One of the biggest culture shocks I've encountered on moving back to Georgia is how unwelcoming the social structure is to older singles. In DC, although most of my friends were married, and had children, I didn't feel isolated, as all continued to embrace me as a friend to both husbands and wives and as an "aunt" to their children. Partly, this was possible because I had known many of them since well before they married, and instead of turning insular when they coupled up, they proved true loyalty by opening their hearts even wider, to allow for both the new romantic connection and for our continued friendship. So, instead of my circle of friends shrinking when friends married, it expanded, as I befriended/was befriended by the new spouses. But suddenly, I am out of network.
The South (and probably the American Midwest, too) is very natalist. At heart, I am, too--I simply believed implicitly that I would get married and have children (I thought six!). Older singles when I was growing up were frequently deemed to either have something odd or wrong about them, or to be so engrossed in a particular higher calling that they simply didn't have time for matrimony. The latter was an acceptable, even laudable, position. Too, when I was young, I heard stories enough to indicate that there was at least one woman in every small Southern town who never married--that was her distinguishing characteristic, apparently. Some were wealthy (by surrounding standards) and left sums of money to the church or civic organizations. Nowadays, I know of several who are a couple of decades my senior, the daughters of well-established local families, who are in all the characteristic clubs and activities that mark out a lady's path in upper-echelon Southern society, from the Junior League to benefit galas.
Perhaps I mentioned it before, but as an indication of how deeply ingrained the presumption is that people here will have families of their own, all the Sunday schools at my home church are divvied up by the age of one's children! No one thinks this is odd. There are the "young singles" (twenty-somethings) and the "older singles" (thirty-somethings), but nothing else. So, I decided to join the Trinity Class from today--it's the class for couples and widows seventy and above. Many of the people in the class were my age now when I began coming to the church as a third-grader, so it gives me a feeling of continuity. Also, it's a class where I am actually the youngest!
I am waiting to get official word from the church session as to whether my membership will simply be reactivated, or if I will have to go through the inquirer's class again. I really hope I don't have to go through the hoop of the class. I told the elder that I talked to this evening that if I had to go before the session, I was going to demand that they pray for me a husband as a sort of quid pro quo.