Relationships

Single Woman Seeks Role Model

Single Woman Seeks Role Model

When I was a child, a friend once asked me who my hero was…

It was recess, and a group of us sat on the playground, not far from a rousing game of handball. One by one, each girl named her hero: Sojourner Truth… Gloria Estefan… Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. Then it was my turn. I shrugged. It’s not that I didn’t look up to these women, or to many, many others, but it hadn’t occurred to me to hold one person in particularly high esteem.

A child of the 80s, I grew up obsessively singing the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All,” and somewhere around the thousandth time, my course in life was pretty much set. Whitney told me never to walk in anyone’s shadow, and that sounded pretty good to me. She also told me the greatest love of all lived inside of me, and that sounded pretty great, too.

But a decade later, around the same time I moved to New York, I stumbled across the highly accessorized, highly flawed Carrie Bradshaw. Freshman year of college, my group of four friends would spend our New York City nights crowded around someone’s laptop, watching four single women living out their own nights in New York City. (Meta.) Lord help me for typing this, but they became our urban role models. (What can I say? We were eighteen.)

We didn’t love these women because they were promiscuous or powerful or hopeful. It was only marginally about the fashion. We loved them because, like Mary Richards and Murphy Brown before them, Carrie & co. represented a woman’s ability to make it, on her own, in a large and uncertain world. I loved that these women lived by their own principles, even when they were principles I didn’t subscribe to.

But the show, bless its 2004 heart, still chose to give Carrie a fairy tale ending. The final season ends with a man rescuing her, from another man. And then they kiss. The show may have been a celebration of female friendship and independence, but the ending was something else entirely.

I am now 34, the same age as Carrie during the show’s inaugural season. Like Carrie, I live alone, with more shoes than I care to admit, and make my living as a writer, which sometimes includes writing about my personal life. But here, outside the realm of fiction, I recently found myself searching for that long lost role model.

If your life — whether by choice or by circumstance — doesn’t end with marriage or children, it can feel hard to find kindred heroes to look up to.

There is Linda Rodin, who I admire not just for her love of bold lipstick and faux furs, or the fact that she lives with her beloved dog in an apartment bursting with curiosities, or because she launched a wildly successful business. Rodin has a full, fascinating life that does not include marriage or children. “I loved being in relationships with wonderful and really interesting men,” she says, “I just never felt the pressure to get married. Still don’t.”

And of course, there is always Oprah.

And yet.

Where, I ask you, is the role model who talks about filing taxes as an individual? Or who they turn to in an emergency? Or how they tackle difficult life choices? Or whether they have regrets? Can someone tell me how they summon the courage to answer nosy people’s questions and fill the lonely hours and kill large bugs? Do they travel alone? What are they afraid of?

Then one quiet evening, that old Whitney Houston song popped into my head. Maybe I didn’t need a role model after all. Maybe eight-year-old Caroline was onto something: maybe I could be my own.

I am currently working on a book of essays, and after much soul-searching, none of said essays focus on dating, or relationships, or even being single. As it turns out, I’ve had many worthwhile experiences on my own.

As it turns out, my heart is full, as is my life.

When social media was still young, and shiny images were just starting to circulate through our collective consciousness, I thought it was important to talk about what goes on behind-the-scenes. To that end, I shared stories about less-than-ideal moments and posted photos explaining the messes lurking just outside the frame.

Now, for every airbrushed vacation photo, there is another of someone willing to share his or her heartbreak, depression, insomnia, debt, disappointment, personal loss… and I am thankful for all of them. The most powerful thing we can do is share our stories, to help create a common narrative and know we are not alone.

This is true for ALL stories — including triumphant stories starring unmarried women.

And so, I’ve stopped shying away from sharing happy moments. In fact, I will go out of my way to do so. If I’m proud of a success, personal or professional, I’m not going to hide it. If I love my apartment or feel like dancing with glee, then guess what? I will make it known. I no longer fear showing the bright spots (along with the struggles), because I’ve realized they carry just as much weight.

So I’m here to say, speak up. Be the role model you wish to see in the world. You don’t know who’s watching, and you don’t know who it might empower.

In the words of Joan Jett singing the title song from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, you’re gonna make it after all. Perhaps, you already are.


P.S. On traveling alone and 12 women on becoming the person you’re meant to be.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. Chris says...

    Here’s a quote that I have shared a few times this week.

    I have come to accept the fact of not knowing where I am going and I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to, but the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.

    ~ C JoyBell C

  2. Anne says...

    Caroline,

    This was SO beautiful. As a 32-year-old wife and SAHM mama to four who lives in the South and has been happily married for years, I might be a strang one to comment for I’ve “seemingly” checked the lifestage boxes we have often sIlently assumed are a must from such a young age (and though I adore being a mama, this is a reality that I try so hard not to impose on my own girls – for how in the world do I know what their bright futures might hold?!) – but I feel this powerful urge to champion your strength and to champion those beautiful women around me whose lives have taken a path they didn’t hear idolized for all those years of their childhood.

    Maybe it’s the heartbreak that stemmed from the death of our firstborn five years ago or the other griefs or even unexpected joys of this life that have brought me to this place – but as one who is earnestly trying to live out her best life with open and daring hands in the midst of a world that is full of surprises and heartbreaks and indescribably joys, I simply say GO GIRL. You are beautiful and you are strong and you are worthy of admiration. And, from afar, you certainly have mine.

    • Alexandra says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Teresa says...

    Caroline, you are an amazing writer and I am so looking forward to your essays. Absolutely beautiful post.

  4. Katie H. says...

    Bravo!

  5. S says...

    This resonated with me so much. I went through a breakup on the eve of my 30th birthday, when my then-partner ended a relationship that we had both planned to continue into marriage and kids. When I think about what I am most proud of accomplishing in my life, it is spending the next 2 years just getting through it and learning to be okay on my own. Some proud moments veered towards cliche, like when I put together my own Ikea furniture, and others were more private.

    I am now 33 and in a relationship with a man I love deeply and hope to marry. But I am also facing the possibility of a future without children, for various reasons, and it is painful to think about all the ways in which I feel obligated to justify that possibility. Reading a piece like this reminds me that I should not have to justify that future (whether it is by choice or inevitability) and that life can be joyful in many different ways. Thank you for your openness.

  6. sgc says...

    My little sister is currently expecting her first child and while I’m super happy for her, the news hit me — a 31-year-old who has been single for a long time — a bit hard. After some soul-searching, I realized we are all on different paths and that’s ok. I’m not falling behind.

    There’s a scene in “Parks and Recreation” where Leslie Knope is showing all the framed pictures of her heroes that she keeps in her office, which includes a picture of herself. “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself,” she says to the camera.

    I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in December and every time I share the news with a friend, my heart swells with pride. WAY TO GO, ME.

    • Grace H says...

      Mt Kilimanjaro, that’s amazing! Thanks for reminding me of that great Knope quote. I was so depressed when Parks and Rec ended. It felt like true friends had moved away.

    • LJ says...

      Way to go you!!! :) This really made me smile and Leslie’s quote is on point!

  7. Abbey Leroux says...

    Just YES. And thank you :)

  8. Laura says...

    Caroline, you write beautifully and this piece really speaks to where I’m at right now. Divorced, single, childless, and 37, with an ex who is expecting a baby with his new partner. I have so many complicated and sometimes conflicting feelings – happiness at being untethered and able to do what I want, when I want; sadness that I may never have kids of my own; resentment that my ex has the family I lack; excitement at getting to renovate my new apartment to be exactly as I like it, without compromising for someone else!
    After I got divorced, I felt a lot of grief over losing my person – the one you turn to in emergencies, tell good news to, do your taxes with. A wise friend told me to think of what other people could fill those voids in my life. It was the best advice anyone could have given me. I realized, sometimes it’s just a matter of picking up the phone – I’m lucky to have friends and family who want to support me in hard times and would love me to share good news with them! I also realized, sometimes the person who can fill the void my divorce left behind – is me!
    Sending much love out to all the amazing women who bravely share their stories. We are not alone!

  9. Wow Caroline, this post came at such a perfect time for me – I’m currently sitting drinking a glass of wine at a lovely little wine bar down a back alley in Italy, on a solo holiday, after having my heart broken into a million pieces a couple of months back.

    The heartbreak has been exceedingly hard, but the rebirth and revival that has come out the other side has been amazing. This trip has been a pure celebration for me, and a big awakening of how badly I need to be 100% ok and happy with just being single.

    It’s quite a hard path to find, considering just how much emphasis there is on being in a couple and having a family, especially as I’m iny early 30s.

    But I’m aiming to just be ok with this new stage of my life, and to really enjoy it too.

    Please keep writing these wonderful articles! x

    • A Martin says...

