The Horns of the Bull
Go five years in reverse from today and you would’ve found me getting adjusted to living all by myself for the first time ever in my life. I was in the middle of a heartbreaking divorce, holed up in a tiny, sterile apartment grieving, wondering how I could ever be happy again without the safety of my marriage and my family…a marriage that, incidentally, provided me with many years of a different kind of grief altogether. Obviously, I was forced to get used to it against my will. Some things are completely beyond our control and divorce is sometimes one of them. In the beginning of my transmutation from couplehood to spinsterhood, I still had a small child at home but since then he has grown into an independent young man with an affection for X-treme sports and his own vehicle. As a result, I’ve stayed home by myself a lot over the last few years. Yes, it gets too quiet sometimes, but I’m thankful for the slow boil of my seclusion over the years in this state.
I deeply believe it has given me the time and clarity to become fond of the perks of being my own best friend.
I wrote on this topic a year ago in a similar way (My Dog Stinks and Other Reasons You Can’t Come Over). It wasn’t until recently, however, that a bestselling novel has addressed these same fascinations I have with flying solo. I finished “Spinster” by Kate Bolick (home state: Massachusetts!) in about a week, which is fast for me because I am also reading four or five other books at the same time, something I have the choice and freedom to do since absolutely nothing is requiring my attention as I enjoy my summer off from teaching school.
Bolick researched five historical women, some famous, some not so much so. Women who ‘did it their way,’ they were what she called her Awakeners. Crawling into bed with it each night has been a regular Girls Night Out because Kate validated every single notion I have come to embrace about the sanctuary I’ve created in this life I live mostly alone, and isn’t that what GNOs usually do anyway?
Let me introduce you to the Spinster Wish. A spinster wish is the extravagant pleasure of being by oneself, the creation of what Bolick shares is the whim of a feme sole, a single woman. One thing single women can enjoy that married women cannot are whims. Whims are amazing, hedonistic extravagances that people on a schedule, people are accountable to other people, simply cannot manage. Ten friends try to coordinate a dinner and nine of them are married. Only half will be able to make it at all and even then there will be days and days of adjusting the details. The feme sole is the only one who is absolutely available, who can totally go with the flow as the details are hammered out amongst the chaos of the marrieds.
I think my spinster wish is also why I became a writer. Lacking a partner to share my day with and saddled with friends who were typically much younger than me, whose toddlers and husbands and volunteer work demand every ounce of their attention even now, I started having to share my day, my thoughts, my fears, my dreams and my struggles with…nobody. So instead, I started writing them down. Now here I am five years later with a completed memoir, a thriving blog and a welcomed peace of mind, the sum experience of being my own confidante and therapist. Indeed, I am a woman who has mastered the inner thought.
Solitude doesn’t suit everyone and coupling is an extraordinary, necessary phenomenon that our society encourages. We can’t survive as a species if somebody out there isn’t pairing up. The lure of spinsterhood as I have come to enjoy it would mean the demise of humankind as we know it so thank goodness we still have half the world’s population desiring to find someone for themselves. I am also a big fan of men, male behaviors, masculine qualities and macho tendencies. In fact, you could say I love the idea of men in general. Face it, there are things only men can do for us. So my burden, then, is to balance my two loves….men and monodomestication. Does my life get too quiet and lonely? Yes, on New Year’s Eve it does. But adding another marriage to my roster of two is not the answer. Marriage, be assured, is not the cure for loneliness and there are many lonely marriages in the world, just look around. Coupling, indeed, is not always the remedy for loneliness either.
Like I said, I’ve been married twice. I’ve been loved and adored and showered with attention by lots of men, absolutely awash in pheromones and carnal desire as my couple radar pinged off the charts throughout my twenties and thirties. I’ve been proposed to, I’ve said ‘I do,’ I’ve grown a child in my belly and I’ve wallowed in the glory of parenting. I know the heaven of hearing my child tell me he loves me and I, too, have all the great stories about the joys of raising kids. I haven’t missed out on any of the important things in life, in my opinion. Everyone should get to experience these stages.
