First things first. I am not Bridget fucking Jones.
Some women fear becoming their mother. My mum’s awesome, but we’re pretty different. That isn’t my fear. What I fear (sometimes) is turning into a heroine in a Jean Rhys novel. Poor, alcoholic, faded literary ambitions, alone, decaying beauty, pretty damn spiky.
And why do I fear it?…
Every so often you come across a word like ‘misogyny’ which reveals societies prevailing unconscious ideology. Aged 17 in English class, I was introduced to the term. ‘Misogyny: the systematic hatred of women’: I wrote it down in my notebook, then looking up at my tutor I asked ‘So what’s the equivalent term for hatred of men?’. He looked at me with a wry smile ‘There isn’t one’.
I wrote that down too.
Spinster is another term that opens those tiny shards of light onto a dusty room. ‘Spinister’, is the feminine equivalent of ‘Bachelor’, only its really really not. Bachelor has connotations of fun, exuberance and footloose whimsy. Spinster: bitter, sour, failed and lonely.
But not anymore, right? Because you know, we live in a post-feminist age, so if a woman wants to get married or not, or have kids or not, that’s her choice right, no ones going to judge her on that, right?
I’d say wrong, frankly. We still live in a heteronormative world. Lately I seem to have been coming face to face for it, smelling its breath of my face, feeling its weight on my arm.
My father who, on the demise of my last relationship passed me the advice, well intended I do not doubt, that I should hurry up and find someone else, because the older you get, the harder it gets.
Then there’s the boys, the supposedly liberal, nice boys, who’ve turned it on me, when I didn’t quite behave in the way they wanted. I was told, aged 19 by a boy I had just (very gently I might add, dumped) that I would end up alone, as the crazy old lady, surrounded by cats, shouting at people, or my current favourite of ‘vinegar tits’, comments said half in jest, but I’m not laughing.
‘If I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar woman and single, far rather than queen and married’ Elizabeth I
The message being transmitted is that as a woman your worth is time limited. As you get older your value in society declines (as maybe everyone’s value declines, in this fucked up culture which valorises youth and disregards knowledge, but as a woman you should know, your market value will decline more rapidly).
To those who warn me that I will die alone, I reply:
So will everyone.
And to those who look at my life and the mind blowing conversations which keep me up til dawn and the supportive, inspirational communities of artists and friends and activists I’ve gathered around me, or the sex that I have, which is none of their damn business and judge me as a failure, or label me ‘alone’ with a life to be devoid of love because it doesn’t, right now, fit into their scheme…I say….
And I will remember this and whisper it to myself as a mantra to protect against this bullshit: that if I end up with someone again, it’ll because I want to be, not because I need to be, not because of a desperate need to keep up with societal norms, or fear of my own company. It will be because their spirit sets me on fire, because they challenge and move me, because their flesh makes me tingle, it’ll be because of their kindness and our mutual respect.
Because I will never, ever, settle.
Instead I will reclaim the spinsters of old; the blue stockings, Clara Barton, Ida Tarbell, Susan B. Anthony: I will remember their lives as brave, determined and courageous. And ultimately: of value.