      Ah what a beautiful trip! Capture your moments of joy and carry them with you always ❤️

    • Jillian says...

      Robyn!!! I did the EXACT same thing last year– took a solo trip to Italy after a soul-crushing heartbreak. I was lonely at moments of the trip, and full on wept at others, but I bought myself a bottle of expensive prosecco and took it, along with a real champagne glass, up to the Orange Garden on the Aventine Hill (look it up!) at sunset, and celebrated myself and being happy, and free, and so wonderfully, fully, HERE: there are sunsets, effervescent beverages, plates of fresh, homemade pasta, and so much good in the world. Enjoy every moment of your trip!!! The me who was there one year ago and the me I am now are both with you. xx

  10. Hilde says...

    You made my day. Thank you.

  11. I love everything about this, Caroline. And I am dying to read your essays!

  12. B says...

    Just wanted to add to the chorus. I loved this, too. How inspiring, and what a voice you have, Caroline. Cannot wait to read the book.

  13. Chelsea says...

    I am reading this during my lunch break at work and am IN TEARS. I am turning 30 in a few weeks and I feel like I am watching all of my friends getting married and having kids and building lives while I am just standing still – alone, single, no kids, not even remotely close to doing or having any of these things.

    I wish I had friends who were at similar spaces in their lives as me that I could share these kinds of thoughts with, but reading this essay and these comments makes me feel a little less alone. Thank you for writing!

    • Mary says...

      Chelsea, you’re not alone! I’ll be 28 and in the exact same place as you. Not even remotely close :)

    • Grace H says...

      I was tearing up too. It’s so interesting that you mention watching your friends build up their lives by getting married and having kids. I’m alone watching my friends build up their amazing careers while I wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what I want to do. At almost 33 isn’t this too old to have no vision for my career? I think we all feel inadequate in certain areas of our lives.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      @Chelsea, You are so not alone. I’ll be 34 in a few days and I’m not remotely close to having a romantic partner and kids or to finishing my book. But I’m doing just fine and so will you.

    • escondista says...

      You know what, Chelsea?
      I felt EXACTLY like this at 30. I’m 34 and married with a two year old.

      I am not saying that is your fate or should be anybody’s desired fate but what I can promise is that change is a constant and can happen fast.
      Keep an open, hopeful heart!

    • Capucine says...

      I’m 41, married, with two children, and my career seven years gone in the rearview, and I am looking around feeling the same way. Other women, childfree and childfull, arrow-straight on the trail of a purpose they move steadily forward on, like being lactation consultants, choir directors, a book of poetry…and I move in and out of the dishwasher/sweeping/laundry round three times a day, thinking – it’s good to feel empty before children to hunt that purpose down, because the need for purpose never changes, whether a husband and children are there or not-there. Whether 18, 28, 68, a life with trimmings or without. I say, go ahead and feel the empty! An intuitive I saw (a first for me) said an overloud ego keeps away the hearing of purpose, so work on that – ouch, but something to consider.

    • Thank you all for your kind comments! It really is helpful to hear that I’m not alone, and how encouraging it is to hear that things can change for the better relatively quickly.

      Also, I noticed so many themes in the other comments about how hard it is to connect with others as an adult, and how the commenters were suggesting an online group space to do so. I hope that happens! Until then, I put my instagram link in this comment if anyone wants to connect!

  14. Yes Caroline! I always get so excited to read your posts! You nail it every time. Sometimes it feels like we need to subscribe to this life or that life in order to feel successful or like we are on a path to somewhere and honestly, what’s beautiful about life is that we are on our own gosh darn path! And all those women we are told to admire or want to become? They followed their own path! And I think they would say “Don’t admire me, admire yourself!”
    xox
    Allie

  15. This was so beautiful.

    Can’t wait for your book of essays!

  16. Viv says...

    You have such a talent for writing, Caroline! I am really looking forward to your book :)

  17. Liz says...

    Mostly relevant to this article: I’m in desperate need of a good discussion on how to navigate long term friendships when you are no longer in the same phases of your lives or when your priorities differ more than before. Friendships that no longer operate like they used to can be the cause of such heartache, just like romantic ones.

    • jaime says...

      Not in the same phases, and also no longer in the same economic bracket. I returned to Canada a couple years ago after pursuing editing work abroad for 3+ years (a dream!), and in many ways I’ve had to rebuild my career from the ground up since repatriating. As I navigate my new life as a single, low-income creative professional in my early thirties, I’ve learned that even with friends you’ve known forever, not everyone knows how to be respectful toward a close friend who’s quite limited financially. (Comments like “Just admit it — you need to buy a car!” or nights out when you discreetly abstain from buying a second drink and someone makes a spectacle out of paying for one for you.) #Facepalm

    • Laura says...

      Yes to this! And then how do you find new people and form new friendships with people who ARE in the same phase?! Making friends as an adult is hard.

    • Sarah says...

      Please please please write about this – couldn’t agree with above poster more! Coping strategies would be much appreciated.

  18. Meghan says...

    Thank you for writing this! I’m 39 and happily single, and it’s awesome to hear from you and so many others in the comments who are in a similar place in life.

  19. Lauren E. says...

    So beautifully written. I’d also say, to echo the earlier article on COJ, I want to see divorced role models, too. A very close friend stays in a bad marriage for many reasons but also, she’s admitted to me, that she’d be too ashamed to be divorced. That it would bring shame to her family. It broke my heart. Here’s to empowering all women, no matter your situation, as long as you’re happy and healthy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, lauren!!! very well said. we have a house tour coming up in september that i think you’ll love. xoxo

  20. Jenny says...

    I remember there was this article on this site once that was posing the question do you eat dinner ALONE in PUBLIC? And I was like, yeah, sometimes I get tired of cooking for me and my Quasimodo hump at home. Love to see this growth, love this writing, love this community.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha, thank you, jenny. that means a lot. although i have to say, in my life, whether i was in a relationship or single, i get so shy about eating alone at restaurants. maybe it’s an introvert/extrovert thing? or just a confidence level overall? back in my twenties, i went to café mogador in the east village and challenged myself to eat alone and it felt like the longest 30 minutes of my life. but i know so many people love it, including my friend kenan who eats at the bar at so many amazing places, and my friend kate who takes herself out to dinner all the time. curious to hear from others!

    • Grace says...

      I have not taken myself out for a full solo meal but I took a mindfulness/meditation class a few months ago that gave me an idea. I now show up early for a lunch or dinner date with a friend and order a drink or app while I wait for them. I resist the urge to distract myself with my phone or a book (excruciating at times!) and just sit enjoying my drink and observing the world around me. This has really helped me feel less dependent on my phone. I’m also more aware and annoyed when others constantly check their phone and answer texts while having a conversation with me. It’s incredibly rude when you think about it but so normalized in society.

    • Jenny says...

      Joanna, I get that. I feel afraid sleeping out in my tent alone when I go outdoorswomaning. Seems like some folks here hate to squish rogue bugs themselves. And we’ve all come together in this community because, be it eating out at a restaurant by yourself or navigating Real Adult Shit like taxes, it’s your girlfriends who will get through it all.

    • Isabel says...

      Joanna,

      How about you break the ice by trying eating out solo when you travel? I travel for work quite a bit and used to rush in and out beautiful cities just to minimize my time being home. Later, I realized that being outside just for a few hours, to let myself wander through streets, go for walks, and sit and have lunch alone made these trips so much meaningful. I don’t remember the conference rooms, but I remember the walks. And the meals. A little table outside on a busy street lets you people watch, enjoy the breeze, and your own company.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great idea, isabel! your experiences sound wonderful. thank you!

    • Brooke says...

      I’m a very relational extrovert but I have had such GLORIOUS times eating alone over many years! Here are the keys – 1) people are intrigued not judging around us and if we are not embarrassed no one else is for us 2) eating alone equals more fully taking in atmosphere and people around for an extrovert 3) bring a book or magazine as company 4) think of yourself In relationship /love affair with the whole place…ahhh!!! I’ve eaten so many wonderful places this way And I love the idea that being on my own isn’t keeping me from any wonderful experience

  21. Nita says...

    This is so beautiful and thought provoking. I am not single, but I also end up scratching my head when asked about role models. Though I didn’t have Whitney Houston to let me know it is okay to pave your own path, I was fortunate to have parents and my dog (I know this sounds very strange) to let me be me. I felt accepted and loved despite my tantrums and having a companion (fur-baby) who loves you no matter who you are at a formative age gives you a certain confidence and strength. Love your writing! Can’t wait to read your book :)

  22. june2 says...

