- I Don't Like Kids. There. I Said It.
- Where Do Old Broads Hang Out? (An Oldie but Goodie)
- I'm Single and Happy...Why Does That Make Them So Mad?
- What's Wrong With Separate Bedrooms?
- Why I'm Done With Online Dating!
- How Can I Be Happily Single When I Hate Being Single?
- The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
The Spinsterlicious Life
A few years ago, a nice young man offered me his seat on a crowded New York City subway. In his offer, however, he called me “ma’am.” I was confused for a moment. I looked around to make sure he was in fact talking to me. I was surrounded by a bunch of school kids. He was talking to me.
Even though I was over 50, in my opinion I certainly wasn’t a ma’am. I was youthful—even fly—in my skinny jeans, T-shirt, and strappy sandals. I thought that maybe he was a foreigner who doesn’t quite have the American modes of greeting right. I asked him a question so I could hear him talk, and it was clear from his New York accent that he was right at home.
I was a bit annoyed. Not so annoyed that I refused the seat, but I was troubled that he thought I was of ma’am age. Maybe he was teasing me, so I looked back at him, waiting for a mischievous smile and wink. Nothing. Just a pleasant smile from a young man with good manners.
I didn’t want to be addressed as ma’am. Miss would do just fine. Ma’am is my mother. Ma’am is a lady of 50 years or older, which technically I was, but I had a much fresher attitude . . . or so I thought.
When I think about that episode now, I laugh. Since then I have embraced my ma’amhood! Fast forward to a few months ago, when another nice young man called me ma’am and offered to get a flower pot off the shelf at Home Depot and even carry it to the checkout register for me. (And no, he didn’t work there. ) I was happy to have him do it, even though the pot wasn’t that big and I certainly could have carried it myself.
I have come to understand that there are some perks associated with being a ma’am. Young(er) guys offer to help me with all kinds of stuff that I don’t want to do anyway (putting air in my car tires, carrying heavy stuff, hooking up my DVD to my new TV, even though that’s not supposed to be part of the cable guy’s offering). They’re not just doing this because I’m a woman, they’re doing it because I’m an older woman—a ma’am. I know because these kinds of offers have begun to increase.
One of my favorite parts of being ma’am, though, is that it allows me to share my opinion in ways that I couldn’t before. Everybody’s familiar with the stereotype of the older woman who is well-meaning but a bit of a busybody. I’m not a busybody, but I do usually have an opinion. Over the years, I’ve learned—much to my disappointment—that everyone isn’t interested in my opinion. But I think I’m getting a little bit of a pass now, because people are more polite to ma’ams and less likely to take offense.
Giving unsolicited advice can be tricky because it’s not always wanted. I was able to tell the guy who was doing some work on my house—whom I don’t know that well—that he needed to change the profile picture on his business’s website to one that was more professional. He was a little surprised at first, but I noticed later that he did follow my suggestion. There’s a young woman I often see in the elevator in the building I work in. She seems bright and eager, but she dresses as if she’s going to the club instead of work. I suspected this may be holding her back. So one morning I told her that. Let’s just say she didn’t seem exactly happy to hear this from me. I didn’t care. I felt like the wise older woman helping guide a bright young thing. And I noticed a few weeks later that she had on a blazer over her short dress.
I sometimes use being called ma’am as a ticket to an easier life. Whenever someone calls me ma’am, I assume there’s a shift in whatever paradigm ordinarily exists in the situation. The cop who pulled me over for speeding let me go with a warning and “be careful, ma’am” when I told him I was hurrying home because I didn’t like being out so late.
In our culture, the young(ish) feel benevolent toward older people, so they often give us a pass in ways they may not for someone young. And I love it.
Except on a date. You can’t call me ma’am if we’re on a date. I was having dinner with a much too young man who called me ma’am, and it was clear to me at that point that this would be our last encounter.
A version of this post can also be found at Women’s Voices for Change.
“You are so smart not to have gotten married.” These are the words I heard from a dear long-time married-with-children friend. Her voice was strong and she sounded resolute; her husband had gotten on her very last nerve. She finished her comment with “and if you blog about it, you can use my real name. I don’t give a *****!”
Well, I am blogging about it, but will refrain from using her name; no real reason to, and I wouldn’t want it to embarrass either of us if in the future we regretted it. Plus, I’m not so sure she really means what she said, though I know she really meant it at that moment.
