It started off as a simple conversation with a colleague. One of those chats where you both drift into a ‘what if’ world, where you both follow snippets of longing to imagine another life. Where probably, you are no longer colleagues and are definitely infinitely happier. We were talking about quitting our jobs to travel, where we would go, what was holding us back. I confided in him that what really was keeping me back, was not in fact my flat or finances, but the fear that I would arrive in another country and feel completely and utterly alone.
He replied dryly. “What like a spinster?”
I paused in disbelief. No, not like a spinster. Obviously, I meant I would feel isolated from family and friends.
The words rang in my ears. Is this what everyone thought of me? I’m thirty and single so it must be game over? No pressing ctrl alt delete here, my opportunity had passed. The opportunity to make a man the center of my universe. So here I am on the scrap heap. In 2017 apparently is still hard for people to believe that there are women out there who prefer the single life. Let’s be honest being a solo entity does make it easier pursue career opportunities or go traveling on a whim. Or maybe, like in my case, you just haven’t met the right person and Girl, you do not need to settle.
It really upset me. The word itself is littered with unflattering and depressing connotations. It paints pictures of crazy cat ladies or of a Miss Havisham character. Women driven mad by circumstance, jilted, bitter, isolated and unwanted. This was the feeling that got me the most, and perhaps because it plays on a deep insecurity that all single people have; the fear of being unwanted and therefore, unloved. Words are a powerful weapon, and this one was a gut punch. Way to make me feel worthless on a Monday afternoon.
It’s unfair as well, why can only women be spinsters? In situations like this I remember Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be a Woman where she explains
“You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”
The term spinster is a loada bullshit. What is the male equivalent? Probably still the lovable bachelor. Sounds like double standards to me.
I am not a spinster, and nor will I ever be. I am wanted and I am loved. There is way too much emphasis put on romantic relationships. I am a loyal and fun friend, a loving daughter and a helpful colleague. I have many great relationships with lots of different people, and by them I am valued, and more importantly loved.
So here’s to living life the way that suits you, to all the great non romantic relationships that form you, and leaving patriarchal hurtful words like spinster in the last century, it’s 2017 after all.