December 9, 2008

"But here I am -- 55 years old, a spinster long past my sell-by date, no kids -- and I haven't had sex in a decade and a half."

"It's my own fault, I know. I'm picky. Casual sex doesn't do it for me. (I've always thought I had to be in love in order to make love.) I regard men with ambivalence, with alternate longing and fear. I've grown accustomed to being alone."

Writes Kit Naylor in Salon. Via Metafilter, where the best comment might be:
Once you've passed a certain age -- older than it used to be, but still not old enough -- it doesn't matter how much you love yourself and rejoice in being a whole, warm, wonderful woman. You can't help but see that as a person, you're terrific, but as a girlfriend-unit with optional wife-upgrade port, you're unmarketable. The thing to do is to stop reading men-vs.-women lifestyle journalism, take charge of singleness (like one Miss Florence King) and stop expecting that life owes you a reward for being a pretty, pretty princess inside.

It says she's marketing a book about how to enjoy living alone, but I'm getting depressed just thinking about it.


Freeman Hunt said...

"I expected somebody like you, only younger,"

Cripes. What an ass. Maybe she never married because the men she's attracted to are horribly flawed. Funny column.

Pogo said...

I hear there is a young man in Zhuhai in the Guangdong province of China who might serve her ably.

As I myself approach the trousers-rolled do-I-dare-eat-a-peach stage of life I too ponder the questions about sex and companionship and opportunities lost. But then I think To hell with that, what I really need is a good Cuban.

I mean, sex is great and all, but a woman is just a woman, while a good cigar is a smoke.

chickenlittle said...

You can't help but see that as a person, you're terrific, but as a girlfriend-unit with optional wife-upgrade port, you're unmarketable.

My mother outlived my father, lived alone miserably for several years, then met a man and remarried at a sprightly 66 years of age. The gentleman was older and a widower. Man I tell you they are one happy couple! Celibacy isn't for everybody.

Pogo said...

Ha! I keed.

I must say I too would find it difficult to meet many people besides young Mormon men, local politicians, and girl scouts if I never left my house.

And Russian lit?
Oog. What a red flag.
Why not just say I will bore you on first meeting and get it over with?

And remember: masturbation is just sex with someone you love.

Freeman Hunt said...

Man I tell you they are one happy couple! Celibacy isn't for everybody.

I think some people really are just happier being married. In fact, I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that a study showed the happier widows and widowers rated their marriages, the more likely they were to remarry.

Freeman Hunt said...

I must say I too would find it difficult to meet many people besides young Mormon men, local politicians, and girl scouts if I never left my house.

The question of who you would meet if you never left your house is interesting. I would only meet Jehovah's Witnesses, people selling magazines, and yard service operators, most of whom do not speak English.

John Lynch said...

Eh, it's better to be single than have a bad marriage.

Sex is more or less important depending on the person. Marriage, it seems to me, is less about sex and more about cooperation and companionship. It's a lot easier to make it in the world when you have help.

Some people don't want to get married, and that's their choice. Other people make choices that guarantee they won't get married. If you let yourself get to be 300 pounds, your chances are slim. Leaving aside fairness, that's just how it works. If you're not that attractive but insist on high standards, then being single is a choice.

There's plenty of less attractive people (I'm one of them) that can still be good spouses. It's just a matter of priorities. Is it important to marry someone beautiful or reliable? The older you get the fewer options you have.

I'm very happy I met my wife. It's worked out great, mainly because I broke out of my old behavior pattern of being attracted to women I couldn't get along with. The getting along part is the important one.

EDH said...

I was afraid the first time I had sex. I was afraid...because I was all alone.

-Rodney Dangerfield

John Lynch said...

The short version is that this is a woman who wouldn't settle.

Settle has more than one meaning. It can mean "settle for second best." It also means "settling down."

There must have been someone who liked her enough to marry her, but she rejected them, probably because they didn't make enough money. She writes about trying to improve a blue collar boyfriend.

Women complain about men going after younger women. Men complain about women caring more about cars than caring.

Well, not all of us look good or drive a Lexus. Is that all that important?

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

You thought that your career
was being in Van Halen,
But now your friends all jeer,
'cause you're hot for Sarah Palin!

