Looking for Valentinaville….

So far, my number one, all-time most popular blog post on Transition Times has been my 2012 Valentine’s Day post, “There’s More to Love than Cupid and His Arrows,” which was read by nearly 30,000 people worldwide in the past year.

In that post, I reflected on how the Valentine’s Day celebration of love could and should extend to more than just romantic love—we should celebrate family love, I said, the kind of love that runs “like molten gold at the core of a happy family like mine.”

A year later, and still without a romantic attachment this Valentine’s Day, I feel no different—but my thoughts on this issue are more defined.

marilyn-monroe-diamonds-gentlemen-prefer-blondes-blonde-movieIn American culture, and I am sure in many other cultures around the world, it is viewed as a shortcoming to be without a romantic partner.

To be alone, without a significant other on Valentine’s Day, is a source of shame.

Well to hell with that, especially for mature women!

I see so many women my age, midlife or older, without partners.

Is this just an American phenomenon?  I wish my non-American friends would chime in and let me know.

Here in the States, the divorce rate is astronomical, and we seem to have a surfeit of single women—either the 30- to 40-something put-career-first-and-never-married cohort, or the 40- to 50-something just-couldn’t-take-it-anymore divorced group.

And then at the upper edge of the age scale, there are the 70-something widows, too.

For men in all of these age groups, there are plenty of women to choose from.

After all, it’s not unusual for a man of 60 to take up with a woman 20 years his junior.

But when was the last time you heard of a woman of 60 partnering with a 40-year-old man?

For heterosexual women, the field narrows considerably as we age.

And the risks grow.  Why would I, as a 50-year-old, really want to take up with a man twenty years my senior?

If I were to enter the dating market now, I’d be lucky to find a guy my age to partner with.  Most guys my age are looking for younger women, and they don’t seem to have any trouble finding a match.

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, I’d like to affirm the fact that women don’t need romantic love to be happy.

I’d like to suggest that women be more appreciative of the love and support we get from each other, and from all kinds of non-romantic attachments.

In the old days, women who sought to avoid marriage ensconced themselves in nunneries, and had a pretty good life there (check out the life of Sor Juana for an example).

I am wondering if today we need a modern form of the nunnery, a place where women of a certain age could go to live full, empowered, mutually supportive lives free from the pressure of romantic attachments.

Maybe we should found such an institution, and call it Valentinaville.  Just for us.

Why waste away in Margaritaville when we can be happy in Valentinaville?

Cupid, go home!

It’s fascinating to me that the Transition Times blog post that has gotten the most attention, by far, is “There’s more to love than Cupid and his arrows,” my Valentine’s Day 2012 post, which has been read hundreds of times since February 14.

Of course, people are always interested in love and romance.  And this is a positive, peaceful essay about being very thankful for the love I have in my life through my parents and children, to the point where I’m not missing romantic engagement.

Truly, I’m not.

There has been a spate of articles lately about so-called “singletons,” men and women who choose to remain happily single.

Some of the articles fret that such people may have troubles as they age, since they have no companions to help care for them.  A recent New York Times Room for Debate series, “Being Alone Together,” explored both sides of the issue, with many of the writers arguing that solitude has significant benefits.

I am not living alone; I am living with my two teenage sons at the moment.  I have to say that I do enjoy the rare times when I have the house to myself, and have no one but myself to please.

When I was in my early twenties, before I married, I lived on my own in Greenwich Village while I studied as a graduate student at NYU.  Although I had never felt confined or fettered while I lived with my parents, the freedom of living alone was fantastic, as was the convenience of living so close to the NYU campus and the stimulation of the Village.

But nevertheless, during those years I felt a tremendous pressure to marry, to have children—to paraphrase Mrs. Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

Did it come straight from my ovaries?

It wasn’t like my parents were pushing me at all. But I felt a kind of insecurity about being single, like I was lacking or missing something. I was incomplete.

In those days, the 1980s, there was a lot of talk about how if you didn’t find a mate in your twenties or early thirties, you’d be over the hill and never find one.  Believe it or not!  Stories of unhappy women in their forties abounded—women who had never been married, and were totally, miserably fixated on finding the ever-elusive Mr. Right.

Although I was living alone and perfectly content with my life, I still felt like it was temporary, and I’d better be constantly on the look-out for the man who would come along to complete me and open the door to my real adult life, which could only begin with those wedding vows.

Now, on the other side of two decades of marriage and a divorce, I am once again single and enjoying the freedom, this time without that little Cupidlike imp sitting on my shoulder warning me that I’d better focus on love and get myself hitched.

I have young friends getting married now and of course I wish them much happiness and fervently hope that they will be better marriage partners than my ex and I were for each other.

But I have to say, from my current vantage point it seems rather miraculous that one’s chosen mate at age 25 could still be the perfect partner at age 50.  What an amazing feat to grow together so harmoniously that you still complement and satisfy each other after so many years of married life.

I know it happens; I have witnessed it for myself with others.

I just suspect it’s the exception, not the norm.

I have no illusions about finding—or being–such an exceptional partner in the next chapter of my life.

And you know what?  That’s just fine.

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