thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: meaning

tarnished

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/05/marina-benjamin-what-it-means-be-woman-aged-50

When the term “middle age” came into general use in the late 19th century, it was principally in a socio-economic setting. Empire and industrialisation had expanded and enriched the middle classes, and women who had finished raising children could enjoy another decade or two of vigour and relevance. Middle age was actually admired: these women were mature, worldly creatures who had, as the modern saying goes, “freedom to” as well as “freedom from”. The negative tarnish came with the mass production of the 1920s and the theories of scientific management that underpinned it, sharpening our association of youth with productivity and middle age with decreasing efficiency.

the blame game

I always used to bristle when people suggested that my single state was all my fault, but the truth is, I have a tendency to frame my situation in those exact terms. I often ruminate over past men I rejected or broke it off with and wonder if I should have made a different decision somewhere. Was it really a big deal that we were on completely different pages when it came to something like religion? Or that we were ill-matched physically, or that I didn’t like his scent? Or that he had a personality disorder or bored me or frequently made remarks I found offensive? Or he came from a completely different cultural background? Or there was a significant age gap? Or he had a drinking problem or did not have a college degree and resented my group of college friends as a result?

The human brain seems to want to find fault somewhere, even if it’s with ourselves. We want to believe that if things had been handled differently everything would have worked out fine. We have a strong desire to feel in control of our fate.

It’s difficult for me to sit with the idea that things just never lined up for me. That, perhaps, I never really had good choices to make.

the sniveling

This passage perfectly encapsulates how I felt during my last dispiriting period on the job market, before I returned to my profession:

My parents… generation has watched the social infrastructure they painstakingly helped to build being dismantled and sold off, while at the same time having to rescue their offspring who cannot get an economic foothold. Even in our mid to late thirties, my partner and I are chronically financially insecure, always on the verge of packing up and moving back to our parental homes.

Bringing up a family on a modest income, improvising and making do, work was then a source of pride and stability, a solid base on which to build. Now, for us, the pressure of precarity demands a new sort of virtuosity and a different outlook… Work is no longer a secure base, but rather a source of anxiety and indignity, both a matter of life and death and utterly meaningless, overwhelming and yet so insubstantial it could run through our fingers. It is normal to feel under threat and undervalued, to feel snivellingly grateful to have a job, any job. We must be sure not to take work for granted and yet be willing to be taken for granted ourselves. We endure a similar level of “making do”, but without the home or kids, and without the security of regular employment. We can barely live independently now. How will we be able to bring up children, or support them in similar circumstances? The future is no longer something to look forward to, but something to dread.

Again, from my family I inherited no world-shaking political beliefs, just a desire to be part of a community, to do a useful job which was not driven by private profit and to cultivate outside interests rather than be defined by a 24/7 career. Such an attitude, far from being revolutionary, used to be the norm, even a non-attitude. But now the tide has come in, and anyone with such eccentric ideas finds themselves stranded way out to sea on a sandbank with the waves lapping at their feet and the vultures circling above. By maintaining the same moderate position we have become radicals by default. Smiling swimmers beckon toward us (“Come on in, the water’s lovely!”), but we know that we are in a contradictory no-win situation: our future survival depends upon immersing ourselves from head to toe in an ideology which we know is poisonous.

— Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia, pp. 76-77

the fundamental

http://www.alternet.org/5-things-never-say-woman-who-doesnt-want-kids

Even as women continue to break down the barriers of gendered expectations, they’re still faced with an allegedly fundamental question: whether or not to have children.

We still live in a world where family and children are deeply associated with women, to the point where women are taught that having children is essential to having a strong sense of self.

[…]

Collectively, we tend to be extremely uncomfortable with the possibility that a woman could put herself before someone else—even above people who will most likely never exist!

We continue to associate womanhood with selflessness and self-sacrifice. Children are a fundamental manifestation of this mindset. A woman is expected to prioritize her kids first, but particularly at her own expense.

There’s a definite labor to motherhood in more ways than one: late nights, the responsibility of looking after someone else, and more bodily fluids than you ever wanted to imagine, not to mention the financial burden.

You supposedly can’t be a good mom without some sacrifice. Since the maternal archetype continues to be so closely associated to the core of women’s identities, it follows that the “right” kind of woman is willing to sacrifice other things in favor of her goal of raising of family.

But not everyone wants children, which creates a weird materialism vacuum in the minds of many.

Why do we have to subscribe to the belief that being a good person or good woman automatically means going without?

There’s nothing shameful about indulging yourself or living your life to the fullest on your own.