X and I have been friends for 25 years or so. We have so much in common, though we couldn’t be more different on the subject of marriage. Marriage was always important to her, but not me. In fact, sort of like that Princeton Mom, she believes young women should lock down a life-mate sooner rather than later…like in college. I hate that idea.
Over the years, we’ve shared intimately the ups and downs of the life paths we’ve chosen: she mostly happily married and me mostly happily not married. Neither of us wants the other’s life.
But she’s always complained about her life way more than I do. I’ve never been quite sure how much she means it (or is she just easy to complain), but I do know that her life is waaayy more complicated than mine. She’s gotta manage the household and the lives of her husband, two kids, and a dog…and there’s a lot that goes with that. I manage me and the dog. Much simpler, and not that much goes wrong.
So, back to her “you’re so smart not to have gotten married” comment. I felt for her at that moment but also kinda chuckled to myself. Over the 20+ years she’s been married, she’s been known to profess strong sentiments, sometimes about the kids but usually about the husband. And I chuckled because, perhaps not surprisingly, there’s also the other side where she professes how she can’t imagine her life any other way. She’s never really used those words but I know it to be true.
Over the years, on a regular basis, I have heard from her:
- “I hate that MF.”
- “He’s so sweet, guess what he did.”
- “I’m so glad he’s out. It’s so nice when it’s just me and the kids.”
- “He’s one of the good ones.”
- “Seriously. I’m leaving. I just can’t take him anymore.”
- “We had so much fun last night.”
- “Seriously. I hate him”.
And on and on. I guess she’s probably not that different from most married women…although maybe just a little more honest. I think that’s what marriage is like, isn’t it? It’s complicated. I don’t like complicated stuff. And I do feel smart for knowing that marriage probably wasn’t for me…because it’s not for everybody.
Even though I know X is really pissed at him right now, I give her a month or two before she’s all googly-eyed about him again. And that’s how it should be, if she’s going to stay.
(This post is sponsored by Oxytrol and BlogHer)
I love to travel. I want to go everywhere and I pretty much can because, as a single woman with no kids, my time and my money are my own and I get to spend both however I want. So traveling is what I do.
But I’m a low-key kind of traveler. I love to spend my vacations sleeping in until mid-morning, then walking the streets of whatever country I’m in, drinking in a café (or equivalent), enjoying whatever the locals drink, eating what they eat, and shopping for something representative of their culture.
So imagine my surprise when I signed up to join a bunch of coworkers on a trip to Morocco to hike the High Atlas mountains. I’ve never said to myself “Gee, someday I’d like to be on top of a mountain”…and, yet, in September that’s exactly where I’ll be!
Nobody who knows me is surprised that I’m going to Morocco. Everybody who knows me is surprised that I’ll be trekking through mountains. That typically is not my kind of thing.
And I am super-excited. I don’t consciously know what made me jump at this opportunity but I am a big believer that we…well, I…must continue to stretch, grow, try new things, do something that scares me a little bit. And this is it.
I’m in good enough shape to walk around anywhere, but being fit enough to trek for 6-8 hours a day every day for a week at a high altitude is a different kind of thing. So I’ve started training. I hate training. It’s not interesting or fun, but it’s what I need to do to make sure I can enjoy this trip in all its glory (and that the rest of the team doesn’t vote to leave me on the side of a mountain because I can’t keep up).
I never want to be in a rut and I’m always looking for a new way to celebrate my life and challenge myself. This time when I’m eating and drinking among the locals, it’ll be in mountain village with the Berbers who live there. And I can’t wait!
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One of the easy things about being fresh-and-young is that we don’t even know how much we don’t know. I –like so many young people—had lots of opinions on all kinds of things that had to be true simply because I thought them. Now that I’m young, primarily only in my head, I’ve managed to evolve my thinking on a few things. Like:
• Kids. I still don’t want to raise one (or even be around one for too long), but I do often admire the mother-daughter dynamic I sometimes see between a grown woman and her grown daughter…assuming the daughter turned out to be my-definition-of-normal…which isn’t always the case. But when she does, I think I might have liked that. I wish someone would come up with a way I could have a 24-year-old daughter without me having to do the previous 23 years.
