thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: socializing

duty

To sit half an hour by an elderly lady getting deaf, another half an hour by some awkward spectacled girl, such was generally Mary’s fate at the parties of the neighborhood. When it was over she had accomplished a duty; for pleasure she preferred reading under the chestnut tree. To-day the one of all others she most wanted to talk to most wanted to talk to her, and there was no archaeology to spoil her happiness.

–F.M. Mayor, The Rector’s Daughter, p. 82

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drains

If there is one trait I could repeatedly isolate in the men I was wildly attracted to in the past, it is that they did exactly as they wanted and felt no need to burden themselves with the idea that they should put themselves out in the name of being “nice.”

This, of course, can be taken to the extreme, but I was too far on the other end, apparently, and envied their ability to say no. My twenties and thirties were a time of exploration, yes, but mixed in there was a lot of guilt and obligation. A lot of feeling like I should accept every invitation that came my way (largely due to being single), and then a certain amount of anger that, when all was said and done, I exhausted myself with little in return.

In the last few months I’ve experienced some of that again, as, being new to town, I’ve extended myself for people I’m not particularly interested in, and in return, they have cancelled plans at the last minute, shown up late, or promptly disappeared when a significant other appeared on the scene.

So when people tell me that I can be friends with people I don’t have a lot in common with, I take it with a grain of salt. I haven’t found it all that rewarding. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to just be around people, but time is limited, and when you get older, you want to do what you want to do, and doing otherwise will not necessarily be reciprocated or rewarded.

I’ve read a lot about how, as people get older, they tend to shed the friends they don’t enjoy and hang on to the ones they do. A problem in my life is that most of the ones I really enjoyed have been lost over the years, either to a falling out or to marriage and family, and I was primarily left with the ones who drained me.

My schedule this week was filled with a bunch of obligations I wasn’t excited about and that prevented me from doing one or two things I was interested in. Despite the guilt, I did cancel one… one small step at a time.

the lulling

http://www.centerprogressive.org/lulled-into-numbness/

Successful movement through this Transition Zone accounts for some of the data about that upswing of happiness after the 40s, but not all. A larger source, in my experience, of later life happiness is more likely masked resignation and accommodation: People who more or less give up trying to grow and change. They decide, consciously or unconsciously, to lope along in the life they’ve been living and define that as happiness.

It’s illusory, though, because over time they tend to become “comfortably numb,” emotionally and spiritually. And, increasingly vulnerable to physical ailments, an upsurge of late-life depression, alcoholism or drug usage.

My daily meditation practice has provided me with a lot of benefits. My health has improved and I’m much calmer and more forgiving of others.

It hasn’t changed my actual circumstances though– despite the popular theory of “abundance”– and so, at the same time, I feel numb. Undeniably and remarkably numb. Numbly adapted to my circumstances.

I have trained myself not to expect romantic romantic fulfillment and not to feel disappointment over the lack of deep, meaningful friendships in my life or any kind of consistent intimacy. I have cultivated an appreciation for pleasant diversions and have stopped expecting much more than that in my time away from work. Having recently been bruised on the job market, I have stopped hoping for a job that truly engages me and instead appreciate the fact that I have one I don’t hate and that may allow me to retire early, if I hold my lifestyle steady.

All of this “accommodation” has taken a toll, but I’m unsure what choice I have. I could try online dating again, but chances are slim that anything will come of it, and I don’t particularly feel up to the psychic drain. I already participate in a number of social activities, but rarely do I meet like-minded peers. Occasionally I’m really, really enlivened by and drawn to a performer or artist of some kind, but outside of polite exchanges, nothing ever develops. I don’t see any solution to the job problem, but feel it could be greatly ameliorated by a satisfying personal life, but then that brings me back to the beginning of this paragraph.

I would like to keep growing, but I feel like I am reaching the limits of how much I can grow in solitude.

Accommodation. Resignation. I can’t see a way out.

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 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.

predecessors

Her fellow actors were odd but unexciting, their way of life haphazard, their behavior opportunistic. Like the artistic and literary circle which Mary Jocelyn penetrates, they turned out to be dirtier and cattier than expected.

