One of the best things about being childfree, boyfriendfree, and petfree is that I get to live alone. Reading what women who are partnered with men go through — even during regular times, let alone during this hellscape— honestly makes me wonder why they’re in their relationships at all.
A 2019 article in The Globe and Mail talks about older couples not wanting to live together. Knowing what we do about how carries the burden of care in the home, it’s unsurprising that the couples featured in The New Reality of Dating over 65: Men Want to Live Together; Women Don’t, well, have men who want to live together and women who don’t.
Women around my mom’s age, especially women like her who grew up in Ghana, didn’t really see not getting married and having children as an option. It makes perfect sense to me that women who already raised and took care of a family (including a husband), many of whom also worked outside the home, want no part of it now in their golden years.
Antonio D’Alfonso, a Toronto senior in his mid-60s, learned this firsthand the hard way:
“For more than a decade, D’Alfonso, a Montreal writer, has been dating a Toronto widow. The two see each other every couple of months. D’Alfonso wanted more: He proposed five times, only to be rebuffed with every try. The older woman refused to live with him, D’Alfonso said, because she wanted to travel and be free. ‘I have to ask, and I always ask, so what do you want from me?’ he said.
“The pair took a two-year hiatus, during which D’Alfonso tried dating other senior-age women only to find that they, too, were reluctant to share a home – this even as D’Alfonso said he cooks and keeps a tidy house.
“‘I really believe that women no longer need men, whatsoever,’” D’Alfonso said. “‘I’m totally irrelevant.’”
Well, I mean, yeah? Women around the world—regardless of social status, and belief systems— work. Although a lot of women never worked outside the home, leaving them dependent on husbands or extended family in their old age, many do have the means to support themselves after retirement.
If you are unmarried and have no need for financial support, why have an extra person in your house who adds to your unpaid care load if you don’t want one?
Regardless of how clean of a house Mr. D’Alfonso keeps, it seems like he still feels, like many men, entitled to women’s time and labor. Not to mention the level of entitlement inherent in thinking that a woman should be so thrilled to be proposed to that she should accept, even though getting married was something that they’d evidently never reached a consensus on. Maybe companionship in the form of a boyfriend is sufficient for her, and that’s what she needs him for.
When I was living in Ghana, people were constantly talking about how it was my responsibility to cook and clean and rear children for a man; self-actualization be damned. (Also, I didn’t ask for your opinion?) My mom told me that this made sense when she was growing up because men worked outside the home and women didn’t. I asked her “Well, what about now that they both work outside the home?” My mom said “Yeah, the thinking hasn’t caught up.”
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things about living with a partner, or even just a friend or roommate that I miss. Cooking with another person takes less time than having to do 100% of the cooking and cleaning yourself. If you’re too tired to go out, you can still socialize with your partner. Even watching shows on streaming services can be more enjoyable than watching yourself. When I did my Master’s degree, my housemate and I got along very well and are still in touch. It was even nice knowing that someone else was in the house, even when we weren’t hanging out. When I lived in London while doing an internship after my Master’s I lived in a house with three other people, one of whom was a Jamaican man in his 50s. He was the shit. Just a very cool, calm, guy (who, unlike me, was also obsessively clean).
On the other hand, living by myself, I don’t have to deal with a partner who leaves food to go bad on the counter. Or who will agree to watch a film I suggest, and waits until after I find it and am pushing play to then say “Oh, I’ve seen this.” (EVERY. FUCKING. TIME.) If something is done wrong, at least I’m the one who did it wrong and I’m not having to fix a grown man’s mistake. If something’s not done, it’s not because someone committed to doing it and then just didn’t, it’s because I chose not to do it. No one’s gaslighting me, making degrading accusations, or derailing conversations to avoid taking responsibility for any of his actions.
These are all completely hypothetical, by the way.
I completely understand why women who find themselves unpartnered by the time they hit their 60s are no longer interested in living with their partners. Honestly, I’m glad for them for finally living the way they want. I am fortunate to have figured out in my 20s, instead of having to wait until I’m a sextegenarian before being able to enjoy my freedom again.
Image by rawpixel.com