• Husbands. Similar to the kid thing, above, I still haven’t figured out a way to want to share my life with the same man in the same house every. single. day. but I often see 60+ year-old couples and like the way the way they take care of each other, communicate without talking, and just hang with each other. Of course, I’m excluding those couples who are miserable but just stayed together because they were too __________ (fill in the blank) to leave. And he would have to have his own place.
• Men Who Live With Their Mothers. That seems like the punchline to a much-cliched joke, doesn’t it? It’s not. For most of my dating life, I –like many others—made fun of grown men who lived with their mothers and assumed they were Losers, with a capital L. I’m talking really grown men, not guys in their 20s. But recently, I met two pretty great guys, both 60, who live with their mothers. They weren’t losers, but a divorce, job loss, and heart attack in a short period of time could do in almost anybody. Life happens. I still don’t want to go out with either of them, but I’m now smart enough to realize “there but for the grace of God…”
• Lying Can Be Good. I tend to believe that honesty really is the best policy most of
the time, but honesty can be tricky. Sometimes telling the truth can be hurtful…and it just may not be necessary. Today I ran into a famous actress who is on the other side of 50. The side that Hollywood doesn’t really like. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t worked in a long time. Partly, I’m sure, because Hollywood doesn’t have much use for older actresses and partly (I imagine) because her face is so messed up. She’s clearly had too many rounds of cosmetic surgery and her face looks crazy. I couldn’t stop staring. In my head, I’m thinking “she looks ridiculous”. What I said to her, though, is “You look great.” And she beamed as she said “thank you.” So part of me is thinking “why did you tell that lie?” But the smile on her face made me know I had done the right thing. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to wake up every morning and look at that face. Maybe my little white lie made it feel just a bit better for a minute or two.
My book, The Spinsterlicious Life, has 20 Life Lessons I’ve learned in all my years as a single woman. Maybe it’s time to update it with a few more. And what about you? What long-held beliefs have you modulated with the wisdom of time?
One of the things I love about being single is that I have the freedom to take off on an adventure whenever it suits me (after checking in with my bank account, of course). Traveling is one of my passions; I’ve been many places –22 countries—and there are many more I need to get to.
I’m excited about my next adventure, even though it’s a few months away. I’m going with some of my colleagues to trek through the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, finishing up in the fabulous historic city of Marrakech.
I’m a little surprised at myself because I don’t believe I’ve ever said or even thought “Gee, someday I’d like to be on top of a mountain.” But when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the offer right away. A few years ago, I took a day trip to Morocco (Tangiers) from Spain and wished I had spent more time there, and now is my chance. I was enticed by the culture, the food, the bright colors everywhere and I knew I wanted to come back for a real visit.
Marrakech sounds amazing, and this trekking thing is an opportunity for me to challenge myself in a way I’ve never done. It’s not exactly mountain climbing, I think it’s more like mountain hiking…but I have to train for 3 months, so it ain’t no joke. We’ll be doing things like hiking through the mountainside villages of Morocco for 6-8 hours/day hauling “stuff” in our backpacks…sometimes sleeping in hotel-like places, and sometimes outside. (Note to self: ask Kim if you can borrow her sleeping bag). I’ve never done anything like this, but I’m game for a new experience.
We are partnering with UNICEF and raising money for kids in Malawi, Bangladesh, and Bolivia as part of their Brighter Futures venture. Each of us is raising $2500. This is an opportunity for me to do something for others in a pretty big way. This fundraising is also as an opportunity to even the score with all the parents I know from whom I’ve bought whatever their kids were selling that I didn’t want. Girl Scout cookies, bake sale goodies, wrapping paper, chocolate turtles, raffle tickets…the list is sizable.
If you want to contribute, you can do so here–> http://crowdrise.com/EleanoreWells. No amount is too small. If you have any advice for me on hiking, high altitudes, sleeping outdoors, blisters on feet, getting along with people I don’t know well when we’re tired and cranky, and/or how not to succumb to the native charm and buy too much stuff I don’t really need, well, please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.
“Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love.
Being childfree is a state that is even more fraught than being husband-free. A woman who has never been married is (still) considered a bit of an oddity in our society. A woman without kids is pitied. A woman who chose not to have kids is…well, there’s probably something really wrong with her. Lots of people think that, though I say “is there”?
Though this blog –The Spinsterlicious Life– is mostly about women who don’t have husbands, its all-time favorite, most popular, most commented on blog post is one about, not just not having kids, but not particularly liking them! (Click here, if you want to read it).