–Janet Morgan, Introduction to The Rector’s Daughter, p. xiv

the hipster

I miss hipsters. In all their various guises they are easy to poke fun at it, but over the last twenty-five years I’ve thrived most when living in the hipster corridors of the United States. Romantically, no, but my failure in that realm cuts across all social realms, so I can’t pin that one entirely on the hip.

The thing about hipsters is they are obsessives. They obsess about music, movies, books, fashion, food, art, and ideas, and they are attracted to the novel and to alternative lifestyles.

When you remain single and childless, what else are you gonna do? Those have been my interests too.

The question is, over the age of forty, can you be a hipster? It’s a look and stance that doesn’t age particularly well, although aging is hard on everyone. Perhaps one’s hipsterdom hardens even as the young move on to various new iterations (http://madmommamoogacat.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/confessions-of-an-aging-hipster/). It does seem that it’s harder to get as excited about all things new as when gets older.

Most hipsters, like most people, have kids, although it seems they do so on the later side. They then turn to creating a hip family.

What about the rest of us? We don’t really fit in at a lot of the usual hipster haunts anymore, especially as older women. On the other hand, it’s really hard for me to relate to people who have spent the past several decades primarily focused on marriage and kids and careers and sports, while I was intently reading multiple books a week, obsessing over certain films and music albums and alternative social scenes, and attending all kinds of unusual events.

Where’s the commonality? I have become a certain type of person after spending the first twenty-five years of my emerging adulthood in a certain type of way. To completely lose touch with all that would be to lose who I am as a person.

brick by brick

By the age of 40, I realised that if I wanted to have a child I needed to do it fast. I looked hard at my character and realised that I didn’t have the resources, emotional or psychological, to do it on my own.

I knew I’d be on the margins of life as a single parent. Most of my friends are child-free.

Did I really want to pull down the life that I’d carefully assembled, brick by brick? I realised what I craved was more companionship, sex, travel.

– See more at: http://www.independent.ie/life/im-part-of-a-new-tribe-childless-and-happy-30412746.html#sthash.wmj9gf3x.dpuf

the midpoint

The first time I moved to Los Angeles, it took me almost three years to plug into a social scene that captured my imagination, and then another three to realize it wasn’t actually going to lead anywhere.

Now that I’m residing in this smaller, sleepier satellite, I predict I’ll figure out the lay of the land sooner, but I’m trying to give things at least a year before I come to any definitive conclusions. I’m meeting lots of people through work, experiencing the different seasons, enjoying summertime at the beach, attending the annual local events, and participating in various activities. I’ve been telling myself that as long as my weekends are full, I won’t resort to online dating, and it looks like they will remain full through the end of the year.

My hunch at the midpoint, however, is that despite my relaxing dips in the ocean, I’m a fish out of water here. A fish amongst spouses, kids, and sports.

If that proves true, I don’t know what my approach to things will be come 2015. I have some plans to leave town at the end of the year; my first real trip away since moving here and starting this job. I’ll have some time to think, then, about the road ahead.

the hermitage

I haven’t been a complete hermit lately but I’m still at the stage where spending time alone feels like a treat. The women I have hung out with recently are distracted by burgeoning romantic relationships or actively searching for them; our time together is oriented toward those conversations and pursuits. I don’t blame them for this, but I’ve got other things on my mind these days. In lieu of people to discuss them with, I prefer to spend time alone, roaming around my own head.

Although I’ve always liked having a social life I’ve come to accept, especially as I get older, that I’m a pretty big introvert. If I do end up with a partner, it will probably be a fellow introvert. I liked this blog post:

http://www.susannahconway.com/2013/05/notes-on-being-a-hermit/

The older I get the more I like being on my own. This is not a bad thing as I spend the vast majority of my time actually alone. I work from home and I live alone. I am single. I’m an introvert and find large groups of people exhausting (one-on-one I love). I’m not particularly shy, and can be downright gregarious in the right situation, but on the whole, I prefer my own company.