The Spinsterlicious Life

where the modern day spinster comes to play

Now that I’ve moved to the other side of the world, I am often asked about my social life. silver goldThe short answer is “it’s a work in progress”.  As the old song goes, “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold”. And I’m reminded of this song often, as I navigate my new life (3 months in), Down Under.

My first month was consumed with getting my bearings and settling in at work and home. Finding and furnishing my new place kept me pretty busy. I spent my weekends and most days after work looking for stuff, buying stuff, schlepping stuff. When I was done, I felt very accomplished and happy with the results. I also distinctly remember coming home from work one day, sitting on my new couch and thinking “now what”? I had lots of free time. Clearly a social life was what I needed.

My life in New York was full and I had what one of my friends described as a “robust” social life.

From NYC send-offs

From NYC send-offs




In Sydney, I mostly only knew the folks at work. Not a bad group to be among, for sure, but I also wanted to expand my social circle. I knew that would take new behaviour

on my part. I’m not really unfriendly, but I am an introvert and that looks the same as unfriendly. Can feel like it, too. Making friends on this end would require me to acquire some new skills…some ‘reaching out to people first’ skills. Yikes.

Somewhat reluctantly I joined a few groups, some dedicated to ex-pats, but not all. (InterNations, MeetUp, Urban Bushwalkers, Wild Women on Top, Tinder). This has actually worked out quite well. I’ve met a number of people while having fun……some activities I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, like hiking and bushwalking. I have two new “friends” that I continue to hang out with outside the groups. Friends is in quotes having nothing to do with these women, but is an acknowledgement

Terri, my hiking buddy

that, while I like them I don’t know them very well and I believe real friendships take awhile to develop. We’re not in grade school where you become best friends with someone you just met.

The folks at work have been especially gracious, including me in various social activities and it’s been great getting to know them outside the office.

I’ve also been fortunate to connect with friends-of-friends, people with whom I have a mutual friend back in the States. That’s been especially nice, as it’s great to have someone who knows the place well, as well as knows this person well so I can ask what they’re like… if they might be crazy. :-)


Alisa and Steve, who I met thru NYC friends


And I have added to my social roster two women I met while walking down the street! There are not a lot of black Americans in Sydney so when I see one it’s kind of exciting. In both cases, we saw each other, did a double-take, then stepped out of the way of traffic to chat (“what are you doing here, how long have you been here, who does your hair…”) and exchange phone numbers. Interestingly, both are from New York…and it took moving to the other side of the world for us to meet.

It’s funny; last week I was exhausted as I had (too) many events on my social calendar. That’s when I knew I was well on my way to building a new network of friends and acquaintances on this side of the world. I like it.

And it’s so important to me to make sure I keep my friendships back at home on solid ground. But it’s more complex than I thought it would be.   I am delighted, surprised, and disappointed at the way various friends have managed my physical absence.

Pleased. There are a few friends I hear from every week or so. I love it. And I’ve fallen in love with FaceTime and Skype, both of which I used to despise. Nobody looks good on those cameras, especially if caught at the wrong angle. Doesn’t matter; not anymore. I love seeing their faces as we catch up. The distance doesn’t seem so vast when I can see them.



The cameras are also great to be able to show things –what we’ve bought, what we’re doing, what we’re wearing, a new hairdo…whatever.

Surprised. Pleasantly so. I’m in regular touch now with a few people that I spoke with less often when I was back home. I don’t know how or why that happened, but I don’t really care. It’s nice to hear from them.

Disappointed. There are a couple of friends with whom I’m disappointed…and a little hurt that I don’t hear from very often…people with whom I was in regular touch at home and who are near the top of the friend food chain. One person, in a rather uncomfortable conversation, admitted to being embarrassed to admit feeling both some resentment and envy at my move. Resentment because it feels like abandonment. And envy when I talk and post about what I’m up to in this new life phase. Not that their (sic) life is bad, but there’s not much new.  I get it and appreciate the honesty.   I don’t have insight as to why the others have fallen behind. Sometimes distance is a good excuse to reshape a relationship. Who knows. It’s a little awkward.

Anyway, a good friend from NYC is visiting me now and it’s fantastic having her here and sharing this new place with her. And another will be arriving tomorrow.  And if I can get my **** together, I may even have a small gathering at my apartment where I invite my friends, old and new. Could be fun.

