it had been a satisfying one. In the end, she doubted me and left me to my own devices during a time I sorely needed a sounding board. She didn’t believe in my intuition, and now I can’t see the point.

hither and yon

As I mentioned before, over this last holiday I visited with an old childhood friend who is a stay-at-home mom with three kids. It sounds like she has little time for herself and, since her husband is self-employed, the family experiences occasional financial insecurity. She and her husband held age, religious, and regional differences between them when they married– differences that most likely would have tripped me up– but they seem to have straightened them out over time, and overall she seems quite happy.

Her personality may well just be set on a happier, more extroverted dial than mine, but it’s hard for me not to envy her settled position at the moment, as next week I board a plane to fly across country for an all-day interview for a high-level post. As you can imagine, I’m a bit rattled. Ten months ago I set out to put my life on the opposite path– less work stress, more sense of community, easier living. Now I’m facing moving alone for the eighth time in my life and starting another big-time job.

In terms of place, I’m realizing I can “make it work” in a lot of different cities. There are things I like here and things I don’t, and certainly I’ve had my share of whopping disappointments since moving back. I’m working on creating a sense of “home” within that I can carry with me anywhere, and I realize there will be pros and cons no matter where I end up. What I don’t relish is the idea of moving again, especially alone, and especially so soon after just making a big move.

This job, though, is a great opportunity, and since I’ve managed to rustle up little here (a couple of those recent opportunities didn’t pan out), I am grateful for the opportunity and planning to do my best on the interview. And I’m unsure what I will do if I don’t get it. My old organization here may well have stopped interviewing me for positions altogether, while at the same time my former organization in L.A. has floated several ones by me. But if I accept one of those I’ll be moving back to put myself in pretty much the same conditions I just left.

I am, therefore, not thinking much past this upcoming interview.


Another week, another silent phone. It’s nerve-wracking, as my fate hangs in the balance. Will I be starting a job soon? Moving? Reevaluating everything in the face of no job offers at all?

In the absence of news, I’ve had more time to think about the brilliance of Enlightened and have come up with some more insights into the show.

One theme I picked up on is that regret is a useless emotion. In the second season, Amy finally gets the job offer of her dreams, but it’s too little too late as she has set too many other forces in motion. She seems confused and regretful, but the truth is, she only gets the offer because of the things she set in motion– it is initiated by someone she never would have met otherwise– but these are also the very things that impede her from taking the job. You can’t really go back and say “if only.” Life is too tangled and messy to isolate out decisions like that.

A second theme that resonated with me is that if you aren’t interested in someone, the biggest favor you can do is let them go to find someone else. Recently another guy I rejected in the past announced his engagement, and once again, his fiancee seems compatible with him in a way I never was. Amy does Tyler a favor by recognizing they are ill-suited romantically and rejecting him; Eileen is thrilled to find him. Of course, like Amy, I’m still waiting for someone compatible to show up for me.

Third, Mike White sensitively portrays the ways in which the people we connect with intellectually can let us down personally. There are only two characters in the series who share Amy’s newfound spiritual/political/intellectual interests, and neither of them prove to be available for true friendship or romance. Both of them, in fact, use Amy and let her down. On the other hand, she has relationships with other people who don’t share her interests but who are always there for her.

I find that to be one of the most frustrating conundrums in my own life. Last summer I was introduced to a woman who makes an effort to get together with me frequently. I truly appreciate the effort, but our interests are so different that I find conversation to be a struggle and find it difficult to think of things we can do together. And yet, over the course of my life, I have been routinely flaked out on by people I connected with intellectually and politically.

In the parting shot of the series, Amy seems happy, but she walks alone. I suppose I’ll have to find satisfaction with this commenter’s interpretation:

Manruss • 8 months ago
In the end, Amy’s enlightenment came, not by getting any of the things she wanted out of life, but by simply becoming unafraid to live on her own terms.

the details

I was listening to a podcast this morning in which two men discuss feelings of loneliness and how it is difficult to find people who really listen to you or notice things about your personality.

At least one has a partner, and both appear to have more exciting lives than I do, so it was one of those nice reality checks for me. It was also nice to hear a guy talk about his worries that perhaps he is too accepting of and accommodating of his friends’ faults and that maybe he should call them out on stuff more often. I definitely relate to that: