never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: place


A few weeks ago I was surprised to read that a weekly comedy show was taking place at a bar here; I trekked down to check it out one night but there was no evidence of it happening, and since the venue consisted of small tables of people on dates or with friends, I didn’t stick around. I haven’t seen it advertised since. Then the little boho spot around the corner closed down. This weekend I checked out a group that (I hear) was once large, vibrant, fun, and eclectic; only myself, one other woman, and an elderly couple showed up. One half of the couple joked, “I bet you were hoping to meet some single men.” My solo state is both remarkable and irremediable, it seems.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to try another group and in July I’m looking forward to a big weekend event. And of course, beach weather is coming and I’ll be spending lots of time in the ocean.

By fall, though, I think I’ll have a pretty good sense of whether there’s anything for me here socially. I do treasure my alone time but am not sure I’m ready to become a complete hermit just yet. When the days grow short, I may have to start driving into L.A. every weekend in order not to wilt.

the immoveable feast

Recently I attended a nearby party with a bunch of married couples with kids–friends of a friend. It was good for me to get out of the house but about what I expected. It was difficult to find common ground for small talk, and I left without speaking much to anyone outside of my friend.

This weekend I was invited to a party by another friend where I might have had more in common with the folks (although they might also have all been paired off), but it was over thirty miles away, and, although I was intrigued, I couldn’t bring myself to make the drive, especially at night. I’d like to get out and mingle but don’t want to spend that kind of time and energy when there isn’t much that results from it except the chance to get out of my head for a little while.

More or less the only thing to do at night in my new surroundings is go to bars or restaurants, which I am not inclined to do alone. There was a tiny music/art/literary space around the corner, but it has already closed up shop and moved on.

All during my thirties and early forties I would throw parties, including during my first stint in L.A. But the guests in L.A. were a real hodgepodge– an acquaintance from a temp job, a guy or two I met through online dating, current coworkers of various ages and backgrounds, an acquaintance from my undergrad days, a woman or two from dance class. Many were un-or-under employed and/or in transitional states. People would seem palpably relieved to be at a party where 95% of the guests were single, as opposed to the other way around, but only scattered and short-term connections between the guests ever resulted.

I was located centrally before, so my friends only had to drive anywhere from, say, five to forty-five minutes to get to my place. Now they’d have to drive forty-five minutes to an hour-and-a-half.

I just can’t see the point in throwing another shindig and trying to get that mishmash of people back together. I don’t mind seeing them individually when I’m up in L.A., but I feel like I said goodbye to all that when I left town.

I’m in my own little version of Key West now, you could say.

uphill slides

Today productivity continues to increase, but Americans work more hours per week than they used to, not fewer. Also, more than workers in other countries. Correct?

The U.S., even under the New Deal, was always a lot stingier than most wealthy countries when it comes to time off: whether it’s maternity or paternity leave, or vacations and the like. But since the ‘70s, things have definitely been getting worse.

the plan

I’m starting to think of myself as on the “ten years more or less” plan. Meaning, I’ll probably retire in ten years (more or less) and so am settling in for at least that long. I suppose I could try for an even higher level position in five years, but that would entail moving again and starting over, and I’ll be close to fifty at that point. And I’ll have moved up the pay scale and accumulated significant vacation hours, so I’ll have even more incentive to stay put.

So here I am. There are several reasons I’ve been struggling. Moving again in my forties– not easy. Taking a high-level post that requires me to be more guarded, political, and circumspect. Spending more time with higher-ups in other fields that generally attract more conventional/conservative personalities (and being the only childless/single one amongst them). Living in a region that is more conventional and less culturally interesting than the places I’ve lived in the last two decades. Working with colleagues who have been living in this region and working for my employer for fifteen years and upwards. And on top of all this, going through a midlife identity crisis.

It’s interesting how “done” I was with L.A. when I left. I was fascinated by the region the first time I moved here and spent tons of time exploring and reading about it. Now I find myself disinterested, although I do some small amount of research on the new area in which I’m living.

I’ve continued to enjoy being a hermit. In all honesty, it’s made my friendships much easier, as I have zero expectations of people. When they call, it’s nice, but I never feel angry when they don’t, as my “retreat time” from socializing has become my greatest solace.

I do have plans almost every week to get out and socialize and a trip planned over Christmas (yes, I’m doing it my way this year) that will put me in close contact with people. So, we’ll see. A decade is certainly a good chunk of time to give things my best and then to move on if nothing sticks.

the periphery

I’m feeling much better– my intense anger has left– and I’m more or less back to my original self, even on a Monday.

Although my job has it’s sticking points, there are definitely some good things about it– some avenues of creativity and fun. I will say, however, that although I’m extremely grateful to have it, the relief of knowing that abstract figures are replenishing my bank account cannot compensate for the inevitable feelings of dislocation and loneliness that have resulted from making a move at this age, especially since the move was to a place that does not readily offer the same types of social avenues I’ve built an identity on over two decades.

Although I don’t feel this bad, I found some solace in this:

Over the winter I moved from New York City to Portland, Ore. The reasons for my move were purely logical. New York was expensive and stressful. Portland, I reasoned, would offer me the space and time to do my work.

Upon arriving, I rented a house and happily went out in search of “my people.” I went to parks, bookstores, bars, on dates. I even tried golfing. It wasn’t that I didn’t meet people. I did. I just felt no connection to any of them.