    Personally, I never kill large bugs – why torture myself as it is far more traumatic for me to kill something that big and that crunchy/squishy/gross, than it is for the bug. I have mastered catch and release and will go to extraordinary lengths to do it successfully. Tools of choice, in case I can encourage others to adopt this method, are: a clean, clear plastic 2 pint-sized deli cup, and a plain postcard. I really should do a youtube tutorial, lol, but slowly (so you don’t frighten the bug into running) lower the cup over the bug, then slowly slide the postcard under the cup while pressing the cup firmly (so bug doesn’t run for any open gap), and only slide it up to where the bug is standing which encourages it to walk on it’s own onto the card thereby saving it’s legs from being crushed or pinched if the card is just thoughtlessly shoved in. When the bug walks onto the card, which is usually immediately, slide the remainder of the card under, lift the whole thing and set it on a counter or wherever while you open a door/window etc then pick them both up together, find a place to lay it down outside under a bush or next to a tree or just on the grass so it can safely recover and leave the cup there. For big bugs I am going nowhere near them once I set it down til they are long gone, usually a couple hours later. It only takes about 2 minutes to do this and instead of feeling completely grossed out from squishing a bug then having to clean it up, I feel really good about the whole thing. It makes a difference to me, adding good feelings to my day instead of horrific ones. Plus, I now have nerves of steel and the steadiest hands around, lol!

    • Carolyn says...

      This tutorial made my day, June2! What a big heart! I also capture the bugs using this brilliant little bug catcher tool from a kit my boys got for a gift. It looks like scissors with a clear melon baller on each tip. It feels SO much better to catch and release than to squish!

  23. ahh yes, that’s a major part of getting older, isn’t it? Realizing that our story looks different than we thought it might, that our priorities have shifted, and the people we esteemed as role models may or may not still fit the part. But another beautiful, IMPORTANT part of getting older, I think, is telling our stories! The hard yes, but also the happy. Your post reminds me of is Morgan Haper Nichols quote- “Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.”

  24. annie says...

    I recently went to a workshop where an amazing educator Mary Ehrenworth talks about anti-oppressive education. She talked about the different types of narratives that exist in our books since childhood that shapes how we imagine our identity. One of the things I never knew about was that there are two narratives, Master and Petit narrative. With my general and limited understanding, I believe master narratives tend to be the common stories we see such as girl gets popular guy, etc. Petit narratives show characters who resist the norm or fight against it. The part that stood out to me during this talk is that often times, these characters of petit narratives end up conforming to what is seen as societal norms, like Carrie Bradshaw getting engaged and securing Mr. Big in Sex and the City, at the end of the story. Nothing is wrong with this, but these narratives are pretty dominant in many books and media. Growing older I struggled to read certain books that followed the same trajectory, that I couldn’t identify with. Being able to put a name towards these narratives helped me reaffirm that what I noticed is also apparent to many others, and the imminent need for more varied narratives available for our children.

    I’ve just entered my 30s recently, and it has been comforting to feel at ease about who I am and which direction I am going. I am not following the common trajectory that many of my peers are going through (i.e. buying a house, getting married, having kids), but I am enjoying myself and every moment. I can’t say I’m feeling utterly confident, but I’m also not feeling stressed or worried. I’ve found people who I greatly admire, both in person and online, who help me strive to become a better contributing member of this society. But to be honest, had I been somewhere else, who knows how I would feel. I do think that creating an environment for yourself to thrive without judgement or following a certain norm is important also.

    Thanks for the wonderful post Caroline.

  25. Meghan says...

    Can we pre-pre order your book, Caroline? :)

  26. M says...

    This was an important read for me. I recently went to a concert with my ex boyfriend. It was Sam Smith (which was our first concert together!) and there was a lot of breakup songs. Being the one who broke up with him, I was an absolute mess. Even though we broke up a few months ago, I jumped into dating again rather quickly and until Tuesday didn’t realize that I didn’t process the breakup as fully as I needed. Going forward, I’m giving myself permission to take as much time as I need and to be okay with just… being by myself. That’s the role model I wish to be – someone who truly still loves the person of her past but has found a way to move on while keeping life in balance.

  27. Martha L. says...

    This is a great post!

    I remember when I turned 32, I was standing in the home section of a department store buying a wedding gift. I remember tearing up wondering if anyone would ever buy me a wedding gift. Right then and there I resolved to buy myself a traditional wedding gift each year. One year, it was a really nice waffle iron. The next year, it was a Kitchen Aid mixer. After all, why should married people be the only ones to enjoy a really great waffle???

    • Jessica says...

      I love this! :)

    • Marie says...

      This is the greatest thing I have ever heard! I thought about this a lot when this past year my sister got married, and I went through and finished grad school. She got all these crazy gifts and money amounts and I got the pride of a job well done? (To be fair, I did get some money.) But it felt to me that I was starting anew just like she was. And me working full time and going to school full time just didn’t matter as much as her getting married. It just feels so wrong that a wedding matters more than anything else in our culture, and no one is guaranteed it or a partner. Someone’s accomplishments and successes and experiences should be equal – celebrate traveling to a new place, getting your first apartment by yourself, a new job, a promotion, quitting your job to start doing something on your own.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Maybe I should borrow this idea. I’ve always wanted flowers, but I’ve never received them. Most women around me would laugh if I said this aloud because flowers aren’t a valid gift as far as they’re concerned. I’ve been thinking of just going ahead and buying them for myself. Only I don’t want to be the pretentious, delusional woman who sends flowers to herself. Decisions, decisions.

    • Ali says...

      Love this so much!!

      And @Nigerian Girl, you should definitely buy yourself flowers!! I started sending myself flowers last year on days I needed perking up and I even go so far as to have a messages written like “you’ve got this!” or “you deserve these” on the tag. Delusional? Maybe, Awesome, Definitely! Be your own hero, by your own flowers! ;-)

    • Hannah says...

      Oh my goodness, Marie. You’ve articulated so well how I also feel. YES.

  28. Meg says...

    When I was around 34, I also began searching for role models of women on their own. What were there lives like? What was it like to live as a single woman who was considering a life with no children? While they had to be out there, their stories seemed invisible. I began borderline stalking on Flickr (that’s some throwback social media, hi, I’m old) a 50-year-old woman who lived in LA, who I knew had never married and had no children. She would post long captions about her life, just day to day stuff. And I couldn’t get enough. I dissected each caption for any hints of how to live – really, what to live into. And I would wonder why that was all I could get, why she was the only example.

    A year ago, at 42, I married a man with two children. I’m now in the position of being a woman with no children who has step children – a childless step mom. I have a few more role models now: Snow White’s step mother and Goldie Hawn’s character in Overboard (and even then, she was pregnant just before the final credits appeared).

    I now make a point to share lots about my life. The choices I have made are not that unconventional but ones that are still kind of invisible in public narrative and feel a little culturally transgressive. In a small way, I want to help fill that gap. I mean, dang! I want to be the one I was waiting for.

  29. Sarah Nathanson says...

    Oh wow, I LOVED this. Truly. I’m 41, happily married with two beautiful young kids, and I feel so inspired, invigorated and excited for life, all parts of life after reading this.

  30. L says...

    I so needed this. I turn 38 in exactly a week and will be attending two weddings in a week and its left me feeling all the feels. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  31. This is so beautifully written. And so true. Gorgeous, thoughtful writing.
    I got married at 38ish and had my daughter right before my 40th birthday and both of these events were met with disbelief by a member of my family, as if I’d aged out of these possibilities. “Really? You’re doing that? At your age? I hope you’re not having bridesmaids. That’s what young women do. Do you know how old you’ll be when your kid goes to college?” A simple congratulations might’ve been nice.

  32. Amanda says...

    Love these recent self exploratory pieces from Caroline! Especially that last bit about sharing happiness alongside our other stories.

    I literally just posted an Instagram story about a recent joy, and then immediately posted a second story ‘jokingly’ apologizing for that post being too gushy… but why?! I am my own role model and I am happy for myself and for the sometimes ‘small’ things that bring me great joy. I am always open to share my struggles online (as I sometimes think they are more relatable and oftentimes more humorous), but joy is so important, and sharing that joy makes such a difference in the way we perceive our lives and the way we influence the attitudes of those around us. Suffice to say I just went and deleted that apology post!

    Own it, girl.

    • dccat says...

      Yasss!

  33. I usually respond to inquiries about the non-existent man in my life with “no, but I started two businesses before 30 and at one point was juggling four careers at once, so it’s not like I’m wasting time waiting for Prince Charming to show up. ”

    Also, I was just thinking of the episode where Carrie loses her Manolos at a baby shower where they were forced to take their shoes off at the door, and the hostess was scandalized when asked to pay for them. That caused Carrie to think through all the money she had spent on friends’ wedding and baby gifts (not to mention of course, all the money one drops on going to weddings!). She ends the episode by calling the woman and saying she’s getting married to herself and registering at Manolo Blahnik. I always loved that episode and frequently think of it any time I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to put down a small fortune and get myself a set of fancy dishes already. Or all of the kitchen-aid attachments. Can we start registering for other life successes, please?

