Reflections on single retirement and meeting friends

Flowers for your single friends – or you!

It’s coming up again: Single Working Women’s Day (August 4) and Single Working Women’s Week (7/30 – 8/5/17). It’s the time of year when we get to buy flowers or gifts or do little favors for the single women we know and appreciate – including ourselves, of course. Thank you to Working Woman Report and to TimeandDate.com for talking up the holiday recently.

Is singleness different when you’re retired? If you’re retired and live alone, whether you’re widowed, divorced or never married, you face unique challenges, yes. But for many of us, being able to choose our activities and allocate our time just as we like can make up for a lot of inconveniences.

Say, for example, you decide to spend an entire day reading – or two days or whatever your heart desires. You don’t have to make excuses or apologies to anyone about it.  What’s it worth to you not to have to worry about offending someone by passing gas or burping? To eat when you feel like it and eat whatever you want without having to explain yourself? To experiment with super-healthy recipes that no one else has any interest in? (If that idea clicks for you, check out this cookbook, Sneaky Blends, that shows you how to up the nutrition in lots of different recipes.)

The most important thing is having at least a couple of sympatico friends who like to go out and do things together once in a while. We humans are social animals, and a workplace always provided an automatic social setting. When we’re retired, we don’t have that setting, but we also don’t lose the wish to socialize. Even for those of us who are semi-loners, occasional companionship colors the world a little brighter. Having someone with whom you can share what your day was like can soothe the spirit.

In some cities, like Cleveland, Ohio, for example, many natives grow up with a ready-made social set – people who went to grade school and high school together tend to stick together throughout their lives. Although I lived there more than 30 years, only one native/local woman ever made even a small attempt to be friends, and she admitted I was the only “outsider” she’d ever socialized with. The rest of the folks I met and/or hung out with were all transplants like myself. Here’s an interesting chat forum on the subject of the “them” vs. “us” mentality in many cities and towns.

How do we meet new friends when we’re getting up there? Well, there’s always Meetup.com. In Chicago and in many cities across the country there’s a “school” for people over 55 called Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This is a peer-led organization that gets lots of retired (and semi-retired or still working) people – most are 70-ish – coming together in study groups to tackle subjects of mutual interest. The one in downtown Chicago – and in Evanston, too – is housed on Northwestern University’s campus, so there’s not a ton of diversity among the members, but it’s still possible to meet people with the potential to become friends or at least going-out buds.

So consider treating your single women friends somehow during Single Working Women’s Week. It’s a great time to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a single working – or retired – woman.

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Abortion vis-a-vis single motherhood

Interesting interview in the Cornell Sun with a pro-life advocate. Says abortion has become the easy choice for young women who get pregnant–and that abortion betrays feminism.

The woman makes a really important point–women are not adequately supported by our society. Single mothers in particular must generally learn to leap tall buildings just to survive with their child(ren). Saying all single women who get pregnant should become mothers is kind of like saying abstinence-only is a good way to prevent teens from having sex. It’s plain not happening.

Our society not only pays women less but also disapproves of single mothers and denies them access to benefits that most married couples take for granted. Asking a woman to give birth to her accidentally conceived baby no matter what the circumstances is forcing her to start life with her baby with two strikes against them. It’s not surprising that abortion is often the choice. And as the African American pro-lifer–who herself had an abortion when she was young “so my child wouldn’t become a statistic”–rightly points out, nothing stays with a woman like an abortion. So let’s not pretend that it’s an “easy” choice.

Being a single woman today means you’re part of the 51% majority of women in America who are. With numbers like that, it’s time for our society to start finding a new attitude.

Raising our consciousness

Many of us aren’t aware of the subtle and insidious ways that society disapproves of us for being single. A listener shared her reaction to the SWWAN Dive interview with Dr. Karen Gail Lewis the other day. We appreciate this passionate comment from her:

“As your interview with Dr. Lewis unfolded, I kept thinking ‘right on! right on! right on!”

“I sent the interview link to several coworkers – all professional women – who are recently or soon-to-be divorced and seem to be questioning why they feel so good about not having men in their lives. Dr. Lewis had the answer to that! I also sent the link to two friends who get depressed because they haven’t found mates, and to a career coach who had related to me that “research shows women generally have a tougher time in retirement than men” so they could hear Dr. Lewis’ challenges to biased research, ages-old cultural stereotypes and fears about single women.

“Her wise statement about being choosy in dating and getting involved with a man is key. Let’s drop the denial – there are many substandard men out there, men who are indifferent to women’s needs, their dreams and passions. These men STILL think women’s lives must revolve around them. No matter what planet they come from, I don’t believe it’s our JOB as women to teach these men how to relate. It was gratifying to hear my point of view validated! Here we are forty years into “liberation” and women keep selling themselves short – stop the insanity! As Dr. Lewis said, knowing who’s appropriate to let into one’s life, not just settling for anybody is key. That’s wisdom that should be spread far and wide!

“Thanks Barbara and Dr. Lewis for the great consciousness raising session and the resources you mentioned!” ~ S.W.

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