never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: podcasts


Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend who is attractive, funny, hip, well-educated, and gainfully employed. He has a girlfriend, but we’ve stayed in touch over the years. I enjoy his company and made him laugh over my hammed-up tales of woe.

It was one of those afternoons that reminded me why I moved back. In L.A. I made little headway with men of his caliber– not just in the dating realm but socially as well. I remained too much of an audience member for anyone to get to know me and appreciate what I had to offer.

I read an article a few months ago about people moving to Buffalo from New York City. A woman was quoted as saying that in N.Y.C., she had tons of opportunity to consume culture, but in Buffalo she has much more opportunity to create it.

I keep reminding myself of that quote. I do miss the variety of cultural events that were on offer in L.A. This city is far from shabby in its offerings, but they are smaller league, and I’m more interested here in being a participant than a spectator.

I do get a pang sometimes when I listen to podcasts and remember the depth and variety of talent L.A. has to offer; however, I superficially knew many of those people and our relationships never went beyond being placed on Facebook invitations to shows. As I wrote long ago, it was a strange dynamic, being invited into someone’s personal life virtually but not in reality.

I knew that if I moved away, I would have many “what if” moments, where I would wonder what would have happened if I had remained in L.A. just a little bit longer. Maybe I would have eventually befriended the people who most intrigued me? So I remind myself that six years is more than enough time for that to have happened, and I don’t want to look back and realize that decades of my life passed by while I remained in “what if?” mode.

fun house

Out of the last twenty years, I estimate I’ve spent at least sixteen of them living alone. There are wonderful advantages to living alone, but for me it’s also been fertile ground for existential fear and angst, so I’m really, really looking forward to my roommate moving in this weekend.

I loved this piece and the fact that the issue of growing old alone (and often childless) is coming to the forefront. It’s also making me feel good about my decision to move back to a smaller city where I feel more embedded socially:

Moore has been careful about selecting as housemates women who get along, but who also have a sense of independence. “All of us, we have our own separate lives,” she says. “We do our own separate things, but we’ll meet up in the kitchen and chitchat. And then we’ll all go our different ways, which makes it nice. None of us are joined at the hip, and yet we all live together and do our own thing and live in the same house.”

baby gorillas

Always good to hear men discussing relationships and parenthood:


Made it “home.” Feeling sad and freaked out. Returning in a packed car, a la my college self, and visiting all my elderly relatives along the way while still having no family of my own is causing a fair amount of inner turmoil and grief.

I listened to this podcast on the drive and enjoyed a lot of it but the discussion around parenting did not help matters:

Hank Azaria was dragged into parenthood in his forties when his girlfriend became pregnant and now says that having a child is what “makes one human.” Marc Maron is considering first-time parenthood at forty-nine because his male friends who haven’t had children have all become “peculiar.” Nice.

I just don’t appreciate the fact that these two men spent forty-plus years avoiding parenthood (Azaria mentions his former girlfriends’ abortions) and now that they have the money and fame to pull it off in a far less stressful manner than the average person have chosen to denigrate the childless/ childfree.

I was heartened to see comments such as this one:

Joe Tily May 01, 2013 at 4:05 am

Great interview, but – Men who never want kids are infantile? Really? You just keep telling yourself that buddy . . . . whatever you need to make that decision late in the game. I’d say knowing yourself, being true to yourself and not giving-in to pressure from society and/or your girlfriend is very mature and responsible. I’m sick of this attitude of treating childless people as if they are weird, lacking something or damaged in some way. What the fuck is wrong with not wanting kids?

In related news, a male friend of mine in his late thirties just emailed me that he’s planning to move to L.A. I think things will be better for him because his worth on the dating market will only grow with continued career success, while I knew mine, at least in all the superficial ways, was over.

the glamorous life

I heard an older, childless semi-celebrity being interviewed on a podcast this week. She’s beautiful, talented, ambitious, charming, and witty– in all ways a great role model for the single, childfree life. In the interview, she poked gentle fun at the whole marriage-and-baby ideal.

The thing is, she lives such an enviable life that I felt a bit ambivalent about her attitude. I like that she’s “representing” well, but at the same time, I understand why most women want to get married and have kids. Most of us aren’t famous and don’t have dream careers with plenty of time off between gigs. Unlike me, this particular woman never goes long without a boyfriend, and she is feted in the way celebrities often are, particularly the physically attractive ones. All of my acquaintances in the industry, even if their level of fame is relatively small, receive more emails and invitations than I could ever imagine. I don’t think any of them can quite comprehend how lonely it can get for the average person who remains single past young adulthood.

