What If This Isn’t My World?

Years ago, when I was about eight years old, I remember laying in my white canopy bed with frilly, pink bedding, thinking, “How did I get here, in this body? How did my soul end up in this exact place?” I asked my mother, and I don’t know that she ever understood what I was asking fully. To be fair, the question was coming from a child, so she assuredly saw it as a basic inquiry. I never could understand how a soul floating around in space, would end up in a specific body, with a specific family, and live the particular body in which they landed. I had a bit of a disconnection, at times, with everything around me, because I just couldn’t understand where my soul came from, and how it ended up where it did.

About a year ago, I was having a tough time with some things. I asked one of my dearest friends if I was having a “mid-life crisis.” She responded with, “No, you’re having an existential crisis.” She may have hit the proverbial nail upon the head, but I don’t know that the crisis was limited to last year. I think I’ve been having that existential crisis my entire life. I grew up in a very Italian area. I was notably not Italian. I was very “Nordic,” in comparison. I mention this, because I looked, sounded, and acted differently from the other children. To add to that differentiation, I loved castles, unimaginable beasts, magic, mysticism, and anything that was not quite of this world. That bothered some kids, but I was fine imagining and playing on my own, anyway.

I often daydreamed that I was part of another world, and that at some point, someone would come through a great sci-fi portal to bring me back home. Wherever home was, that is. As a child, I was fairly convinced that I came from a world where people looked and acted more like I did. I felt like, somewhere, there was a home that I was missing. Somewhere, I fit in. 

Some thought I looked like the literary descriptions of elves. Not the elves that make Santa’s Christmas happen, but the ones from fantasy books, who were tall and slender, with fair, glowing skin and pale eyes. It gave me hope that, maybe, there was a world out there that I would fit in. Some place where I just “fit.”

Although I’ve grown up, that feeling has never completely left me. That feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin. That cloud of not being like anyone else in the world, and never really fitting in. I’ve never been an extrovert, or an outgoing life-of-the-party type. I’m uncomfortable in most social situations, and prefer to keep to myself and “people watch.” At times, it really does feel like observing some foreign species that I just don’t relate to. Heck, if someone showed up at my door tomorrow, and said that they were here to take me back to some other world, maybe everything would suddenly make some sort of sense. 

I rarely approach or handle things like other people. The world is very “black and white” for me. In most situations, there are very defined points of “right and wrong.” I was recently speaking with my sister about how we grew up. She said, “Most people don’t seem to understand why it’s so easy for us to be ethical, but I don’t know any other way to be.” You see, my sister and I grew up in a household that was very strong on ethics. My parents are still married, even after 55 years. They have stayed faithful to one another, without question. My mother once said, “Your father would have never cheated on me. Not because he loves me so much, but because you just don’t do that. That’s not something that is in his ethical makeup to do.” The comment seemed both sweet and sad, all at the same time.

My sister and I were raised viewing the world very differently from other people. We were expected to handle everything, remain strong, and power through any issues. If something needed to be moved, we moved it on our own. If a spider needed to be taken care of, we were the removal crew. Even when I fractured my foot, I was expected to get to the car (to go to the Emergency Room) on my own. When I failed to make it to the car, (upon request for assistance) my father simply said, “Hop.” In our household, there was simply never any allowance for “girly-ness,” “femininity,” or weakness. 

This expectation of being strong has stuck to me through adulthood like super glue. Even when I tried to avoid it at all costs. I once asked a male friend to walk me to my car on a late, dark night. He said no. He wouldn’t even watch me walk to my car. He said, “You’ll be fine.” I wasn’t fine, I was nervous, and apprehensive. I didn’t feel safe. Months later, I found out that he was walking his new girlfriend a couple of blocks, from one destination to another. The distance he walked with her was viewable from his place of employment and did not exceed two city blocks. One day, I asked why he would walk her, and not me, when I had asked. He said, “Look at you, no one would bother you.” He never did elaborate on that more, but did (in the realization of hearing what he had said) try to then say that his girlfriend seemed more like a “victim” than I did. 

The expectation is to “need” men, and to have them take care of you, if you’re a woman. Society is pretty unforgiving, if you’re a woman who can live without one. However, I have never understood what society thinks will happen to women without men, when they need to handle “manly” things? Are we expected to fail? To flounder? Or to take care of it ourselves? And if we take care of it ourselves, why are we condemned, and not regaled? 

Ultimately, I am a breed unto myself. I sit alone in a world of species whom I do not understand, nor do I really relate to. And I continue to wait for my companion to show up and escort me back to a world where people think, act, and look like me.

Life is Short, Live it Now

Throughout time, people will come into your life, and people will leave your life. Some may be around a lot, some may just spend a moment. Those that make the biggest impact, and share the most love, are the ones who leave the biggest void when they go.

Years ago, I also lost a young family member. He had been sick most of his life, and we were all blessed to have him around for the time that we did. In the brief two decades I shared with him, he left an important lesson . . . No matter how long your life is, life is short. You never know. Even when you have a hint, you never know. Even when he went, and we knew he would at some point (it was certainly not a surprise), I was still not ready for him to not be in my life anymore. That is one of life’s events that you are NEVER ready for. His lesson always stays with me, but sometimes, it gets pushed into the back of my brain more than it should. Until, that is, you get another painful reminder . . .

I found out this morning, that I lost a dear friend. I didn’t spend much time with him as I should have, and I will always regret that. I did, however, speak to him via social media, quite often. In all my 40+ years, and amongst all of the people I have met in my life, he was one of the ones who left a mark. He was a dear, sweet, kindhearted person, who left a vacuous void in countless people’s lives.

This friend of mine, he always thought of me, and many other people. In his death, his Facebook page is flooding with people remarking, “He was my best friend.” More than ever before, I see people leaving wonderful, loving words for this man. This simple man who loved others more than he ever loved himself. And even more amazing, he never bragged about it. He never boasted about all of the friends he had, or how much he did for others. You just didn’t know. He made you feel special individually. 

Isn’t that how the world should be, though? The world should be full of people with humility, positivity, good nature, and love for others. People should know that it’s the small things. The little things, like a silly Facebook post, or a kind word, that make people feel loved, sometimes at their worst, or even their scariest, moments.
We spend so much time trying to impress people, worrying about how we “look” on social media, working until we drop, leaving our families behind . . . And what will we have at the end of it all? PEOPLE are the most important thing in life. More specifically, the people we love. 

This friend of mine, he kept asking for me to come back and visit, as it had been awhile since I had seen him. I kept saying I would. I would try. But I didn’t. What would it have taken, really? A charge on a credit card? We charge credit cards every day. Some time off of work? I have stockpiled my personal time off almost shamefully. Worse, I love travel. Especially, air travel. Even worse, he’s not the only dear friend at that location. Some of my other most beloved friends and people live there. I have no good excuse, other than I let time get away from me, and I shoved that lesson about time too far back into my head. 

People aim for milestones in life, more than anything. They dream about love affairs, weddings, promotions, success, children, and on and on. So much so, that they forget to live in the “here and now.” Life is finite, we should ALL live in the “here and now.” It’s not about being married, or not being married, having kids, or not having kids, how old you are . . . It’s not about those milestones. It’s about moments, single events, individual people. It’s about those whom you love. 

I urge everyone to stop, evaluate what and who is most important in your life, before it’s too late. Life is short, you get no “re-dos.” Tell people you love them every chance you get, go see them, without delay. Live without fear and apprehension. And always remember that life lesson . . . No matter how old you get, life is a gift. 

In loving dedication to my dear friend whom I didn’t get to see one last time. Much love in the clouds with lots of puppies, and all that other “guy stuff.”

Waiting for Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, I wanted a family of my own. I can’t say that I “wanted a husband,” or that I “wanted children.” I wanted the whole package. This, of course, is something that eludes a lot of people, but I was not about to seek one out without the other.