The “I don’t like kids” blog post is strong, and even stronger than I actually feel…but it’s close enough. It clearly touched a nerve with lots of people who mostly acknowledge that this is a sentiment they know better than to express out loud.
I was warned by many people that I would regret my decision to be childfree once I passed my childbearing years. No regrets, so far. Unlike many women, I never fantasized about perfect little children with perfect days and nights. I always acknowledged that my kid (anybody’s kid, really) could grow up to be a jerk…which is a much less interesting fantasy.
And I’m a mediocre auntie, at best. I’m fortunate that my nieces, nephews, and my friends’ kids seem to love me anyway. And I love them; I just want them to go home.
So I was intrigued when I was asked to review a new book called Kid Me Not, edited by Aralyn Hughes. It’s an anthology of stories by women in their 60s who don’t have children. Some made an active decision not to have them; for others, life just kind of got in the way and then it was too late. They seem fine.
I was struck by one story by a women who lost a dear friend who felt they no longer had anything in common because one was a mother and one was not. The woman without kids was sad about this. I said ‘good riddance’ because her friend-now-a-mother sounds pretty shallow to me, which doesn’t make for an interesting friend, anyway.
It’s interesting that women still have to explain a decision not to have children. Kids aren’t for everyone. How come everybody doesn’t know that?
It’s been interesting to me the way being single has become such a popular topic over the past couple of years. The US Census and Pew Report (among many others) reported on the growing number of singles and the decline in the marriage rate, and websites, Meet-up groups, books, news articles and tv shows sprung up, all coming at it from various angles but usually falling into two camps: how to be single and how not to be single.
One of my fellow spinsters sent me a link to an article about a website that kinda falls in the middle of being-single-while-not-being-single. (Thanks, Nissa!) This site purportedly pairs up people who are looking for Part-Time Love, “people who want to be independent but also want to fall in love.”
My first reaction (as a woman who works in the marketing business) was
“What an interesting marketing ploy”…primarily because this seems kinda newsworthy, but really isn’t. I mean, what does that really look like? How is it different from being the chick (or guy) on the side or an elevated booty call? Besides, being independent and being in love are not mutually exclusive.
The site talks calls itself a “no-strings website”, which sounds to me like a place where one goes for hook-ups. This doesn’t sound like a place where someone goes to find love. But it also describes itself as being for people “who are set in there ways and may find it difficult to adapt, domestically, to a new partner.” And then I laughed because I get that part; it sounds a bit like me. When I’m in a relationship, I always prefer to spend more time at his place than mine because I don’t like people moving my stuff.
I think it’s incumbent on each couple to figure out the parameters of their relationship on their own. A website that attracts “weekend lovers” seems like a bit of a slippery slope to me if you’re looking for the love part.
What about you? Would you be attracted to a site like this?
Perhaps you’ve seen her on the news recently, or you may remember “Princeton Mom” from her last round of publicity when she stridently advised/warned young college age women that nailing down a husband while in college should take a bit more precedence over actually getting an education. Well, she’s at it again…louder and bolder. She was smart enough to take the mini-controversy she started and turn it into a book.
I wrote about her the first time around. You can find it here, if you want a memory refresher. I’ve found this whole topic quite interesting, not the least of which is because I mostly disagreed with her but was surprised to find that a few of my close friends agreed with her. (Just when you think you know somebody…)
This time around, one of my favorite fellow spinsters, Lisa Brignoni, has a few choice words for Princeton mom. When she’s not giving Princeton Mom a piece of her mind, Lisa is a travel enthusiast who enjoys blogging about her adventures, and believes women should support other women through helpful advice.
Here’s what Lisa has to say:
Princeton Mom: You missed a few things…
Recently, I became acquainted with the thoughts and opinions of Ms. Susan Patton, The Princeton Mom. The reaction to her is mixed – people either thinks she’s right on the money or needs to be sent back to the 1950’s. As my own life stands as a strong contradiction to all of the advice put forth by this woman, I feel compelled to point out a few flaws in her theory.
Princeton Mom’s basic premise is that women in college need to focus on finding a husband and do whatever it takes to make that happen. Her logical basis for this advice is that a woman will never be younger (okay she got us there), prettier or have such a deep pool of qualified candidates.
