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March 11, 2015

Single Gen X Women: Lost Generation or Bridge Generation?

Lately I find myself thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman in 2015.  It’s not just because it’s Women’s History Month again, or because I’m going through The Change.  It’s not just because of experiences like I had last week where, as I wrote to one friend:

It’s moments like these when I’m in a suit and shiny blouse typing away on my laptop on the Internet … while hurtling through the air… (alone and unaccompanied….!!)…looking down at all the city lights below I think….. DAMN I’M RICH! …. and HOLY SH** CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE HOW THIS WHOLE SCENARIO WOULD BLOW SOME 19TH CENTURY PIONEER WOMAN’S MIND!!???

I never cease to be amazed by how far we’ve come, and by how many aspects of my life as a woman that were unbelievably radical notions just a few decades ago (living alone, owning a home, running a business) are becoming common and normal.  Even childfree women like me are increasingly legitimized, even marketed to.

It’s inspiring and humbling.

But there’s one feature of my life that not only doesn’t inspire me, it makes me sad, frustrated and confused: the difficulty finding a fantastic man to share my life with.  I’m not alone – many of my closest friends and business associates are also single, not necessarily by choice.  I’m even seeing more dating services designed specifically for “six figure women” who are attractive, successful and independent – yet struggling to find a quality mate.

What’s going on? 

In March 2014 I wrote that one of the last bastions of sexism we have yet to master/mistress as women is “being in juicy, fulfilling, joyful love relationships with men who are our equals”.  I asked “What internalized oppression and deep beliefs of inferiority or scarcity have we inherited from our mothers that we tolerate less than mediocrity in this one area of life?”

An answer: more and more of us are less likely to tolerate such mediocrity – because we no longer have to.  A year ago I touted my then-relationship as an example of a juicy, fulfilling, joyful relationship with an equal, but the following months proved me wrong.  I wanted better than mediocre in a couple areas important to me and said so, and he couldn’t go there.  So it ended.

I think the difficulty many fabulous women have in finding a suitable long-term mate is a good thing, because it demonstrates positive change.  Healthy, happy partnerships (by today’s standards) have always been the minority.  Perhaps too there has always been a scarcity of truly high quality people – men and women alike.  What’s different now is that women no longer have to be in – or stay in – a relationship with a man that doesn’t work for us.  Middle class USian women are no longer dependent on men for economic stability, a last name, an acceptable social standing, to legitimize our children, or to even raise children at all.

There is a downside.  Because it’s easier to leave, many of us leave too soon or too often.  True intimacy and commitment take time, stamina and courage.  Divorce and breakups are painful and devastating to the former partners, their extended communities, and any children.  But I would argue that devastation is no less than that suffered by those of us who grew up in households run by angry, depressed, addicted or emotionally stunted parents in toxic or deeply mismatched relationships that insisted on staying together.

The upside to (cause of?) a dearth of adequate partner prospects is today women can afford to be more choosy.  We’ve raised the bar.  We don’t just need a partner who is responsible, kind, generous and honorable (although I do find many modern women eschew some of these essential basic traits in favor of trivialities like specific physical appearance, income level or interests!).  We need a partner who supports us emotionally, listens, expands our world, protects and champions us, makes us better people and is our best friend.  This is a tall order for most men, because the “us” that now needs and wants these things is more evolved than women of previous eras.  It’s difficult and confusing for men, because the rules and the world changed around them.  Relationships are no longer basic economic transactions of resources for monogamous sex and heirs.  Too many good men out there are lost, unsure of how to manifest their beautiful masculinity, resorting to one side of the duality of sweet doormat or macho asshole.

Women are looking for our equals and they’re not to be found – yet.  Perhaps we Generation X women are a lost generation.  The triumphs of our great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers in the 20s, 40s and 60s reverberate throughout our lives today.  And yet it might take one or two more generations for men to catch up.  It might take more initiatives like The Good Men Project.  Maybe we Gen X women are meant to explore being single and living alone in service of women’s evolution.  I hope not, but perhaps.  As they say in México mejor sola que mal acompañada – better to be alone than poorly accompanied (by a man).

Meanwhile, as Liz Gilbert points out with her usual grace and frankness, women need to lighten up on ourselves, especially since we’re forging a totally new path:

We don’t have centuries of educated, autonomous female role models to imitate here (there were no women quite like us until very recently), so nobody has given us a map. As a result, we each race forth blindly into this new maze of limitless options.  And the risks are steep.

