In the Mailbag section of my site I answered a question from a woman who is worried about becoming financially dependent on her spouse if she doesn’t work.If you’ve been reading my writing for even a short amount of time, you already know what I told her:

All people who have children are dependent on their partner. Because being a single parent is a million times harder than being a team. No matter who is making the money.

And I will tell her to get married by 30. And I will tell her no one can hold onto a full-time career that is on an upward trajectory and also take care of kids. The only people on an upward trajectory after age 40 are people who are not primary caregivers.

Wendy commented that I always give the same advice.

It’s true. Because I’m right. But I’m sick of being right. It’s time to move on. I have never talked with a parent of fifteen-year-old kids who disagrees with any of my advice. It’s just you have to get there to see that the advice is right.

But now I’m thinking, what is the advice for the parents with a fifteen-year-old kid? I should write that stage of adult life. I don’t actually know what’s true. I’m just learning that now, with my own fifteen-year-old kid. But at least I’d learn something about myself while I wrote the post.

It seems that if I want to write for people who are too old to care that women cannot have it all, then I could just write about myself. I am that demographic, after all. But I can’t write anything about myself. My whole life is off limits right now.

I can’t write about the Farmer because I know you think my whole not-marriage has exploded, and I am picking up the pieces, but actually it has not completely exploded. It’s more like a minefield, and I’m in the process of organizing humanitarian demining methods for minimizing collateral damage.

You can imagine that Geneva convention guidelines do not include week-by-week commentary on a personal blog. So I can’t write anything about that. At least not now.

The New Yorker has an article about how people are moving into vans and taking pictures of themselves in great places and doing yoga on the roof of the the van, and being hot and tanned in some beachside parking lot doubling as a trailer park.

For me that’s a social media branding instruction kit. People want pictures where life is perfect so they can fantasize about tossing it all away and living in heaven.

Like this.

The problem is that this social media marketing scheme also falls into the category of fucked-up people who are not-yet-parents thinking they can win at some game that involves taking the best pictures of a life that is, aside from those pictures, totally vapid. It’s the purview of Gen Y. And I’m sick of it. And my new target audience of parents with fifteen year old kids is sick of it, too. (Though I can’t help thinking some of them might be hoping their kid could get in a van and take selfies to put themselves through college.)

You might be expecting me to write about cello. After all, most of my life has been consumed by cello lessons or rearranging the non-cello part of my life to accommodate cello lessons.

The last two posts that I wrote about Juilliard were a big hit. And by big hit, I mean  gazillions of people saw the posts, not that I made a ton of money. That’s not how a blog works.

How it works is that now I count as a media outlet that needs to adhere to Juilliard’s media guidelines. So those photos I took from inside the building are the last you’ll ever see on this site; it was against the rules.

And it turns out people are contacting my son’s teacher to say that not everyone has to give up what we gave up to get to Juilliard.

WTF? I would really like to dissect that. Does it mean that I’m just more stupid and incompetent than the other parents whose families gave up so little?

But we will not be dissecting that here. Because I’ll just make enemies at Juilliard and then it’ll be a minefield, and my son will be sick of wearing protective gear to go through a life of bombs planted to contain his mom, and then he’ll go off to Europe and take lessons with a teacher who speaks no English, and he’ll fall in love with the teacher’s daughter and they will move to an obscure city that is not obscure to European music snobs, and I will never see my son again without paying full price for plane tickets to see him perform.

So, okay, cello is out. I can’t write about that.

There’s always Melissa. She has always been my go-to topic when all else fails. She’ll put up with anything.

Well, she used to put up with anything. You can tell how serious Melissa is about a guy by how much I can write about him. And you will notice you have heard nothing from me. Right now Melissa is staying at his place every night while still paying for her obscenely expensive apartment in San Francisco in order to make herself feel like she hasn’t moved in with another guy before she had a ring.

That makes me feel better. Because something you know about when you have a fifteen-year-old kid is that you think you are going to change, you have big hopes for changing, blah blah blah. But no one changes.

So Melissa is in a holding pattern right now. She calls me and asks me when I’m going to do a podcast with her. She sends me articles like, Podcasts are the New Xanax. And I wonder, what is the new alcohol? Because I am already so sad that I can sleep any time I want. I am so shut down that I am almost just walking in my sleep.

I am a good drunk. I could be an alcoholic and then write about it. Which brings up the fundamental problem of blogging. This blog works best when I am telling you what I’m learning, while I’m learning it, because then it’s so raw that I don’t have the time or energy or wherewithal to cover it up.

But now I have to cover up everything. Or ignore it. Write around it. Like, maybe I’ll do a whole post on land mines. How to write your resume to get a job in a minefield. I bet I could rank pretty high for those search terms.

I shaved my legs today.

I remember when I was purposefully not shaving my legs, when I played professional beach volleyball and it was the off season. My vacation was a vacation from having to constantly be well groomed for photos. I told my aunt I was not shaving my legs and she said, “That is so stupid. You will look back on this time and remember how beautiful your legs were and regret that you didn’t shave them.”

Maybe she’s right. I’m not taking chances. I am already missing so much. I don’t want to miss any more.

123 replies
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  1. Jane
    Jane says:

    Many great and interesting thoughts from both Penelope and those commenting! I say apply the death bed test: when you are at the end of your life what do you think you will regret and of what will you be proud? I don’t know many people who think they will regret not spending more hours at work …

  2. Macon
    Macon says:

    It’s a serious problem in our society that primary caregivers must give up their future, financially or otherwise. My husband left three years ago and pretty much has left me close to penniless. He plans to throw our 22 year old daughter and me out on the street, next year.

    I feel like I had no idea of who my ex was. Somehow, he hid this really dark and greedy side of him. Makes me sick.

