Why losing my job in my late 40s was the best thing that ever happened to me, Part One

I can clearly remember being called into the station owner’s office after a show and being told that the station was letting me go as a cost-cutting measure. It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.

Yes, I knew there was a recession affecting the entire country and, yes, I knew that revenues at the radio station where I worked as a morning personality were down. It was obvious. We were playing fewer commercials.

Yet it still hadn’t occurred to me that I could lose my job. I was indispensable! The listeners loved me (didn’t they?). My two male co-workers and I had terrific on-air chemistry. We engaged in lively banter every morning about hot topics, current affairs, and celebrity gossip in a way that entertained our listeners and kept the phone lines lighting up with people who wanted to join in the fun. I also did voiceovers for commercials, went out on remote broadcasts, emceed local events and manned a station booth at every arts & crafts fair, barbecue competition and random community festival during every weekend of the summer. I never had a summer weekend completely free — didn’t that dedication count for something?

I was indispensible – or so I thought.

Those excruciating five minutes in the station owner’s office threw my whole world off kilter. The owner told me the company would continue my health insurance through the end of the month – as if that was very generous on his part. The end of the month was five days away.

I packed up the things in my desk and drove home, trying not to think the worst, but it was difficult not to. The economy was in a nose dive. I was in an industry that had been shrinking for some time. When I started in radio, there were lots of on-air positions. Syndicated shows eliminated a lot of them. So did voice tracking, in which one radio personality can be heard in markets in different parts of the country, simply by recording their on-air bits. Salaries (for all but the top, very famous djs) had shrunk. Continue reading

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Turns out I was the one who changed

crying-spinsterWhen I started writing my book about women who have never been married, I was hoping to change other people’s attitudes about us. What I didn’t realize was how much the book would change my attitude.

I’d always felt like a bit of a freak. Like the animals in Noah’s ark, people always seemed to be paired off. Being part of a couple was normal. Being single – past a certain age – was not.

I was so wrong

I’m a journalist by trade, so I set out to explore the topic in the way I know how: by interviewing people and doing research. What’s funny is that I thought I’d have difficulty finding enough old maids to talk to. (Yes, I’m claiming that phrase, along with the word “spinster” until a better descriptor can be found.) I had a few friends who’d never been married, either, but, as I said, that put us in the “freak” category, right? Surely there couldn’t be too many more of us out there, could there? Continue reading

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A good excuse to shave my legs

dirty-dancing-dirty-dancing-19698995-640-400So I wrote last time that I was going to a singles dance. I mentioned that my expectations were low, that I thought there’d be a lot more women than men, blah, blah, blah.

The upshot was: I did NOT meet any potential Mr. Rights, but I did have a good time. I danced. I met new people. I drank a few adult beverages and did a LOT of people-watching (one of my favorite hobbies). I was wearing makeup and a skirt. (Since I started working from home a few years ago, my daily attire is quite casual. OK, I’m often dressed like a slob. After all, who’s there to see me?)

footloose1But Friday night, I was looking (and feeling) pretty good! I’d shaved my legs and curled my eyelashes. Chosen jewelry that I don’t normally wear. I was even flashing a little cleavage.

Was I – am I – desperate to meet a man? Continue reading

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Mixed emotions about singles mixers

Are events specifically for singles worth going to? Being a perpetually single woman, that’s a question I’ve been trying to answer for a long time.

I’ll try to answer it again on Friday night, when two friends and I will head off to a singles dance organized by a Meetup Group. In the past, social affairs like this have ranged from dull to disastrous, but in the absence of a better way to meet men of a certain age, we’re willing to give it a try again.

wine-tastingIn the (comically) disastrous category was a singles mixer wine-tasting evening that I went to with my friend Laura. It was in a distant suburb (an hour long drive) and rather pricey ($45 for wine and light hors-d’oeuvres) but we reasoned that it would be worth it. The higher the cost, the classier the crowd, right? And that classy crowd would include — no doubt — lots of eligible men, with good jobs and good taste. Wine drinkers, in other words. Our expectations were high. Continue reading

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What if?

I have a writer’s “what if” mind.  That can be a wonderfully rich, imaginative and entertaining thing. It can also be hell, especially for a single woman. I’ll explain.

One of the foundations of fiction is that a story begins when something goes wrong. Thus, many of the “what ifs” that my mind spits out are negative in nature, because I’m playing around with story ideas.

That’s useful for writing. It’s not so good when I’m traveling by myself. I’ve decided to stop waiting for Mr. Right to come along and be my traveling companion. I’m in my 50s. If I wait any longer, I won’t be going anywhere, so I’m venturing out on my own. The problem is, when I’m away from the familiar, comfortable patterns of my everyday life – those imaginary “what ifs” can rise up and create a free-floating anxiety that threatens to ruin any trip.