I have relished all the things I’ve been able to experience as a single person–things I would have missed out on if I’d been part of a couple– and, as I’m trying to stay “present,” I will continue to appreciate my freedoms. I admit, though, that a stable, committed, loving partnership sounds, well… divine.

forward thinking

In the podcast I posted yesterday


a panelist mentioned that teenagers have babies because they want someone to love them. Jody Day then made an excellent point when she said that many single fortysomething women share the same agenda.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve read several memoirs which featured difficult mothers. Some of the mothers were merely intrusive, insensitive, or illogical, while others were downright neglectful or abusive. In all cases, though, when they developed dementia or terminal illnesses, the daughters made sure they received proper care and, when the time came, a decent burial. Perhaps they didn’t always love them (although most did beneath their frustration), but they still felt obligated to ensure their safe passage.

We all know that many elderly are neglected by their offspring, but I would wager that few are outright abandoned. It’s difficult to imagine who is going to perform this function of making sure I am cared for in my old age. I just finished reading She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg, and found it to be quite an accurate portrayal of how most friendships eventually end. I certainly can’t count on friends to go through the wrenching process of caring for me if I were to, say, develop dementia in old age.

Society offers us one solution– find a romantic partner– and as much as I would like to do so, I realize that the possibilities only get bleaker as I age.

I found this Metafilter response interesting. I don’t agree with it entirely (I’m sure many of those long-ago “spinsters” felt stifled) but I do think we need community and connection:

I don’t think it’s possible to be happy without marriage and/or children if that’s are what you actually want, unless you finds some sort of community and worthy cause/social outlet for love that you find just as fulfilling.

Back in the day unmarried women joined religious orders, spent long hours as patrons of the arts, worked for orphanages, etc. and found a satisfying measure of fulfillment that way. They rarely lived alone, and were connected through their family and community to multiple opportunities for service.

Say what you will about the economic and social autonomy women have attained since then– the secular modern options for unmarried career women who would love to have a traditional family life but do not can be alienating. There is no built-in support system, and that’s a critical factor.

So IMO living alone, working for a primarily non-humanitarian cause, and being disconnected from your desire to nurture will pretty much guarantee you unhappiness if you in fact really do possess a nurturing spirit.

In the absence of having a family of your own, my advice is to find a substitute family (social community) based around a good cause/brainchild into which you can love and put your all.

Also, if you have nieces and nephews, you could be the doting favorite Aunt.

posted by devymetal at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Having failed to find a partner or tight group here, I am taking steps toward creating a more secure future by returning to my former city, where I will have family at least somewhat nearby and a roommate (for however long that lasts). Not only that, but it is a smaller city where people tend to know each other, so I will feel more a part of a community.

Despite the occasional emotional setbacks, I’ve mostly come to terms with my childlessness and am looking forward to what lies ahead. Long-term, though, I think there will need to be larger, societal solutions for all of us childless women when we hit old age (even if married, we will tend to live longer than our husbands). I’m thinking something along the lines of co-housing opportunities where independence can thrive but so can a sense of community ( Something that is embedded into the city as opposed to ghettoized like, say, the Sun City communities. Something that provides a sense of friendship but continues to exist when friendships falter.

We have become so much more visible in the past couple of years, which is a promising start.


Today I found out a 42-year-old friend is currently pregnant with her second baby, and it made me feel (once again) that damn it, I deserve this “me time” I’m currently enjoying. I’ve had to deal with so many blows over being childless, and now I’m reaping at least one of the benefits– time off and to myself.

Here’s another podcast of a fantastic panel discussion on childless women:

It’s amazing to me that a little over a year ago, when I started this blog, there wasn’t much out there in cyberspace on childless women. Gateway Women was one of the few sites I had was able to find, and it was just getting off the ground, with about ten blog posts.

Now there are a number of blogs and at least two public panel discussions of the issue. I like Jody Day’s comment that she doesn’t want subsequent generations of women to have to keep reinventing the wheel on this issue. Certainly this generation has had to do so, but it is great to see such progress.

the days

I’ve been keeping my eye out for this one, hoping someday it will appear on DVD since I missed the screening:

Days Together (US, 2011; 85 min.)
Director: Peter Monro

Days Together explores a young woman’s search for identity in love, the prospect of parenthood, and the comfort of family.

Alex is single and at a crossroads in her life as she watches her close friends settle down, get married, and have kids. A trail of numbing late night hook-ups and useless advice leads her to Paul, a drummer ready to leave Los Angeles for a simpler life.

Eager to escape the city for a while, Alex plans to drive up to Seattle to visit her sister, and decides to let Paul hitch a ride. The two new friends take on the road together, enjoying each other’s company and affections until they realize that they must both forge ahead on their own.

The film didn’t get a good review here:

But it did get a good one here:

And I enjoyed this brief podcast interview with the filmmaker:

the ocean

Great interview here with the creator of Enlightened. At the 1:23 mark, at the end, he talks about not having kids:

It’s interesting that someone with such a dream career has the same “Is this all there is?” feeling that so many of us experience.


The topic of this (very funny) podcast episode is the act of moving; it’s an emotional experience for all of us. Also, Bobcat discusses the concept of quitting: