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During the course of my journalism career I’ve had occasion to interview a few fertility doctors and have known for a long time that there’s a disconnect between what is true about fertility and what we allow ourselves to believe. It doesn’t help that a number of media stories misconstrue the information. So, I’m always on the look out for the truth and ready to call BS on anything that leads women to believe they have a high percentage of success getting pregnant past the ages of 35 -40.

So, I was happy to see this recent NPR piece. It will be enlightening for those who still think that technology gives them more time.

Many Women Underestimate Fertility Clock’s Clang

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A new Australian study – of 50 women, mind you- has resulted in the headline claiming childless women are less healthy than women with children. The study did not distinguish between physical and mental health. The researchers are apparently now looking deeper into the reasons women are childless and to her credit, Dr. Melissa Graham,  the spokesperson for the study, conducted at Deakin University, had this to say about childlessness:

“Our previous research, along with that by others, with women who did not have children suggested that childlessness is perceived predominantly negatively and this may have consequences for the health of childless women.

“If childlessness was reframed as a natural and familiar way of being the apparent negative health consequences of being a childless woman may be addressed.

“Childlessness should be accepted as an appropriate outcome of adult life for women and motherhood should not be the only valued position.”

More information and context is needed. It’s not enough to lay down sparse facts resulting from miniscule studies. There is already so much non- and misunderstanding about childlessness in our culture, despite the fact that it is on the rise world-wide. Childless women go through a great deal of rationalizing, both internally and externally and it really is not fair. With all the everyday challenges life has to offer, this is a needless added one.

After all, there’s not only one way to live.

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Us “never-marrieds” are often at risk of being thought of as uncompromising or “picky,” but a recent Atlantic article explores one person’s thoughts on how she has finally (at 39) come to the conclusion that through not choosing to marry any of her boyfriends, she has actually chosen to be single. The article touches on how the recent recession has furthered the changing dynamic between the sexes and explores what life might be like in an all-female community.

But…

In her subsequent interviews on the article, she has tended to back off a bit from her stance and has admitted to ambivalence about being childless. Of course. There is always a shadow of protesting too much cast upon these types of public statements – lest a “modern spinster”/independent woman looks like she is actually choosing to be alone and lonely.

Loneliness is a byproduct of, well… life… but also single-dom, so I don’t know why there’s so much tabu around talking about it / admitting to it.

While I applaud people putting these topics up for discussion so we can, hopefully, get to a new understanding that (as I’ve said for years) there is not only one way to live, I do think that the author of this article might think a bit differently about her independent, childless life in years to come.

As well, I wish that the infertility industry would stop promising miracles. They are few and far between. Biology, after all, is biology and doesn’t change. Unless you have a good deal of money to burn, a fantastic physical and emotional constitution, and a direct link to the heaven’s above, no amount of technology can help a woman over 40 or esp. 45. That’s a fact.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on the article.

All the Single Ladies

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The other day I tripped on a busy city sidewalk and fell in plain public view. I can only hope my skirt didn’t fly up as I landed. At the time I was too busy trying to buffer myself from too much injury to notice. Now, anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m clumsy, so tripping and falling is not all that unusual; the one and only time I’ve ever broken anything – my foot – was during a fall from two harmless and not even steep concrete steps.

But, my recent tumble is different. It happened because I was trying to BE Kate Middleton.

Kate walks with confidence

One day after the Duke and Duchess left Canada, and following days of my obsessive royal watching, I tried to emulate Kate’s flawless, confident walk. Instead of the normal cautious stride of a serial klutz, head down, carefully watching my step for any potential risks, I breezed along, head high, looking forward. I wish I could tell you my heels were too high, or my shoes were too tight, but no – nothing. Just klutziness and, well, the sidewalk might have been uneven. Something the Duchess likely never has to worry about, what with all the planning and inspections and all the practicing and coaching that goes into being a royal on display to the fawning public and unforgiving media.

So, why had I taken up the mantra of “what would Kate do?”

Well, because there’s a little bit of Kate Middleton in all of us, isn’t there? Sure, she’s a Duchess now, married to a prince who will one day helm one of the most influential monarchies around. She’ll likely produce a child who will also one day inherit the throne. Her parents are now millionaire entrepreneurs, but at the time of her birth in 1982, they were airline employees. She’s what is known in British circles as a “commoner” – not so different from the women in the crowd that lined the royal wedding route with signs on their backs reading “it should have been me.” It well could have been.