My life has not been devoid of relationships. I have had a few. Most of them were more about what my counterpart could get from me, and me providing a more stable and comfortable life for them. After walking away from, and looking back on, the long-term relationships, I can honestly say that I left those situations with little-to-nothing to gain from the other person. That’s a sad thing to realize, as you get older . . . That you weren’t a “real” person to someone, and that your worth lay in how you could make their life easier. Not one of them would’ve stood up for me, helped me, held my hand when I was unwell . . . They were in it for them, and only them. 

A common point of conversation lately is one of people seeming to be mystified that I no longer seek out dating and/or relationships. I tried the dating apps, dating websites, meeting people through friends . . . Frankly, it’s just too stressful. It’s draining. It’s self-esteem killing. I expressed to someone recently that I have no desire to waste my precious time trying to make a relationship out of a situation that I know is not what I want. I’ve actually become someone fine-tuned at being able to discern a situation doomed to failure long before the first date. Some may say that it is “pessimistic” to look at it that way, but why waste anyone’s time? I want what I want, and it would be a disservice to anyone to try to make something out of something that I know I don’t want. 

I do not view people as perfect/imperfect. Rather, it’s more a situation of variables. What one person wants is not going to be what the next person wants. It’s all relative. Granted, there are common interests. You’d be hard-pressed to find any heterosexual woman who wouldn’t show some interest in someone like Brad Pitt, but that’s not to say that all women would want to bear his children. It’s all a give and take, and what is perfect for one person, is a total mismatch for another.

I have always wanted a counterpart, a puzzle piece, a slice of my own perfection. I will not compromise. Not anymore. I wasted too much time on the wrong men, because I tried to make something out of a situation that didn’t offer all the ingredients necessary for it to work. It’s not about changing yourself for another person. It’s about not having to change yourself to make your companion happy. If you have to adjust who you are, you are with the wrong person. People are fallible. People are flawed. There is no perfect person. The goal is just to find the person who is perfect for you. The one you work well with, whom you would give your life for, and they would do the same for you. 

Not long ago, I had to tell an old friend that I was not romantically interested in him. He was one of the sweetest, kindest men I knew. For years, he romanced me with poetry, flowers, graces, so on, and so on. By all accounts, he was as close to the “perfect man” that I had ever met, for any woman. When it came to me, it just wasn’t there. No matter how I tried, I would just not feel the same way. And to be honest, I didn’t see how he felt so enamored. Even after years of knowing one another, he did not really know me. He could tell you my favorite movies, maybe even my favorite foods, but he did not know who I was at my core. He knew the social media version of “me,” not the “it’s a horrible day” me. He had spent years building up an image of who he thought I was, but it wasn’t real. I asked him to back off and just get to know me as a person, a friend. I thought that maybe, if I got to know him on that comfortable level, maybe I would have a love for him that would be fostered and grow. It didn’t. In fact, he kept on with the flowers, the poems, and the “push.” I wound up finally asking him to stop and abruptly telling him that I was not interested and never would be, in that way. He turned in an instant, going on about how I had “led (him) on.” It ended our friendship.

I could have just kept my mouth shut and lived a lie to get my own family. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take part of his life away for my own selfishness. What service would it have done? THAT is NOT love. By not going down that road, he is free to find that one person who is perfect for him, and will love him in the way that he deserves, without the compromise.

Call me a “dreamer,” if you must. You can disagree with me, too. I have to live my life, and walk my path. I just want to make sure it’s with the right person. And in the end, if there is no “right” person, I’m okay walking with my dogs, who really do know me better than anyone else, anyway.

The Low-Hanging Fruit

My birthday is just around the corner. It’s not really important which one it is (once you’re over 40, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore). While driving a friend to work, he reminded me of the impending day, and I had to hear about how I’m “old.” It’s worth noting that he is only a year younger than me, and (as standard practice) dates women young enough to be his daughter. And it would be comforting to think that he was the only man who had this opinion, but he’s not. Far from it. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that older women weren’t desirable, sexy, attractive, or even valid. And to be fair, it was probably a man.