    • elise says...

      I loved that episode too and also think of it every time i’m buying off a registry :)

    • Kelli says...

      That is my all time favorite S&TC episode. :)

  34. Alanna Rice says...

    This is EPIC Caroline! You’re speaking so much truth and compassion. xox

  35. E Gautsche says...

    YES YES YES! I’m in a similar boat – 38, own my own home, travel along to wonderful places, and yet it often feels like the world wants me to be sad about what I don’t have, or worse, that I’ve absorbed that feeling of loss! Here’s to being our own heros!

  36. Nicole Brant says...

    Thanks, Caroline. I really needed this today. I can’t wait to read your essays. Thank you for your authenticity.

  37. diana k. says...

    I love this! I always felt like everything in my life had been given to me, or like I had gotten lucky or was just in the right place at the right time. Then I went to my first yoga class and while I believe yoga is 90 percent mumbo jumbo, the teacher was all “thank yourself for all that you do everyday- you carry yourself through every day no matter how hard it is emotionally and physically, YOU did it.” And something clicked in me that I am responsible for my own success (and failures) every day and it seems like such a small thought but it has really empowered me to take ownership of my actions and make sure that I am actively becoming exactly who I want to be.

    • Hannah says...

      I have always thought that too. Thank you for introducing me to this thought :)

  38. dccat says...

    Caroline, thank you so much for sharing this. Your words bring so much comfort as I don’t have many friends who are in the same boat. I’m not really sure how to respond to nosy questions from other friends and relatives. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about being okay with just myself even though I don’t see a lot of Asian women who choose to live this way. I want to be okay with my choices without having to avoid people and places for fear of them asking nosy questions. At the moment I’m in a somewhat major transition with my job and thinking about what I really want to do and how to live a more authentic and meaningful life. I give the impression of a super independent woman but not gonna lie that it does give me anxiety sometimes, especially during this uncertain period in my life. But knowing there are other women like me brings me comfort and the days I feel down are few compared to my normal kick-ass days. If there are any gals (shoutout to introverts) in the ny area who want to meet up then feel free to email me: tennerdc@gmail.com :-)

    • Jessica says...

      I wished I lived in NY and could meet up with you! It is really hard being one of very few in this position within my social circles… it often makes me question my decisions or view it as me just biding time until I meet someone. I, too, am going through a somewhat significant transition with no clue what’s on the other side for me and it definitely enhances these uncertainties!

      It’s no easy task being your own role model, but it’s certainly a worthwhile aspiration.

  39. AJ says...

    CAROLINE YES!!! 🙌🙌🙌 Also single (36), also a writer, and also so totally on board with living and loving the life I’m in – and accepting, and sometimes even sort of celebrating, my non-coupled, childfree status. Not because it’s a competition (who has it better/harder/easier?), not because I ‘chose’ all these circumstances and wish for them to never change (who knows what the future holds?), and not because I want to make a point. But because it’s the reality I’m living and life is an effing gift! And all of our lives and experiences are valid and real and worthy of appreciation. Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to be happy. I hear you on the lack of chatter for us though. Sure, I can find plenty of conversation about egg-freezing, dating and navigating friendships when some/one of you isn’t a parent and everyone else is. But it can seem like when it comes to just ‘life’ as a single women (the tax returns yep, in fact anything financial, making career decisions, life balance, coping with hardships), you’re feeling your way around a dark, quiet cave. So yes let’s start turning those lights on! For ourselves and each other. Rate you so much Caroline and always appreciate your words. Please keep them coming! X

    • Jessica says...

      And AJ, I just want to say YES to everything you’ve said as well! I too really enjoy my single 36 year old life while also finding it frustrating and lonely at times too–because humans are complex! I also feel like I’m careening through life without a template, which can be good and bad, depending on the day. I often mourn that there’s not the kind of ready community for single women that there seem to be for moms (and I fully realize that comes with its challenges as well!) but I sometimes find that space here on CoJ. You keep on keeping on too.

    • AJ says...

      Ah, thanks Jessica! And ditto – you’re so right: it’s living without a template – and that is sometimes the most exciting thing and sometimes so tricky. I think we’re allowed to pat ourselves on the back though and own it! X

  40. Emme says...

    so so good. Thank you Caroline xo

  41. Meg says...

    I think this is, hands down, the best thing you have ever written. And that is saying something. Also Caroline, you are my role model. Please never stop writing.

  42. Vanessa says...

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m turning 41 tomorrow, and I really needed to hear this right now. There is so little representation of independent women like me, and so much (negative, patriarchal) cultural programming saying that I need to be attached to have meaning in my life. I’m so grateful for all the reader comments too that remind me there are infinite paths to happily ever after. ❤️

  43. Nina says...

    Yes, I spent a long time trying to figure out who my hero was, too. I mean I think people have done worthwhile things to admire but living everyday can be worthwhile, too. I often wondered if it came from not really respecting my parents after figuring out that they were pretty shitty parents. And I spent years sad that everyone else seemed to have a mentor and I couldn’t get anyone to mentor me…but when I asked advice most of the time I had already made decisions and really just wanted reinforcement they were right. And most people who had mentors wanted someone to tell them how to do things.

    Also single, also no desire to ever marry. Except when I think I’d like a break from bills or dealing with medical choices for my son or what if I need help with a medical issue for myself.

    so interesting…it’s always nice when people articulate what you’ve thought. thank you.

  44. Enkhee says...

    Long time reader- never commented before. However, this essay is well written and sends a powerful message. I agree 100% that we can be our own role models. At the end, you are who you are because of what you believe, what you do and how your perceive yourself. Well done Caroline.

  45. PAMELA J. DECKER says...

    Perfect! I will share with my daughters – both in their 30s and on their own!

  46. Claire says...

    A real life text I just sent to one of my best friends after reading this essay: CAROLINE IS 34! SHE IS A BEAUTY QUEEN AND SHE IS SO SMART AND SHE IS 34 AND SINGLE AND GOD BLESS ALL OF US FOR HAVING HER IN OUR LIVES.

    Caroline, thank you for sharing yourself, your experiences, and your viewpoints with us. As a single gal, but really just as a person making in this world – we are all better for the shared stories!

    And, one last thing: I have a 3.5 year-old niece with wildly curly hair and a big attitude. My hope for her, no matter who she is when she’s my age (30), is for her to know she is right where she belongs. Shouldn’t I want the same thing for myself?

  47. Caroline – this is beautiful and perfect and brave. Just what I needed to read. I’m recently single after ending a decade-long relationship and I’m back in NYC. As a 30 year old, I’m questioning all the things you mentioned (nosy people, who to turn to in an emergency), for the very first time. It’s so comforting to realize that, oh right, I’m not the only one feeling this way and having these questions. Can’t wait to read your book and let me know if you want to hang out when you need to “fill the lonely hours” :)

  48. Anne says...

    Good question – who knows books/movies/series with a cool woman but no “happily ever after ending”?
    I would love to have a partner, to share my life with somebody. And I would love to have children, to watch them grow and so much more.
    But actually, if my life continues as it is right now -with my “friends who are family and family who are friends”, my climbing buddies, a fulfilling job – that would be ok, too. Amazing actually, if I get to be at least a godmother. It’s full of love, growth, of shared joy and sorrow, of being true to myself . Love is love.

    • Megan says...

      I read the Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing after reading another column of Caroline’s several years ago and LOVED it. It’s a great look at the evolution of women and how they, and their relationships, evolve over the course of their life.
      So glad to see Caroline back here!
      https://cupofjo.com/2015/03/carolines-five-favorite-books/

    • Z. says...

      Not recent but Ally McBeal.

  49. Well said and especially useful as I prepare to live alone again after many years of being a full-time mama. My son heads off to his first year of college on Sunday and while part of me fears the silence of the house, a part of me is really excited to try out living on my own for a bit. Thank you for the reminder that courage and happiness comes in many forms.

  50. “be the role model you want to see in the world.” Love that Caroline!! You’re definitely a role model to me too.

  51. Anna says...

    I needed this. Thank you, Caroline and Cup of Jo. x

  52. Andrea W says...

    Cheers to you! That was lovely. Thank you.

  53. Heather says...

    Oh, I love this so much!

  54. Love this. I’m currently reading “No one tells you this” by Glynnis McNichol, which is about finding a blueprint for life as a single woman in her 40s. She discusses the lack of role models for women who decide not to take the baby + marriage track in life, so your post resonates with me because I’m in the middle of that book. Although I am married with kids, I love hearing stories like this; my daughter may choose a different path when she grows up than me, and I really hope there are role models for her whose stories diverge from the traditional norms. Women like you who are sharing their narratives so she can understand the array of options for a happy successful life as a woman = 🙌🏼 PS. check out that book!!!