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

Re: "And remember: masturbation is just sex with someone you love."

On behalf of self-loathing Americans everywhere, I am deeply, deeply offended.

Donna B. said...

"I just wanted to get some therapy, wanted to understand why I kept choosing men who were smart and funny but critical, sarcastic and merciless like my father."

I want a guy just like dear old Dad without any of his faults!

traditionalguy said...

This lady needs a good counselor. She will only change when she hurts enough to seek help. Meanwhile she is trying to enjoy her prision inside of walls she erected around herself. Thank God there is a hope and a Savior. He was born 2008 years or so ago, but has spent 1970 of those years interceeding in Heaven for the prisoner and the broken hearted. Merry Christmas to all.

blake said...

Is it my imagination or is there a proliferation of these "old and single" articles lately?

John Stodder said...

It's always fascinating to read a memoir told by a narrator who has an illusory perspective on her life. Just like I love novels with "unreliable narrators," where you have to find the real story hiding behind the narrative.

She thinks her age and her desire for sex with love is a final judgment announcing the end of her sex life, and speaks as if that is an accurate general statement about single women in her age bracket.

Lots of women 55 and over find new sexual love, and not all of them are gorgeous. My grandmother was widowed in her early 50s and continued to have affairs into her late 70s.

This woman isn't finding love now for the exact same reasons she "missed the first batch" in her 20s. She didn't want it enough to make the adjustments needed to make a long-term relationship work. Also, the few stories she tells about her love life show someone who just doesn't pick up signals from other people, doesn't accept the men in her life for what they are because she doesn't accept herself for who she is. I'm sure her other relationships were variations on this theme.

She could get what she says she wants if she really wanted it. But she doesn't really want it. Not enough to change her ways.

rhhardin said...

Barbara Feldon, who as Agent 99 in Get Smart intuited what a good marriage was, wasn't very successful in real life.

Her book Living Alone and Loving It is pretty desperate between the lines.

My own romantic advice is don't date models or actresses.

PJ said...

My mom married the love of her life (older than she was by 13 years) at 60 after a bad marriage. Unfortunately, he died five years later. She hooked up with the runner up (one year younger usually dated younger women) almost immediately. He died a year later. Freak illness. She swore off men after that. Put an ad in the paper to sell some of the her second husband's stuff. The guy who came to look at it asked her out. She is embarrassed that he is 13 years younger. They're still together, but she has sworn she will never marry again.

But, yeah, even the Love of Life one was a huge "settling" adjustment in some ways. She looks very good for age. Her favorite movies are "A Walk In the Clouds" with Keanu Reeves "Bridges of Madison County" and "Moonstruck." It's a definite male/female perspective.

jdeeripper said...

Pogo said...But then I think To hell with that, what I really need is a good Cuban.

You and Tituswhatthef.

EnigmatiCore said...

"These men. They want some pussy, but they're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. It's a valuable thing! You don't just give it away for nothing! I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it.

Fuck me? Fuck them!"

EnigmatiCore said...

Actually, now that I am reading the article...

"Well, maybe I could find an intellectual buddy -- not a husband but a companion, a man who made me laugh, a man who reads and with whom I had something in common."

I asked my wife what word would be defined by "a male companion; a man who makes a woman laugh, who reads and with who she has something in common, and with she shares a sex life?"

Any guesses how she answered?

"An upgrade on you?"

Just kidding. She said that's the definition of a husband.

Pogo said...


"You don't like her. My mother don't like her.

She's a dog, and I'm a fat, ugly little man. All I know is I hadda good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna go down on my knees and beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party again this New Year's, I gotta date for the party. You don't like her, that's too bad."

mydismalswamp said...

A few years ago a family friend fianlly got remarried after 40+ years of being single. He said it wasn't that he didn't want to get married again, just couldn't find the right woman. He said when he finally gave up looking, she found him.

rastajenk said...

What's with the recent celibacy theme, Ann? Something I can help you with?

Richard Fagin said...

"[S]top reading men-vs.-women lifestyle journalism, take charge of singleness (like one Miss Florence King) and stop expecting that life owes you a reward for being a pretty, pretty princess inside."