I don’t know that I ever saw myself as “pretty.” I have a lifetime of people telling me that I’m not, even after a short stint with modeling. It’s been 40+ years of people not just “making me aware,” but going out of their way to “notify” me of how “not pretty” they think I am. As if it was their moral and social obligation to let me know, and not go through life blissfully unaware. Dating websites were the absolute worst. It’s a free-for-all of jilted men who have this burning need to insult and berate women they do not know, in sad attempts to make them feel better about themselves. Through it, I’ve heard some horrible things from people. Things that shock some, and would amaze others that they had even been uttered.I have family members who feel it is now their obligation to go against what these people have said, and try to tell me daily that I am “beautiful.” With over four decades of random and unsolicited opinions to the contrary, the encouraging words sting more than comfort. They anger, they don’t encourage. 

In never thinking I was “pretty,” I also never thought that I was “ugly,” either. I never saw myself as some sort of mutant or otherwise. About a decade ago, I was in an unhappy relationship and had gained a notable amount of weight. Once I left that situation, I got to work at being healthier. I lost over 30 pounds at one point, and felt so good about myself. The comments were almost immediate . . . “You’re too skinny,” “you look sick,” so on. I had a coworker say, “You need to stop losing weight, because it’s hard for everyone else to.” Wow. Just . . . Wow. The backlash was immediate, and big. And I didn’t understand it, because I was happy, and I felt good. Healthy. I was a lot more confident. Then, I gained two-thirds of it back. That seemed to comfort people, oddly enough. So now, I’m not skinny, I’m not healthy, I don’t feel good, and I’m still not pretty. At least, a few years ago, I was skinny and confident.

On top of all of that, now age has caught up with me. I would like to note that I don’t really look my age. Good, bad, or indifferent, I don’t look my age. Most people guess me to be in my thirties. And that’s okay, but it serves no purpose. I’m still, well . . . My age. And when that comes to the opinions of others (especially men) in society, looking young means nothing. In today’s world, men may say that they lust after women like Jennifer Anniston, but in reality, what would their peers think when they find out she’s almost 50? It wouldn’t matter if a woman is a great catch, if she’s smart, sexy, funny, warm . . . She’s old, and that just doesn’t “look” good.

So what is to become of these “old crones?” We would be foolish to ever expect a man to step in. And why would they? We’re not children. We’re not living “sex toys,” who drive their friends green with envy. Women who are older, more independent, and more settled in who they are, are much more intimidating anyway. They aren’t impressed by a man’s clean apartment, or the sports care they don’t know how to drive. After all, they have their own clean home, and their own sports car that they’ve mastered. They’ve impressed themselves beyond what a man can do. It’s much easier to reach for the low-hanging fruit of youth, instead of the blooms that grew higher for the sun. That said, it never fails that the man doing the reaching is likely to be angered by the fruit just out of arm’s length, so he tries to knock it to the ground where he thinks it “belongs.” I mean, everything in the world should “know its place,” right? 

In a just world, older women would be heralded as the bigger prize. They are much more difficult to obtain, after all. It would take someone very special, very accomplished, and very dedicated to hold onto a woman who doesn’t need him. And realistically, that’s just to hard for most men. That lower fruit is just so much easier. Not as sweet, but easier.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

When I was five years old, my mother and I boarded a plane to see my grandfather. Not long into the flight, we were detoured to another city, due to landing gear sticking. I vividly remember my mother being gracefully calm through the entire experience. I don’t think I worried, until the stewardess showed up with a brown paper bag, and asked my mother to remove all of her jewelry. Once my Mom removed her gold charm bracelet, I knew it was serious. She always wore it when traveling. When she tells the story, she notes that I never panicked until we were told that we may have to use the emergency slide to exit the plane. In such an event, I would have to go down the slide first, with my mother to follow. The thought of leaving the plane without her terrified me. A passenger who had been speaking with me, throughout the flight, assured me that he would wait at the bottom and my mother would be right behind me. In the end, everything was fine. The plane landed without incident, and we eventually boarded another plane, and continued on our way. 

Stories like these are likely not all that uncommon, from the over-40 crowd. Every happening was not broadcast onto the nightly news, and the airline did not even blink. What stays with me is how my mother behaved through the entire event. She never even seemed worried to me. She was poised, confident, and comforting. Looking back, I’m sure that her only concern was keeping me calm. Even with the potential for disaster, I didn’t feel scared. 

My mother has always seemed to approach negative things in that way, shielding others from it. Over the years, she has absorbed endless amounts of worry, discord, scandal, grief, and protected her loved ones from all of it that she could. It’s a measure of responsibility that I could not ever weigh. However, all of that strength also comes with an unintentional seclusion. People have always relied on her being strong, and making everyone else feel safe. So much so, that they tend to forget that she is taking on all of that burden herself. It’s almost too commonplace. My mother may be the strongest person I know, and may ever know. She is mother to not just her own children, but cousins, friends, extended relatives . . . almost everyone she meets.

In some ways, I am “my mother’s daughter.” I grieve mostly in silence, but I grieve. I weep alone, but I do weep. When I ask for help, few people notice, or I am told to “handle it (myself).” I think this predisposes women to be alone. Even if just emotionally. 

It has been my experience that men do not usually wed emotionally strong women. They count on them, they need them, but they don’t typically marry them. My mother married in another era. One of hot rods, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and wedding bells. She raised strong daughters, who she made certain went to college, and would never “need” to count on anyone else. She was successful. We (so far) have been able to survive fairly well on our own. The unforeseeable downside was that men tend to like women who need “saving.” Men are supposed to be strong. The knights on the galant horses. The heroes in the old love stories. 

In 2017, women are supposed to be equal to men. Partnerships are supposed to be exactly that, a partnership. Women and men should be strong, they should be mutual contributors, there to support each other. My mother has always been ahead of her time, and she continues to be strong, for hopefully many, many, many years to come. Because you see, I don’t think I’m quite as strong as she is; and as independent and and strong as I am (thanks to her), I’m just quite as much as she is. 

The Storm Cloud of Spinsterhood

Most little girls grow up with fairy tales. Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, they all end up with the epitome of happiness in the end . . . The man, the marriage, and the “happily ever after.” There’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Mirror Has Two Faces, that addresses just this thing (https://youtu.be/EcuhMYVjY_Q). The point of it is, they never tell you the “after.” 

I was once in a long-term relationship that lasted over a decade. Seven years of which, we lived together. There was never a proposal, and rarely a word or conversation about going down to the courthouse and filing those important papers; let alone, anything culminating in a grand display of his “love and devotion” to me. Somehow, the absence of this grandiose celebration rendered my long-term relationship invalid in the eyes of almost everyone. It didn’t matter that we functioned as a married couple. It didn’t matter that, when we parted ways, we had to divide things and suffer the emptiness left behind from the other. It didn’t matter that we were more devoted to one another than most joyous young couples who are currently planning to walk down the aisle. None of it mattered, because I didn’t have that ring around my finger. He never “loved me enough” to “seal the deal.” It’s always amazed me that, in order for others to take a relationship seriously, a couple has to plunge themselves into enormous debt and unimaginable amounts of stress, in order for anyone to consider their coupledom worth, well, considering.I recently had the honor of attending the nuptials of my cousin’s daughter They had a gorgeous wedding, it was a great party, and they deserve every happiness that the world affords them. The family could not be happier for them, and has been happy for them for their entire journey. Those same family members didn’t seem to be able to muster the same happiness for my sister, who became engaged for the first time at 51 years old. The whispers of “desperation” floated through the air, as the judgement on her fiancé bounced alongside of them. People just couldn’t find the same happiness for her that they had bestowed upon my cousin’s daughter. 