Once social and upbeat, I became morose and mildly paranoid. I knew I needed to connect to people to feel better, but I felt as though I physically could not handle any more empty interactions. I woke up in the night panicked. In the afternoon, loneliness came in waves like a fever. I had no idea how to fix it.


When we are lonely, we lose impulse control and engage in what scientists call “social evasion.” We become less concerned with interactions and more concerned with self-preservation, as I was when I couldn’t even imagine trying to talk to another human. Evolutionary psychologists speculate that loneliness triggers our basic, fight vs. flight survival mechanisms, and we stick to the periphery, away from people we do not know if we can trust.

the layering

In my early thirties, I took up partner dancing and became entranced. It led me to ballet and other dance hobbies. I still practice ballet and, in my new home, occasionally salsa and tango. The scene here has been welcoming.

When I was living in the heart of L.A., I enjoyed going to comedy shows, and I still listen to a lot of comedy podcasts. Near the end of my time there I took up kundalini yoga, and I continue to practice it daily and have found a community in my new location.

As I’ve (also) written about here, when I moved back to my former city, I spent some time on a farm and got in the habit, which I continue today via farmer’s markets, of cooking up fresh vegetables weekly. I started learning Spanish and have continued to practice it.

These days, via my job, I spend a lot of time around cops and firemen and engineers and tinkerers– all mostly new worlds to me and not ones I ever sought out in the past. But, for the most part, I’m embracing the novelty. I’m also revisiting my enchantment with surfers.

It turns out I’m a rolling stone, but I do gather some moss as I go.

In my former city I had a couple of friends, a few years younger than me, who were struggling with infertility. Now one is happily pregnant and the other one will likely follow behind soon.

Perhaps it is for the best that, instead of settling in there, I kept on moving and growing.

the notebook phase

The more I focused on the positives, the negatives moved to my mind’s backburner. “I can’t stand my job, I’m miserable, I am going to crack any day now” became “It’s not a stimulating job, but I’m still okay.” I can also accept my single status, regardless of what other people think. I’m not defective, I’m not a weirdo (not all the time), but I have had obstacles to relationship bliss that I have worked through and that wisened me into the person I am today.

Living solo, I can walk around my apartment half-dressed, eat my lunch standing up, and spend Saturday night with my notebook instead of worrying about planning an outing or a meal that he would enjoy. I like date night, but I like time with my notebook too. I can accept that this is a notebook phase.

I am grateful to live in Oakland, California, the heart of the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m not considered odd for having never married. Had I stayed in Smyrna, Tennessee, I am certain I would be quizzed daily on “Why aren’t you married?” and “What’s wrong with you?”

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me, Vicki, not one single thing.

the indecisive

I have a sense that particularly in New York — though I’m sure it exists this way in Boston and in San Francisco — there is a super-abundance of attractive, intelligent young women whom a man is very unlikely to be worthy of, who nevertheless set a higher value on him than he sets on them. This makes any sort of decision very difficult. Because to constantly be exposed to people whom you are unworthy of to begin with, yet who want you more than you want them, is confusing.

the floor

Kundalini yoga and meditation provides me with a floor. A floor to frustration, anger, sadness, and despair so that I don’t fall into the abyss.

Even when I consider men who’ve treated me badly, men with whom all the foundations of a good relationship were present (similar education, interests, and personalities as well as physical attraction) but for whom that still wasn’t enough, my anger has a floor, and I can feel compassion. After all, they wouldn’t reach 45 or 50 still single if they weren’t struggling too.

I’m grateful to have a job, I recognize the kindness of my co-workers and other associates, and I appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. I repeat these things often.

And yet, I often feel brief, lightning flashes of anger. Anger that I’m back in the same old scenario– in a stressful, demanding job with little in the way of intimate support– and that there seems to be no exit. Anger that I no longer have a single reliable friend with whom I can speak to about my anger!

Regret is something I also feel. Regret, perhaps, that I left my last job, because many of my fears about leaving have turned out to be true. Even more so, regret that I left the job and city I was living in before moving to Los Angeles all those years ago. The experience was incredibly enriching, but with no one to share it with, it’s ephemeral. It feels like I might as well have just stayed in the same place, because essentially, that’s what I’ve done.

just thinking

Despite all the red flags, I let the recent dalliance play out, and play out it seems to have done. I continue to be surprised that people aren’t more polite/ respectful, especially with a like-minded peer who circulates in the same professional world, but at this point I shouldn’t be. In any case, it feels as if my last link to my old self and interests and lifestyle has been cut.

So I can no longer avoid facing up to my current circumstances. Alone here, lost in a place that, for better or worse, is not quite in sync with how I’ve spent the prior three decades of my life. This weekend I considered going to a small literary breakfast that I attended in the past, but I couldn’t cope with an hour plus drive and the two freeways I would have to take to get there. It was a fairly stimulating event, but last year I had to go alone and nothing came of it socially, so it was hard for me to justify the drive.

The fact is, most of this country is suburban and social life remains modeled on the nuclear family pattern. I’ve been lucky/savvy enough to live in the center of the handful of cities that break the mold, and even so, I got tired of going out by myself and began to feel like I was aging out of a lot of it.

Now I’m living in a very pleasant place that would be nice to settle down in with a partner, but I’m sans the partner.

I decided to just stay in this weekend and clean and take care of paperwork and cook and restore my sanity after a hectic week. I had a blissful dip in the ocean and finally got back to my Spanish. This could, conceivably, be how I spend the next ten years.

Writing. And thinking. Just thinking.