never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: podcasts

media relations

I’m in the midst of a big push to secure a job by the end of the year, and as such, I haven’t felt it wise to write about my life in any kind of detail lately. Let’s just say that searching for a job tends to make one paranoid.

I will say that, in terms of my personal relations during this period, I’ve experienced everything from cautious displays of empathy to condescension to the silent treatment. It’s been disheartening, to say the least. I’ve been let down. Mostly I feel like I’m completely on my own in all this. I did talk to a single friend recently who told me she’s had the same experiences in her dating and social life, which helped me feel less alone.

The only thing I feel comfortable sharing at the moment is some of the media I’ve come across on the Gateway Women forum and other places. I did get some relief and laughs out of watching the relationship between Hannah and her gay roommate go to pieces on the second season of Girls. I’ve also enjoyed some recent podcasts in which childlessness has been discussed: (near the end)

Happy viewing and listening!


On music, motherhood and the parallel lives explored in the book:

If I could somehow live two lives, as Lisa Nelson does, I would also have a child. It’s such a rich thing — regret. Because yes, I really regret not having a child. At the same time, I know it was probably the right choice for me.

The book’s final third re-introduces Lisa as a childless woman again, a version closer to Carson’s own life. She buries her father (as Carson herself did a couple of years ago), scores a film, plays a song for an adoring crowd, and wonders who her child would have been if she’d had her. She starts making notes for what might become a book. Near the book’s end, Lisa runs into Sofia, an old friend of hers from her waitressing days. Sofia is hanging out with her three-year-old grandson. “’Are you still singing?’ Sofia asks. ‘I have your music on my iPod. I’m so proud of you!’” Lisa muses about this. “I tell her I’m not singing so much, but that I’m still doing music. I don’t say that I would trade it, in a second, to have what she has.” I wonder if Carson knows that most people would trade everything they had to have had a life like hers?

NT: Where did Lisa come from? Is she a happy accident or a carefully plotted character based upon people in your real life?
LC: Lisa Nelson, the protagonist in The Original 1982, is a singer-songwriter who creates a daughter out of her imagination and longing for one. She was pretty easy for me to imagine.

NT: How are you able to balance work, family and your new writing career?
LC: I’ve always devoted most of my time to my work. Prior to writing my novel, I wrote songs, and worked on assorted music projects. So it’s not that dramatic a change. Although writing fiction does require a huge commitment in terms of time. But I’m not married, and don’t have my own family. I’ve got a dog and a couple of cats. They’re patient. I chose to have an artist’s life a long time ago.


In the middle of this podcast, the three hosts discuss a GQ article entitled “The Cooler Me” by Eric Puchner in which the author, a domesticated parent, compares his life to a bohemian doppelgänger. The female host reports that she was a bit disappointed by the ending, in which the author “of course” has to insinuate that his kids make all his compromises worth it. All three hosts are childless, so it was interesting to hear their take:

And here’s the essay, with some highlights:

“It was like being winked into a secret world,” Kyle said. “I sort of realized I didn’t have to be a busy ant. People get so caught up in ending up somewhere specific, in chasing a certain kind of life, but it’s like that Alan Watts quote: Every point on the surface of the sphere is the center of the surface. You’re at the center already.”


What about kids? I asked. A family? Did he ever worry he was missing out on something?

He stared at the bed sitting in the middle of the yard. “I haven’t knocked it off the list. It might be fun to be one of those freaky old dads. But I’m too attached to my freedom, I guess—waking up at 10 a.m. and hopping on my skateboard to check out the surf. I like watching all the bandwagoners hustling off to work. If I’m feeling good, I’m the king of the world.”

“And if you’re feeling bad?”

“I’m the scum of the earth.”

I told him that children would help with that. If I’d had a bad day of writing or teaching and I was generally feeling like a worthless piece of shit, there was nothing like being greeted by your kids back at home to snap things into perspective. I was bragging a bit—I wanted to squeeze some jealousy from him—but it was also, I felt, one of the unconditional rewards of fatherhood.

“But it’s important to feel like scum sometimes, isn’t it?” Kyle said. “To get down in that dark place and dwell awhile?”