  55. Alison says...

    this is a beautiful essay that really touched me and made me think- thank you.

  56. Lisa says...

    I’m buying anything you’re saying (or writing) – hot damn you are my favorite writer out there. Loved this.

  57. Mary says...

    Yeah, so much media centers around being a mama in your 30s, 40s and as a childless late 30s woman, it just gets so very boring. I’m glad to see more that focuses on life without kids here.

    • Noelle says...

      Agreed!

    • Sarah says...

      Amen!

  58. Kimberley says...

    I feel… so many things on this:
    That role models should have nothing to do with marriage or relationship status – As I near the end of my PhD I (still!) have no idea where the universe is planning to take me next, but I look around for people (mostly women) all the time as inspiration, as guides, as role models. But this NEVER has anything to do with whether they’re married. What matters is who they are as people. Often it’s actually the single gals who are doing the most incredible things, who have experienced the most amount of personal growth, and who are the most badass ladies.

    At the same time, I’m starting to feel the need to revolt against these stereotypical relationship ‘desinations’ (marriage, babies, house etc.). Even though I’m in a relationship, I still have this ever-increasing need to make sure I can do all those things (taxes, bug-killing, life choices) and make sure my circle of friends is as tight as ever. “A partner should complement you not complete you” and all that.

    Life is about fulfilment and whatever that looks like to you :)

    • Kate says...

      Oh, man. I recently heard Laura Marling’s song Rambling Man for the first time (in the background of a podcast!), and have been listening to it on repeat since. Literally over and over and over. Thank you for the recommendation! Something in her music is really resonating in me right now–a 35 year old single lady who has been really thinking about who she should become, especially since wife and mama doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

  59. g says...

    LOVED this. I feel re-energized this Thursday morning. Thank you, Caroline! Good luck with your book. It’ll be on the top of my reading list :)

  60. Jessica says...

    I love this so much, Caroline. There’s this wonderful moment in Jane Eyre where Jane considers becoming Rochester’s mistress, reasoning that as a friendless orphan there is literally no one who cares what becomes of her. But then she abruptly realizes, “I care for myself.” That’s become my own reminder to myself lately, whenever I start to feel really lonely or throw a pity party that I have no one to care for me. I care for myself.

    • Kelli says...

      What a beautiful mantra. “I care for myself.” Borrowing this on my own personal tough days. Thank you. :)

  61. Mali says...

    I think that at a certain age, our perception of role models changes. It becomes more of a pick-and-choose, take what you can sort of model.

    Why? We are better able to see past the glitz and glam of what people appear to be and no longer necessarily want to model our lives after theirs. Our expectations and perceptions become more realistic.

    When I was a child my mother was my role model. As an adult, I admire many things about her, but I also see her flaws and weaknesses. There are women that I admire and respect, but I realize that I am different from them, my life is different from theirs, and I have to do my own personal best with the tools and gifts I’ve been given . I can take inspiration from them. But I can’t be them, nor do I want to be.

  62. Beautifully said Caroline.

  63. Colleen says...

    I agree, I think role models are a little overrated. What I’ve really been searching for is a mentor, esp. career-wise. I feel directionless in my career path, yet filled with passions that I want to formulate into actual work. Sometimes I feel this nagging sense of selfishness when I feel useless in my job. It’s a good job, but I spend a lot of time wondering why the heck I don’t just get the courage and move on to something more meaningful. It’d be nice to have someone who’s a little further up the road offer me practical wisdom.

    • Lisa says...

      I couldn’t agree with this more, Colleen! I’ve felt the same way for about half a decade.

    • Sandhya says...

      Mentors are an unbelievable gift. I would strongly encourage you to reach out to your college alumni network and/or professional associations — not because you will automatically hit the motherlode of mentors (so to speak) instantly, but because just starting the conversations is so productive in catalyzing your own thought process about what you want to do next. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and am happy to share suggestions, though we may not be in the same field (I’m in higher ed law). If you’re interested, feel free to reach out to me at slsubramanian4@gmail.com.

  64. Heather says...

    Caroline, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this piece. I’m a single woman in my early 30s who has zero dating prospects (and who has a hard time seeing a future with a husband and kids). It’s all been making me so anxious lately — thinking of imaginary timelines if I wanted to have a baby and feeling like there’s no way I could ever manage to fit in finding a partner + having a kid + affording (both in time and money) that plus all the other things I think I want. I’ve just been struggling so much with feeling “alone” or like some sort of “failure” because my life hasn’t worked out the same as all my local friends’ lives have so far. This essay was exactly the kind of comfort I’ve needed recently. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Kate says...

      Aw, Heather, I feel exactly the same.

    • Sarah says...

      You are not alone – I am in the same boat. Right there with you. Also in my early 30’s with most of my friends married and I thought I was headed the same way with my last relationship, but it didn’t work out. I feel the sense of failure some days and others I feel joy on being so free and able to live my life without another person weighing in on it :) It’s comforting to know that we are not the only ones, and maybe not having a partner is the right thing for us at this moment in time.

    • gfy says...

      me too. i am thinking about old age and family and wondering if I should adopt. aside from the love that would be given and hopefully received, we would each have someone in life. as long as I can afford a nanny, this seems like a great idea, the more I think about it!

  65. lol, I was waiting for you to sneak an “I couldn’t help but wonder…” into this post.
    Well said, Caroline!

  66. Helga says...

    I think you’re my favorite writer.

  67. Mina says...

    I love this! I cannot get enough of your writing Caroline. I am so looking forward to your book of essays!

  68. I am married with children and I too feel like my role model is lacking…. in fact I find myself turning to the single women for guidance and inspiration as somehow it feels more acceptable to be a self-made-woman when you aren’t yoked to some of the other societal norms and structures. And whilst I love the people in my life- being defined solely as ‘wife’ or ‘mother’ feels just as one note and suffocating as being defined as ‘single’.

    Sing it from the rooftops, Caroline.

  69. LindyO says...

    Caroline, Love your words and your style. And thank you, Joan Jett. Will have that song in my head for quite a while.

  70. Scout says...

    Thank you! I feel kind of weird being “older” and single, because it feels uncommon. Maybe it’s because it’s more obvious to spot couples and young families, whereas someone out on their own could be anything…. But it’s encouraging that being single is becoming more okay. And I do feel pretty boss when I conquer a bug on my own… ;)

    Next post: how to make friends as a poor introvert?

    • dccat says...

      +1 SAME

  71. This post is my very favourite thing on the internet tonight.

  72. Christy says...

    Thank you Caroline! This was just what I needed today. I’m in my 40s, never married, no kids, in the midst of a career shift, and the one question I keep getting is, “are you planning to have kids?” I’m so far away from that and feel like by not being married with a family I’m failing a huge societal norm, even though I’ve read all the stories about how single people are a large and growing demographic.

    You have definitely been my role model, for your openhearted candor and sense of humor.

    And I try to be my own role model too, but I would love an occasional series where you interview single women who are willing to answer questions like the ones you posed.

    A friend of a friend once put together a king-sized bed all by herself, and sometimes when I would think I needed a partner to help me with things like that, I would be inspired by her resourcefulness and think, well, if Emily could put that gigantic bed together by herself, surely I can figure out a way to do X. I know there are other, way more important ways that single women are finding ways to live whole lives and make their way on their own and would love to hear their stories.

    Tracee Ellis Ross is one person who inspires me. She said:

    “Fully in bloom. That’s what bravery and beauty looks like. But most of all because The Brave Me reminds me that I am complete just as me. Not in relation to anyone or anything else, just wholly, fully me.”

    https://www.glamour.com/story/tracee-ellis-ross-glamour-women-of-the-year-speech-2017

    And another Caroline – Caroline Knapp, who sadly passed away many years ago but wrote this beautiful essay in 1998 that I return to again and again:
    https://www.salon.com/1998/07/27/cov_27feature_2/

    • ElleTea says...

      Thanks for posting the salon essay, I really enjoyed it

    • Heather says...

      Yes! Please more stories from single, childless women!

    • Hayley says...

      Thank you for linking this essay. Several years ago, I read Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take The Long Way Home, that led me to Caroline Knapp’s Appetite and Drinking books. I identified with Caroline a lot. I wish I had read her essay when I was feeling so insecure about my lack of interest in dating. Now I am married, though we are basically two merry recluses living together.. It’s a good life.

    • Noelle says...

      Just wanted to add to the thanks for sharing Caroline Knapp’s essay! I’ve never come across it before, but I absolutely loved it. Except for the fact that I’m married (no kids), I feel like she could have been writing about me. Like her, I also love eating breakfast foods all day long and having weekends with absolutely no plans.

    • Meg says...

