During a visit today to my wonderful dentist (the fact that I, a lifelong dentistry fearer, can describe him that way is testament enough; if only we could clone him, so every town would get its own Dr. Teeth), we discussed the area we inhabit. Has it grown over the past twenty years? You bet. Is it likeable? Sure. Is it someplace we feel good in?
There, we diverged.
This town (hum along with Sinatra) is not-too-large, not-too-small, just under 50,000 residents (in town proper, that is – the surrounding areas bring it up past 100K). It’s lovely, with rolling hills and plenty of trees. It holds two hospitals and a university. The area’s got good schools and an unusually vibrant downtown whose energy derives in part from a walking mall à la European cities such as Copenhagen.
Yet, Dr. Teeth and I concluded, whether you feel that this is a good place to be depends on your circumstances.
For children, it’s great. There are lots of kid-friendly things to do and places to see. By high school, they get a little tired of same old, but I’ve met Los Angeles kids who feel similarly. It’s all about getting out of your neighborhood and discovering.
If you’re in college or grad school, you have that academic structure in which to meet people, do community service, study, or simply hang out. Ditto if you teach college.
Married couples with children find this area wonderful – they meet a great many like them, and friendships are begun through children and shared schedules (school, soccer, dance lessons) as often as through the workplace.
Retirees here have a plethora of events scheduled for them. This area has made a concerted effort to attract wealthy retired people for the past fifteen years. It’s paid off big. The university and hospitals are draws for retirees who often sell their large homes in the Northeast or Midwest and buy smaller ones, or condos, here. They find it a welcoming spot with southern charm.
So who doesn’t feel at home here?
I’ll tell you: single people over the age of forty. How do I know? I’m one of them.
It didn’t matter as much when my children were young, because I was busy busy busy. As the single mum of three, every day was a Roseanne Roseannadanna moment: there was “always something”. This was particularly true in September, when back-to-school night grew plural, but even with fantastic children (no brag, just fact) things, you know, happened.
But lately, as in during the past five years, I’ve noticed how little there is for singles past forty, unless you’ve got scads of money, in which case why not move someplace warmer?
Singles groups? Few, generally church-related, and focused on people around or about age thirty. Match.com? Sure, but how many weird first-date stories do you really want to collect? Helpful acquaintances who will introduce you to singles of the other sex? You’re joking, right?
It’s not just here, though, and it’s not just me. I’ve read the same comments from both women and men in Canada, the UK, Australia. It’s tough out there for singles over forty. We haven’t yet found our “home”, the place that’s our place, where we feel welcome instead of fifth wheel. That dearth leads to a sense of foreignness, of being alien.
Any relief has to be in loosening the grip. I know – and I bet you do, too – a bunch of married couples who are each or both unhappy. Yet they stay together (without going to counseling) out of fear, habit, and a reluctance to lose status. I don’t envy that common sort of partnership, and have no desire to imitate it just to marry. I’m looking for something far deeper and richer, with someone who values the same thing.
Essentially, I’m looking for a fellow alien, to search together for our proper home.
When we find it, you can bet we’ll pick up that phone.