I’m in My 40s, Child-Free and Happy. Why Won’t Anyone Believe Me? By Glynnis MacNicol

I’m in My 40s, Child-Free and Happy. Why Won’t Anyone Believe Me? By Glynnis MacNicol

As to this editorial below – I for one never cared much if I had children or not. I just wanted to be married.

So I am more than a little puzzled or annoyed by societal attitudes that assume I am pitiable because I don’t have children, or that I must not know my own preferences or my own mind.

(Link): I’m in My 40s, Child-Free and Happy. Why Won’t Anyone Believe Me?

Excerpts:

Since I turned 40 I’ve encountered disbelief that I could possibly be enjoying my own life. But then there’s the other unexpected gift of this age: just how little concern I have for others’ opinions.

By Glynnis MacNicol
July 5, 2018

A few months before my 42nd birthday, I was out to dinner with friends and found myself seated next to a well-known older male writer.

I happened to be in the final stages of finishing a proposal for a memoir about being a single woman over 40 without children, and was inwardly marveling at the timing of our encounter. I was a fan of his. Perhaps he might offer some wisdom? Words of encouragement?

As drinks were delivered I sketched the outline of the story: No one had prepared me for how exhilarating life could be on my own. I was traveling all the time, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, released from the fear of the clock that had dogged me through my 30s.

Conversely, no one had warned me of the ways in which it would actually be difficult; my mother had been very ill, for instance, and part of the book was about caring for her.

No sooner had I finished than the famous writer placed his glass firmly on the white tablecloth, leaned back and declared: “Glynnis MacNicol, you have a terrible life!”

….I again faced a dilemma I’d been struggling with since turning 40: how to counter other people’s disbelief that I, single and child-free, could possibly be enjoying my own life.

It’s a particularly frustrating Catch-22 for 21st-century ladies of a certain age. If I insisted that I really was having a great time, I was a lady who doth protest too much (men never seem to doth too much in this regard). Politely allow the assumption that I was in a pitiable state, satisfied by the fact that I knew better? That just perpetuated the problem.

I encounter this type of disbelief frequently — and nearly as often from women, although rarely expressed in such a wonderfully direct way.

A year earlier I’d mentioned to an acquaintance that I found it amusing that my married friends often expressed envy over my large new apartment — and that I live in it alone — and was gently told, “they were just being nice,” to make me feel better (I assume about the fact that I was alone).

There was my best friend’s wedding, a few days after I turned 40, when, happily surrounded by my oldest, closest friends, I was assured I shouldn’t worry because “there’s still time.” (This from a guest to whom I’d just been introduced.)

…For a long time I did brush these remarks off. Yet another unexpected gift of my 40s: just how little concern I have for others’ opinions about me. But it’s wearing thin. And increasingly I find myself frustrated by the belief that I, a reasonably successful person by most measures, do not know my own mind.


Related:

(Link):  Craigslist confessional: I’m in my 40s, never married, and a virgin—but I’m happy by Abigail

(Link): Myths About Never Married Adults Over Age 40

(Link): Dating in Your 40s (Advice Columnist M. Goldstein)

4 thoughts on “I’m in My 40s, Child-Free and Happy. Why Won’t Anyone Believe Me? By Glynnis MacNicol”

  1. Hi, Christian Pundit.

    This is just a general comment, not related to this particular post. I have to admit something, and I’m going to be honest, and it might sound rude, but it’s coming from a good place. I discovered your blog a few years ago, in about 2014, I believe, and I stupidly used to think you came off as bitter, but now, I have lived on my own as a single woman, and I have come to realize the privilege married people face in the church, but elsewhere in life as well, and I TOTALLY get where you’re coming from in many respects. I feel like I can’t say anything anywhere about what I face as a single person without some married person hijacking the conversation to say they have things harder, and it drives me insane. I just wanted to tell you that you get all of the empathy in the world from me. I GET it. I just wanted to tell you that. Thank you for writing about your experiences. It may seem like it, but you aren’t the only one.

    1. Ashley, thank you for your comment.

      You didn’t go into a lot of detail about yourself, and you don’t have to tell me, but I can only guess you may be in your twenties, maybe early 30s?

      I’ve found that a lot of Christians tend to be oblivious to how over-looked adult singles are until they get a bit older – if they are single themselves – they may not catch on until their late 20s, or in their 30s.
      (Or, if they are married, older, and get divorced and are single again.)

      I know I didn’t really notice myself how marriage-obsessed churches (and negligent of singles) were until I started going to church by myself in my mid-30s.

      I had really thought I’d be married by my mid-30s, but I’m in my mid/late 40s now and am still single.

      It was then (in my mid 30s and I started attending a local Baptist church alone) that I noticed that churches really don’t seem to pay much attention or thought to singles.

      Yes, being told you are bitter, or thought of as “being bitter,” merely for expressing frustration or anger over how poorly singles are treated in Christian culture, by married couples, and by churches is very frustrating.

      Some of it is hurt feelings coming out as anger.

      If you ever share online (or I guess in person) that you’re tired of being single, or angry about it (or whatever negative emotion) the usual response – especially if you’re talking to someone who’s married or in a steady relationship – is to say you’re “bitter.”

      I think I’ve mellowed out on this blog in the last year or two. I’ve not been on as many angry rants lately. People who like this blog seem to really like the ranty posts the best.

      I’ve done some blog posts in the past about some of the topics you raised, such as…

      (Link): Christian ‘Married People’ Privilege – Most Marrieds Remain Amazingly Blinded to Christian Discrimination Against Singles Or Write Unmarrieds’ Concerns Off, As Though They Are Nothing Compared to Marriage/ Parenting.

      (Link): Unmarried / Single People Are Supposedly Bitter & Have Too Much Baggage – and that’s why you’re still single they say

      Anyway, I hope things start to look up for you.