People try to guilt women with the myth that there is a certain type of happiness or fulfillment that only mothers can know. That might be true, but it’s also true that having kids may prevent you from having tons of experiences that could change your life.

recolonization

I started writing this blog two-and-a-half years ago and the changes that have slowly come over me during that period have been profound. To wit:

1. When I get up in the morning my first feeling isn’t “Why get out of bed?” but the desire to fire up my computer and read my favorite websites and blogs and do a little writing.

2. On the way to work I practice Spanish via listening to audiobooks– I haven’t let full-time work prevent me completely from pursuing some other long-term goals.

3. I no longer have the sense, as I did throughout my twenties and thirties, that I’m waiting for the “main event” but it isn’t happening. When I was younger I would get distracted for long periods of time by interests and hobbies but was often hit by the feeling that another year was passing and I was still in the same dreary position. I had chosen my career out of practicality and had never expected it to be my whole life. At some point it was supposed to either end or be supplemented by a husband and kids. That expectation is gone and with its disappearance has arrived the anticipated relief that the wait is over.

4. My solitude has become gold. Being social is still valuable and gets me out of my head and introduces me to new ideas, but having alone time feels like the bigger treat. When occasional loneliness strikes I reframe things so that I view time with myself as the ultimate luxury. I truly have become my own best friend and have to fight not to see other people as an imposition. The upsides are that my expectations of other people have become almost nil so I never stew anymore over perceived slights, and I don’t feel the need to verbally “vomit” everything I’ve been holding in when I do have conversations. Part of this change in perspective is that the conversations I have with other people, while enlightening, are rarely as rich as the conversations I would like to be having and that I have with myself (and in my head with other writers).

5. I have meditated nearly every day for close to two years. That probably factors in.

6. After my recent bad experience with having a roommate, I no longer want one.

7. I have “recolonized” my mind while at work. As I’ve written recently, I’ve had to rein in my personality on the job. At first that felt painful, but it’s amazing how easily I’ve since adapted. What keeps me sane is the idea that my mind is still my own, even while on the clock.

ending points

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-what-kristin-newman-was-doing-while-you-were-breeding-20140527-story.html

As you were going on these trips around the world, were you aware that you eventually wanted to write about them, or was that something you discovered afterward?

I would keep little journals throughout, but it felt so personal at the time and I didn’t really know what it was.

When I met my new husband and two children, I think a part of me knew it was over and wanted to write about it. Only at that point with it being over did I have the right perspective to understand that what I thought had just been a fun series of events, clearly had a big life lesson for me. Also, it had an ending. It had a place to go to as a story.

Plus I’m getting to the age where if I wrote it while I was in the middle of it, people would have said, “Oh dear God, you’re still doing this?” I do feel better that I was writing it from a more appropriate life point.

identity problems

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/28/elliot_rodger_and_americas_ongoing_masculinity_crisis_partner/

The idea of men going on shooting rampages because of threats to their identity as men makes sense to me. One way to think about that idea is to look at the cases where women DO kill multiple people. In the ones that make the news, most often the victims are the woman’s own children. They are not counted as mass killers because the body count isn’t high enough. But just like the breakdown in identity that I see happening with men, when the thing that defines a woman’s identity as a women breaks down (being a good mother), she—in those most extreme of cases—feels the need to kill the part of her that is causing the most pain.

[…]

Yes, sexism, misogyny, inability to deal with sexual rejection, and entitlement to women’s bodies still exists. Yes, we need to deal with it.

Best place to start? Talking with and treating women as equals. Encouraging men to see women as humans first, with sex taken completely off the table. Encouraging platonic friendships between the genders where each help each other succeed. Teaching consent and respect. It seems unimaginable we are still in need of progress in this area, but we know it to be true.

[…]

Men need to be able to get help for their problems without fear or shame. Emotional pain is real and devastating. Men need to understand that and they need help seeking out solutions. We need to look for warning signs and follow up immediately when we see those signs. We need to let men know it is ok to ask for help. We need to encourage friendships, sharing, and a wider, more open definition of love. We need to teach actual coping skills and actual problem solving skills to be able to deal with the inevitable loneliness, pain, anger, or lack of success that are simply parts of life. How many times have you heard some version of “just man up” instead of teaching real coping skills? And we need to continue to expand our definition of masculinity so that a man’s identity isn’t wrapped up in any one thing, but there are always a wealth of options for a long, happy productive life.

routes

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117528/monogamy-outdated-and-unattainable-ideal

Last week researchers at the University of New Mexico warned that girls rely too much on romantic relationships for their self-identity. The study found that girls are at greater risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts the more their relationships diverged from their ideal. There was no evidence that such romantic disappointments affect boys, who were shown to gain their self worth from sport or other achievements.

