As a young girl, my single greatest anxiety of growing up was the intense fear of ending up alone and being labelled as a spinster. On the shelf, ineligible for marriage and entirely alone, with only my cats to keep me company. Growing up, we had, what seemed to be a “little old lady” living on the corner in the same street as we lived on. We barely saw her leave her home, but when we caught the occasional glimpse of her, oh, and her cats, we avoided her like the plague. By then, we had heard the grown-ups talk about “The Spinster” on the corner as though she was some sort of an evil being who perhaps suffered a rare, but contagious illness. We feared her tremendously and when it was necessary for us to walk past her house, we would cross over to the other side of the road out of pure dread for her! She seemed scary, old, stern and sad. Extremely sad. And angry. She always seemed so angry. I would often hear my mother or my grandmother refer to her as “on-the-shelf”.
A spinster in those days, I suppose meant that women did not remain single by choice, but were destined to remain unwed since no man was interested in marrying her. No man WANTED them. By the age of 25, the pressure was enormous for a woman to find a husband, settle down and raise a handful of kids. After all, by the time my mother was 24 years old, she had had four children and was about to celebrate her 8th wedding anniversary to my father. If a woman was still unmarried by the age of 30, she was carelessly referred to as a spinster; an unmarried, older woman beyond the usual age for marriage or who seems entirely unlikely to marry. At the time, it was accepted that a spinster was no longer eligible to marry as she had had her chance and it had passed her by. Yes, by the age of 30!
I have a great many “older” girlfriends who simply refuse to comply to society’s supposed rules and marry. They have no desire to tie themselves to just one man (yes) or to bring any children into this world. They have no need for a family of their own or to adhere to the rules enforced by marriage. They value their freedom immensely; they choose their homes to suit their needs; they choose the interior décor panaches that they are comfortable with and they have the freedom to cook meals IF they want to and WHEN they want to. And WHAT they want to. If they opt to go out to an expensive restaurant, they do, either accompanied by their friends or on their own while they happily flaunt their independence. If they WANT to hop into a pub afterwards, they do because they have no “master” and they foot their own bills. If they want to crawl into bed at 3am after a night out, they do since they don’t answer to ANY man. They are focused and career-driven! They run successful corporations AND they manage people, mostly men of which fact they are tremendously proud of. Sure, they often experience isolation and loneliness and no longer “friend” well with their married friends. They regularly experience inner conflict from time to time between a desire for intimacy and their insane fear of commitment, but at the end of it all, they CHOOSE not to marry. Their need to focus on a career dominates all else. Their desire for an independent life and their unwillingness to make comprises that are expected in a marriage are overpowering.
Many of my married girlfriends agree that they would have become HIA’s if they did not possess an overwhelming craving to become mothers and have children who would not suffer monetary deprivation or social snubbing. They wanted children, but they still wanted to remain sociably “respected”. Another girlfriend admitted that the only reason she entered marriage was to feel “normal” after coming out of an “abnormal” childhood. To her, romance and marriage represented adventure, duty and accomplishment.
The HIA’s are women who not only feel equal to men, they become equal and marriage is by no means at all an end goal. It is simply a choice not to settle BEFORE or IF Mr. Right ever appears. They have all successfully carved out lives for themselves and are content and without judgement while they find the age-old label, “spinster” offensive and derogatory. The HIA is empowered, she can make decisions on her own and can engage in “big-deal” purchases for herself, such as a new home or a new car. She has little to no desire to allow a man to financially support her while all that is expected of her is to maintain a home and raise a handful of children. She cringes at the mere thought of having dinner ready on the table while her husband “brings home the bacon”.
But, the modern-day-spinster, the HIA, too has the option to have a family WITHOUT marriage and in some cases, without a man. They choose to have relationships with men, but opt not to get married “for the sake” of the children. They choose to balance family AND career. Some would seek alternative methods in starting a family and raise her child(ren) on her own. Other HIA’s, have no maternal desire for children and can quite happily go through life fulfilled by their advancing careers and lifestyles, and the freedom it offers them. They have-it-all and they love life exactly as it is!
Don’t some of us married moms secretly envy the HIA from time to time?