thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: single life

skipping it

Since my first job in my early twenties, I’ve tried to be careful about “wishing my life away,” thinking about nothing but my next vacation (or, as I got older, retirement). To this end, instead of putting all my hopes and dreams into exotic vacations, I tried to find activities I was excited about that I could look forward to on a weekly basis.

And yet, I’m starting to feel like I’d be willing to give away the next ten years of my life to get to retirement already. That makes it sound like I’m seriously depressed, but I’m not. I just don’t have high hopes for this particular phase of my life. The physically uncomfortable transition of menopause is looming, I can’t count on finding romance, the activities I enjoy are pleasurable but no longer thrilling (salsa, swimming, etc.), and I can’t seem to get excited about taking a vacation since I’d have to travel solo, which has also lost its thrill. Additionally the novelty of exploring California is gone. I’m in a job that overall I’m happy with and appreciate having but my career field has never been my dream. The new challenges that come with promotions are helpful, but I’m less and less interested in the field as a whole. Finally, while my new home is pleasant, I can’t shake the sense that I’m just “passing through” and without a family I will remain on the periphery.

The pull of just doing my own thing, sleeping in and having time to read retains its hold on me. In the meantime I continue to look for things that will seize me, engaging me with today as opposed to tomorrow.

scrapbooks

I’ve written about this before, but I have almost no interest in seeing movies or watching television anymore. Today I have even less interest than when I started this blog. This is probably fairly common as one ages; after all, the targeted demographic ends at age 34.

But I think there is an even bigger reason, which is that I no longer feel a part of the culture. I am at the exact midpoint of life, and this year closes the book on the first half. That tale didn’t end as expected, and I no longer believe in or identify with the major story threads promulgated by our society.

Daily meditation likely adds to this strange feeling of being outside the accepted narrative.

Blogging is probably the ideal format to tell my arc-less story. There are no big turning points or neat endings, just buffetings, false starts, recoveries back to baseline, and ferreted scraps pointing the way to fellow wanderers.

conclusions

For the most part, I found Bryan Callan’s interview of Kristin Newman to be sensitive, supportive, and astute (I could only get it to play in iTunes):

http://bryancallen.com/2014/05/19/ep124-kristin-newman/

At about the 19 minute mark, however, his co-host says something to the effect that we all know “the conclusion is a family and kids” and then goes on to say that she can appreciate those things more for having taken a detour. He probably didn’t intend it this way, but again it makes it seem that it’s okay to take a detour, even a lengthy one, as long as one comes back to marriage and kids. But what if one doesn’t?

What if the story has no conclusion?

the obligatory

I have to confess that a small part of my recent isolation has to do with my healthier ability to say “no.”

As I’ve written before, after two decades of Christmas with my mother, I’ve made other plans this year, and will be taking a trip alone (albeit one that will bring me in close contact with other people).

In addition to that, for the first time, I’ve actually stopped returning one old acquaintance’s phone calls. I met her in my early twenties when in a job and a town I was briefly passing through. I would have been happy enough to have kept in touch with over the phone and via letters, but instead, over the course of the last two decades, she has routinely invited herself to stay with me, leading to some situations that caused me a certain amount of strain. I’m afraid to call her back, which is my natural inclination, because I’m fairly certain she’ll start making plane reservations if I do.

I’ve felt guilty about ramping down this friendship because she is a fellow NoMo, but at the same time, as the friendships I’ve truly enjoyed have faded away, I have become resentful that the ones that are left are all about guilt and obligation. I’d like to change that dynamic, if possible.

Finally, I have a friend here who I do like spending time with, but we have differing desires when it comes to a night on the town. I like low-budget, low fuss, and low ticket prices; she prefers the opposite. I’ve agreed to several events in the past (beggars can’t be choosers, I’ve got to be more flexible, and so on), but decided with her last invitation that it would be unreasonable for her to be angry if I turn down a $100 event that I feel “meh” about. We’ll see.

