In a few months I will be 50, which only bothers me when I think about it, which is just about all the time. The source of my malaise is that I am single and without offspring.
My angst becomes especially acute when I attend family functions that include my parents, my Aunt Judy and Judy’s nine grandchildren. At a bat-mitzvah I attended a few weeks ago, my parents kept saying, “Judy has nine grandchildren! Nine grandchildren!”
“Think about all the money she has to spend on Channukah and birthday gifts,” I said, attempting to make my lack of productivity seem like a virtue.
Fortunately my brother Spencer has given my parents two grandchildren: my 6-year-old nephew Myles, and my 2-year-old niece Bridget. They are adorable, and after I visit them I always feel as though I am missing something important by not having a family.
Most of my longtime friends have children, and they tell me that they enjoy being parents. Even worse, they all seem happily married. The least they could do for me is to act miserable.
Despite being a childless bachelor, I am far from lonely, as there is a thriving social network of 40- and 50-something single New Yorkers. During the summer I usually take a share in a beach house rental, and I have made a lot of friends while traversing the Jewish-singles circuit. Still, I worry about aging. With whom will I share life’s ups and downs? Who will care for me when I am unable to care for myself?
There is still time to find a mate. There might even be time for me to get married and divorced. But fatherhood seems like a young man’s game. I realized this the last time I saw my nephew Myles. After playing six consecutive rounds of hide and go seek, I asked Myles if it was time for his nap.
“I don’t nap anymore,” he said, as I promptly plopped down on a couch and nodded off.
I doubt that I could muster the energy to chase after a 6-year-old or to stay up all night with a crying baby. This makes me jealous of people who started families early and are done with the most exhausting part of parenthood by the time they reach my age.
I take some solace in knowing that many parents would love to trade places with me. This even included my father at one time, who told me that his 40th birthday brought on a midlife crisis (another example of 50 being the new 40).
“But you had a family and a good career by then,” I said.
“That’s what I was depressed about,” my father said. “All the responsibility made me feel like I had lost my freedom.” (Given that I was the perfect child, it must have been my brother who was responsible for my father’s blue period.)
So maybe I made the right lifestyle choice, after all. I certainly feel that way when I come home from work, drop my business suit on the floor, pour a glass of wine, turn on the ball game and think to myself: no rebellious teenager to deal with, no private school tuition to pay, no boring Disney movie to watch…no chains to hold me down.
Ben Krull is a lawyer and essayist who lives on the Upper East Side.
Trackback from your site.