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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No lust here – Book Review: The Way of All Flesh

This book is a classic, and I have always avoided reading it because somehow the title made me feel it would be prurient–like one of the romance novels you see in the grocery store checkout lines. Boy, was I wrong.

A New York Times reviewer called The Way of All Flesh “a time bomb of literature. It lay hidden in Samuel Butler’s desk for 30 years. When it was published after he died, it blew up the Victorian family and with it the whole great edifice of the Victorian novel. George Bernard Shaw, the free thinking iconoclast, called him the greatest English writer of the latter half of the nineteenth century.”

I loved the author’s observations on human nature. Butler wrote this with beautiful Charles-Dickens-type-English word choices and complex but elegant sentence structure. But it’s the incisive observations about people that make you want to turn down the corners of so many pages so you can remember the brilliant insight in this sentence or that paragraph. He thinks much more like a modern person than someone who lived in the Victorian era.

Living in a very small condo in Chicago means I have limited room for “stuff” including books. But this is one book I will buy and keep on my shelf. I look forward to letting it give me pleasure many times in the future.

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