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Single at Midlife: Choose Who You Are

Single at Midlife: Choose Who You AreIt’s been over 10 years since my divorce. I’m still single. Unmarried. And, while I’m having a delightful time living my life and discovering new things, I am aware that to be a single woman in our culture makes some people uncomfortable. Some of you may be in the same place. And maybe your experience is similar to mine? Most of the time I love being my own person, on my own, until that moment when I feel like there’s a spotlight over my head with a neon sign flashing SINGLE.

Not in a “come and meet me” kind of way, but one that evokes that tsk tsk, wonder what’s wrong with her response.

Society isn’t really comfortable with older single women–unless we’re at home in our rocking chairs. I’m not always comfortable with my single status either. It’s old, childhood stuff but I get uncomfortable if I feel like people are looking at me. And lately I feel like I’m being looked at more. I don’t immediately know how to react. I’m too modest to assume it’s the beauty of my aging skin and the gray hair. Ha ha….

We get to choose how we “show up” in the world.

These days I alternate between feeling like I’ve reached the “she’s now Old” place (as defined by others) and feeling as if I’m sending out positive energy that beckons people. And here’s the thing. We get to choose how we live our life and what attitude we want to take. We get to choose how we “show up” in the world. We can whine and fret over being single and stay home, or we can embrace our lives. Diving into adventures and flaunting convention by doing whatever you want. A friend calls it aging disgracefully.

Crone, Crazy Cat Lady, Successful Woman?

When I catch someone looking, I admit to feeling a little exposed. Why are they looking? What do they see? That’s really the question for me—what do they see when they look at me? Because I’m pretty sure that the external me and the internal me aren’t congruent. The self-doubt, the “not enough” often lead me to assume the gaze is a critical one. A common reaction for many women.

I make up that it’s all because I’m single—as if it’s somehow branded on my forehead. But that’s the mother voice in my head, again. I’m rational, enough to know that my relationship status is not apparent at first glance. But as so often happens, the stories we make up influence how we interpret the world around us.

What are they thinking when they look at me?

  • She’s too fat to be wearing those exercise clothes.
  • Sissy weights.
  • That Hello, I’m Fabulous t-shirt? I think not!
  • She’s too old to be showing cleavage.
  • How old is she?
  • I admire her tenacity (as I huff and puff to do 5 assisted pull-ups).
  • Is that what they call Resting Bitch Face?
  • She doesn’t look very approachable.

Yes, I have an active inner voice.

I think it’s hard to be a single older woman in our culture. And even harder when the assumption is that unpartnered women are somehow flawed. How do we deal with our status as:  _Married; _Single; _Divorced; _Widowed?   I don’t understand why we have to check those boxes. Who needs to know? Maybe my new rebellion will be to check more than one box. Some people might say I failed because I’m (still) single. The truth is, well, I don’t know what the truth is.

It is acceptable to embrace life in ways that don’t fit the traditional fairytale.

There are many single women out there, happily pursuing life and love, sex, and anything they want. The challenge lies in finding one’s own way. In making choices that suit our individual needs, as opposed to giving in to vague expectations about what women are supposed to do.

What life do you want to live?

Walker Thornton

We are delighted to have Walker Thornton as our Women’s Sexual Health columnist. After working for over 10 years in the field of sexual violence against women, Walker is now enjoying a new career as a freelance writer, public speaker, and sex educator with an emphasis on midlife women. Her blog, <a>WalkerThornton.com </a> was ranked #5 by Kinkly.com in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2014. You can connect with her on <a>Facebook </a> and <a href="http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton">Twitter</a> For questions about sexual health, write her at [email protected]

Kim Acedo

Thursday 29th of September 2016

Great post, Walker! By the way, thanks for taking the time last Saturday to talk with my Flourishing 50s community.

I'm not one of the people who would consider being single a "failure". I have clients who are single, and while some would love to find a mate and others are happy being single and are not looking, regardless, I see it as those who have divorced - many leaving their spouses of many years - quite brave, heck, REALLY brave! I feel like divorcing in midlife is tough in so many ways and the judgments from family and others can be really hurtful, BUT doing that for oneself is the ultimate display of self-love -- saying YES to you and a new life.

Walker Thornton

Thursday 29th of September 2016

Thanks Kim--Self-love and respect is really key to this--having the confidence that we've done what's in our best interest and understanding that being single is not a statement, necessarily, but just a "thing".

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