With friends, old and new, at the Sydney Opera House bar

With friends, old and new, at the Sydney Opera House bar

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So, I gave up (temporarily) my New York City life for a new one in Sydney, Australia.

My arrival in Sydney was safe, but not uneventful. Sometime after take-off, the entire plane was awakened to learn that we would be spending the night in Vancouver, Canada…not part of the plan, at all. It had something to do with a sick pilot and a crew that would be working overtime even if we could find a replacement pilot somewhere. So we were all bused to a Marriott hotel in Vancouver at 3a. This added 36 hours to my already 36 hours of travel. I arrived in Sydney happy but wearing clothes I’d had on for three long days.

The upside of this change in plans is that I arrived at the Sydney airport at the same time my sister, Phyllis, did who was joining me to help kick off this new adventure, so we were able to travel together to my new temporary apartment. It was great having her with me as we learned to navigate this awesome city together.

I was lucky enough to find an apartment in Milson’s Point almost immediately and it seems perfect. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to my office and is surrounded by every kind of transportation I can ever imagine needing: the bus, train, ferry, a taxi stand, and GoGet (their version of ZipCar) are all steps away from my apartment. As is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It couldn’t be more perfect. And the view.

From my bedroom

From my bedroom


Sydney is just beautiful. I walk around this city in awe that this is now my life.    It’s like I’m just bopping along and look up and am gobsmacked by yet another beautiful scene.


Rainbow at Circular Quay

IMG_4995 (1)

Setting sun…bedroom view


Jacaranda trees


Now that I’m all settled, my next order of business is to get a social life. Much easier said than done, especially for someone like me. I’m an introvert, though most people don’t know that and they just think I’m unfriendly. So, on the recommendation of my good friend, Heather, I decided to join a few social groups. (Heather is my inspiration for taking on this Sydney adventure. Five years ago she upped and moved from New York to Dubai, by herself, and has made quite a nice life.)

I joined InterNations Wild Women on Top (hikers, not porn stars), and Meetup. I even joined Tinder. I’m not all that excited about any of them, though I’ve had nice outtings with all of them. My not being excited has nothing to do with the groups and everything to do with me and being surrounded by people I don’t know. I assume (hope) I’ll get over that at some point as I do more with them. What I do miss is hanging out with really solid friends and not just people I kinda know. Of course, building friendships takes time.

My solid, long-time friends

My solid, long-time friends







In the meantime, I had lots of fun last weekend joining a new friend (well, acquaintance, really) at Sculptures by the Sea, an international art show at Bondi Beach where sculptors from around the world display their work.  Like everything else here, it was beautiful.

Bondi Beach's Sculptures by the Sea

Bondi Beach’s Sculptures by the Sea

It’s funny. One of the people that I miss the most is this kid who lived down the hall from me. From the time she could walk, she would toddle down the hall by herself (sometimes at her parents’ urging, I’m sure), knock on my door and hang out for however long she felt like it. I think I miss her most because it’s the one relationship it’s hard to sustain. With all my other (grown-up) friends, we stay in touch via text, Facebook, email, FaceTime/Skype, and Words with Friends. That’s not quite possible with a four-year-old…though we try, using her mom as an intermediary. She’s really not all that interested in talking with me thru FaceTime, though.


Being in a new country and culture takes getting used to, of course. I’m enjoying noticing the small things that remind me I’m in a new place. A guy I met took me driving last weekend because I need to get comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the street. Unlike most of the world, Sydney drivers (and the Brits) sit on the right side in the car and drive on the left side of the street. I did pretty well, only once driving up on a curb when I turned!

A few other little US vs AUS things I’ve noted:

  • Renters have to bring their own appliances. Having to buy my own refrigerator and washing machine makes no sense to me. I keep thinking about what I’m supposed to do with them when I return to the US in two years. (Selling them feels like it’ll be a real PIA).
  • We pay for condiments. Even though ketchup naturally goes with fries and ginger with sushi, many restaurants charge for this.
  • There are really nice public bathrooms…everywhere. You can even go into a restaurant or store and use their bathroom without buying anything. Just try that in NYC (except maybe at Starbucks and McDonald’s who are friendlier in this regard).
  • They greet each other with “how ya going” (not “how ya doing”). It took me a minute to realize that the proper response is “I’m fine” and not “…walking to the store”.
  • Australians can’t be bothered with saying the whole word, so they shorten them. Breakfast is brekkie, McDonald’s is Maccas, afternoon is arvo (I don’t understand that one), air conditioner is  air con, football is footy, chewing gum is chewie…and so on. Every word seems to have a diminutive version.


