thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: loneliness

the landscape

I too have always loved Heather Havrilesky:

http://www.theawl.com/2013/10/ask-polly-how-do-i-find-true-love-and-stop-dating-half-assed-men

Now imagine for a second that someone writes to me and says, “Look, you’re just ok and you’re old and you’re wasting your time on this bullshit.” (Um, no one does that, because this isn’t Salon.) But imagine that someone does tell me that. And imagine that I spend several hours of my time explaining why I’m awesome and my work here is incredibly significant to the health of the planet, and I fucking matter and I have great ideas, brilliant fucking ideas, I’m a genius, and seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? Suddenly this tepid bit of flotsam is taking up my time, and instead of turning away from it, I’m making claims that my work is deeply important (which, well, is a highly subjective stance).

[…]

Please note: this world also devalues free-flowing, emotional discourse from a woman unless she’s also funny AND sexy. If you’re not super fucking hot and funny first, you can go fuck yourself, ladies.

[…]

Because tepid is everywhere. Tepid is the air we breathe. Listen to me: We can’t do anything right. We can’t say what we mean, we can’t be ourselves, we can’t age, we can’t talk about feelings, we can’t fuck up. This is how it feels to be a woman, motherfucker. The world is filled with human beings who want us to shut up and shake our asses, point blank, the end. Can you fucking imagine if we had our own Kanye? For her to have Kanye’s power, and get invited on Kimmel, of course she’d have to be a mega-hot, funny as shit woman who walked around looking exactly like the chick in the short skirt who eats giant hamburgers on those Carl Jr. ads, but instead of eating a hamburger she’d be saying FUCK YOU, YOU ARE A SEXIST FUCK. I mean, sure, we have our women who look mortal and say this. Are they on TV? Rachel Maddow, she’s on TV. How many people in that bar would even know who the fuck she is? Who listens closely to Lena Dunham, who is gorgeous by the way? No, she’s not shaped right to listen to, right? She’s too full of herself? She’s too annoying?

Let’s not fall down that rabbit hole. All I’m saying is, here we are in a fucked up world. And even when you find your species, or at least your genus, you still are sometimes just a piece of ass to the best of them. Not even because they’re incredibly sexist—maybe they’re just pragmatic, or ambivalent in this case. They don’t happen to love you, is all. They don’t think you’re a math genius or a historian, and they’re gonna call bullshit. They think that when you talk, you’re wasting their time a little. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Sure, you want those guys and their futons and their best friends Sean to go fuck themselves, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil. But once they don’t love you, who the fuck cares about them? Were those dudes in the bar sexist, or did they just think I’m sort of bossy and repellent? Who the fuck cares?

You’re hunting a very small group, that’s all. Your target demographic, it’s small. There’s more than one of them, but they’re not everywhere.

That doesn’t mean your odds are bad! You will find love. Believe me. But in order to find it, I think you have to prepare yourself for a life alone, and be at peace with that. It’s a real tightrope walk. I get that. But you won’t tell tepid to fuck off if you don’t believe in your heart that you will rock it out one way or another.

In order to tell tepid to fuck off once and for all, you MUST recognize that life among those who don’t appreciate or understand you is bullshit. You don’t want to live that way. You don’t want to be badgery and lonely while you’re with someone. You’d rather be alone.

What will make ALONE look good to you? You have to work on that. Because single life needs to look really, really good, you have to believe in it, if you’re going to hold out for that rare guy who makes you feel like all of your ideas start rapidly expanding and approaching infinity when you talk to him. You need to have a vision of life alone, stretching into the future, and you need to think about how to make that vision rich and full and pretty. You have to put on an artist’s mindset and get creative and paint some portrait of yourself alone that’s breathtaking. You have to bring the full force of who you are and what you love to that project.

[…]

You have to do a lot. And you have to do it all against a backdrop of indifference that, as you get older, curdles into a kind of disgust. But you know what? We have each other. We have worlds within us, you and me. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside of themselves. This indifferent landscape will rise up and give you love if you share what you have inside, if you dare to believe in your potential even as people tell you it’s a mirage, if you ignore the ones who are allergic to free-flowing, emotional discourse from YOU. They are everywhere, and they don’t matter. God bless them. Come on their Hampton blouse, and move on.

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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.

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

the lulling

http://www.centerprogressive.org/lulled-into-numbness/

Successful movement through this Transition Zone accounts for some of the data about that upswing of happiness after the 40s, but not all. A larger source, in my experience, of later life happiness is more likely masked resignation and accommodation: People who more or less give up trying to grow and change. They decide, consciously or unconsciously, to lope along in the life they’ve been living and define that as happiness.

It’s illusory, though, because over time they tend to become “comfortably numb,” emotionally and spiritually. And, increasingly vulnerable to physical ailments, an upsurge of late-life depression, alcoholism or drug usage.

My daily meditation practice has provided me with a lot of benefits. My health has improved and I’m much calmer and more forgiving of others.