For a young girl in her twenties who sullenly says I will never get married, I can only laugh. No one can possibly make that determination at such a young age when each day provides countless interactions with others seeking that same kind of pairing. As a woman ages, in her thirties the pressure to find a husband goes next-level but still, in my experience, maturity provides welcomed attractions and an enlightened perspective on what makes a good partner and you still have a great chance of finding one at that age. By the time a woman is in her forties, if she hasn’t yet married or ever had children, things begin to look grim if she has adopted what society tells her are those natural next steps. People, anxious mothers, and dads with exhausted wallets may start to panic at that point. In her fifties and sixties, most of the unmarried and non-mothered have succumbed to a resolve that the window has probably closed. People feel sorry for her. Ahhh, she is a cat lady. I can empathize under these circumstances, I would probably feel that way, too, especially about myself. To want those things desperately for your own life but to have to watch your years tick away and not find them is disheartening. It would get to me. These cases aren’t the norm, though. What we usually find instead are the ones of us who travel through ‘The Steps’: single, coupled, married, parent, divorced/widowed, single again. And when we have completed our cycle, why do we worry that our best years are behind us? I reject that. I have learned to step back in amazement and gawk at the experiences of my life that I’ve survived, and I fist pump in the air that I can now enjoy a deep exhale.
My best years aren’t behind me. Only my toughest ones are.
What I am figuring out now is what I want. I must separate that from what society expects me to want. I want mostly to protect my spinster wish. I am grateful to Bolick for giving my station in life a name to add to my lexicon. It identifies me. It’s a way of life that completely suits who I am now and I have treasured, for a long time, my quiet, lazy days when nobody needs anything from me. It’s an existence that is predictable, I get plenty of rest, it provides me with the opportunity to eat healthy and take care of myself, it’s totally inexpensive, I am safe from heartbreak and drama and I have the freedom to do, literally, whatever I want all the time. However, I admit I also want companionship, but only from time to time. It would be nice to have someone to go to church with, someone who would like to see Garth Brooks’ out-of-retirement tour, someone to take to the Halloween parties my married friends throw every year and yes, really good sex with someone I care about but don’t want to live with would be super great on occasion…but only when I want to. And that’s about it. A nice balance between the two would be the perfect life for me as a woman who is still (sort of) young-ish and effervescent but who is much too old for the nonsense of the single life. I am still working out how to have it all but so far, so good.
You laugh. You think that either (a) contentment can’t possibly come to anyone in this way and (b) if it does, those of us enjoying it must be living a life of sinful behavior or shallow, selfish pleasure-seeking. Eh. I expect that. Preconceived beliefs about coupling and marrying imprinted upon us since birth have made most people feel that way, too. I am on the other side of the arc, though. I’ve already gripped the horns of that bull and I held on for a solid twenty years of my life. Now, I just want to enjoy my solitude and all the pleasures that I alone have the choice in making, choices that allow my new dreams to come true. I dream of being the best mom I can be but also a mom who has my own life to live so my son can live his without worrying about me. I dream of being a great writer and that is something that comes easiest with solitude and time to think, time to reflect and time to process thought. I dream of the years I will spend living on the beach in a small cozy place that is easy to clean and easy to pay for, with none of the demands of debt and no pressure to accumulate things. I dream of being a good friend to the women in my life who will continue to live in the trenches. I want to be their haven, their place to go to for girl talk and lounging in the sand, away from the rat race of their real lives. Finally, I want to spend a bunch of years with my parents, traveling. What’s amazing about my dreams is that my lifestyle totally makes them all possible.
Will I ever get married again? I would. It has its benefits and who can say no to love? There’s no amount of uninterrupted sleep that compares to being in love. That’s true at any age. Someone to grow old with, someone who will take care of me when I am old and my eyes can’t see well and my hands drop things, well it’s nice to have that to fall back on. I admit, in all of my quiet time, yes, I do think on those things. But, truthfully, I probably won’t remarry. Who can know? I don’t fret over this question anymore though, because I am happy. I cover my ears at the thundering dings and dongs of my biological clock ticking away. I’m not buying into all of that gloom and doom anymore because it’s a lie. It all works out the way it is supposed to and I live in the contentment of my feme sole every day. My path was unfurled for me a long time ago and I am only responsible for walking it so I just walk, all by myself, just the way I like it. And right now my path is clear and easy, paved with the beautiful blooms of gratitude and the soft sand of peacefulness. Pure, genuine contentment didn’t come quickly, but it finally came. For this, I am thankful. No. I am blessed beyond measure.
I highly, highly recommend Kate Bolick’s book. I can’t believe it’s her first novel. Her vocabulary is incredible, keep a dictionary on hand.
Check her out here: Kate Bolick
Read about the book here: Spinster, reviewed by The Slate
Or here: Spinster, reviewed by the New York Times
Order it here: Amazon.com
Love your life.