  • And this. Getting these confused could result in a really interesting conversation.



I am excitedly looking forward to the next couple of weeks, which will have me celebrating my birthday, some version of Thanksgiving (not a holiday here), Christmas at the beach, and Sydney’s world-renowned New Year’s Eve fireworks..all Aussie style.






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So now that my move to Australia is definitely happening and I have a signed contract and a (tentative) start date, it’s sinking in what this really means:  I have 1000 things I need to make happen before I leave. “It’s only slightly overwhelming” I say both confidently and sarcastically.


For the last two years, I have been talking about getting rid of so much of the stuff that I’ve accumulated throughout the many years I’ve been alive, but it never really happened. I regularly pull out stuff to get rid and then come up with a reason why I should hang onto it awhile longer.


shoe pile

shoe pile

It’s funny, though. Once I did the math of how much it costs to store or ship this stuff, making the decision to let it go became much easier.   In one day, I dropped off 9 bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories at the Salvation Army.  And, with the help of my dear friend, Benilde, I sent 6 large boxes of books, housewares, and electronics to a Veteran’s organization.  And I’m just getting started!


I’m enjoying fantasizing about my new residence in Sydney. Something minimalist and open…which is a curious twist because there’s nothing minimalist about the way I live now.  So, I had a fun lunch with some Aussie co-workers who helped me narrow down neighborhoods I might like to live in.

Sydney neighborhoods I'll start focusing on

Sydney neighborhoods I’ll start focusing on

The hope is to find something sufficiently close to my job in North Sydney AND robust enough to keep me happy after hours and on weekends..meaning restaurants, shopping, and stuff to do, indoors and outdoors.


I went to a great party a few weeks ago.

JALC party

JALC party

While enjoying the festivities, I noticed a pretty good-looking guy looking my way. When we made eye contact, he smiled, nodded, and lifted his champagne glass to me. Under normal circumstances, I would have responded in kind and maybe even gone over to him. This time, I froze for a second and then looked away. “Oh no”, I’m thinking, “this is no time to fall in love”. Dramatically, I took it all the way to love, when it could have ended after a conversation. But I’m taking no chances. The reason I was able to so easily take advantage of this  opportunity is because I have no husband or children to get in the way. I’m certainly not going to start complicating things now with this handsome stranger.


One of the great things about going to Australia, as opposed to, say France, is that I don’t have to learn a new language.  Yet, in a way, I do. Technically, it’s all English, but half the time I have no idea what the Aussies in my office are talking about.  In fact, I have  a chart at my desk to help me decipher the language of a particular Australian who sat next to me




I’m not happy about having to  learn the metric system…and how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit.

But I’m really looking forward to:

– The food.  I hear it’s great.

-And that work:life balance isn’t even a concept there –like it is in America.  It’s just naturally the way they live!

  • images-1and this! (Click on link, for a smile)


Eleanore 2.0!!

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Saturday, June 20, 2015. 11:17a


Saturday morning. Sprawled on the couch. TV on in the background, reading the IMG_4062NYTimes the old-fashioned way (that is, not on my iPad). My apartment is a bit of a mess as I start-and-stop cleaning up, vacillating between putting stuff back in the closet and putting it in bags and boxes. Because I might be moving. 


I am excitedly anticipating the Sunday night phone call I have scheduled with HR and the CEO of my possible/probable new job in Sydney, AUSTRALIA!!!  Unknown copy


It’s pretty much a done deal, though we haven’t put anything on paper and signed it yet. Even though I’ve been talking about it for a month, it doesn’t become really real until it’s in writing. And I can’t wait. 


I’m on the verge of a wildly exciting new chapter in my life. “Wildly” exciting because I’ve never even been to Australia, and yet I am solidly sure that moving to this place I’ve never visited will, nevertheless, be good.  I know that some people think it’s a little crazy…but I don’t think it’s crazy at all. For me, it’s an adventure. It’s only for two years and I think I can handle anything for two years. 


