Do We Settle Because We’re Afraid of Being Alone?

Do we commit to less than perfect partners because we’re terrified of being alone?

A webinar about spinsterhood got me thinking about this over the weekend. On Sunday, Jody Day of Gateway Women led the discussion with Civilla Morgan, who hosts the Childless Not by Choice podcast; Shani Silver, host of A Single Serving podcast, and Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life. (Read my review of her book here.) Ward, who lives in Australia, has just released an American edition of her book.

Our world is not kind to women who for whatever reason, aside from becoming nuns, never marry or have children. The assumption that everyone has a partner is even stronger than the assumption that everyone has children. Have you noticed how the world is set up for couples? Two settings at the restaurant table. Win a trip for two. Here’s a two-for- one coupon.

The word “spinster” has ugly connotations. It implies that something’s wrong with you, that you failed to attract a man. You’re unattractive, weird, asexual, can’t get along with people. Then again, as Ward writes, maybe you attracted plenty of men, but none of them were good enough to spend your life with.

Bachelors are not quite as frowned on, but still we wonder: what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have a wife and kids like everybody else?

Maybe, like Silver, you like being on your own. You don’t need to be married or have children. She complained that every resource she sees for single women focuses on dating: how to get a man and end your single state. But for some singles, that’s not the issue.

It’s like being alone is a fate worse than death.

I have been alone for 12 years now. I get lonely. I have my memories to keep me company, but memories don’t put their arms around you. Memories don’t help you move that fallen tree branch that weighs more than you do. Memories won’t watch your purse while you go to the restroom, drive you to the ER when you sprain your ankle, or listen when you really need to talk to someone.

But having been married, it’s like I get this check mark from society on the box that says, “Approved.”

The list of challenges living alone goes on for days, but I don’t want to get married again. I like my freedom. Most of my widowed friends feel the same way. We have found our solo power and we like it. When we need help, we call each other.

When I was younger, would I ever have considered a single life? It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it could have happened.

No one asked me out until I was in college. Too nerdy, too fat, not social enough, parents too strict? I don’t know. I was already wondering if I’d ever find anyone, if I’d be like my Barbie doll without a Ken. I was afraid no man would love me when everything in my world told me a woman needs to get married and have children. So when someone finally wanted to date me, I didn’t ponder whether I liked him; I said yes. And I continued to say yes through a first marriage that failed and a series of unsuitable boyfriends between marriages. When I think of all the garbage I put up with just to hold onto a man . . .

By the time I met Fred, I had come to believe I would be single for the rest of my life. What if he hadn’t come along? I hope I wouldn’t have married another dud just to have someone. I know people who have done that. Don’t you?

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who never married. People wonder about them. Are they gay, do they have autism, are they mentally ill, or are they just plain weird? What if they’re regular people who surveyed the choices and said, “I’m fine by myself”?

My dog follows me around all day. She’s afraid of being alone. Humans are afraid, too. Maybe it’s the herd mentality. The zebra that wanders off alone gets killed by the lion. But maybe we don’t need to partner up for safety anymore. We can just be part of the herd.

So how about you? Have you settled so you wouldn’t be alone? Do you think it’s better to make a life alone rather than to be with the wrong person? Does the idea of a solo life scare you so much you’re willing to put up with a less-than-perfect relationship to avoid it, even if that means giving up the chance to have children? Let’s talk about it.

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The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

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Will the New Year Bring Babies, Breakups or ???

Adios, 2020. Happy New Year? This has been a year far beyond our control, a year when the “normal” just around the corner keeps moving beyond our reach. We’ve seen lockdowns, businesses closed, and people sick or dying of a virus we had never heard of a year earlier. We’re wearing masks and minimizing contact with other people except by computer on Zoom—never heard of that before 2020 either. Wildfires, hurricanes, political upheaval, Brexit—we’ve had it all. In the midst of this craziness, when most of us are just trying to survive, how can we even think about having babies? What if you’re single? If you didn’t go into the pandemic with a partner, how could you think about dating?  

I often compare COVID to musical chairs. Whoever you had with you when the music stopped, that’s who you have for the duration. If you had no one, well, welcome to my world. As I write this, even my dog Annie (pictured above as a puppy) is gone. She has been in the veterinary hospital since Christmas, when she collapsed with a type of vertigo called Vestibular Disease. It looked like a stroke, but it’s not that. As of now, she is back to eating and drinking and can sit up, but she still cannot stand or walk. Will she recover? I don’t know yet. You can read more about her situation at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

Now that we have a fresh new year, a blank page on the calendar, can we go back to normal? Can we go from sick to healthy, fearful to confident, isolated to together again? To eating in restaurants, attending concerts and plays, working out at the gym, going to church, and throwing parties?

If only. On Jan. 1, we will still have the same problems we’ve got on Dec. 31, including childlessness. I have lost nine people I cared about this year, one to COVID, the others to the maladies of old age. I wish there were more children coming up behind them to fill the gaps they leave behind. I have my nieces and nephews, but they are far away, and I haven’t seen them in person in over a year.