So are the rewards.  I’m happy being a single childfree woman in my 40s.  I’m happier this way than when I’m in an unsatisfying relationship, and I feel strong and calm in this knowing.  I refuse to adopt well-intended advice that I be “less _____” to avoid scaring potential suitors.  I just don’t have the energy nor the desire to self manage that much, and a man who’s scared by the full, authentic me isn’t for me.  I can imagine the joy, challenge and deep fulfillment of being in relationship with a beloved who is my equal in all ways that matter.  I’m deeply excited about those possibilities and about the fact that, if necessary, I can live just fine without him.

I hold a space for possibilities for women past, present and future.  I hold a space for joy, success and fulfillment in all areas of our lives.  Perhaps we Gen X women aren’t a lost generation, but a bridge generation – to something we’ve never experienced before and may never see ourselves.  And yet how exhilarating to be a part of something so grand and noble – so much larger than ourselves, and larger than this one point in time.

 

13 Comments on “Single Gen X Women: Lost Generation or Bridge Generation?

Kim A.
March 13, 2015 at 9:15 pm

This is fantastic and addresses so much. I will chew on your words for awhile. Spending so many years erasing myself, at least somewhat, in relationships has left me feeling free, light, and juicy all by myself! My self-preservation skills rule: I’m better able to catch myself quickly when I start down the wrong path with the wrong person. And lately, I’ve been pondering what this lady has to say about our relationships in the U.S. (thanks to Es Bee for the FWD.): http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1

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Susana Rinderle
March 13, 2015 at 9:18 pm

I listened to the clip, thank you Kim! I think Esther Perel is right on. Reminds me of Ryan & Jetha’s book Sex at Dawn. I agree that we put WAY too many demands on partnership and our partners that aren’t only unrealistic but unhealthy. And at the same time I can’t fight the feeling that humans are evolving to show up in, and “use” relationships for spiritual evolution in ways that might be new. I’m trying to find a balance between unrealistic expectations and settling for something that I neither need nor is feeding me. I love Perel’s closing line that maybe the tension between desire/adventure and love/security isn’t a problem we solve, but a paradox we manage!

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Jean
March 15, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Susana, great blog post! I found myself cheering for all women and feeling amazed at how far we’ve come. Feeling so grateful for all the women that marched before me (especially my Mom) laying the pavement for my journey. I had never thought of myself as part of a bridge until recently. In the past I’ve mostly felt lost, different or less than. It’s exhausting trying to defend your choices when most people want to think that you can’t possibly be happy without a relationship, you are too picky or a complicated mess that no man can deal with.

I’m happy, I enjoy my life and there is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m using “mejor sola que mal acompañada” as my new mantra. I’m still on the lookout for a man that enriches my life experiences, but I also know I will have a full and complete life on my own. So, like many other women I’m holding out for a quality man and join hands with you to hold a space of possibilities!!

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Susana Rinderle
March 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

Wow thanks Jean! I’m inspired that the post found you cheering, and I can totally relate to feeling exhausted trying to defend/explain our choices constantly. Being different isn’t easy, yet it helps to know we’re not alone, neither across the span or history nor right now. Good for you and your happiness and authenticity and I like your new mantra! 🙂 I’m holding your hands sister!!

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Heidi H.
March 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Love what you wrote, Susana, and I believe that we ARE ‘the bridge’ to a new model of relationship. Since the old model has been around for 1000s of years it may take more than 1 generation to change this, especially since religion still holds to the old model.

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Susana Rinderle
March 17, 2015 at 3:05 pm

YES Heidi I really appreciate that perspective. I hold that space with you — AND juicy joyous interactions with high quality men! 🙂

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Emilah D.
March 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Great blog, Susana. I feel fortunate to be in a healthy partnership with Jacob and to have had many of the experiences you describe before I met him. These new partnerships do take a different level of skill and commitment, learning to be an individual and a couple within the same relationship. It’s a paradox, worth living as we lay the groundwork for a new kind of partnership that as Liz Gilbert suggests, has never really existed before.

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[…] out this piece from Susana Rinderle, Single Gen X Women: Lost Generation or Bridge Generation? Here’s an […]

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Susana Rinderle
June 8, 2015 at 10:40 am

Thanks for the mention Jennifer!