And so, in the meantime, I entertain myself.

the squandering

I had a place I could afford to write and live in alone in New York City, and I was squandering my time there. I tried not to think about that, and so I stopped noticing. But the years ticked by, quite linearly I might add, and somehow one day I was twenty-eight, and the next I was thirty-eight. I assumed I’d have that rent-stabilized apartment forever, which at twenty-eight seemed like a great thing for a struggling writer. But at thirty-eight, still lonely and with few details of my life changed, I started to imagine that I’d grow old and die alone in that run-down shoebox, and it scared me.

— Sari Botton, “Real Estate,” Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, p. 158

When living in Hollywood, I, too, was scared of becoming one of those odd older women still living alone in a small apartment, hanging on to a rent-controlled space. Yet none of my moves seem to help me escape that fate.

Ms. Botton, on the other hand, despite being a self-proclaimed odd bird and die-hard loner, did eventually meet her match, a fellow artist and peer (42 to her 39). They married and shortly thereafter left NYC.

I’m almost at the end of the book and I can’t quite recall if every essay ends with the writer leaving NYC with a partner or spouse and (excepting a few cases that I can recall) one or two children in tow. They still miss the excitement of New York, but it seems to me that those feelings are tangled up with nostalgia for their heady days of youth.

One of the essayists moves away with a spouse and a child she adores in order to live in Europe, where she can afford to stay home and write. And yet, she still rues the fact that she can no longer live in New York. I am inclined to roll my eyes and think “boo hoo, poor you,” but I realize that a lot of people would look at my life– decent job, living on the beach– and feel the same. I do count my blessings.

And yet. There are so few stories out there about women like me, women whose stories don’t get tied up at the end with the nice pink bow of marriage and kids (even if it happens a decade later than the norm), that I feel compelled to convey the reality of it, warts and all.

globe trotters

http://www.biographile.com/how-to-trade-awesome-for-awesome-qa-kristin-newman-himym/32312/

The idea that everything should be goal-oriented – with the goal for women so often being that we’re all supposed to get married and have babies, and if you’re doing something that’s not taking you toward that goal, that you’re somehow off-track or wasting time – I wasn’t ready for that when everyone said I was supposed to be. I worried, but that was the truth, and I hope that honoring that and not forcing myself to do something I wasn’t ready to do helps me have a happy marriage now. A lot of people get divorced because they feel that it’s time before they’re ready, and then they implode. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I watched it happen to my mother and some of my friends. Being single for a long time is like getting on a plane by yourself, which is absolutely terrifying: You’re alone, and you don’t know where you’re going. In life, we never know where paths are going to lead, but that’s the only way to happiness, right?

Interview here: http://www.gregfitzsimmons.com/2014/07/18/kristin-newman/

Her sentiments are nice, but as I’ve written before, she ends up getting married, and in the podcast interview discusses how she and her husband plan to have a baby someday (which is optimistic considering she didn’t marry until forty). I also couldn’t relate to her thirtysomething single life: the money she must have been making, the three to six months off a year for travel, the large group of globetrotting single/celebrity friends she was able to bond with when her other friends got married.

I did have a lot of fun going out dancing in my early thirties and then exploring L.A. in my late thirties, but friendships with people my age were few and far between and I was working like a dog through the economic downtown. I don’t know many single people who have had her type of life.

neglect

An old friend of mine is coming into town in a few weeks with her two kids in tow. It will be good to see her, but these reunions are not nearly as important to me as they were a decade ago. The thing is, I’ve moved on.

I hear from my friends who are married with children every few years or so over email, and every five years or so some of them pop into town or we find ourselves in the same place. But we are not on the same page. While they were busy with spouses and kids and couple friends and home building, out of necessity I constructed a whole new life and self, one that was paying far more attention to matters outside that realm, matters they have long since dropped. In some ways I got to live like I was in my twenties again, when self-exploration was king, albeit with the added difficulties of grieving alone and locating age-appropriate activities.