      The image of a woman putting together a single bed for herself makes me want to weep, in a good way. What a glorious image.

  73. Camille says...

    I remember in school when I was little (maybe 10 years old) we had to write a small essay about our role model and a classmate of mine wrote an essay about why she didn’t have a role model. I remember thinking she was so bold.

  74. PNI says...

    On nosy people’s questions: Miss Manners says to smile and say to the person “Why do you ask?”
    This has never not worked for me!!

  75. Jolanda says...

    I can relate to this essay, although I do have the husband and the children. I think there will always be a a part of us that mourns the life that we don’t have but could have had. And maybe that is how we choose our role models: Not because they are a better version of us, something we can strive to be, but because they dared to make the choices we did not :).

    I recently read a quote by cheryl strayed from tiny beautiful things:
    “I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There is nothing to do but salute it from the shore”.

    • Love this.

  76. Elise says...

    Such a great and thoughtful post Caroline, thank you! And I think you’re right, be your own role model, that’s at least what I thrive to do. Thank you!

  77. veronica says...

    BADASS

  78. Emma says...

    Lots of love for this post. It hits home and reminds me that there aren’t only fairy tale endings and that the me in all this nonsense of life is pretty damn great.

  79. Jess says...

    Yes yes a thousand times yes. I LOVE your posts. And I will be in line for your book.

  80. Jennifer says...

    If you don’t have a role model at this point, it is probably because *you* are the role model. ❤️

  81. Karla says...

    Thank you for this!!!

  82. Ruthie says...

    I am the best role model because I am neither young nor old, but have a wealth of wisdom that is highly edifying, encouraging, and inspiring! Just keeping it practical and real! I love giving advice in every subject, especially about relationships!!!

  83. TD says...

    My biggest hero/role model in my childhood was (and sort of still is) Anne Shirley. My mom taped Anne of Green Gables off the TV one December and I’d watch it all the time, totally mesmerized by Anne – her guts, her boldness, how brave she was. I was raised by a very insecure, emotionally fragile mother, and watching Anne at that time of my life filled a huge void. I learned how to value myself, how to dream big (when others told me that I shouldn’t) and to know my voice and stand up for myself. I truly believe it helped mold me into who I am today. An opportunity came up this year for me to attend an event and possibly meet Megan Follows (who played Anne) and I literally was bawling for a week thinking about what I would say to her (it didn’t happen). I play the videos for my nieces now (ages 7 and 10) and the older one (who is very much like me at that age) just told me that it’s her most favourite movie. If that’s the impact it could have on her, then I feel like the best damn auntie EVER.

    • Lorraine says...

      YES! Even now at age 41 and a mom of two, I can turn to those old Anne movies and books for inspiration.

  84. Molly says...

    No One Tells You This is a book you would love! <3

    • Anna says...

      Was going to write the same thing!

  85. Caitlin H. says...

    Goddamn I needed this right now. Love you, Caroline!

  86. Steph says...

    A book of essays!?! I can’t wait! I’ve always enjoyed your writing!

  87. Emily says...

    Thank you, Caroline. What beautiful words. 😘

  88. Jenny says...

    Caroline, I love this. I am also a single thirty something year old woman. I personally believe that true strength is admitting your vulnerabilities, which sometimes means admitting that you feel emptiness in one aspect of your life. If you want to be in a relationship, if you don’t want to be single anymore, if you are feeling disenchanted with dating, I firmly believe it is ok to say it out loud and admit that you don’t always feel like a strong woman who is happy to be single. My last ex told me I was a strong independent woman who didn’t need to rely on a partner, but I know that I am a strong woman who DOES need a partner. I feel deep down that it is very possible that I will be single for a long time despite trying to date, and I am ok with it, but also sad!

  89. Christine says...

    Love this.

    Not that you were asking but a stab at you questions …

    On filing taxes: Definitely an advantage of being single. I pay less than I would filing jointly with someone making the same as me (which I know because I’m a huge nerd and I go deep into scenarios in TurboTax… for fun).

    Emergency contacts: Depending on the scenario, it’s either my mom, my sister, one of three friends, my next door neighbor or my awesome lady doorman.

    Tackle difficult life choices: Usually I go to my dad.

    Regrets: I often wonder about where I would be if I had taken different paths … if I had dated that guy or gone to grad school or stayed in that city… but it’s not regret as much as wishing I could choose multiple choices at once. Whether or not I ever marry I think I will wish I could have it both ways.

    Courage for nosy questions: Haven’t mastered this but I do give a hearty “NOPE!” to “Do you have a man in your life?” which seems to reduce inquiries. Second defense is asking nosy questions back at the interrogator.

    Courage for lonely hours: The only time I’m really lonely is when I’m home sick. I always want my mom when I’m sick and she says that she does too even though her mom died when she was 19.

    Courage for bugs: I’m a BOSS when it comes to bugs. Just kill em.

    Travel alone: Love it. Bored at the museum after 20 minutes? Leave! Get a seat at the best restaurant in town? No problem! Want another nap? That’s what vacations are for!

    Fears: My biggest fear is that I’ll become self-centered since I make all my own choices. My darkest fear is choking on food home alone. My saddest fear is losing my best tackling-life-choices confidant when my dad (inevitably/ hopefully) dies before me. My current most frequent fear is that my recent switch to natural deodorant isn’t going well and no one has the heart to tell me.

    • jade lees says...

      I loved your honesty regarding your fears. Love them!

    • “It’s not regret as much as wishing I could choose multiple choices at once.” <3

    • Sam says...

      I love your response, thank you.

    • veronica says...

      as someone who has woken up is sweaty, gasping, dread-
      in my youth…
      in nightmares of the most awful thing imaginable.
      my everything,
      my dad dying.
      and then actually living through that reality as an adult.
      I am here to tell you…
      HE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU!!

    • “My current most frequent fear is that my recent switch to natural deodorant isn’t going well and no one has the heart to tell me.”

      HA. I’m married but this fear clearly transcends married or single status…I hear you.

    • Dee says...

      Such a great comment Christine. Also here to give a fist bump to lady doormen everywhere, see also lady bouncers in clubs (is that what you call them in the US? Anyway, legends!)

    • Abby says...

      Thank you Christine for sharing your fears with us. I can relate – especially to the choking fear. When there are stories of people being discovered in their apartments weeks after dying I often ask myself how long it would take to discover my body. Guess it actually does have merrits being employed – they would wonder eventually where I was.
      Also you should start writing if you don’t already – I love your voice!

    • Jess says...

      Wow. 27 year old here whose about to move out on her own (boyfriendless) for the first time ever.

      THANK YOU FOR THIS AND KEEP AT IT!

    • Robin says...

      <3 <3 <3

    • The switch to natural deodorant is a definite concern. I had this one a few years back as well. However, I was working with generous co-workers who gave me thumbs up/thumbs down while I was testing things out.

    • meli says...

      Loved this!

  90. Meg says...

    Caroline – I”m so glad you’re back. I really, really, really love your writing (and I look forward to reading your future books!).

  91. becky says...

    I’ve always looked up to Wilma Rudolph. Probably since I was 9. I was in the 3rd grade. I am still fascinated by her to this day. She continues to inspire me.
    As soon as I read the portion about Sex and the City, I clearly remember travelling to Boston for the first time with an a close friend (who I am no longer close with). We were 21 and when we arrived it was Friday night on Newbury St. The first thing she said to me, “I want a find a guy to buy us a drink.” Well, she did. She then told these fellas that Sex and the City is “our bible.” At that point I had never seen an episode.
    I did a mental head slap because I didn’t need to see an episode..
    They bought us a drink, we made small talk, and I made sure she didn’t tell these strangers our hotel location. We weren’t in an episode, this was real life.
    Fast forward a decade later, I’ve seen every episode. I love it. And it’s not my bible. I clearly recall the episode when Miranda purchased her first apartment. She was reminded at every step of the process that she is a single gal. And she has to remind every one of them she is doing it on her own.
    Yes Carrie ends up with Mr. Big. We all saw that coming. Was she saved? No. Carrie would have been fine, actually better than fine if she ended up solo. I think instead we saw that Mr. Big’s character was evolving, as it did through the whole series. It’s up for debate of course. and how you see it depends on where you are in your life.
    But keep in mind. it’s television. If Carrie lived an ordinary life no one would have watch it.

  92. Sandra says...

    I LOVE this! I was so frustrated that Sex & the City (whose characters were also my role models in some ways) chose to have Carrie end up with Big. Their relationship was always such a train wreck, and there are so few fictional stories where single women remain happily single. When I was in my 30s (I am 50 now–got married at 39 and had one later-in-life child) I definitely could have used a reminder that “happily ever after” can happen whether you are single or coupled!