All of this begs the question . . . Where is the line? When does the view of joy turn to a view of disdain? When does the happiness turn sour? When does elation turn to pity? Is it in your thirties? Maybe so. Somewhere around 32 or 33, I think. That notion that, if you were worth “getting,” you would’ve been “gotten.” 

The storm cloud that hovers over the unmarried-and-childless-over-35 woman is that no one “wanted her.” No one found her “good enough.” And it prevails in everything from career to personal life to family life. Everywhere. These are sometimes accompanied by the whispers of lesbianism, but ultimately, the onlooker’s conclusion is that this woman must be so defective that, even the lowest of the low, didn’t find her worthy. 

The irony is that the same is not true for men. Unmarried and childless men are heralded as “players,” “don juans,” and “confirmed bachelors.” Men are never branded with something as heinous as, “spinster.” They are high-fived and congratulated for “dodging bullets,” and not making “bad choices.” For not succumbing to the wiles of an unworthy woman. No company or professional organization would even think to consider a man’s personal life, when they are being considered for a job or promotion. They would never weigh the absence of marriage and children, as a commentary on their value. No one would even make the connection. However, for women, if that part is missing, there must be something horribly wrong with their makeup, their character, their person. Was it their looks? Their constitution? Their personality? Why would anyone take the chance?

This is not to imply that women should never marry. I do think that marriage should be a mutual agreement, or pact, of working together to survive this world. A partnership that means you always have someone on your side, someone in your corner. I never aimed to be unmarried or childless. It’s just what life offered me. I wouldn’t compromise. I didn’t want to marry for the sake of marrying. I just never received the memo telling me that the world would hold such condemnation of me in doing so. I honestly thought that people would consider me wise, and of good judgement. I thought that I would be applauded for knowing myself. My wonderful sister should be commended for waiting until she found someone she considered the perfect match for her, and not taking any lesser offers. Alas, people think she is just jumping on the first life boat in the shipwreck of age and spinsterhood. 

I would like to note that, women who are divorced, are exempt from all of the notions carried by unmarried women. Divorced women get a societal “pass,” because they were “chosen” by someone at some point in time. Someone found them “worthy,” it just didn’t work out. Someone found them “good enough” to bestow a ring upon their delicate finger, it just unraveled later. 

Most women live their lives dreaming of their wedding day. The end-all-be-all of existence, when a man has declared his love for you, and rendered your existence valid. I was honestly no different. Growing up, I had the magazine clippings from Bride magazine, and the daydreams of what a reception would look like, who would be in my wedding party. After all, nothing, and I mean nothing, is as important as getting married (so society told us). You could have a PhD in Physics, but you are “broken,” if you are not married. You could be the President of the United States, but it wouldn’t matter. It’s sad, and terribly unfortunate. Even in today’s world, women are valued and judged by the salutation before their name, and the jewelry on their hands.

The Myth of Eliza Jane Wilder


When I was in high school, I would get home at the end of every school day, with enough time to turn on Little House on the Prairie reruns. I would curl up on the sofa with my pint of ice cream and a blanket, in anticipation of whatever episode would be on that day. I would watch each episode, as if I had not watched them hundreds of times before. It fostered a life-long love of the show. I know more about the show than anyone else I’ve ever met. Each of the characters hold special places in my heart, but none so much as Eliza Jane Wilder (played by the wonderful Lucy Lee Flippin). Eliza Jane was Almanzo’s unwed, older, inexperienced sister. We watched her sad trials, as no men noticed her existence, and as the other characters would look at her with smug pity. She was the only sister, surrounded by brothers, who became a teacher. Although, seemingly independent, Almanzo insisted upon taking over her care and guardianship, until she lied about getting married and moving away, to get away and out on her own.
I remember feeling such sadness for her. They made her character very avian in nature, shrill, and frail, with a sapling-like build. Her homeliness exemplified by her wire-frame glasses. Viewers couldn’t help but feel unbelievably sorry for her. You would start off the new Eliza Jane episodes just hoping she would find love and happiness. It seemed, for her, the two went hand-in-hand.