Princess hopefuls

Kate’s 29, born in 1982. I’m 50, born in 1960. There’s no way I could ever be her at this point in my life, but watching her reminds me of the promise that life holds in your 20s, when anything is possible, everything achievable. Life before too much heartache; thwarted dreams, lost jobs, men, parents, friends; events that can affect even the way you stand, and walk in the world. I realized, watching Kate, that I’ve developed a hunch – part weariness, part self-protectiveness. It’s been awhile since I approached my life with the confidence I once exuded, with the poise my mother insisted I learn, with the spark constantly remarked upon and admired. And, I honestly never thought life could drag me so far down that it would show in my countenance. In fact, my mantra has always been, “just keep moving forward.” Yet somewhere along the way, I stopped doing it, no matter how often I give this advice to others.

Of course it didn’t immediately occur to me why the royals gripped me so strongly. But now I see that they look exactly like I used to feel. Happy, friendly, looking out, focused on the moment, ready for anything, generally game for life.

Prince William is compelling enough on his own – born and bred to one day be King, adored and protected by his mom, Diana, Princess of Wales, he was probably one of the most photographed babies ever. Who can forget his silent, heartbreaking walk behind his mom’s coffin after her tragic death? We felt invested in his growing up, his success at school and his struggle to learn to live within the stricture of his destiny. We watched and waited to see who William would choose for a partner. And though we saw all the tabloid “waity Katy” fluff, depicting her as a woman he trifled with and didn’t intend to marry, when they finally became engaged after eight years of dating, living together and one very public break up, everyone began to focus not just on what Kate wore, but on who she really is. Who is this steady, calming influence on our beloved Wills?

We caught glimpses of her on their wedding day – elegant and glowing, she looked to the entire world nothing but ready to become the Duchess of Cambridge, with all the attention – positive or negative, and service that is involved in being a member of the British royal family.

But, it wasn’t until she stepped onto Canadian soil for her first official Royal trip abroad with her husband that we saw her true nature. Leading up to the wedding I wrote a number of feature articles on the plans and preparations and I’ll admit it, I kind of fell in love with them. Now, since I’m a journalist I’m supposed to be naturally wary, or jaded or something that I can never quite pull off. So the thing is, they looked and seemed so down to earth, that I believe I was seeing one fairly normal human being, who just happened to be born Royal and bred to be King. And one natural beauty that just happened to appear in his sphere and become the object of his affection.

Some have said Kate Middleton quite strategically became Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. That she set her sights on William at St. Andrew’s university where they both studied, and manipulated her way into his heart, that her mother helped her come up with ways to ensure she’d one day marry that prince.

Tell me, though, what teenage girl doesn’t dream of marrying a prince, real or figuratively? And if you happen to live in England and are around the same age as him, sure you’d have his photo on your wall. “Harry Hunters” have had the “spare” prince squarely in their sights for years. These are girls, mostly from abroad, who enroll in British universities and then track down Prince Harry in clubs for a chance to meet him.

At 20, when Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married, the younger Prince Andrew attended an Ontario boy’s school in Lakefield, where my best friend lived. We weren’t aristocracy like Diana, but we felt sure we had a chance with him. We may not have had the breeding but we did have the poise, the manners and, most important, pureness of heart. The princess dream starts early and dies hard, or never.

Now, I’m not looking for a prince. One good man will do. And that’s something else about Kate and my sidewalk tumble. The dapper Prince is entirely protective of his bride. Never too far from her side, he often extends a reassuring hand to her back. Since royal protocol restricts too much, or any PDA, this is his way of letting her – and us avid watchers looking for signs of affection – know how he feels (I don’t want to even talk about the adoring and knowing looks that pass between them). They are obviously in a true partnership. They are clearly there for each other.

A true partnership

Since stumbling is par for the course for me, I’m usually pretty good at catching myself before I fall. This time however, I walked beside a male companion – someone I’ve spent a good deal of time with, whom I trust and care for. As I began to fall, I reached out for assistance, grabbing his arm with my hand as I went down. He let it go. He didn’t catch me; he said he thought I would catch myself.

Come to think of it, if there’s anything strategic about Kate Middleton’s behavior it’s that she was smart enough to leave a man who exhibited ambivalence about her. And he was clever enough to look inside his heart and out at his options, and see he had a good thing going and went back to get her.