    Thanks, Caroline, for being such a great voice for single women in their 30s. It can be a weird time–you lose your “tribe” to marriage and kids and have to start over socially. And if your life plan involved marriage and kids for yourself you can start to feel a little lost.

    FWIW I have never had just one person as a role model. But I take qualities I admire (the friend who is especially inclusive and friendly, another who is a tireless community activist, another who is SO organized) and try to remind myself to incorporate some of those qualities I admire so much.

  93. Rachel says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  94. Caroline, I love this so much. Women need to hear and see more women sharing their own successes, so they can see a path for their own success.

  95. Jennifer says...

    Thank you Caroline. I am 39 and single. All those questions resonated with me (about bugs, who to turn to, etc) – the worries I have and what I have longed for in a partner. I agree with others that it is so helpful reading your perspective and seeing all the comments from women in similar situations makes me feel a little less lonely!

  96. Eva says...

    yes! we need more stories from women that don’t revolve around men. there is so much great literature from the male perspective that rests wholly on the personal journey and self-reflection. we need more of these kinds of stories from women—because we all have them. and they’re so worth sharing. cheers to you, caroline!

  97. Ceciel says...

    What??! It’s my 40th birthday and I have a seemingly traditional life—married, 3 kids, house in the ‘burbs. But I don’t know what my next step is and damn, Caroline, you’re knocking it out of the park tonight. Thanks for the encouragement.

  98. I am 36 and single. Marriage isn’t currently on my radar, but I have been thinking a lot about what marriage means to me and if I really do want it. Surprisingly, this thought process has given me so much gratitude! There is this incredible feeling of endless opportunities because I am unattached and I am grateful for it. My life feels much more expansive. I think this freedom often goes unrecognized in our marriage driven culture.

    • Dee says...

      Yes to this from a married woman. *sings* You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

  99. Anna says...

    ALL THE YES TO THIS. As a married woman I feel and resonate with a lot of these feelings too. Keep singing the song you were made to sing Caroline and thanks for sharing the journey with us.

  100. This essay couldn’t be more timely! Lately, I’ve been questioning what marriage means to me and if it is something I want. I am currently single, so it isn’t on the radar at the moment. But, still, I’m thinking about it. Surprisingly, this thought process has brought me a lot of gratitude. Being single has given my life a big expansive feeling that I think often goes unmentioned in our marriage-driven culture. I love the untethered freedom to examine myself and the boundless opportunities that are available to me because I am single.

  101. Taylor says...

    Teared up while reading. As a 20-something single woman with no desire for kids…I needed this. Thank you.

  102. A Martin says...

    I happened to read this earlier today. Quiet contentment at home is a beautiful thing. Please keep sharing your stories ❤️https://cupofjo.com/2015/09/nancy-meyers-interview-intern/

  103. Carmen says...

    Ahh, Whitney! Also my mantra through high school and college. I never really could point to a role model. The idea of shaping my own life seemed much more exciting! So glad someone else heard The Greatest Love of All the same way I did. Best to you, Caroline!

  104. Maria says...

    100% FELT. Somebody PLEASE turn this blog into a dope coffee table book!

    • +1

  105. Michelle says...

    I love the be-the-role-model-you-wish-to-see, but this also made me think, to paraphrase Carrie & Co., “why can’t we be each other’s role models?”

    • Cynthia Miller says...

      I like this- and we don’t have to be complete role models all by ourselves- like- I can be your role model in making chicken sandwiches, and you can be mine in knowing when to stop drinking red wine at a party.

    • Grace says...

      YES. I often need a role model to literally to take the glass of wine out of my hand. Girl, that is not what you need right now. Just walk away and get a taco.

  106. Eleanor says...

    I love this post and shared it with my 19 year daughter who is heading back to NYC for her 2nd year of college. Thank you Caroline for sharing. I think you can be her heros. :-)

  107. wow, wow, wow!!! written so beautifully, so thoughtfully…thank you!

    something that’s been weighing in my heart these days – also as a fellow thirty-something – is this: what IS wrong with celebrating life sans the “expected milestones” (children/homeownership, etc)? why do we feel the need to justify our choices, even if they honestly, truly, make us happy and whole and grounded beyond belief? a full, rich life is something to be damned proud of, and as far as I’m concerned, that can only come from within.

    keep sharing your heart…it’s beautiful.

  108. MO says...

    +100000000000 Yes, yes, yes!!!

  109. Caroline says...

    I rarely comment, but I wanted to say how much I appreciate you and your writing, Caroline. I admire your openness, perspective, and wisdom. I love that your book of essays (which I will of course be purchasing as soon as it’s available) is about your own journey, your own experiences. I think that it’s pushed (whether in books and movies or by society) that our stories as women are often shaped by dating or our relationships with men, when there is so much that also defines our lives. I think that in your honesty you are a role model to many.

    • Lou says...

      Amen

  110. Katie says...

    Love everything you write and so needed this today. Thank you!

  111. Melissa says...

    I’m 42, recently single (again), and live alone in Chicago. After a series of long-term relationships, I’ve loved this time of self-reflection/discovery and creating my own space and social scene again. I’m finding that there are many people just like me and that there is nothing wrong with not adhering to the status quo. The best thing about this life is the ability to reinvent yourself over and over again. The key is to listen to your gut and be willing to move beyond your comfort zone.

  112. Katie Anderson says...

    Beautiful :)

  113. Glynnis MacNicol is my new role model in this department! (Full disclosure: I’m a married mother, but STILL). She just came out with a book called No One Tells You This, and it’s all about turning 40, single and child-free, and feeling GREAT about her life. The gals at Forever35 podcast interviewed her a few weeks ago (the ep. was called something like “Forty isn’t a four-letter word”) and the whole interview was delightful and empowering.

    • Melinda says...

      This this this! I loved the Forever35 interview and devoured Glynnis’ book. I’m 35 and married but I loved the takeaway that we owe it our loved ones to take their lives seriously, even if we don’t follow a conventional path of marriage, mortgage, babies. I recommend for anyone looking for a new hero 😎

  114. Anyone want to start a 30-somethings single gal club? We can be each other’s role models. 36 in a week, livin’ alone, looking for ladies who think that’s perfectly normal and cool.

    • jac says...

      I am 34 and I know that 1 is a whole number. I am buying a house and you should see people LOSING THEIR SHIT that I am going to live alone in it. “Well, maybe you’ll have kids someday” Nope. That extra room is going to be a dance studio for reinacting musicals when I am home alone with my dog.

    • Rachael says...

      Maia, yes PLEASE! All my friends are getting married/living with their boyfs and I am the only one who’s doing something different (living in a city, as single as can be). <3

    • Brittany says...

      I never comment but…yes, please!

    • Anne says...

      Would join with enthusiasm!

    • Rie O. says...

      Oh I’m totally in! Single in my 40s (a bit older but..) & yearning to uproot and wander for a bit, but keeping my feelings to myself, save for a few trusted friends bc I can’t deal with the vaguely confused looks of pity.

    • Liz says...

      I’m turning 30 on Tuesday. Submitting my application early! ;) haha

    • dccat says...

      yes please! please let me know when, where, and how. Looking for this especially as an introvert

    • I’m fully in support of a virtual club! Why not have a place where we can talk to each other, share experiences, lament about the crappy parts and celebrate the good parts?!

      Count me in.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great idea, love this.

    • Helen says...

      As a 35 year old living in probably the hardest city to date in, I am in!

    • Heather says...

      Thank you for this!!! I am 30, single, and proud of myself.

      Incidentally, I am currently in the middle of a Sex and the City rewatch, and the funny thing is – I really DO admire those women! They’re all more multi-dimensional than I think 20 years of distance has distilled them down to be. But in particular, I admire Samantha’s confidence, Miranda’s REALness and success at work, Charlotte’s optimism, and Carrie’s desire to find real love. And they’re all such good friends to each other. I think the show has almost become a caricature of itself over the years, but actually watching it again – it’s legit!!!

  115. I love this so much! I’m 35 and single and am continuously discovering that I’m everything I need all on my own. Looking forward to reading your book!

  116. Ginny says...

    Caroline, thanks so much for writing this! it reminds me of some of Joanna’s past words about seeking a life that is not just happy, but WHOLE. And I’ve never understood the idea of a general life role model…I’ve always ascribed more to the idea of role models for specific situations. As in, I want to handle starting a business like Amy did, I want to handle children the way Debbie did, etc. I love that there are so many amazing women to look up to, but that we can also be those amazing women for ourselves and for each other.

  117. Judith says...

    I love every single thing you write. And also you just made me think of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. I love that too.

  118. Jenf says...

    Just this week, I saw the video of Oprah remaking the intro. to the MTM show and then Mary surprising her on set afterward. I had to share, just in case you haven’t seen it, fellow fan :-) I wish this essay had a photo of you tossing up your hat. I can just see it. Thank you for this post.