They don’t know this about me though and perhaps I have remained “static” in their minds as I haven’t had big visual milestones to show off on Facebook. Much of this life building has been furtive and carried out in the shadow of benign neglect. I felt this difference starkly at my college reunion; I had the sense I’d been traveling down a different track, but one that wasn’t well-lit.

pretenders

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/22/my_double_life_as_a_mommy_blogger/

And that’s just the kind of hard-won mom wisdom I would give to myself right now. The time isn’t right yet for the mom portion of my life, even though it’s on my mind more and more. I would also remind myself of that old Buddhist saying, be here now. I know we all have desires and dreams, we all have worries and questions about our lives. We all have wonder and adventure. It just takes different forms. I need to remember to be present in my actual, daily life because there’s a lot there for me, whatever it presently holds.

I had always imagined I would be that suburban mom with two kids, with one keeping me up at night with the stomach flu or complaining about how they won’t eat their vegetables. I never dreamed I would be a writer in beautiful faraway city doing things I never thought I could do. But life is funny like that, and also surprising. Just because you don’t have something now doesn’t mean you’ll never have it. Sometimes you have to pretend something before you can make it real.

the burbs

The burbs. They are easier, safer, less jangling on the nerves. The single men who are around may be more serious about relationships, if I could find any common ground. But with a lifestyle tailored for marriage and family, it’s hard to fit.

http://nypost.com/2012/07/23/you-go-girl-out-to-burbs-for-real-romance/

“In Connecticut, they’re just very normal, very sweet, very unassuming. They don’t have game. They’re steak-and-potatoes American. They don’t care about fashion, they’re not metrosexual,” said Kassner, who hopped on a train to Stamford, Conn., on July 12 for an outdoor concert featuring alt-rocker Matisyahu in order to meet a decent guy.

High-end matchmakers said it’s a matter of time before heading to the suburbs is no longer considered a trend — and becomes the norm.

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/27/nyregion/not-in-manhattan-and-not-married-singles-who-prefer-the-suburbs.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

Carolyn Grossman, a 40ish executive secretary, complained that married people segregate themselves from singles, then “stereotype single people as being drinkers and party people.” In the singles enclave in South Norwalk where she lives, she said, town authorities more readily tolerate noise than in a family neighborhood.

“They just don’t seem to have any conception that there are other people besides themselves,” she said of married couples.

Ms. Thompson believes that suburban single women are distrusted by their married counterparts.

“Even if you go to a P.T.A. meeting, the husbands are carefully guarded,” she said. “You’re made to feel you should stay on the outside.”

http://www.nextavenue.org/blog/after-superstorm-spinster-finds-community

Being a single, childless woman in the New York City suburbs has never been easy. My neighbors all moved here “for the children” — for the quality public education, backyard swing sets and cars that didn’t require usurious garage bills. They wonder, not unreasonably, what I’m doing here. I sometimes wonder, too, even 16 years after moving back to New York following a decade in California.

At the time, I was unwilling to return to a dark hamster cage in the city I had lived in most of my adult life, where nature is largely confined to parks and potted plants on fire escapes. But once I reached a certain age — I’m now 65 — living here became more than just a matter of being a social pariah, with few friends whose lives don’t revolve around their families. Sometimes it’s dangerous.

special deliveries

One of the first things I did upon my last two moves was to stock a cabinet with ramen and ginger ale and crackers. When I lived in L.A., all the restaurants delivered, which was wonderful in general, but especially so when I was sick. I had no guarantees of hot soup delivery in my last abode and in this one, so I stocked up. Thankfully I’ve since found a few places that are able to deliver me hot noodle soup when the need arises:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/aging-in-place_n_2563750.html

So what have I learned from a hellish two weeks?
People our age who choose to live alone belong in cities, with plentiful take-out-food options, friends close by and apartment building superintendents to deal with the rats in the basement.