I looked up at the house, surprised to see stars twinkling in the empty window frame. It was one of the hardest parts of family life, actually, the thing maybe I missed the most: the loss of that lonely place I used to dwell. As a young man drunk on books, I used to walk the streets for hours, feeling like an alien creature, following the darkening detours of my mind. People tend to talk about self-absorption as if it were a bad thing, but I missed those walks very much.


There was his amazing popularity in the neighborhood, for instance. It seemed like everyone who walked by burst out smiling or yelled his name or asked him if he wanted to hit the surf. “My buddies,” he called them. It was like sitting next to the groom at a wedding reception. When we went to buy beer at the corner, the Korean convenience-store owner embraced him like a son. In L.A., my life was consumed by family—I knew almost none of my neighbors, and the ones I did know I actively avoided. I had a balcony, but I never used it. If I wasn’t inside the tortoiseshell of our beautiful apartment, I was in our low-emission station wagon driving the kids somewhere or getting myself to work. Here was a man who lived three blocks from the beach, one block from Golden Gate Park, whose life—as far as I could tell—was spent on porches. He even went outside to piss.


Recently I went to see a famous old poet read at the college where I teach. His poems were about death, yet they were hopeful and elegiac. Between poems, he rambled on about not being afraid of the unknown. He talked about his friends in Hawaii who were astronomers, how they understood that time was a fiction. He discussed the last line of his most famous poem, how it is important to bow “not knowing to what.” Then something terrible happened. He began to trip over his words. He seemed lost and disoriented. Eventually he said he felt too weak to go on, and when he sat back down his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he lay there motionless, gaping at the ceiling. I thought he’d had a stroke. The look on his face—its yawn of frozen terror—seemed like a perfect rebuttal of everything he’d been talking about, of his life’s work. Time, it seemed to say, was definitely not a fiction.

They shepherded us out of the room while sirens wailed in the distance. Strangely, when I got outside, my first thought was: Did he have children? It seemed like a very important question. As it turned out, it wasn’t a stroke, he’d be okay—but I didn’t know that yet. When I got home, my daughter was still awake, and I kissed her good night and sat on her bed longer than usual. I told her a story from my childhood, one of her favorites, and she corrected me when I got a detail wrong. She knew the story better than I did. Miniature plastic planets hung from her ceiling, meant to mimic the geography of the solar system. A few of them—like Saturn—had fallen off, but the earth still dangled above us, hanging literally by a thread. If someone told me I was going to die tomorrow, I thought, I would still want to be sitting right here. Because it was going to happen someday—very soon, in fact, in cosmological time—and it mattered immensely where I was. There was no time not to waste.

the force

Another fantastic interview with Jody Day at around the 22 minute mark. In this one she talks a bit about the origins of Gateway Women:


I was listening to a podcast with David Seaman this week in which he referred to himself as an “amplification journalist.” I love that term. He used it to refer to his gathering of articles others have written about the NSA and then amplifying them so that people can understand the true scope of the issue.

In today’s world, news scrolls by so fast that I think this is a necessary role. Otherwise no conclusions can be drawn and we’re left with nothing but information overload and confusion. The term in some sense captures what I’ve been trying to do here. I started with a premise– being an older and single and childless woman and the factors that can make me feel bitter about it– and have tried to capture not only my own experiences but what I believe to be the best of what has been written on the topic.

More on amplification journalism here:

The David Seaman podcast:

pain management

So I’m back to my original plan of taking classes, upgrading my job skills, poking around new career possibilities, and searching for part-time jobs. There will be some more vacancies this fall at my old organization, and I will apply for those when they open. I’m expecting the hiring process to take anywhere from two to six months, so in the meantime I’ll explore other options. I don’t, however, have much faith in the twentysomething woman (I’ll call her SanDeE after the character in L.A. Story) with whom I’m working at an employment agency.

My roommate is currently thrilled with his new promotion into another management job in which he can do as little as possible. My reward for working so hard in L.A.? I may be unable to find a job here and may have to drag my tired body back there for more abuse.

I had my first visit with a doctor here last week and she said we could, over time, experiment with lowering my medication. If I have to move again, that’s off, of course. For that reason and the fact that it’s so much easier to live here, I think it’s in my best interest to stay.