  119. diana k. says...

    I’ve always felt like I didn’t have any role models, but looking deeper I think I have hundreds. My mom, Padma Lakshmi, Nina Simone, Norma Kamali, Paula Scher, Serena Williams, Kathleen Hanna, my French boss who chain-smoked cigarettes and taught me how to run a small business, Jason Segel’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (his dracula musical is genius and I think about it almost every day), Greta Gerwig, my Architecture Professor who started her own firm and cooks short ribs instead of turkey on Thanksgiving, people with ideas who have the courage to make them reality- We are all compilations of the people that we meet or read about who have informed our trajectories, for better or for worse.

    • Anna says...

      Wow! So interesting

    • Lesley says...

      Beautiful.

  120. Amy says...

    Beautifully said. Much needed post. Love everything you write. I also loved Glynnis’s Book No One Tells You This.
    Highly recommend to readers if this blog!

    • Renee says...

      Currently reading…

    • Maria says...

      Just placed a hold request at my local library.

  121. Emily says...

    This was a breath of fresh air. I feel like I always go back and forth who I find a role model whether Michelle Obama, Betty White to fictional Meredith Grey, depending on what I’m looking for. The last line stuck with me… “,you’re gonna make it after all. Perhaps, you already are.” Which makes me think of my elementary students especially my little girls and hope that I am a role model to them. Thank you!

  122. Cheryl says...

    I like thinking of people as expanders. Who expands the way I see possibilities and my potential in the world? Eva Chen inspires my career and motherhood aspirations, Katie Jane Hughes inspires me in beauty, and Neghar Fonooni expands my spiritual life and a colleague of mine has been my career expander at my job. Another friend is my health expander, helping me navigate alternative medicine and finding my best, healthy self. And most of all, finding opportunities for me to be an expander for others in these ways tests my own potential.

  123. This is so beautiful

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  124. Laura says...

    Caroline, check out the new book “No One Tells You This,” by Glynnis MacNicol if you have not already!

  125. Ne says...

    My cousin gave me some great advice, she asked me to make a list of things that I’d like in a partner. (I am currently single.) Then she told me to develop those qualities and tick those boxes for myself! This way, you aren’t working towards perfection, but at feeling complete within your self!
    I’m working on it, and it is the best advice ever!! I am even developing a sense that I deserve the love I want!

    • Jess says...

      OMG I LOVE THIS!

    • diana k. says...

      Yes!

  126. Stacy says...

    Thanks for writing this Caroline. I’m the same age as you, single/live alone, and similar trajectory of moving to nyc at age 18 for school. My job as a therapist in community mental health is so tough some days, with a lot of pain to bear for others, that I come home in tears. Came here today for my own mental health/pick me up/self-care, and found this. Perfect timing, thank u :).

    • Rose says...

      Stacy, I’m also a mental health therapist working in residential treatment-substance use/co-occurring disorders/trauma, and I know exactly how you feel. Some days are full of lightbulb moments and joy and growth, and some days are full of heartbreak and confusion and sadness. Many days hold both for me. Sending you light and peace tonight. Thanks for doing what you do to hold space for fellow human beings and help them on their journey towards healing and growth! :)

  127. I LOVE this post, thank you so much for sharing. At the age of 45 I’m realizing I’ve never had a role model either and maybe I’m my own. I can remember being young (I grew up in the deep south) and looking at the life most people lived after college….get married, have babies, maybe work/maybe not. I knew deep down this would not be my road. I’ve been winging it ever since, and as you say, “my heart is full as is my life.”

  128. Carrie says...

    I’ve never had a role model. Honestly never even thought about it. I wonder, if I tried searching, who mine would be and why. What are the criteria, or do you just “know”?

  129. Amy says...

    Caroline, you are my new role model. I’m a happy single woman, age 35.

  130. Melanie says...

    Loved reading this, Caroline. I’ve always been drawn to your voice as a similarly aged woman in a similarish situation! It would be great to have a regular column from you about what’s going on with you/your musings on the world from your POV. I’ve come back to Cup of Jo for almost a decade because of Joanna’s voice, but definitely would love more of yours :)

    I personally find that I don’t have a “whole” role model. I admire some people’s independence and confidence (Jane Goodall), others’ wit and charm (Diane Keaton, Hedy Lamarr), some for their approach to politics, or family, or work life balance. But I never can pinpoint a role model who knocks it out of the park.

    • diana k. says...

      yessss, Hedy Lamarr!

  131. Kelly says...

    I spent much of my thirties feeling like a giant failure — one failed relationship after the next, still unmarried, starting to feel like a disappointment to myself and my family that things just weren’t materializing and that life was passing me by. Anyway, after one failed pregnancy I’m now the mother of a baby boy at age 42 and I feel like my entire life narrative has been rewritten — I don’t have the gold star relationship but my son makes me so unbelievably happy. You never know what will happen!

    • Jenny says...

      Kelly, I love that. I completely relate to having failed relationship after failed relationship. You are so brave :)

  132. Samantha says...

    Thank you so much for this! I just came from an appointment with my therapist describing that one of the challenges of being single in my 30’s is the lack of representation and role models. Both in entertainment and in my own personal connections. It is so nice to hear from other women in the same boat. We are valid and full just as we are but it can be easy to forget. So thank you for this lovely piece and reminding me that I am not alone in this.

    • Jessica says...

      Samantha, I have had this exact same conversation with my therapist! It can feel really lonely out there. Lately, I’ve been loving the Forever 35 podcast, which a lot of commenters have already mentioned. Even though both hosts are married, they have such a commitment to interviewing women from all walks of life, and they have featured some really awesome single women. It made me realize how much I had been craving hearing stories from women whose lives looked just a bit more like mine.

  133. Kristen says...

    I love your content. I’m 32, single, live alone in Manhattan, and am overall pretty damn happy with where I am. We should hang out :-)

    • 30, single, in Brooklyn, and also pretty damn happy with where I am! Can we start a club, please?

  134. Em says...

    I had a laugh halfway through this piece because when I saw the title of this post, my initial reaction was “At a certain point (in my opinion, probably no later than 23), you gotta start being your own role model”.

  135. Natasha says...

    This post made me tear up in my apartment where I happily live by myself and where I just put together a chair by myself even though the damn directions said “two adults needed.” Thank you for writing this and being you-can’t wait for you collection of essays!

  136. Amy says...

    As I get older I find myself with friends of every age from whom I learn so much. I’m in my 30s and have been introduced to culture and experiences I’d never dreamed of by my 70 and 80 year old pals. They share stories of at times idyllic and at times vbrutal childhoods and youths that remind me nothing and noone is perfect and turning people into villains and heroes, gods and monsters is not helpful. Most of all they have taught me not to take things too seriously, that life continues for now.
    My friends in their 20s keep me abreast of the cultural zeitgeist and thrill me with their boundless hope and optimism, while also making me thankful to be past the age when I needed certainty, satisfying as it is to believe I have all the answers. My friends in their 40s and 50s are such fun; their kids are teens or grown up and they’re rediscovering themselves and I am along for the ride! All of these wonderful, imperfect people are my role models. They surprise me in many ways each day, sometimes positively at other times I find myself disappointed, which in turns reminds me that we are all trying our best and sometimes we don’t quite reach it and that’s why we need eachother.

    • jennifer in austin says...

      I love this so much. Intergenerational friendships are so rich and rewarding!!

  137. Kyla says...

    There are not enough hearts in the world for how much I love this. Bravo, Caroline!

  138. Jenny says...

    You are the best! I love how you write. And you could definitely be someones role model, you know, in case they are looking for one.

  139. monica says...

    Love your story!

  140. Alyssa says...

    Well, I guess I’ve found MY new role model… Thanks, Caroline. You’re a true inspiration!

  141. riye says...

    You go, Caroline. There a so many women out there who are every day heroes–many of them right here!

    I just turned down a community enrichment opportunity because I didn’t like the way the organizer spoke to me. My boyfriend said I “misunderstood” the organizer. Uh, NO I didn’t. I might be just a girl but I know the difference between talking to someone like a peer and talking down. Give me a break. I politely turned down the offer.

  142. Isabelle says...

    Wow. Just wow. You might now be your own role model, but you’ve also pretty much become mine in the span of this 5 minute read. Thank you.

  143. jeannie says...

    This is such an awesome post. Thank you so much, Caroline.

  144. Marina says...

    Love it!

  145. Kim B. says...

    My new mantra shall be “My heart is full, as is my life.” Beautiful post. Thank you, Caroline.

  146. Colleen S says...

    I don’t have a role model. I never really have. I love my mom, but I could never be treated the way she lets my dad treat her (he’s verbally abusive, and it took me YEARS to realize this). So…yeah. I’m my own role model, even though there are days I hate myself.