What, did someone interview my stepdaughter? She thinks life owes her a reward because she has a vagina. Apparently so does Kit Naylor.

Simon said...
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Simon said...

"Life presents us with many different ways to love. Who's to say the sexual kind trumps everything else?"

Given the evidence of a two-page article you felt it necessary to write about it for, I'll go out on a limb and suggest that you think so, Kit. The decision to write and publish the essay has significance for how we interpret the essay - compare the recent NYT article by the woman whose name escapes me momentarily about how awfully she treats her husband.

Darcy said...

Well, I feel a lot of sympathy for her. She has a bad "picker", and a really bad therapist.

And 55 years old is still too young to be talking like this - with plenty of evidence in the comments here.

C'mon, lady! I'm rooting for you to seize the day. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and decide to love someone more than yourself.

siyeh pass said...

The story was a little uncomfortable to read, but I give her a lot of credit. She's had some heart-breaking relationships and seems to be trying to make the best of it. She's a little guarded and is playing it safe, though not a recluse. It's a natural enough reaction and I can definitely relate.

class-factotum said...

Oh good grief. My mom is 65 and has had five marriage proposals since my dad died 11 years ago. Whether or not a woman is attractive has nothing to do with age.

Kirk Parker said...

"Settle has more than one meaning. It can mean 'settle for second best'..."

Actually, what that mostly means is "settle for reality rather than fantasy", but those who call it "second best" are least likely to realize that.

Meade said...

She's been in therapy for 15 years? Man, did they see her coming or what?

She needs to fire her therapist and find someone who can help her with her prickliness problem. She might call her financial planner friend and apologize for hanging up on him, give him a chance to apologize for his humorous but ham-fisted remark. Then she could probably stand to make the effort to forgive her father for disappointing her.

Also, if she really loves dogs like she says she does, she should look into adopting one. Otherwise, admit it to herself - she's a cat lady.

paul a'barge said...

Something tells me this author wasn't having much luck in the marketplace when she was 22, much less 55.

Darcy said...

What a charming comment, Paul.

Roger J. said...

Wow--I can only surmise that if she hasnt had sex in a decade and a half she must not masturbate--to paraphrase Robert Heinlen (I think)--its disease free, fast, effective; just a bit lonely).

Pogo said...

Actually, the photo suggests she was quite pretty when when she was 22.

She seems sweet, really; I'm beginning to feel bad for her.

She started a blog recently, Basking in Solitude, and abandoned it after just a few posts.

Example (emphasis mine):
"But I had a real epiphany one morning, standing at the kitchen sink. I realized I was annoyed that I hadn’t got around to having the dripping faucet fixed, and calculated that I feel irritated once or twice a month about being alone. Then I had to laugh, because each of the men I nearly married used to piss me off several times a day.

"You were such a pretty girl," well-meaning friends have said over the years, as if that had anything to do with my forlorn attempts at love, "Why didn't you find a nice husband?" I used to cringe at these questions, flailing away in vain to come up with some reasonable, non-pathetic explanation about how the ones I could catch I didn’t want and the ones I wanted I couldn’t catch, or I’d shrug and say, "I’m still looking, sugar; you available?" Or, as Gloria Steinem observed once, “I don’t mate well in captivity.” "

Feminism hasn't fulfilled it's utopian dream, at least hers. Some fish actually need a bicycle.

William said...

Rhhardin advice to never date models or actors is well taken. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have dated Victoria Secret models....Samuel Johnson said that being married or being single can both be bad but both cannot be worse.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Hey, I have experience with a fork lift, and several varieties of heavy construction equipment...

But then I'm taken.

Most of the interesting women I know are over 50, the younger ones are just girls.

Fire the therapist and get a life.

jdeeripper said...

Women in their 50s need to redirect their sexual desires in a more creative direction.

Volunteer work, photography, blogging, etc.

Manhunting is a younger woman's game.

Methadras said...
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Methadras said...

Women like this piss me the fuck off because they wallow in their own made up notions of themselves and their inflated sense of femininity. As if she, being a woman basically viewed men as lower life forms unworthy of having them touch her and in the process willfully rejects them wholesale. Until sometimes when her base desires creep to the top and she besmirches her unsullied sense of self long enough to wallow with a man. Only to finally come to her overly inflated senses and realizes what she has done and then dons and resumes her prissy charade of being the childless, lovelorn, unmarried, celibate spinster, hear me mewl.