I hope 2021 can bring some added daylight to your situation. As I have said in past years, make this the year that you speak plainly to your partner about childlessness and make a conscious decision to accept a life without offspring or do something about it. When you can’t have this partner and children, which are you willing to give up?

That’s the question explored in our new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I just got my copies yesterday. It offers the best of my blog posts and your comments, and I hope you buy it.

As we wind down, although we can’t see the future, we can hear the stories of older women who have lived the childless journey at Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen webinar today, Dec. 30, at noon Oregon time. Speakers include Jody Day, authors Kate Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Donna Ward, and Maria Hill, “NotMom” founder Karen Malone Wright, and me. This will be my first Zoom outing with this international group. To participate, click here and go to the registration link near the bottom. The session will be recorded, so you can listen another time if you can’t make it today.

I wish you all the best of new years. May the problems that keep you awake at night be resolved and much happiness come to you.

Big socially distanced hug,

Sue

Christmas! It’s All About Children!

Suddenly Christmas looks like it’s all about babies. For my other blog, I posted a video of me singing “Silent Night.” I thought about posting another song here, but every song I looked at that was not annoying and not copyrighted was about the Mother and Child or about children being all excited about Santa Claus. There were angels and shepherds, too, but the Baby Jesus is almost always in there.

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

Of course, Jesus isn’t just any baby. Depending on your beliefs, he’s the son of God, a prophet, a king or just a really famous historical figure but definitely not just a regular baby. In our Catholic liturgies this month, we also have the story of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth having a baby after years of being barren. That child became John the Baptist. 

We don’t know for sure if Mary had other children. Some faiths say yes, some say no. Did the Virgin Mary stay a virgin? Did Joseph lose his chance to be a biological dad by sticking with Mary? The Bible doesn’t share that detail.

I’m thinking a lot about the Holy Family not just because it’s Christmas but because I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings, a novel about Ana, the fictional wife of Jesus. There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus having a wife. Perhaps he stayed single so that he could focus on his ministry. If He did have a wife, many think it was Mary Magdalene, but what if he married a feisty first-century feminist named Ana instead? It’s fascinating to think about.

Ana wants to be a writer—a scribe—a role not usually allowed to women. A mother? Not so much. She uses the birth control methods of the era to try to avoid getting pregnant. You’ll have to read the book to see how that plays out, but it’s interesting to envision what it was like in a time when women had almost no freedom but still had dreams that motherhood would make difficult to fulfill.

Here’s another thought. What if Jesus did have a wife and He told her that he couldn’t have children because God the Father sent him to save humanity from our sins? What if Jesus’s wife was childless by marriage?

I’m just letting my crazed mind wander. I hope I don’t offend anyone. I have had too much stormy weather and Zoom church. Is the rain and wind in western Oregon ever going to stop? But seriously, does Christmas bum you out with all of its emphasis on mothers and babies? Are there songs that you just can’t stand because they remind you that you don’t have children? Are the holidays any easier for childless non-Christians? Let’s talk about it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It will be an odd one with COVID-19 keeping us from our usual celebrations. I have just had a loved one die of the virus. His live-streamed funeral is next Monday. I will be thinking of his wife and kids as my sister-friend Pat and I celebrate our little Christmas for two. We’re getting takeout food this time, too lazy to cook. But we are going to bake cookies this afternoon just for fun. Neither of us needs the added calories, but we miss the good times of yesteryear. So we’ll talk and sing and bake and treasure the moments.

What is your plan for this week? Is it easier or harder because you can’t gather with lots of people? Please share in the comments.

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NEWS!

On Dec. 30, I will join a group of older childless women from all over the English-speaking world for a Zoom chat titled “Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen.” Participants include include Jody Day of Gateway Women; Karen Malone Wright, founder of The NotMom; Maria Hill of Sensitive Evolution; Jackie Shannon Hollis, author of This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story; Kate Kaufmann, author of Do You Have Kids? Life When the Answer is No; Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life, and Stella Duffy, novelist, actor, playwright, and founder of FunPalaces. Click the link here for more information. It’s happening at noon Pacific Time, but will be recorded for those who can’t attend then. This is my first outing with this “Elderwomen” group, and I would love to see some friends there. Do come.

The new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both, which offers the best of this blog, is out now. You can get it at Amazon or order it from your favorite bookseller. If you send me proof of purchase and your U.S. mailing address at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a copy of my previous book, Childless by Marriage, totally free. Overseas readers, due to postage costs, I can only offer the Kindle version. If you already own the first book, check out my web site and pick another book you’d like to have.

To promote the new book, I’m asking for reviews, speaking opportunities, guest spots on blogs and podcasts, and social media “shares” wherever you can. This is our book. Without your comments, it would be nothing. Let’s spread the word far and wide. Contact me at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com.  

I am so grateful for all of you. I hope this Christmas eases your hearts and that you find peace one way or the other with your childless situation. Be well.

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021,

Love Sue and Annie the Dog

P.S. did you see the true story about the childless couple who decided to adopt a calf as their son? Read it here.