I’ve always wanted to live and work abroad, and yet, I’ve passed on the few opportunities I’ve had because the timing just didn’t feel right. I don’t even remember now why I passed on the offer to move to Toronto 25 or so years ago. Probably something to do with some guy I was dating…who I don’t even remember now. Or maybe it was for a more substantial reason. I dunno. Another time, I didn’t want to move so far away from my dad who was almost 90.  And last year when the prospect of Australia was raised, I didn’t want to leave my dog. Dear Danny was 15 years old and in uneven health. I couldn’t take him with me because Australia requires a six-month quarantine of any dog entering the country. The best dog everI didn’t think Danny (or I) would easily survive that. But Danny died in May and “Operation Danny” –as my soon-to-be boss called it– began in earnest. Operation Danny because I was now free to go. 


It feels really right. I’m 60 ( just about). I don’t know how many more fantastic opportunities like this will just fall into my lap. My new boss is my old boss. I worked with her two years ago when I joined TNS.  I like her a lot and we work well together. And I climbed a mountain  with the Australia office’s CEO last year. Neither of us had any idea when we met on that mountain that we might be spending lots more time together.  I’m a city girl and Sydney is a thriving metropolis that looks just like the kind of place I can fall in love with. They speak English there. I don’t have to learn a new language…though I know the metric system will give me an ongoing headache. But I’m ready.  I love an adventure. 


Hurry up Sunday night. Let’s get this thing started. 


Monday, June 22, 2015 9:48p

It’s ON!  Australia, here I come. In our Sunday night phone call we worked out all (well most) of the details.  It’s actually going to happen. We’re thinking late September/early October…which feels like it’s right around the corner.

Now, there’s sooo much to do…purging stuff, storing other stuff, banking and tax IMG_3175
annoyances, and most worrisome: renting out my NYC co-op and my Long Island vacation home. (Anybody interested?)


This is really big.  Australia is so far. (The NYC –> Sydney flight is 22 hours). Being that far away from my family is going to feel weird. But life is to be lived and I love an adventure.  I’m happy, excited…and a little overwhelmed.  Carpe diem.  YOLO. Stay tuned!


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Below is a guest post from a very loyal reader of The Spinsterlicious Life. I think Dee is amazing: she’s mart, funny, and adventurous.  She’s also tired of people who try to make her feel bad about being single.  I’m happy to run her guest post:


Dee on a trip to ChicagoNot long before the holidays last fall I went to get a manicure. Salon manicures are not something I usually do, but someone had given me a gift card for my birthday, so I made an appointment.

At first I sat in the chair across from my nail tech in awkward silence. Just when I thought she wasn’t going to try and make conversation with me,  she started asking me questions — first about my curly hair and then about my life.

Are you married?






(I knew where this was headed.)

How old are you?


That’s when her eyebrows raised with concern. She didn’t look up at me, but her expression said it all.

“Maybe you’re too picky,” she said shaking her head.

I just brushed it off and hoped for a subject change and that she’d get the second coat of my red polish on quickly. Some birthday present that turned out to be!

I read somewhere recently that people can’t make you feel bad about something you don’t already feel bad about. So if someone calls you crazy, it means nothing  unless you buy into it yourself. Put another way, no one can make you feel bad without your permission. I was giving this stranger (and society at large) permission to make me feel bad. I felt bad because (and I hate to admit it) I have bought into the belief that it’s shameful or embarrassing not to be partnered up. I don’t so much care about the kid thing, but the relationship part can trigger single shame in me big time.

Single women are constantly bombarded with messages about finding/keeping a man. On TV sitcoms, romantic comedies, magazine and online articles, online dating commercials, family, friends, coworkers. It can be extremely hard to tune all of that chatter out and actually stop and listen to your own voice, your own inner wisdom that knows what’s best for YOU. The radio static can get even fuzzier when close friends are fretting over their own single/childless state. They are fretting and anxious, so it can make you anxious and before you know it, you’re stressed and life is passing you by.

I’ve decided I’m done. I’m done stressing. I’m done being anxious. I’m done waiting. I’m done fretting. I’m done analyzing and trying to figure it out. Most importantly, I’m done caring what society/family/friends/the media has to say about what I “should” do with my life. The more I thought about the woman in the nail salon, the angrier I became. Why was I letting complete strangers make me feel bad about my life?

I realized as I thought about it (and got angrier about it) that if I completely turn off the outside world, I really don’t care if I get married and “settle down.” It’s just not a top priority in my life. When I stopped and asked myself if I actually want a relationship or if I just want to ease the social pressure, my truth is that more than anything I want to silence the social pressure, judgment and shame. I even reflected on whether I want kids (even though I’ve always been pretty sure that I don’t) just to see how it feels in my body to sit with my decision – without the commentary playing in the background. And, nope, still don’t want kids.

I’ve always known my own truth. I can just get sidetracked and thrown off of my Spinsterlicious game when the barrage of messages becomes too loud. When that happens I get in a panic. (Side note: I even briefly looked into adopting a child when a friend of mine was agonizing over her biological clock. That idea lasted five minutes.) I’m working on staying centered in my truth and not getting knocked down so easily. My aha moment came when I realized that I have the power to stop internalizing the messages.

So here I am ready to continue living my Spinsterlicious life. Only now I’m done with the anxiety. Because I know the anxiety is not about my own true desires, it’s about peer pressure and a human need to fit in and be “normal.”

Here’s my plan: Go “deep single” (love that phrase) and live my life on my terms endeavoring to fully savor my freedom. Seek out new adventures. Continue to travel. Continue to decorate my apartment and make it my sanctuary. Continue to enjoy my work, hobbies and friends. If I meet a great guy along the way, great. But I’m no longer holding out hope that some guy needs to be “the one” so that I can quiet the anxiety. That’s way too much pressure. I’ll just nix the anxiety now, so that if he doesn’t show up, I can live in peace.

I’ve been living a Spinsterlicious life all along. I just needed to get back in touch with me and remind myself that I got it going on!

How about you? Do you ever get sidetracked and question your own truth? What are your strategies for regaining your footing and getting centered?

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Mount Toubkal, Morocco. Elev 13,671 ft (4167 m)

Mount Toubkal, Morocco. Elev 13,671 ft (4167 m)

“What made me think I wanted to climb a mountain?”, I said to myself, out loud, in hour 3, Day 1 of the slow, extremely strenuous, even boring trudge toward the summit of Mount Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountain range of Morocco.


This was way more than I had signed up IMG_3100for. I was expecting a leisurely hike up a sloping incline with beautiful vistas every step of the way. What I got was the toughest physical challenge that was more than I could have imagined and certainly amazing views of a world I’d never seen but the scenery wasn’t changing fast enough for me…every few hours, and I wanted more.  It was mostly rocks.

Beauty example: mountain waterfall

Beauty example: mountain waterfall

Reality example: rocks...every step of the way.

Reality example: rocks…every step of the way.


Neltner Refuge. We didn't sleep outdoors, though some apparently did.

Neltner Refuge. We didn’t sleep outdoors, though some apparently did.

And then it started to pour rain, a steady non-stop deluge for 6 hours. And no matter how much waterproofing you’ve done, in that kind of water, you’re going to get wet. Very wet. Soaked through every layer of clothing, down to the skin. And even though you’re drenched through and through, you have to keep going because there’s nowhere else to go. You’re on a mountain. So, all 31 of us kept trudging along step-by-step, though one woman had an even tougher time and had to finish this leg of the trek on a mule that was sent to “rescue” her. We were heading to the Neltner Refuge where we planned to spend the night. It was hours away.


Here’s how I got myself into this situation.  The TNS Global (where I work) parent company, Kantar, has a relationship with UNICEF. This trip was a fundraiser for UNICEF’s Brighter Futures, with the money slated to help children in Malawi, Bangladesh, and  Bolivia. It sounded amazing and I signed up immediately. I’m happy to say that our team raised about $110,000, exceeding our goal by approximately 30%.


Tiny glimpse of the room I slept in, with 25 comrades

Tiny glimpse of the room I slept in, with 25 of comrades

So, back to the mountain climbing part. We finally made it to the refuge after about 8 hours.  The place was full. 31 of us, plus probably another 30 climbers who were also crashing there. We slept 26 to a room. There were four showers. Two toilets that sometimes flushed and two of those hole-in-the-floor thingys they called toilets. Bring your own toilet paper.


We were greeted by a staff of several “locals” who came bearing gifts of mint tea and cookies, before they served us a hot dinner while we sat around the fire trying to kill the bone-deep chill we had from being soaked for so long. Our grumblings eased and we actually started to have fun, getting to know each other, playing games, and comparing our day’s miseries.


Day two started at 6:30a. We were to complete the trek to Mount Toubkal’s summit in 9 hours, 4-5 up and then the return. One guy in our group refused to go. He waited for us at the refuge. I didn’t blame him. I (and a few others) didn’t really want to go, either, but we

Those colored dots are us.

Those colored dots are us.

allowed ourselves to be cajoled into it. Plus, I didn’t really come all that way to not try. I wasn’t happy, though. The weather got worse, not better. After a few hours, we were turned back by the snow, ice, and wind. Many were disappointed. I wasn’t. I was ready to turn around. In fact, a few of us turned back about an hour before the die-hards did. It was dangerous. My goals had been met: raised money, climbed a mountain, and had a new adventure.  Reaching the top or not didn’t matter to me.


So we spent another night in the refuge and then headed back down the mountain, which IMG_3211wasn’t exactly a piece of cake either because it was slippery and muddy and as we got further down, we had to figure out how to cross the  rivers that appeared out of nowhere from the melting ice and snow.  But we stopped for a picnic lunch about 3/4 of the way down , which was pretty cool.


Two of our amazing guides.

Two of our amazing guides.

Our guides –Raheem, Omar, and Khalid– were beyond amazing. They safely –and with good humor– led 31 first-timers up and down a mountain in some of the harshest conditions the area has had in years. I love those guys.


Can something be awesome and horrible at the same time?  Apparently… because that’s what this was for me. Not 50:50,though. I really hated the climbing part; it was much, much tougher than many of us imagined it would be.  But it was more awesome than it was horrible. IMG_3215 IMG_3214 IMG_3213


And the rest of the trip was a blast. Three days taking in the culture of Marrakesh, an overnight in Madrid, then back to home-sweet-home. What a magnificent experience!  My Spinsterlicious Life.

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A couple of years ago, right around the time the latest U.S. Census (and other studies) demonstrated the rise in single people, there began a similar growth in articles and blog posts arguing both sides of the issue: why being single is the new normal (and is ok) AND why being single is still a pathetic place to be.

Unknown-1If you Google ‘why I’m not married’ and/or ‘why I’m still single’, well over 1 million results will pop up. Clearly, this is a hot topic.

I started my blog –The Spinsterlicious Life— and wrote my book to address the former. I don’t think that marriage is for everybody and I know that being single can be a darn good life. When I come across the many articles that take the opposite stance, I usually don’t care. To each his (her) own, really."The Spinsterlicious Life", The Book

But today, I came across a really stupid article called Girls, 5 Reasons Why You’re Single and I thought “enough with this nonsense”. The writer of this article does not know why I’m single. Part of me thinks this article might be joke because it is so asinine (and not particularly well-written).

According to this article, two of the reasons I and millions of other women are still single are:


“You don’t take care of yourself.

Don’t expect someone to take care of you when you don’t even know how to look after your own self.  There are certain physical standards that the (judgmental) society built. Like, you being sexy means you shouldn’t be fat, or being pretty is having a fair complexion. You can be sweet, smart, cool and funny little cupcake but quality men will not give a second glance at you if you don’t look alright. It’s not saying that you have to live up to other people’s expectations, but please love yourself first, before other people appreciate you.


You flirt too much

Whether you like it or not, the right kind of flirting is an essential skill but if you flirt like crazy, you may send the wrong signal and make you seem not-picky, which loses flirting’s efficiency. It also projects that you do the same thing with other men, which is of course, an off for everyone.”



I realize that by calling out this article, I’m giving the writer more attention. I’m just hoping that some single woman who isn’t feeling particularly good about herself today doesn’t stumble across this or similar articles and get her feelings hurt.


UnknownOne of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” It’s not particularly related to this topic…but then again, it is. Because it’s always true, no matter your situation.

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A few years ago, a nice young man offered me his seat on a crowded New York City Screen Shot 2012-06-13 at 12.39.27 PMsubway. 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.

Posted in The Spinsterlicious Life | 4 Comments