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Guest Post: Single in the Cocktail Hour of Life December 31, 2014

Posted by Onely in Dating, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities, Guest Bloggers, Guest Posts, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, Singles Resource.
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Happy 2015 everyone! Christina here. It’s a new year–we’re all one year older and despite what the Clinique “anti-aging” posters at the mall say, another year past is nothing to be afraid, sad, ashamed, or angry about. All of us who have made it this far are privileged. So let’s not say that forty (my age!) is the new thirty. Why do we need to go back to thirty? (When I was thirty I was a poor grad student with a broken toe that had me limping for several months.) Instead, let’s say forty is the new forty! Copious Readers, please welcome Beth Portolese, who taught me that concept:

Onely is happy to have a guest post by Beth Portolese, founder and publisher of FiftyIsTheNewFifty.com, the online magazine targeting people in “The Cocktail Hour of Life.” As always, we note that guest posts may or may not entirely reflect the views of Onely.org (though usually they do).

Over 50, Single and Gratified

Guest post by Beth Portolese

I am a woman in my 50s with no husband and no children. What I do have is a happy and fulfilling life. Regular readers of Onely are probably not surprised by this. Being unmarried and childless (or childfree, depending on your POV) and living happily single is not necessarily an oxymoron, although folks might think so when reading women’s and general interest news magazines or watching television.

I didn’t anticipate winding up this way. When I was a kid I figured I would get married while I was in college and be on my way to having my first child right after I graduated, because that is what magically happened to and for girls at the time.

The reality is that I got married at 33 and never got around to having a child before my marriage slid downhill. Since my divorce, I have had a few relationships, but have spent most of my time single and definitely living solo. And, for the most part, I prefer to live this way.

Why is it that so many people feel that heterosexual men and women who don’t fit the standard mold of being both partnered and parents must be unhappy and lonely? It’s a mystery to me, especially since I’m well aware that you can have a partner and feel quite alone anyway. I have many single friends who feel the same way and we have created an ‘urban family.’ My particular group formed because we all live in Manhattan and worked together at some point resulting in us having gotten to know each other over the years. My brother and a few other siblings were added into our group, which increased its size. We all come together for various events and holidays to support each other, celebrating the good and productive things in our lives.

I recently saw a piece in the news about a gene Chinese scientists believe they have discovered. It’s being called the ‘singleton gene’. Apparently, their research shows that those who have this gene are 20% more likely to be single than others. Hmm, well maybe I have this gene! If so, perhaps the fact that I enjoy not having the responsibility of a relationship is genetic. If genetics enter into it, people might accept that being alone is normal for some people – it seems that when people believe biology = destiny, they feel a lot more comfortable.

But let’s face it – there is something more powerful than genetics wreaking havoc with our very labile self-esteem. It’s a force more powerful than genetics that feels like it’s coming from within and which plays on our very human vulnerabilities – emotions.

The most obvious influence is entertainment – television and movies; forms of propaganda which were preceded by the centuries old European Fairy Tale. Though many fairy tales are dark, cautionary tales with unhappy endings, the cross-cultural transmission into 20th Century U.S. has us picking up on the theme of living “happily ever after” and running with it. Disney especially brought us those fairy tales, to name a few, “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid.” And Hollywood, in general, just doesn’t stop bringing us stories where the ultimate happy ending suggests a long-term/permanent, romantic partnership.

Additionally, the economic pressure to couple up from all sides is incredible: tax breaks and financial benefits, broad familial and social acceptance and respectability for married people, (including same-sex couples) bears down on us. Not to mention weddings are a $51 billion industry that employs nearly 800,000 people. And once you are married, the rest of the (spoken/un-spoken) social equation follows: married + owning a home + having children = finally being a grown-up.

Singleton gene or not, if you remove the fairy tale/happily-ever-after entertainment and economic ‘coupleton’ influences from our culture, how many more people would realize they are very happy single?

Every year I get together with old roommates and friends from college. Every one of them is married and most have children. They all got married soon after we graduated from college so they didn’t have much of a single life. Although they all seem happy, there has not been one time where I would have ever thought to switch places with any of them. I can’t imagine being married for over 25 years now, and I would not give up the many adventures I’ve had for the lives they’ve led. They like to hear my stories and what I’m doing.

I wonder if maybe some of them wouldn’t mind trading lives with me?

Beth Portolese is founder and publisher of FiftyIsTheNewFifty.com, the online magazine targeting people in “The Cocktail Hour of Life.”




1. Elaine - January 15, 2015

Wonderful post, Beth! I, too, am a never-married, childfree heterosexual 53 year old woman who is grateful and happy. It may not have been how I had originally planned my life to be, but I can honestly say that I have a very full and satisfying life.

I am currently finishing up work on my graduate degree in Communications this semester. My research is focused on what women over 50 (never-married, childfree, heterosexual) are saying and writing (on-line) about their lives and experiences. I am interested in hearing from women that fit this criteria to learn about their perceptions of their single life and what they believe are the positives and negatives. This group of women is becoming a fast-growing population in the U.S. so I believe it makes sense to learn what this means in terms of change-shifting cultural narratives.

I hope to hear from as many of you as possible. We need to have our VOICES heard and to continue to dispel the stereotypes and stigmas of being “never-married” and over fifty.

2. Chris - January 21, 2015

I’m happily single (now, anyway), 54. And male. Which isn’t possibly your target demographic, but to be honest, the stereotypes are there to be dispelled. I have plenty of friends – which I think is the most important thing – transferable skills which should let me pay the bills until I retire. I’d like at some point to look at over-50s men and what their experience is, because as far as I can tell they are more susceptible to loneliness, ill health etc – quite possibly because other men (not women) insist that being in a couple is obligatory and you’re not a proper man if you aren’t.

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4. Elaine - January 27, 2015

Hi Chris – sorry for the delay in responding to you. I thank you for your comments on never-married men over 50. I find them thought provoking. It’s interesting to hear the male perspective and I plan to use it in my thesis. I have learned these past few months that there are a lot more perspectives about this phenomena than I had originally thought. Thanks for opening my eyes a bit further. (and good luck to you if you should decide to do a study on the male perspective!)

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