So, what I learned from Kate Middleton is something I used to know. A little thing called confidence goes a long way to achieving the rewards you want, and deserve.

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Another lonely Christmas . I tell myself it really has to be the last, and that I have to change my life just enough to end this isolation that I feel. The feeling that my experiences in the world are too outside the norm to express. The feeling that I cannot relate or truly connect with anyone. The worry that I will never have intimacy in my life, any, or enough.

I have never known how to perform my personal life. Only work. So, how can I possibly know how to change it?

The latter part of this year I began to try to express my loneliness to the people in my life and the experience has only made me feel more isolated and… alone. It’s really hard to understand why this is. Is it because people don’t want to feel responsible for my loneliness? They are not. But I do think they could do a little more to help me feel less alone.

What would that look like?

Allowing me to speak the truth about loneliness and my inability to shake it.  Understanding – and being unafraid to understand – what life looks like without children, without a partner, without parents, without a connected family. In short, not shunning the things that many  people fear most.

It’s difficult to even write this down – so much of lonely defies words. I’m certainly aware this is not my most eloquent post. I’m not the type who thrives on feeling tortured.

Loneliness is more common than anyone wants to think about. I’m tired of pretending it doesn’t have a firm hold on me.

But what I’ve learned is, asking for help doesn’t always work. Strange.

I had three occasions this Christmas where I sat and watched other people open gifts. Sure, there was a token gift for me at all three parties – so I wouldn’t feel left out. The gesture is noted and appreciated, however, it’s still hard to watch other people share their intimate moments knowing you do not have a one and only (mother, child, lover). Each experience left me more numb than before hand.

In case you ever wondered, this is why it’s preferable to be alone at Christmas.

People mean well, they do. My friends and family love me, I know this. But I would feel  much more connected and loved if I could just talk to one of them openly and honestly about how it really is with me.

You can’t really DO anything for me, except let me know you understand that this is how it is for now in my life.

And that would mean everything.

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I blame the lovely Rose Quartz earrings my cousin gave me for my birthday – the ones that supposedly attract love. Of course, that was her objective for me, though I had my doubts. But, every time I wear them something happens with men.

No kidding!

The other day, headed for the streetcar, a man started to talking to me as we both crossed the street. “Beautiful day,” he said. “Yes, it is,” I politely replied, and planned to leave it at that. Clearly, he didn’t. He promptly told me that, being from Brazil, he tended to be very friendly and “lovey,” I think he said! And to prove that he took my hand and, bringing it to his face, caressed it with his cheek.

Hmmm….

Now, it’s obligatory for me to ask myself; if this man were tall, cute and a bit younger, would I have minded this type of aggressive, yet somehow charming, attention? But, he was at least a half a foot shorter than me and clearly not my type. (I hear a chorus of “you’re being too picky,” but bear with me here).

Somehow this man figured I was interested, likely by virtue of my not being affronted by the hand-to-cheek  gesture, and he followed me onto the streetcar. I sat in a single seat, he sat behind me, then asked me to move to a two-seater with him. I declined. He told me then that he was divorced, had two children, and by the way loves blonds and could I guess how old he is. When I couldn’t (or didn’t want to venture a) guess, he told me he was late 40s. I didn’t say a word. Then he wanted to know where I was going, what I did for a living and if I had a card I could give him so he could call me. Again, I politely, but vaguely answered all questions and told him I didn’t have a card on me. That didn’t stop him from giving me his card, urging me to call him for a drink. This was as he got up to leave. He then bent over me and kissed me on both cheeks.

I guess this is how they do it in Brazil.

So, what’s wrong with this, as one of my male friends was quick to ask? Nothing really. It’s been awhile since anyone has tried to pick me up on the street. He was harmless, it was flattering. I’m Italian, so the touchy-feely isn’t so jarring. I do know a number of women who would have given him an earful, or at least walked away before he got too far. I wasn’t offended, or annoyed, I thought he was a nice, probably kinda lonely man.  And I know a thing or two about loneliness.

I’m beginning to think I should be a little more choosy about when and where I don these powerful earrings. I do like that the Rose Quartz seems to be working as a cupid, but perhaps it might change direction a little with its target!

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In case you’re wondering, this is how the Modern Spinster spends alot of weekends… baking.

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