  3. inthetrunk
    inthetrunk says:

    Penelope, as I’m sure you know, podcasts on youtube can be monetized. You’re funny and interesting, and I think you and Melissa could pass up PewDiePie in no time flat.

    Enjoy your second son. Live for him, he’ll fly the coop sooner than you know. Until he’s launched, go back to Madison so he can interact with the Farmer.

  4. Rita Lee
    Rita Lee says:

    This comment is about a previous post. First, I love your blog. You help other people understand their own humanity. I abhor the judgemental negative comments people wrote when you hurt yourself with the lamp DUHHH.. The Farmer refused to care for his hands. You love him. So to show him how much it HURT YOU LIKE A WOUND to your own body, you showed him. I am certain it hurt him to see you hurt, but he was covering up his own pain. Love is painful sometimes. Life can really hurt. You wanted a man who takes care of himself, who is strong. He can learn to wear cream and gloves eventually. I wish the best for you. As a family, you are all so beautiful. I envy that your kids get to grow up with baby animals and nature and open space and natural food. I live in a rural area too and its not lonely at all because all we really have is ourselves and our best friend is our spouse. Country life is about a different kind of glamour its about open space, freedom and serenity that is destroyed by the modern world.

  5. Jeffrey Michael
    Jeffrey Michael says:

    Ummm…. Being a single mom is by choice. Half of single moms ran off the father, or simply couldn’t agree to disagree, or like my former wife, chooses to do whatever she wants – selfish. Let’s face it, men can not deal with nagging. Look up Dale Carnegie first edition of how to win friends and influence people… Don’t Nag. Then they wallow in self pity with the title of “Single Mom”. Statements like “Because being a single parent is a million times harder than being a team.” screams pity me… my life is soooo hard. Meanwhile, the other half of single mom’s tone down the self righteous attitude and work on their appearance and take care of themselves have a life, a partner, sex, romance and are no longer a single mom. Might be best to use your voice and experience and struggles to help women get off the pity me band wagon. Kids need healthy families, a mother and a father.

  6. Gaurav Malhotra
    Gaurav Malhotra says:

    Hi,
    what i feel is that a person has a phase in his or her life , in which they suffer a huge loss, and this is what we call the cycle of life. if i talk about myself, i lost my father when i was 5 years old, he was 41 when he died, even though this has no relation with this topic but the pain of lonelyness is a very bad experience.
    I can tell divorce is a pathetic experience and it as no time no age and no limits.

  7. Rich Berger
    Rich Berger says:

    Penelope-

    Snap out of it. You have the power and if you don’t think so, pray for strength.

    You will do it.

  8. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    You could write more for Gen X? We’re the ignored generation! My youngest is off to college, at age 18. The last ten years have been a blur. It’s like I’m starting over again, in my 20’s?, with suddenly so much free time and having to find my own interests again. You’ll get there. It takes forever, though. Never really done. Stay healthy.

  9. Rose
    Rose says:

    I think the “what does someone whose nest is getting ready or is already empty do?” is a good topic. There is a lot of life left and it’s going to take cash to navigate, so jump starting a career at mid-life is a good idea.

  10. pat sommer
    pat sommer says:

    How about posting case studies?
    Take someone (me) and apply PT liberally, report results.

    As a matter of fact, at 54 I have a 15yr old:
    “Because something you know about when you have a fifteen-year-old kid is that you think you are going to change, you have big hopes for changing, blah blah blah. But no one changes.”

    The never-change part of me includes jumping at opportunities so… you never know.

    Good luck getting thru Penelope!
    Wait for the dust to settle

  11. ember kardashian
    ember kardashian says:

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  12. pat sommer
    pat sommer says:

    So, I was driving thru New Mexico where Lg signs grab attention: in case of dust storm pull over, turn your lights on and wait for the dust to settle.

    It kept reminding me of you, Penelope. Wait for the dust to settle. Picturing you surviving 911 and everything else you have survived -even thrived.

    It is a story I want to read (or better yet watch). From the perspective of that world changing day, how you went from a terrible childhood to success but specifically the success of giving your boys a great childhood and a bright future.

    That is a story that needs to be told to a larger audience. I have friends who -though not such a terrible childhood- did not feel capable of raising kids without ‘messing them up’.

    So, you can leave out the minutia of current drama for the Big Picture. Bet you could knock out a NYT best seller in 6mo and then I will be seeing you on my fav late night shows…

    ?

  13. Deanna
    Deanna says:

    It’s a great idea, to write your thoughts, plans and feeling down to share, sometimes, it helps others get threw what their dealing with.

  14. Karmen
    Karmen says:

    A unique perspective is why people visit your blog, but at the heart of your advice is your own deep-seated entrenched beliefs about tradition. So anyone looking to break free or shake loose or change in any real substantial way will not benefit from your advice. It’s standard advice suitable for the masses shrouded in edginess to bring in an audience.

    What the world of career advice is missing is someone with the courage to be up front and honest and say, yes, get divorced, change careers, do something radically different with your life without regard for the consequences. It’s worth it to have people hate you. It’s worth it to make other people uncomfortable. It’s worth every bit of effort and hassle and pain to completely change your life around and abandon everything to start fresh. Disregard what people think you should be doing, and just do what electrifies you.

    That’s the kind of advice that saves people from depression and self-loathing and diminished fulfillment. That’s the kind of advice that saves lives.

  15. Terry
    Terry says:

    You are an excellent writer. I hope you find a project, away from this blog, which engages and excites you.

    I wouldn’t leave Switzerland.

  16. me
    me says:

    Dear P, I’ve been checking back here all day to see when (if) you posted something.

    Confess I’m disappointed: you always have something thoughtful (and comforting) to say on this, the saddest of all sad days. …

    Peace, sis.

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