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Ananymous
July 7, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Susana, a couple factors in my opinion that have contributed to your challenge. The male you describe is no longer portrayed or heralded in today’s culture and media. Those days are gone. Thus, not as many role models for boys and men to emulate. Deterioration of the family structure, especially in ethnic minority groups. Preliminary data indicate that 40.7 percent of all 2012 births were out-of-wedlock, which is appalling, and there are vast differences among racial and ethnic groups. Among non-Hispanic blacks, the figure is highest, at 72.2 percent; for American Indians/Alaska Natives, it’s 66.9 percent; 53.5 percent for Hispanics; 29.4 percent for non-Hispanic whites; and a mere 17.1 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. These statistics will continue to compound themselves and become worse. Women obviously contribute to the out-of-wedlock statistics because they are a willing partner in the act. Who’s example are they following? Their twice divorced mom that’s had 3 boyfriends in 2 years?
A lot of men invest too much of their time and entertainment driven by sports, betting, clubbing, rap, instant gratification, porn, etc.
So yes, the odds of finding the preferred mate has become a lot more challenging for women. Consider professional match making services to leverage your time and increase the probability of a positive outcome much sooner. You don’t have the time and effort for the number of people you need to meet. My estimate is it will take meeting 50 men to find a couple that fits most of your criteria. Move. You are quite limited in the region you live. So that is a trade off with the cost of living in those two regions. The LA region will give you a higher probability outcome but there are downsides with that as you know (traffic, cost of living, etc.) And finally, the world is becoming more ungodly each month and year as our culture becomes more secular. Consider attending mass where people pray, have focus on spirituality, helping others, are mostly positive people, etc. And some of them are men. Keep the faith. Good luck, Anonymous.

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Susana Rinderle
July 8, 2015 at 11:23 am

Hi there Anonymous! Thanks for reading, and for sharing your ideas. I hadn’t thought about the media not celebrating the kind of man you describe, I will ponder that! I do disagree about the deterioration of the family being a contributing factor. I haven’t found any correlation — in my own experience or research — between the quality of man I’m looking for and what kind of family they were raised in. Many of the jerks I’ve met were raised in homes with two parents (man and woman) and many of the most wonderful people I’ve met were raised in appalling families — with two parents. I also worked for years in nonprofits supporting families headed by single women and in most cases those women and children were much better off without the dad in their lives. I find it’s not so much the makeup of the family, or even whether the parents are one man and one woman, but the quality of the love, respect, and communication in that family. I personally think the low marriage rate and increasing out-of-wedlock birth rates are not hugely concerning and are a sign that we women no longer have to tolerate abusive or irresponsible partners to survive socially or economically. The biggest struggle seems to be the poverty single mothers face and not their single status, due to lower pay for women (due to a variety of factors). Also, to be honest, many of the most respectful men and healthy families I’ve met have been largely families of color, including recent immigrants from Mexico.

I don’t necessarily think there are less good men now because of the deterioration of the family or society, I think good men (and people) are hard to come by in general and probably always have been. Vices, distractions, and bad behaviors have always been there. What’s different is we women no longer have to put up with it or settle. Yay! I think you’re probably right about New Mexico — although I’m from California and didn’t find that much better — and trust me, I and my friends have used many dating services online and off, and your ration of 50:2 is right on or even low! Finally, thank you for your invitation to attend church. I’m not religious or Christian so that’s not a fit for me, but I do appreciate the reminder that there are good, spiritual, positive people everywhere and I will find them if I continue to be the same. Thanks again for reading and blessings to you!

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Ananymous
October 26, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Susana, a follow up to your reply. The breakdown of the family is the major driver for many challenges in society, especially for minorities. The data proves that. It takes a stable household and in most cases, two incomes to make it in today’s world. If a woman makes a bad choice with a relationship and end up with one more children to raise and work she’s got a massive problem, in most cases. Women have to make better choices with selecting their mate. It is a compounding problem. The probability of an out-of-wedlock child also having an out-of-wedlock child is growing. What women should not tolerate is temptation to get themselves bad relationships for what ever the reason. More men are less mature, watch sports, get tatoos, drink, consume drugs, and have way too much focus on ‘fun’. This is a technology driven economy and it is very easy to be left behind without focus on education and following a straight and narrow path. The all powerful media and music culture is the major driver for reckless life styles. The biggest struggle for women it so not allow themselves to get put in a position of ending up in poverty with only a high school education or a perhaps a little more. Vices, distractions, and bad behaviors have never been more rampant. Look at the filth coming our of Hollywood and porn on the internet with the endless degrading of women in those forms of distribution. I don’t read your commentary about how bad that is for women and these are HUGE drivers in societal mores and behaviors. The culture is becoming more like Sodom and Gomorrah each year. In closing, if you do not attend church, consider prayer. It’s easy. Start with being thankful for the blessings in your life. Pray a few minutes each day for a month and I bet you’ll notice a positive outcome. Blessings, Ananymous.

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Susana Rinderle
October 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

Hi! I certainly agree that women – and society at large — would be well served if more women were better at choosing good mates. But the process of doing so isn’t as simple as you make it seem, and the problems in society are driven by multiple factors as I’ve already mentioned. It’s not just a problem of character and individual choice. It’s also economics, access to useful education and meaningful work at a fair wage equal to men, and access to healthcare including birth control and abortion. As for prayer and church, well I already answered that. 🙂 Best to you!

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