Lady, a bit of advice, get fucked every so often, appreciate a man and his finer qualities, ditch the pretenses and adopt a kid from Sally Struthers to ausage any guilt from being barren. Then start feeling good about yourself and save us the pain of reading your pity party.

Fat Man said...

Ann: I received my ABA Journal yesterday. It had picture of you. You looked adorable.

Maguro said...

With all the money she wasted on therapy, she could have paid a boffin to invent a Russian literature-loving man-bot for her.

PJ said...
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PJ said...

Who is Florence King?

Trooper York said...

Larry King's sixth wife.

Or maybe his fifth. I get them confused.

Ann Althouse said...

"She could get what she says she wants if she really wanted it. But she doesn't really want it. Not enough to change her ways."

This question of what a person really wants is very deep and perplexing. You can say whatever a person has is the best evidence of what they want, but that makes it very easy. It's also very easy to assume what is really wanted -- as, here, a conventional marriage. It seems many of you are assuming both things: that she wants what she in fact has and that she wants a conventional marriage. These are very convenient assumptions. They are also contradictory.

amba said...

It's been my quizzical observation that, while the allure of the hot young babe is written in indelible DNA, the only people who ever stop seeing a woman of any age as a woman -- and the only women who stop seeing themselves that way -- are middle-class, white Americans.

Since I'm a middle-class, white American, I'm vulnerable to that. A decade into caregiving, hell, I haven't had sex (in Bill Clinton's sense) for about that long and regularly contemplate with bemusement the possibility that I may in fact never have it again.

But I see around me evidence (like chickenlittle's and John Stodder's stories) that that's a crock. Unless you're dead set on believing in it. Then it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(Note to self.)

Meade said...

At the end of that essay, if you scroll down to related stories, there is an article titled "The joy of no sex." It's written by a father of three who is a husband in a long-term conventional marriage. Only, it turns out, the marriage has an unconventional twist to it: involuntarily, changes in his wife's physiology have led the couple to go without sex for the last ten years. Nor do they sleep together in the same bed. His story, I think, would make useful reading to any two people of any age contemplating a serious love relationship.

What the writer discovers is the dignity and pleasure a grown man can experience when coital sex is set aside in the pursuit of more active parenting and a more empathetic, playful, intimate friendship with the person he is committed to. I suspect it's not the conventionality of their marriage that allows for that experience so much as two adults placing above everything else their mutual affection and joy in being in each other's company.

Paradoxically, at the end of his story, the writer anticipates his decade of chastity - and the personal growth effected by it - leading to the beginning of a new, perhaps unconventional erotic relationship with his wife. It would seem that faithfulness and perseverance in remaining true to one's core principles may have even more than just their own rewards.

jennifer rose said...

Not Getting a Flying F*ck

amba said...

That's unusual, Meade. I wonder what the guys who kick my butt whenever I come around here saying some men aren't fully human would have to say about that guy. I bet they'd sneer at him.

That said, I suspect most of the people who don't miss sex are postmenopausal women, to whom nature has done the kindness of making it optional.

Then again, we've been so propagandized about the all-importance of sex, and not even so much as a pleasure, but as a means of self-validation . . . that we, collectively, hardly know how to take it OR leave it anymore.

Meade said...

So true about the propagandizing of sex, amba. And isn't it ironic, for those of us who lived through and indulged in the so-called "free love" 60's and 70's, that we are now so perplexed by sex? As you say, we don't quite know how to take or leave it? said...

hey woman i will like to know oyu and where you live so i can show you that love you are missing.i am strong enough in bed ok

sent from:

Healer said...

I am 55. I have been married 3 times with no rest in between for myself. I have 3 beloved children (all boys) none of whom are at peace or successful.
I would give anything to have back some respite time.
I have always been giving to others (which is good) but I am always resenting the fact that I never had alone time. (my own doing)
I have been married to a man who has been verbally abusive for 22 yrs. Most of my family won't speak to me because of this and sometimes I feel as though I am in an abyss.
Behold....the blessing you have.