never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: role models

on the shelf

Am I being too reductive? Too stubborn? Too determinedly feminist? Too sour? Isn’t the simple truth that we are all of us after love, beyond everything else? Perhaps. But still, it seems woeful to me, and wrong, that in 2013 so many writers remain convinced that their female characters must partner up or, metaphorically speaking, die. “Gaah!” as Bridget would have it.


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.


I feel like it’s a part of, as soon as you get — a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong…she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock. And this is by progressive pop-culture people! You know what I mean? It’s really odd! I feel bad that it cut me. Because I should be like this about it (brushing her hand off her shoulder). I feel like your joke is that I’m still alive. My crime is not dying.

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:

the green-eyed monster

Speaking of negative emotions, jealousy is one that tells me a lot about myself.

As I resign myself to going back to work and accepting my lot, I am sliding into insane jealousy over a never-married, childless comedienne around my age who is starting to get bigger roles. She has creative parts in smart projects and has large stretches of time off between gigs. She’s quite pretty so always has a boyfriend. Her beaus are totally my type– not GQ handsome but offbeat, razor-sharp, witty, anti-establishment, cute in a quirky way, right around her age (she seems to have escaped the ageism issue), and socially connected to a lot of creative people. She appears to have a large group of extremely bright friends and acquaintances.

Don’t get me wrong– I don’t want to be a performer. I’ve realized in the past decade that my constitution could not withstand the anxiety. I’d be a drug addict in three months.

What I would like is a smaller version of the type of life she has or to have at least ONE of the things she has. Just one.

She’s pretty, but I’m not hideous. I’m smart and can be funny, but I don’t make my living at it. It doesn’t seem like the divide between us is so great that I couldn’t make some headway in one of those categories, but I’ve been unable to do so. I’ve never had the type of creative job where one goes from project to project with stretches of time off. I haven’t had a long-term relationship in over a decade, and the last time I had a strong, connected group of creative friends was about eight or nine years ago.

I do know lots of other appealing women who are in my shoes, of course, so perhaps this particular celebrity is an anomaly. She complains and has stretches of unhappiness, and I’m sure she doesn’t feel her life is perfect, but it’s hard to imagine her trudging through mine.

dream life

Every night for the past several weeks I’ve spent an hour or two with a tight chest, gripped by anxiety. Anxiety over completely uprooting my life. Anxiety over the idea of taking the job, anxiety over not taking the job.

This Dear Cary column spoke to me as it addresses indecision, fear, loneliness, change, and what constitutes a meaningful life:

At all costs, preserve the basic outlines of your basically happy life.

There will be moments when you are lonely. You will have moments of dissatisfaction. Accept these.

Part of your challenge is spiritual. Part is philosophical. It involves accepting the moment-to-moment phenomena of your own consciousness. Out in the country it is hard to distract yourself from your own thoughts. That is basically a good thing but it is not amusing. There will be times when nothing is amusing. At such times, ask what is going on. What hunger is at work? What dissatisfaction is at the edge, gnawing? Just inquiring will help. If you know what it is, you can live with it. If you don’t know what it is, you may misinterpret it and set off to satisfy it when it is in fact something else. It may be loneliness or sadness. It may be your baseline existential awareness that life is fleeting and mysterious. It may be pensiveness or it may be dread or sadness from some emotional loss that can’t be helped. It may be a hormonal fluctuation. It may be the natural tiredness that comes with increasing age.


And remember: You are not just doing this for yourself. You are, in fact, creating a way of living that others can follow. As more of us realize that our lives are not happy or sustainable, more of us will turn to people like you and ask, How do you do it? What are the pitfalls? How do you get laid?

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.

the eccentric

I have an older, childless, never-married female friend here who has an unusual lifestyle and who could be considered a bit eccentric. She comes across as a more upscale, less bohemian version of Auntie Mame.

A few years ago, a younger, married woman told me she thought this woman was “a bit weird.” I bristled when she said that; I suppose I was feeling defensive. This particular woman is quite colorful, but I can’t help but think that no older, childless, never-married woman can win. That she will be considered eccentric no matter what her lifestyle.

We are pioneers though, and if current trends continue, surely this perception will gradually change. In the meantime, there’s a new post on Gateway Women on how to cope:

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when the only messages coming back at you are that your best days are behind you, and it looks like you screwed those up anyway. But you were there, you made those decisions to the best of your knowledge. Other women you knew made what looked like much worse decisions at the time, but they ‘ended up’ with a family and are now considered to have ‘got it all right’, whilst your role seems to be some kind of cautionary tale for younger women…


I just finished two books by male authors this weekend. Both writers are in their mid-forties.

The book by Author A, who is conventionally successful and fairly well-known, was a memoir about his adolescent, college, and twentysomething years. It has won awards, but I found it to be a poorly-written book in which a typical, white, upper-middle-class suburban kid recounts his (typical upper-middle-class) coming of age as if it was particularly profound and meaningful. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any particularly profound or meaningful insights to impart.

The book by Author B, a novel about a bohemian character painfully transitioning into his thirties, was panned when it came out and quickly forgotten, but I found it to be brilliant, as I do his other books, most of which are unusually well-written and insightful novels about young adults. He is not as conventionally successful as Author A, but he does have a cult following.

I looked up Author A on Facebook. He’s married to a blandly good-looking woman and they have three kids. All of his photos are standard snapshots of the kids.

Author B, on the other hand, is single (maybe divorced), no kids. His photos and posts are about unusual books, movies, concerts, and events.

Now, B may have issues (and has confessed to a past substance abuse problem), but it’s clear where I stand.

With B! B all the way.

the salon

As I was getting my hair done today I picked up the March issue of Elle Magazine to find an article entitled “Someone to Watch Over Me” (not yet available online). The author is a single and childless woman who is approaching forty and looking for role models.

She found one in Diana Athill and quotes some of the passages from Instead of a Letter that I’ve quoted here. She has been looking for the middle ground between “single and loving it!” and “married and smug,” for something that was a real and nuanced depiction of single and childless by circumstance. Athill, she found, is one of the few who provides it.

Am I being delusional and/or paranoid if I think my blog has had influence on other writers? Yes, I think so.

But there’s something in the air.