Happy, Fascinating, Never-Married Women Over 40: Patricia Clarkson

Much like we have the player/slut dichotomy between men and women’s sexual choices, we also have the bachelor/spinster breakdown. What’s the difference between that fascinating uncle who lives in his glass-encased co-op on the Lower East Side and the vaguely pathetic aunt who keeps scrapbooks of all her friends and family in Brooklyn? Besides the potential for their hobbies to be divergent, they also suffer from different societal expectations. We feel sorry for middle-aged single women because no one ever loved them enough, and applaud the ingenuity and clear mystery surrounding men who made it to forty or fifty without being snatched (George Clooney?). What is fascinating about this is that statistically, married women are the least happy demographic, while married men are the most happy. Men benefit from marriage far more than women do, but we maintain the notion that an unmarried woman is a lamentable secret and an unmarried man is an enigmatic hero.

This is not to malign either choice. In fact, I think that people should make whatever decision makes them happiest, or makes the most sense in their lives. And I suspect that a large part of being at peace with the potentiality of whatever happens comes with reducing the anxiety around what might happen to a woman should she pass the “lighting strike” age (which is bullshit, by the way). Also, I am wary of each of these articles and studies, because I suspect, from my inexperienced perspective, that each relationship and person and situation is unique enough to constitute its own particular study.

To that end, I want to debunk this myth myself, not by pulling from a random number pool and declaring a winner in the gender-wars-for-who-can-be-loved, but rather by finding women who are interesting, satisfied, and at peace with their lives who happen to have never been married. I’m less interested in asexuality or sexual confusion than people for whom, either by accident or on purpose, marriage has not happened (yet).

First up: Patricia Clarkson.

I have always liked and admired Patricia Clarkson, for a number of reasons. While she is wildly charming, she also is often a supporting player, and in this right her acting wiles are fantastic. Even though the series itself is intricate and phenomenal, her guest appearances as Ruth’s sister in Six Feet Under are standouts, as is her portrayal of a distant and cancer-striken mother in Pieces of April (which was actually not that fantastic of a movie). Her most wonderful role, in my opinion, is of Ron Swanson’s doula/Sunday School Teacher/first wife in Parks & Rec, and she sealed the deal for me there.

One morning while I was “writing a paper,” I was watching the view and Patricia Clarkson came on, and the women on the couch clacked at her and said, “never married, and living just fine!” and, if anything, Ms. Clarkson seemed surprised that this was a topic of conversation. She laughed and smiled and agreed and the world moved on, and her gracefulness through the interrogation as well as this simple fact of her life made me respect her as a woman as well as an actress.

She grew up in New Orleans, went to Fordham and Yale, and is friends with Amy Ryan, who is also a badass. Perhaps as a result of her lack of romantic tumult, her live appears to walk the incredibly respectable line of being a public figure and maintaining privacy, which I respect tremendously.

I’ve no doubt that Ms. Clarkson has countless hobbies, friends, and things to do.

Please compare to: Turtle Man.

This lovely gentlemen “grew up in the woods,” as the boys I babysit proudly proclaim, and never wears shoes or protective gear. His personal business in Kentucky is catching animals with his bare hands that prove to be “nuisances” to homeowners, including rats and possums. I will give him credit for impressively pulling a cow out of a sinkhole, though his dog then herded the cow back into the sinkhole and they had to start over again.

Like Patricia Clarkson, Turtle Man is unmarried. His partner and “secretary” (who professes that this is his job because “I’m the only one who’s got a phone,”) once suggested that the reason for Turtle Man’s single status may be that he always kisses snapping turtles immediately after catching them. I suspect it might also have something to do with the fact that in this particular case (not pictured), Turtle Man dove into a swamp full of livestock feces to pull out the turtle, without any clothing on, and then sucked face with the predator.

Yes, he is the one living the high life.

* Nominations welcome for unmarried women who are cool and happy.

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