      1. Yes! I am 28, and really started noticing things when I went to a women’s retreat when I was 25. I was one of 4 single women, out of hundreds of women, and all of the women in our cabin got to share their stories, except me. Then in 2017, at 26, I attended a women’s bible study at my church and when we all introduced ourselves, I told them about an interview I had coming up for a teaching job, and another woman there was unmarried and pregnant (which is fine), but they constantly asked how she was at other times the group met, but I was never asked about my interview. I never mentioned it again, but the message was loud and clear. Later on in the group, we combined with another class, and there was another single teacher there, and whenever she said something about how things applied to her, no one really had anything to say, except me, and I made sure to speak up so she wouldn’t feel alone.

        Then, I moved across the state for that job and was completely alone, with no significant other, and all my friends were married with jobs closer to home, and those friendships fell away.

        It’s just been hard. I hate hearing married people complain when they have someone there to at least talk to. I got depressed because of loneliness, and other reasons, and no one could relate to my situation. I just feel like I’m out to sea by myself at times, and married people who have partners want to complain about how hard things are for them. I’ve since left that church.

        I’m in several Facebook groups for Christians/ex Christians/people that have left the church, and every time I post about singleness, I either get no interaction, or I get attacked for “painting married people with a broad brush” and there’s just no empathy for us anywhere. We don’t fit in church, we don’t fit in ex fundamental/evangelical spaces either at times. It’s frustrating. I’ve given up on my large Jesus-focused soft comp church changing regarding this.

        And then, when trying to find anything about work/life balance, EVERYTHING is written for people with families. I guess people think singles don’t need balance at all. 😬

        1. There’s a lot in your story I related to though I’m older.

          Yes, it’s pretty typical for (especially older) Christians to gravitate towards others who are mothers or married, and to want to discuss marriage and motherhood topics. It does make you feel left out.

          It’s especially difficult, I think, when perhaps one of the main reasons you are attending a church or Bible study to start with is for companionship, to get emotional needs met, because you don’t have a Boyfriend or Husband.

          And… I really hate Christians, married and single, who will shame you for using church to get your needs met (for friendship, etc).

          They will shame you for this, and claim you are being selfish, and that church is ONLY for Bible reading, worshipping God, etc (never mind the Bible doesn’t teach that).

          Then, if you are a single such as myself who always wanted to get married, certain types of single Christians will shame you for hoping / expecting wanting to get married or expecting / wanting Christian friends / church to help set you up with guys… because they believe church is not for purposes such as those, but only for Bible reading, etc.

          It’s infuriating how you’re told your feelings and needs do not matter (as a single adult).

          I don’t go into a lot of detail about this on this blog, but I have done several posts about how while I’ve not totally left the Christian faith, I’ve been undergoing a deep faith crisis for the last few years now, which can largely be traced back to the death of my mother several years ago (but other things contributed, not just her passing).

          So, I’m not exactly an ex-Christian – but kind of am. I have no idea how to explain it. The best I can put it is that I am somewhere between Christian and Agnostic (or deist).

          (I was a conservative Christian since I was a kid. My parents took me to Southern Baptist Churches as I was growing up. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior before I turned ten years of age.)

          I’m surprised that people at the Ex-Christian sites you went to weren’t more friendly and open to being empathetic towards your specific frustrations at being single and coming from a Christian background that over-stresses marriage.

          But, I’ve noticed that progressive Christian sites that claim to be “pro victim” and very sensitive to church abuse victims etc etc mainly consist of those who are blind to how churches disregard adult singles.

          I was on one site one time (Facebook group by a progressive Christian who posts about spiritual abuse by churches), and a single guy on there, must have been in his 30s, nicely asked the lady who runs the group if she’d please do more posts about how Christians marginalize adult singles, and she got testy with him, and accused him of trying to tell her how to run her Facebook group – he was doing no such thing.

          This is a woman who claims to have a huge, bleeding heart for the marginalized, for those abused by churches, etc, but she doesn’t always seem consistent about being kind to adult Christian singles, nor does she seem very interested in posting about their plight that often.

          And there’s a big need for it.

          On the few times over a four year period that Facebook group lady did one or two posts related to the issue of adult singleness in churches, she got positive feedback from adult singles (some who are still Christian, some ex) who thanked her profusely for bringing attention to the topic.

          My blog may be one of the few ones that has featured these subjects a lot, going back to around 2010.

          The mainstream professional Christian sites and blogs, such as Focus on the Family, Boundless, etc, are woefully ignorant about adult singleness, or, they mainly ignore the issue.

          There is really no where for older singles to go to talk and be heard and be brutally honest about things.

          Years ago there was a popular Christian discussion board that had a singles forum, but the atmosphere there was such you had to be careful about how you talked… there was a stifling, super G-rated, goody-goody culture going on, kind of.

          I too sometimes get tired of listening to married women complain about their husbands.

          I still have one online friend (we’ve known each other online for over ten years) who periodically complains to me about her husband, how he bought her a skillet instead of perfume for Valentine’s Day, or whatever.

          Years ago, I used to gently remind her she at least has a husband to complain about… I’d rather have a husband who gives me a skillet rather than no husband at all. She didn’t seem to get my gentle hints, so I stopped trying.

          But then (as you can see on my blog) there are times I am glad I am not married, because I remember what a selfish, stupid idiot my ex fiance’ was, and I see news stories about married men (even Christian ones!!) who are charged with rape, prostitution, or wife abuse. I sometimes feel as though I dodged a bullet.

          Churches should provide the companionship and practical help singles need, rather than being so obsessed with marriage and married couples.

          I’m sorry you’re feeling alone.

          If you’re wanting to get married, I hope you find your Mr. Right.

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