Sometimes when I’m roaming the interwebs, I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve seen with titles like
- Things you shouldn’t wear over 30
- Tips for ladies who haven’t found their man yet
- Reasons it’s okay to be single at 30 (and beyond)
- How I made peace with still being single at 30
The list goes on and on and on…Some draw the line at 25- apparently that’s the magical number where you turn from young adult to old biddy. Some are generous enough to extend that to 30. Some talk about “beyond 30” as an abstract abyss from which you can wave hello to old age.
What scares me most, is that even in this enlightened day and age, there is a particular stigma surrounding singlehood beyond the ripe old age of 30.
This is when the other (read: married) folks start doling out their very wise, experienced advice:
“you’ll find someone when you least expect it”
“you have to love yourself first”
“you’re so lucky to not have anyone to answer to”
“you need to get married before you become too set in your ways” (my personal favorite…also…too late.)
“but don’t you want kids? What are you waiting for?”
So imagine my fear that, at the ripe old age of 38, I sit here as a single girl, err…spinster. And yes, the fear is very real. I don’t speak for everybody, but I wanted to share just a few of the fears that I know I share with some of my single/spinster cohort:
Single people aren’t allowed to age
Don’t roll your eyes. This is not me being ridiculous. I’ve actually been very lucky, because I’ve aged relatively well. But when you’re single, there’s a sense of suspended time, in which we feel we can’t get any older or appear any older until we’ve caught up with our married counterparts in “life accomplishments.”
After several years of chronic stress and as yet undiagnosed health issues, I can’t deny that time is starting to take a toll. I look tired. The fine lines have sprung up around the eyes, the dark circles, those odd little pigmentation issues sprouting up, the calculations in determining how much longer you safely need to wait before coloring your hair again to cover the grey.
When I look in the mirror, there’s a sense of terror that marrieds don’t experience. You see, they’ve found someone to grow old with. Someone to love them unconditionally as their faces and bodies change. Someone who fell in love with them at their peak and have taken the journey with them. Singles don’t have that sense of security.
If I’m already not easy to approach and get to know, and I no longer have my youthful looks to at least attract the curious, how will anyone ever give me a chance?
What will happen to me when I’m old?
I think about this a lot. Nobody to grow old with. No children to take care of me. My nieces have said they’ll take care of me, but you can’t hold a 12 year old to a vow they make. Will I end up in a government-owned home? Will I die alone? These are really scary things…
Fresh starts are harder (and easier) when you’re (a post-30) single
I had an interview last week for an internship for the degree I’m working on, and no lie, I felt like Robert De Niro in The Intern. My interviewer actually said, “so most of our interns usually come to us with no prior experience, but you have…a lot. Why do you want to intern with us?” Awkward. So, so awkward. Thankfully I had good and valid reasons for working towards a fresh start.
I imagine my current path would have been nearly impossible (possibly unnecessary?) had I been married or had babies. So, yay for being able to pursue my evolving aspirations in life!
It’s crazy expensive to be a single
Invisible privilege is usually reserved for talks of race or sex, and not usually associated with marrieds. But I can tell you, invisible privilege is alive and well in the married/not married world. The tax breaks that married people (especially with children) get are insane! Our society still rewards people who marry and procreate (sorry for the crassness).
Home ownership is a nearly-impossible endeavor for singles, much less rent (have you priced out rent rates lately? Try paying that on a single salary!). If you’re single with no children, you’re eligible for virtually nothing in government assistance programs. Once after I was laid off, I went to the foodstamps website to see what I might be eligible for- $14/month. If I had been married or had a child, I would have been eligible for more than $400/month. Singles (especially aging ones) have virtually no value in our society. Being single is expensive!
People give up on you
There are still some people who will nag you with the infernal “when are you going to get married?” But most people have given up on you at this point. Either they write you off as a lost cause, or they determine that you’re single by choice.
My grandmother has pushed me my entire life with “well you need to go ahead and do this…” She seems to be of the notion that I’ve had an endless stream of men out the door, and I just refuse to commit to one.
You’re forced to face tough realities about your life
I always assumed I’d be one of those girls who got married straight out of college and have babies young (that didn’t happen). Now, at 38, I find myself having to make choices about my future. Do I want to have kids at this point? In abstract, yes. In reality, if I had babies RIGHT NOW, I’d be a 50 year old woman planning a 12 year old’s birthday party. I just don’t see that happening.
So I’m faced with the reality that I probably will not get to have kids of my own, and the future I had planned for myself is never going to exist. If you want a tough pill to swallow- THAT IS A TOUGH ONE.
Redefining the future
People generally tend to think I’m totally cool with my situation because I’ve searched (sometimes deep down) for the bright side. And I’ve done it because I’ve had to. I can’t let myself get bogged down in “not being like everyone else.”
Am I lucky that I can travel whenever I want? Yes.
Do I like not having to consult with or answer to anyone else? Yes.
Am I glad that I get to retreat to a quiet space and be alone every night instead of dealing with crabby kids and spouses? Heck yeah.
Do I love that I’m not, and may never be, loved unconditionally? I really, really don’t.
If you’re still reading at this point, I imagine your thoughts are going one of two directions.
- Thank God I’m not in that situation. ~OR~
- What can I say that’s encouraging and hopeful?
Don’t fret. Us aging singles aren’t looking for words of encouragement (believe me, we’ve heard it all before). Maybe we just want you to be more aware of us. Maybe we want you to not look down your noses at us. Maybe we just wish we were loved and accepted for our non-peak selves. Maybe we wish people would still see us as beautiful. Maybe we want you to know that we’re confident, intelligent people, but sometimes we have desperate -or sad, or unfulfilled- moments. Maybe we’re searching for reasons why we haven’t been lucky enough to find that love in life.
Maybe we’ll just sit back with our cats and wait until we’re old enough for “older people” dating sites…