She also advises enhancing one’s social success by learning to bake cookies and getting cosmetic surgery as soon as possible. Oh dear. She shows off pseudo-scientific pie charts to demonstrate how women should spend 75% of their time on husband-searching and 25% on professional development, though her advice does have some gaping flaws.
One of my biggest concerns is her liberal use of the term “personal happiness” as an interchangeable substitute for marriage and babies.
I’ll try not to go into a long diatribe about how promoting marriage and babies to the exclusion of other goals is a negative message to send to young women. But I will send a caveat to young women considering her advice and even older women questioning their own situation: Personal happiness should be exactly that – personal. It should be something you determine, free of undue pressure from societal expectations.
I can tell you from my personal experience that I was the anti-heroine to the Princeton Mom’s ideal in college –skinny with a dorky haircut and no fashion sense– and that I spent the majority of my fertile years as a single and disappointed woman because of failed relationships. As I matured and figured out what it would take to make me happy, the disappointment dissipated. My personal happiness wasn’t going to be found in a husband or a promotion. It was going to be found by traveling around the world. I set my goal and it’s been amazing. I found a path to happiness that didn’t involve stalking men, and so can other women.
My goal in sharing this is to offer up another path for women who may be feeling like life isn’t working out for them because they don’t have a husband or kids. And just as I have my story, I’m willing to bet that there are millions of other women out there who have gone “off-mission” and still achieved a sense of personal happiness.
That said, my advice is simply to consider the alternatives. Should you be a woman who wants to prioritize marriage and babies however, I still think you should strongly reconsider following the advice of the Princeton Mom and here’s why:
Flaw #1: Men do factor into your strategy
During her TV interview, the Princeton Mom dodges an excellent point made by the interviewer about a possible negative reaction from men in regards to these tactics she is suggesting. Perhaps these young men might find women who follow her advice to be a bit too desperate. Princeton Mom doesn’t care, and replies that her book is for women, not for men We know that a predator must understand the movements of its prey if it’s to be successful. Shouldn’t women also be told that men may invoke counter-measures to their painfully obvious actions and adjust their strategies accordingly? As of yet, Princeton Mom has no suitable answer for this realistic battle scenario.
Flaw #2: Her own observations contradict her advice
The problem with instructing women to find husbands amongst their deep pool of peers becomes clear when you realize that everyone is the same age in college. All of these supposed husbands women would be chasing also have their own deep pool of female candidates for them to play around with until they’re ready to get married. The conventional wisdom is that men are most likely to want to marry once they’ve established themselves in their careers and feel they have a stable financial base. Wouldn’t the logic then follow that if women work hard at inserting themselves in the workplace they’d have a better pool of qualified candidates from which to snag a husband? Except, if they paid more attention in college to getting a husband than an education, finding that job might be a bit of a challenge. In fact, her strategy could backfire.
Flaw #3: What if all women followed this advice?
Today, women make up a large part of the workforce and drive the economy forward. But what would happen if all of these women followed Princeton Mom’s advice when they were still in college? First we’d have a lot of women flunking out of university due to only spending 25% of their time on their studies. But let’s say you were so socially successful, you managed to snag a husband before you got expelled. Wonderful! Well, it better be a happy marriage in every way because now you’re stuck for the rest of your life raising your children and taking care of your husband because you have few marketable skills. And if the majority of women in the workforce followed this advice, we’d likely see a major decrease in GDP. Thanks for blowing up the economy Princeton Mom.
There’s more. What happens next? Is Princeton Mom going to write a book on relationship- building? She’s divorced. Has she learned enough to advise young women on how not to be her?
And what about those young women who can’t afford cosmetic surgery? How will they become “socially successful”? Is she writing them off?
Here’s the thing. We all have to find our own paths in life and need to be careful to not let some random woman with a book deal take advantage of the struggles in our journey of personal happiness.
In closing, I would like to indulge a little alma mater rivalry and say I should know about achieving personal happiness. I went to Penn. (NB: I guess that’s an inside joke that I don’t get, says Eleanore. I assume Penn and Princeton folks will).
In a perverse kind of way, I (Eleanore) applaud Ms Patton for taking her idea and figuring out a way to make a business out of it. At the same time, I have disdain for what I believe is some pretty bad advice to young women (for all the reasons I cite here.) I do appreciate that this brouhaha may stimulate some thoughtful discussions about life’s opportunities and how young women everywhere can think about making the right decisions for themselves.