Part of the anxiety comes from my lack of confidence in being able to solve problems ALL BY MYSELF, which is kind of immature for someone in her 50s. Does anyone else feel this? And does it ever go away?

The bad “what ifs”

Here’s a sampling of the kinds of concerns that have reared their ugly heads on my current trip – a long weekend getaway to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Continue reading

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Traveling solo

It seemed like a good idea at the time I made the arrangements. Now, with my (solo) trip to Florida drawing near, I’m not so sure.

Every winter, I swear that I’m going to get away from it all, at least for a weekend. The snow, the cold, the concrete-grey skies that show up day after day, for months at a time, inevitably give me the winter blues.

umbrellaThis year winter is definitely milder than usual, but it’s still a far cry from the gloriously warm, sun-drenched days of summer that I miss so much. That’s what I want. A weekend’s worth of sun-drenched days during which I’ll drink Mai Tais on the beach while my friends and neighbors shovel snow, or at least, dress in layers.

But I have no one to go with. No friend for whom it would be convenient or affordable, in late January, to get on a plane for a quick getaway to Florida. Continue reading

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Every felt like a ‘third wheel’?

In a society where the pressure to pair off is relentless, where do single women fit in? Or do they? Are there social events that they’re deliberately left out of, because they are not part of a couple?

In talking to always single women for my book-in-progress, “The New Old Maid: How Happily Unmarried Women are Defying Spinster Stereotypes,” I asked them if they’ve ever felt excluded because of their single status.

Here is a sampling of their answers:

Lucy: “Oh, yeah. Absolutely. There were social cliques that I was involved with in the past where it was all couples, and a single pretty girl was threatening, so I would be left out of things. Or girlfriends who had boyfriends didn’t want me around their boyfriends, because I’m pretty and petite.”

You were perceived as a threat? Continue reading

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When you don’t have the Mommy gene

pregnantOne of the common themes that’s emerged among the always single* women that I’ve talked to for my book-in-progress, “The New Old Maid,” is that many of them had no desire to have children.

“I never wanted kids,” said Celia. I’m not a kid person.”

Is that unnatural? Isn’t having and raising children what women are biologically and emotionally programmed to do? Is there something wrong with women who don’t have the “Mommy gene”? Continue reading

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Friends – Who Needs ‘Em?

I do, for one. Although I’m perfectly content spending time by myself, I really need my friends, who run the gamut from married, divorced, never-married and getting-ready-to-be-married.

We go to plays and movies together; talk, talk, talk (gathering opinions, offering advice, sharing stories); attend each other’s events (for someone with no children, I’ve been to a lot of school plays!); and regularly have “Girl’s Night Out” gatherings.

These GNOs have allowed us to try new restaurants and bars, go to dance clubs and enjoy summertime music festivals.

One of the best ones centered around a birthday celebration. Two of the husbands volunteered to be designated drivers for our group of about a dozen women. The men ferried us from place to place on our rather ambitious itinerary, but did not otherwise participate. Oh, and the best part? The birthday girl’s husband gave us his credit card, to fund the evening. Awesome idea!

These GNOs have evolved to include a degree of costuming. Laura, who generally takes charge of this, supplies us with accessories like (fake) tat sleeves, lace gloves, faux fur cat’s ears and sparkly scarves — fun, silly elements which give our group a visual coherence and frequently lead people to ask, “Is this a bachelorette party?”

Here’s a picture from one of our GNOs:

GirlsNightOut2014

When I began writing “The New Old Maid” (which is in progress), I assumed that single people in general and single women in particular had strong social networks. I reasoned that they (we) needed or wanted them more than married people did — to fill a void.

That’s not necessarily the case. I’ve interviewed lots of always-single women and found that not all have or need circles of friends.

Here’s a sampling of their comments:

Marcy:

“I have different groups of friends as opposed to a small, close-knit group of friends. I have probably three close friends and then after that I have lots of acquaintances that I can just pick up the phone and do things with.”

Lucy:

“I think one thing that I’m lacking is friendships. That is something that I would like to foster. Some really good women friendships that I just haven’t been able to attract that into my life, if you will.”

Kay:

“I’m a little jealous of people who’ve been able to keep their friends longer term and have deeper friendships. Most of my longer-term friends don’t live here. But when I do connect with someone, I make friends fast and deep.”

What about you? If you are a single woman — never married or divorced — do you feel as if you need your friends more than if you were married? Does a spouse fulfill the same needs as a friend does?

 

 

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Beating ourselves up

unhappy“I’m mad so many smart, professionally successful, delightful women beat up on themselves because…they aren’t married or haven’t stayed married or haven’t remarried.”

Dr. Karen Lewis, a family therapist, told me what I already knew: that many women blame themselves for being single.

Scaring men away

She’s amassed a list of ways they — we — do that (many of them are things I’ve told myself): we’re too fat; too skinny; too intelligent; not intelligent enough; we scare men away; we’re afraid of intimacy. Continue reading

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