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 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.

What Is a “Spinster?” Welcome…

What is a “spinster?” There are a lot of varied opinions, amongst the people I ask. The opinions range from “prude,” “inexperienced with men,” “unwanted,” “defective,” and all the way around. According to a Google search, it’s, “an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage.” a quick look at the online Urban Dictionary states, “Old unmarried woman. Not necessarily a virgin.” Then there’s this gem from vocabulary.com:

Spinster originally meant “a spinner of thread,” and as that was a job typically done by unmarried women, it came to have the meaning — even in legal documents — of “single woman.” Another term for spinster is the equally old-fashioned sounding old maid. Either way, it means a woman who never got married. Spinster is not a word you should call anyone: it reduces single women to one detail about their lives.

We can all agree that the main definition would be an older, unmarried, and childless woman. This is not to include a divorced woman, as she would be a “divorcee.” The definition is not of much concern, and would typically go into the “who cares” category. Unfortunately, it’s the implicit bias that causes the rub. Literature and society are at no shortage of older, unmarried women who are independent, inspiring, and strong. Just do a search of any of those women, and you’ll see that the rumors and theories of them being homosexual are not far behind in those searches (simply because society needs an explanation as to why a woman would be a spinster). It’s worth noting that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being homosexual. It’s no different than someone being a brunette or being tall. However, you wouldn’t look at someone and say, “Look at that unmarried, childless, older woman…she must be a brunette.” See how utterly ridiculous that sounds? 

What is implicit bias? According to the Kirwan Institute (http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/)

 …Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.

The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.

How does this translate into every day life? You may not think you’re discriminating, but sometimes…It just happens without you even realizing. I have a friend who is a Jack Daniels Squire. In order to become a squire, you have to be nominated by another squire. He was randomly pulled from a tour of the distillery and nominated by our tour guide. In the two years since his own induction, my friend has nominated numerous male friends (some who are not even really fans), but no female friends. One might explain this by saying that he doesn’t know that many women who are fans of Jack Daniels. However, I am actually a stockholder, I own various bottles of Jack Daniels, have repeatedly gone on the tour (even with him), own more JD swag, and I am just as big of a fan as he is. That said, he has never even asked if I even wanted the nomination. When I mentioned it to him, he said, “I didn’t know you wanted to be one.” And there it is, that nasty little implicit bias where, my being a “chick” supposedly eliminated my desire to be a part of the organization, where his non-fan male friends would want to be. It wasn’t a malicious judgement, but it was a judgment. He did not leave me out to be nasty or intentionally exclusionary, but that assumption that I would be disinterested in something considered “male,” was an example of preconceived notions about me, based on my gender. 

How does this parlay into being a spinster? Well, being an older, childless, unmarried woman carries with it the “joy” of A LOT of preconceived notions and biases. Many are subconscious, many are blatant. What is certain is that it is one of the last remaining types discrimination that society deems to be “okay.” Much like “dumb blonde” jokes (come on, they’re “just jokes,” right?), these notions, media promotions, and attitudes bleed into everyday life.

And this is what Spinister is all about. It is an abolishment of those preconceived notions and implicit biases. It’s a discussion about what life is like to be older, unmarried, and childless in this generation. It’s a redefinition of the term, spinster, to show that it truly should mean strong, independent, and free-willed. Welcome to the conversation.