Single Women of a Certain Age:
Romantic Escapades, Shifting Shapers, and Serene Independence

edited by Jane Ganahl


New World Publishing, 2005. Reprint edition: 2009. ISBN 978-1-577-31664-0.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 10/06/2009

Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

"When you grow up. When you grow up and get married."

Girls heard that from their mothers and fathers. That's the way their worlds were going to be.

Not necessarily. Read the essays of Debra Ginsberg, April Sinclair, Diane Mapes, Joyce Maynard or any of the twenty-nine women who contributed their stories to Single Women of a Certain Age. "Send us no flowers: we are not pining away," contributor and volume editor Jane Ganahl tells us.

These certain-aged single women are doing just fine. All of the authors are over forty. Most of them fall between forty-five and fifty-five; one is soaring in her seventies. They live full lives and (mostly) don.t obsess over their martial situations. After all, marriage is only one part of life. These essays deal with the whole package.

Still, many of the essays deal with dating and relationships. "It's been thirty years since I've sat across the table from a man whose underwear I didn't buy," contributor Ronnie Caplane remarks, and gets herself a dating coach. She learns her new skills quickly and shares, "I brace myself as I open the door, remind myself to breathe, and take the first step into this new life that I never wanted."

Contributor Joyce Maynard has a fling—online, and ends up going to a lunch that never ends. Jane Juska, the elder essayist of this collection, "advertised for sex in the New York Review of Books" when she was sixty-seven. She wasn't interested in a long-term commitment, just some (ah) companionship. She ended up writing a well-received book about it.

Some of these single women are also single moms and dating is more complex. "A cool mom is one thing, but a red-hot mama is something else." It's a balancing act with excruciating decisions. A few do find life-long companionship: contributor Patti Lawson writes of her happiness in "A New Leash on Life."

Roughly half of the adult women in the United States are single, divorced, widowed, or separated. Although the book is clearly aimed at this audience, I see broader appeal. The world is full of readers who enjoy good diverse writing.

I'm long married, and I found the book fascinating. Single women have been among the important women in my life. Widowed young, my mother spent more of her adult years as a single woman than she did married. And I saw her face, heard her voice in several of the essays. She would have enjoyed this book. She never liked being single, but she did a good job of it.


Jane Ganahl has contributed to Huffington Post, Harper's Bazaar and Match.com. She is the author of the novelized memoir, Naked on the Page: the Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife. She lives and writes in San Francisco. Ganahl pens the San Francisco Chronicle column "Single Minded." Visit her website.

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