It hasn’t changed my actual circumstances though– despite the popular theory of “abundance”– and so, at the same time, I feel numb. Undeniably and remarkably numb. Numbly adapted to my circumstances.

I have trained myself not to expect romantic romantic fulfillment and not to feel disappointment over the lack of deep, meaningful friendships in my life or any kind of consistent intimacy. I have cultivated an appreciation for pleasant diversions and have stopped expecting much more than that in my time away from work. Having recently been bruised on the job market, I have stopped hoping for a job that truly engages me and instead appreciate the fact that I have one I don’t hate and that may allow me to retire early, if I hold my lifestyle steady.

All of this “accommodation” has taken a toll, but I’m unsure what choice I have. I could try online dating again, but chances are slim that anything will come of it, and I don’t particularly feel up to the psychic drain. I already participate in a number of social activities, but rarely do I meet like-minded peers. Occasionally I’m really, really enlivened by and drawn to a performer or artist of some kind, but outside of polite exchanges, nothing ever develops. I don’t see any solution to the job problem, but feel it could be greatly ameliorated by a satisfying personal life, but then that brings me back to the beginning of this paragraph.

I would like to keep growing, but I feel like I am reaching the limits of how much I can grow in solitude.

Accommodation. Resignation. I can’t see a way out.

the upside down

https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/help-desk/bank-robbin-in-brooklyn/#rf8-5159

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.

skipping it

Since my first job in my early twenties, I’ve tried to be careful about “wishing my life away,” thinking about nothing but my next vacation (or, as I got older, retirement). To this end, instead of putting all my hopes and dreams into exotic vacations, I tried to find activities I was excited about that I could look forward to on a weekly basis.

And yet, I’m starting to feel like I’d be willing to give away the next ten years of my life to get to retirement already. That makes it sound like I’m seriously depressed, but I’m not. I just don’t have high hopes for this particular phase of my life. The physically uncomfortable transition of menopause is looming, I can’t count on finding romance, the activities I enjoy are pleasurable but no longer thrilling (salsa, swimming, etc.), and I can’t seem to get excited about taking a vacation since I’d have to travel solo, which has also lost its thrill. Additionally the novelty of exploring California is gone. I’m in a job that overall I’m happy with and appreciate having but my career field has never been my dream. The new challenges that come with promotions are helpful, but I’m less and less interested in the field as a whole. Finally, while my new home is pleasant, I can’t shake the sense that I’m just “passing through” and without a family I will remain on the periphery.

The pull of just doing my own thing, sleeping in and having time to read retains its hold on me. In the meantime I continue to look for things that will seize me, engaging me with today as opposed to tomorrow.

scrapbooks

I’ve written about this before, but I have almost no interest in seeing movies or watching television anymore. Today I have even less interest than when I started this blog. This is probably fairly common as one ages; after all, the targeted demographic ends at age 34.

But I think there is an even bigger reason, which is that I no longer feel a part of the culture. I am at the exact midpoint of life, and this year closes the book on the first half. That tale didn’t end as expected, and I no longer believe in or identify with the major story threads promulgated by our society.

Daily meditation likely adds to this strange feeling of being outside the accepted narrative.

Blogging is probably the ideal format to tell my arc-less story. There are no big turning points or neat endings, just buffetings, false starts, recoveries back to baseline, and ferreted scraps pointing the way to fellow wanderers.

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.

the squandering

I had a place I could afford to write and live in alone in New York City, and I was squandering my time there. I tried not to think about that, and so I stopped noticing. But the years ticked by, quite linearly I might add, and somehow one day I was twenty-eight, and the next I was thirty-eight. I assumed I’d have that rent-stabilized apartment forever, which at twenty-eight seemed like a great thing for a struggling writer. But at thirty-eight, still lonely and with few details of my life changed, I started to imagine that I’d grow old and die alone in that run-down shoebox, and it scared me.

— Sari Botton, “Real Estate,” Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, p. 158

When living in Hollywood, I, too, was scared of becoming one of those odd older women still living alone in a small apartment, hanging on to a rent-controlled space. Yet none of my moves seem to help me escape that fate.

Ms. Botton, on the other hand, despite being a self-proclaimed odd bird and die-hard loner, did eventually meet her match, a fellow artist and peer (42 to her 39). They married and shortly thereafter left NYC.

I’m almost at the end of the book and I can’t quite recall if every essay ends with the writer leaving NYC with a partner or spouse and (excepting a few cases that I can recall) one or two children in tow. They still miss the excitement of New York, but it seems to me that those feelings are tangled up with nostalgia for their heady days of youth.

One of the essayists moves away with a spouse and a child she adores in order to live in Europe, where she can afford to stay home and write. And yet, she still rues the fact that she can no longer live in New York. I am inclined to roll my eyes and think “boo hoo, poor you,” but I realize that a lot of people would look at my life– decent job, living on the beach– and feel the same. I do count my blessings.

And yet. There are so few stories out there about women like me, women whose stories don’t get tied up at the end with the nice pink bow of marriage and kids (even if it happens a decade later than the norm), that I feel compelled to convey the reality of it, warts and all.

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.”