I just read an article about a woman and her plan to retire at 50, and my first thought was, I feel bad that she’s over 40 and doesn’t have a husband or children.
I realize that reaction has become socially archaic, so let me clarify. I’m a modern man, and I’m all for independent women. She doesn’t need a husband or children for validation. But I also value romance, intimacy and all that sentimental stuff. It sounds like the woman has a good life, I just hope she has someone to share it with.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. I’ve come to know around ten or more women pushing 40 or already over it. These women have good careers, make large salaries, own homes, have advanced degrees, are cultured and socially active, are attractive, exercise, eat healthy and have pleasant and interesting personalities. And they’re all single.
I think about these women often. There are limits to my compability with all of them, so I think more like a sociologist than a suitor, but I still want to know why and how they’re single. Why? Is it because men don’t approach them? Do these women feel like they haven’t met the right guy yet? Do they have too high standards? Do they feel like they don’t have time to date? Do they have some secret defect? Do they feel bad? Do they worry something is wrong with themselves? I don’t know, and I wouldn’t want to make any of them uncomfortable by asking. I do know many of them aren’t content being single – I’ve seen their online dating profiles.
I don’t understand, but I have empathy. I wish I could show that. These are great women. I’m sorry if guys don’t see that. I’m sorry if these women feel they’ve done everything right and yet feel something big is missing. And I wish I could show solidarity – I’m single too. Though that’s demoralizing the more I think about it – if they’re still single there’s no hope for me.
Supposedly some people say they prefer being single. But they’d have to work very hard to convince me of that. What, they’d rather go without love just so they don’t have to make room for another toothbrush?
I don’t care what anyone says, people need people. You need someone to share your thoughts, feelings, experiences, successes and joys, and also your burdens and problems. It’s science — we’re wired that way. You’re likely to go crazy otherwise. Loneliness is the worst way a person can suffer. It’s the first form of suffering, because you must bear all other suffering yourself.
Being single doesn’t mean people should totally surrender to loneliness. People can get a part of what they need from family and friends. But people need someone they can get really close to, someone they can literally cling to at night, and whisper things they’ve never told anyone.
I hope my friends find that someone soon. I hope the woman in the article who plans to retire at 50 is happy now, and that she will be for the rest of her life. She doesn’t have to answer to anyone’s standard of how she should live. That’s her choice. She’s worked for it and deserves it. She doesn’t have to listen to anyone, including me. She’s entitled to tell me to go fuck myself. It’s just that I’m tired of having to do that, and I feel bad for anyone else who has to too.
Photo: from the photo session that produced the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan