The Spinsterlicious Life


where the modern day spinster comes to play


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.”

[Sigh]

 

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.


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“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 Unknownsure 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.

 


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Seeking New Heights…Literally

(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 Unknownmountains. 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 Unknownto 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

(Not the actress I saw)

(Not the actress I saw)

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.

Spinsterlicious FINAL coverMy 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?


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One of the things I love about being single is that I have the freedom to take off on an Unknownadventure 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.

Marrakech_montage.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.


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“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.

images 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.

funcfish.com

funcfish.com

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 kid me notMe 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?

 

 


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