For these girls, Cameron Diaz is a good role-model. It is a great shame that these American teenagers are fortunate enough to live in an era where their future no longer relies on meeting a prince, yet they fail to utilize this. Perhaps they should be enlightened to the fact that just fifty years ago in some states of their country, women couldn’t take out a loan or a mortgage without the signature of a husband. Perhaps they should be reminded that in the 1970s a woman could be sacked simply for losing her looks and no one would bat an eyelid. It’s no good having all these victories in the battle for emancipation of women if we still send out a message that finding Mr. Right is the only route to utopia.

enough

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/01/29/pension-schmension-retire-on-your-own-terms/

Absolutely not! It not stupid to walk out on a pension. What is stupid is staying in a job that you don’t love, when you no longer need the money.

All of this hinges on the concept of “Enough”. It’s a tricky one to grasp if the television has done its job in raising you to be insatiable. But if you work through your own bullet points like the ones above, and you’ve got enough, then dude, trust me, you can go ahead and quit.

When you take early retirement, you are almost always walking away from a whole bunch of money. Salary. Benefits. Bonuses. Stock options. I’ve often recounted how I’ve “lost” least a million dollars of potential income since quitting in 2005. Even now, I am forced to turn down more work opportunities almost every week, and Mrs. Money Mustache does the same. Early retirees seem to have a way of attracting unwanted work opportunities, almost like the casual man who walks into a pub with no desire to hit on women. The employers can almost smell your freedom, and it makes them want to offer you additional money. But unless the work offered is your true love, you will gracefully decline.

We are deliberately sacrificing extra savings and security in our distant futures, for continued free time right now. We’re throwing away the equivalent of many good pensions. Oooo. Big deal.

To gain the ability to quit your job, you have to learn to lose your addiction to artificial security. You may think you’re building up additional financial strength, but really you’re just indulging a psychological weakness.

More money beyond the reasonable guidelines noted above does not make your life better. But spending an extra 10 years working a mundane job, setting the alarm clock and droning away on the conference calls because you are afraid to quit does make your life worse, unless that is truly what you were born to do.

[OTOH, in terms of finding employment as a retiree: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/brooks/2013/08/26/retirement-encore-careers-age-discrimination/2693259/%5D

the curious

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/dear_graduates_dont_follow_your_dreams_commencement_speech_for_the_mediocre/

See, commencement speakers are the outliers — the most successful, interesting people that colleges can find — and their experiences are the most inspirational but also the least realistic. Even worse, they tend to be far too willing to dish out the craziest, worst advice, simply because it somehow worked for them. “Follow your dreams” and “live your passions” are insanely unhelpful tips when the bills need paying or the rent is almost due. Invariably, commencement speakers tend to be the lucky few, the ones who followed their dreams and still managed to land on their feet: Most of us won’t become Steve Jobs or Neil Gaiman, regardless of how hard we try or how much passion we might hold. It’s far more likely to get stuck working as a waiter or bartender, or on some other dead-end career path. Most people will have to choose between “doing what they love,” and pursuing the more mundane promise of a stable paycheck and a promising career path. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the latter choice; in fact, I’d usually recommend it.

But for all of those young graduates who look out today and see a limitless horizon of excitement and opportunity, I hate to be the one to say it, but you probably won’t get there. And I’ve often wondered if, perhaps, those of us who ended up waiting tables or working the dead-end office jobs would be better suited to offering real advice to new graduates, advice tailored toward the majority, those who won’t attain the loftiest heights of their dreams — but still must find meaning and value in our imperfect world. And for those people, the rest of us, my advice is quite simple: Stay curious and keep learning.

Your job might be terrible, it might be horribly boring and physically draining like mine was. You might work in a terrifying corporate culture that stifles creativity and punishes independent thinking. You might be forced to watch round after round of layoffs and budget cuts, wondering if and when the ax will fall on you. And of course, there are plenty of other terrible ways that your life can turn sideways, too.

Stay curious. Keep learning.

[…]

I’ve always valued learning intrinsically, as an end unto itself. And more and more, that seems like the key. Curiosity provides life with wonder and excitement beyond our crummy, quotidian routines. A passion for learning, an unqualified commitment to pursuing your interests — and seeking new ones — will carry you through the good times and bad times, the rich times and poor times, the miserable times and happy ones.