I’m now an adult, and still a “bonnet head.” Looking back at the episodes, how I felt about them then, and how I feel about them now, my attitude has changed a bit. Eliza Jane existed in an era where a woman’s worth lay in the acceptance and acquired desire of a man. Women almost needed men in order to survive. I can’t fathom how helpless and desperate some women felt, if they weren’t married by the time they were 25 years old. How would they make money? How would they make large purchases? How would they make legal and financial decisions, if they even could? Men didn’t just make them seem irrelevant, they rendered them so, via culture, laws, and society.

My attitude has also changed in the realization that, those pitiful and disparaging glances that Eliza Jane seemed to receive now occasionally land on me, as well. Almost automatically, I will receive an expression of, “You poor unwanted soul,” from strangers and family, alike, when the topic of marriage comes up. There is never a discussion of if I wanted to be married, if I had the opportunity (and turned it down), or even about my thoughts about marriage as a whole. Why? Because a woman’s worth, to a large degree, still lies in whether or not a “man wants” her.

You see, when you’re over 35 and unmarried, you become Percy the Puny Poinsettia. You are now the last, straggly plant on the shelf, the night before Christmas, with your sad, wilted leaves hanging in despair. Or, at least, that’s what people think. The assumption is always that you WANTED to be married, and no one must have wanted you. And what’s worse, is the question then becomes, “What is wrong with her, that no one wanted her?” People figure that the acceptance and love of a man, must mean that a woman is a good person, worthy of getting to know. If there is no man, she must not be “worthy.” Or she is damaged and broken.

What was wrong with Eliza Jane? We could assume that she was prudish, peckish, and conservative. She certainly seemed to be played that way, feeding into the stereotypes of a “spinster.” Building on the foundation of the viewing audience already having pity and sympathy for the character. “That poor soul,” so on, so on.

As it turns out, the real Eliza Jane Wilder was a claim owner/operator, a teacher, a “government girl,” a wife, a mother, and a guardian to her niece, while she was finishing up her schooling. Eliza Jane was much more than a pathetic stereotype. She even pushed boundaries further by marrying at 42 years old, and entering motherhood at 44. That is certainly not to imply that her existence was validated by marrying and having children. If that mode of validation was true, this blog would not exist. It would seem more likely that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about Eliza Jane in such a way, as to make her look bad. Because really, what’s more offensive than a mean, bitter spinster who was never “wanted?”

Even more interesting, the real-life “spinster” of the Ingalls/Wilder clan was Mary Ingalls. The real Mary did lose her vision at age 14, but she never married, and never had children. She was a contributing member to the family income, but she did live with immediate family members for all of her life. It’s interesting that the show chose to change the story for the attractive portrayal of Mary, in exchange for the homelier portrayal of Eliza Jane. 

It’s worth noting that Lucy Lee Flippin is an accomplished actress who is seemingly nothing like her most famous role, Eliza Jane Wilder. Especially so, because her real mannerisms, speech patterns, and even carriage, is so different than Eliza Jane’s. Lucy plays the part to stereotypically perfection, making Eliza Jane the ideal example of what society’s image of a “spinster” was, and oftentimes still is.

I grew up with a lot of idols, and examples of strong, independent women. Eliza Jane on the show, Little House on the Prairie, was not one of them. In fact, it was almost a touch terrifying to imagine life as a single, “unwanted” woman. As I’ve grown older, I now realize that the meaning of “spinster” is what we make of it. There is no “unwanted” in my life, there is no desperation to keep a man around (or to have one trying to control me, or make my decisions, as would’ve been necessary in the Old West days). And in reality, the real-life Eliza Jane should be an ideal idol for independent women, who go out, seek a good life, gain experiences, and then (if they so choose) settle down and enter motherhood. Now, if the rest of society would “get on the same page,” we’d really be on to something.