I do, however, confess to being a bit bored. It’s me and not the city; there are plenty of things going on, but having left a global city, and having lived here before, I have yet to rouse a great amount of enthusiasm for anything.

Also, the dating scene seems dismal. I do get hit on by youngsters stacking shelves at grocery stores and manning the doors at music clubs and in general get “checked out” way more than I did in L.A., but when it comes to men my age I don’t have much hope. The dating sites have the slimmest pickings I’ve ever seen, and not one of the eight or ten forty-to-fiftysomething friends I have here has so much as mentioned anyone they could introduce me to. I honestly don’t think they know of a soul.

When one lives in New York or Los Angeles, a big part of life is the adventure of living in New York or Los Angeles. In these smaller cities, it does seem like the only point of adult life is getting married and having kids. I’m struggling for a third path– using the slower pace to work on creative projects, form community, and continue learning. I don’t know if I’ll be successful long-term or if this will be enough.

If I do have to move back to L.A., I will sell my place, chalk this up to a failed experiment, and figure that it’s simply not the right place for me anymore. I’m a little daunted by the prospect of losing my only piece of real estate and committing long term to L.A., though. I could also move elsewhere… more decisions.

In any case, I am refusing to feel guilty about this break. I needed it. I pushed through so much mentally in Los Angeles, but my body balked, and I ended up with a chronic condition. I enjoyed another recent Dr. Drew podcast with Anna David in which she discusses this same issue; she thought she could handle anything mentally but her body eventually broke down:

second bananas

I related to what Anna David says at the 25 minute mark about how, no matter how much she wanted celebrity friends and boyfriends, she lacked the ability to continually put her needs second:

Perhaps that is why I have a hard time with the structure of marriage in general.

conventional wisdom

This weekend I listened to this podcast with Dr. Drew:

At the end of the podcast, he says that all people need “work, love, and play,” and if one of those areas is missing in someone’s life, it’s because they have some sort of problem. Thanks!

The guest, Heather McDonald, told him that a high percentage of people are remaining single and living alone today and just enjoying their pets.

He seemed shocked by this news– shocked. His only comment was, “That’s sad.”

For someone who doles out therapy, he seems pretty clueless. He’s been married since the eighties, but I would imagine he’d be more in tune with societal shifts. Wrong.


Interesting interview here with a comedian from a difficult family background who has made the decision not have children; at about the thirty-five minute mark, he begins to talk about life as a childless person. Over the course of the podcast he mentions that he misses the distraction children can bring as well as the sense of meaning. At another point he discusses how being childless puts pressure on him to excel in his career field.

His wife hails from a difficult family background as well, and one of the things they agreed upon early on was that they did not want to have children themselves. I like their story.

The podcast:

straight to the heart

I lived in L.A. at such a weird time. I was vaguely drawn to the comedy scene initially and then pulled in fully once Facebook and podcasts exploded (almost simultaneously). Then the fame game took over. I knew them, but they didn’t know me. It was all so seductive, especially for a single woman alone in the big city, but ultimately, for me, it was a tease.

This is not the fault of the podcasters, although I think they are playing with fire by producing such intimate shows. After all, if I had been socially embedded in a group of like-minded people, I would likely not have been listening to podcasts at all. When I was in college, for example, I never turned on the TV or paid attention to celebrity culture. I didn’t need to– I was surrounded by drama and fun and fascinating peers. It’s only when we are alone that we turn to the media to fill that void.

Maron: Look at Howard Stern, look at [NPR Fresh Air’s] Teri Gross, the medium is more versatile than radio now, where you decide what you want to listen to and when it. People can listen in their car, in their cubicle, at the gym. I get emails from all around the world. I’ve got soldiers in combat listening. I’ve got Americans abroad. They can listen wherever and however they want but I would say 99 percent of the time they’re listening to it in solitary. You’re in their head. You’re talking directly to them. Their relationship with you is very personal. It’s the nature of this medium. Then when people come to my shows and they’re waiting in line to meet me or take a picture or buy a t-shirt or a CD, I know they have an honest and candid relationship because of the type of radio I’m doing. And I respect that. I also realize that I don’t know them at all, and they know me very well, so I try to make myself as available as possible.