Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Spinster as Advice Columnist...

Sunday mornings are the time that I catch up on news and a week's worth of blog posts.  This morning as I was doing my weekly cruise through my spinster blog roll I came across this post on Bella DePaulo's Living Single blog.  I encourage folks to follow the link through to the original letter for advice, the columnist's response and the comments left by various readers.

It isn't a surprise that the columnist's response and that of nearly all of the readers is to stay in the relationship.  She tells "Is Love Enough" that aside from these occasional moments when she has a desire to be single, all else in the relationship is good so why should she give that up?  She even tells her that this is something she should keep to herself in order to preserve the relationship and the vast majority of those who left comments agree.

What does this spinster think?  Well in many ways I agree with the Meredith, the columnist, except that the one thing that Meredith doesn't ask is whether or not being in a relationship is something that ILE actually wants.  If ILE really does deep down want a partnered life and if this guy is really as much the bomb as she says he is, and if making the monogamy commitment is something that they both want then yes, she should stay and yes she should keep her thoughts to herself.

I think we make a lot of sacrifices for the things we want in life.  Some bigger than others, like not going to see a movie because we want to spend the evening having dinner with a friend; or we may decide to accept a smaller salary to work at a job we truly love over a job that pays far more but is bound to make us unhappy; or we might give up traveling around the world for a year in order to accept that scholarship to the university we really want to attend.   And for many, the idea of giving up the perks that go along with being single so that they can make a commitment to and share their lives with another person with the intent of 'til death do us part' is a perfectly worthwhile sacrifice to make.

Some people will say that choosing coupledom is not a sacrifice at all.  That a true partnership would only add to your life and not make you feel like you are giving something up.  However, it is the nature of a contract (and marriage or commitment is a contract) for there to be an offer made and appropriate consideration is offered back in exchange.  When you choose to share a life with someone, to share a living space, finances, and working towards shared goals, you are making a sacrifice.  If you are true to the commitment you've made your future decisions will always have to take that person into consideration. Whether or not you take that dream job with the corner office in Manhattan will take into account the impact it will have on your relationship.  Whether or not you choose to act on the unexpected attraction between you and the sexy/funny/intelligent guy or gal you met at the library will take into account the impact it will have on the relationship.  No matter the choice you end up making, you may very well take the job and have the fling, but at some point you take the relationship into consideration as you are no longer a free agent.*

Of course there are all kinds of relationships, and I've been witness to many successful open relationships but ILE's issue isn't whether or not she wants to be with this particular guy.  She isn't having the hots for some other dude, in fact this guy seems to pretty much rock her world.  No, she what has the hots for is what she gave up to be in this relationship.

I think it is perfectly natural when we have made a choice that requires sacrifice, that we will on occasion wonder what life would be like if we decided differently.  This doesn't always mean that the choice was a bad one or that we are even having serious doubts about the path we took.  Humans are curious creatures and that curiosity lends itself to many travels down the What If Road.   We all do this; it's normal.

ILE doesn't give enough information in her letter for me to say if she is what I would call 'single at heart' and a candidate for the wonderful world of Spinsterdom (and yes, my world is a wonderful place to be) and Meredith never asks her.  The assumption is made that couplehood is where she wants to be, and so the columnist and others who commented respond based on this assumption (and why wouldn't they since our culture assumes this is a goal that everyone wants).   So what advice would I have given to Is Love Enough?

Dear Is Love Enough,
My name is Spinster Jane and I'm single by choice.  I write a blog about this decision and how my life has been since making it.  I'm a pretty happy person most days and do feel quite strongly that this lifestyle is the right one for me.  I am quite proud to be a spinster, however, it isn't necessarily the right choice for everyone.
Maybe on one of those weekends alone that you take you can give some thought whether or not you really want to be single.  Think about other periods in your life when you were alone and how you felt then.  Were you happy? Did you find that you were often having thoughts about how much nicer it would be to have someone in your life just as now that you do have someone, you are having thoughts about not being in a relationship?
If being a part of a couple is what you truly want and it is a real goal of yours, then it seems to me that perhaps you have managed to find the right guy to do this with.  If however when you have given it some serious thought you decide that the solitary life is the one for you, you do need to be honest with this man because if coupledom is what he truly desires, then he should be able to seek it out with some one who feels the same.
To be single or to be partnered are both valid choices that can bring great things into our lives.  As with any choice thoughtful consideration is needed to determine which is the right one for each of us as individuals.  I hope you are able to find the right choice for you.  

And now I put the question out to you.  What would your advice to Is Love Enough be?

* and before anyone gets all cranky about it.  I do think that in choosing to be single I too have made sacrifices.  I am 100% solely responsible for myself.  I don't have a fall back should I not be able to pay a bill, have a bad day or not feel like doing the dishes.  I will admit that there are certainly practical benefits to being partnered off, however for me, they are just not appealing enough to warrant giving up what I see as the great benefits of being single, the big one being that I am simply happier living this way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sometimes being a grownup is AWESOME!

One of the greatest things about being a grownup is that if you want to bake a cake for can.  That is pretty wonderful in and of itself...**


One of the best things about being a grown up AND living alone is that, once the cake is made, it's all MINE!!!***

** The other bonus is that you get to lick the beaters, the spoon and the bowl and no one can tell you not to.

*** I confess.  A friend stopped by and I shared a piece.  One slice of cake.  The rest is Spinster Property.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Underwear Avalanche that Wasn't

I’m exhausted; bone weary.  I feel like I could just crawl beneath the covers and sleep until morning.   I did get to bed rather late last night and I didn’t sleep all that well, but despite two naps today I am still wiped out.   I should feel completely justified in going to bed early.  I’m probably the last person most would call a slacker and yet I’m finding I can’t just allow myself to put things off for another day and go to bed. 

I have emails and phone calls I said I’d return by this evening, a few of whom aren’t going to take, “Hey, I’m feeling a bit low energy today, can I get back to you tomorrow?” as a valid excuse for delay and I also don’t like to go back on my word.

I also have a load of laundry to do and dishes to wash and a lunch to make for work tomorrow.  Again, I could put these things off because I’m the only one who is going to suffer the consequences if these tasks are not done, but I know my own habit for procrastination and if I don’t do at least the minimum right now, the Spinster Nest will go from quaintly cluttered to superfund site in a matter of days.   My friends will wonder why they have not heard from me and when a rescue team is sent they’ll need corpse hounds to find my decaying body beneath the piles of dirty laundry and potato chip bags that toppled over onto me while I was working the lazy in bed. 

So I pulled my tired self off the couch and did some communicating.  I’m not sure I was completely coherent and I said, “I’ll get back to you on that” more than once but it’s done.  I’ve taken a load of laundry down stairs to the machine, deposited the requisite five quarters and in a half hour I and another dollar twenty five will venture down once more and transfer it to the dryer.   I’ve even managed to squeeze in this blog post documenting my Conquering of the Tired, and after it’s posted I’m headed to the kitchen, to make egg salad and wash dishes.

The minimum will then be done and I can happily climb beneath the covers feeling satisfied that I’ve met my promised deadlines and with the peace of mind that comes with knowing one is safe from an avalanche of underwear and snack food detritus. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011


It’s Saturday night, 9:29 PM.  It’s too hot and despite the two fans that have been running night and day my apartment does not offer much relief.  I’m feeling bored and a bit listless. I’ve a million ways I could entertain myself or find company and I find none of them are able to hold my attention long enough to take action.

I’ve just poured a glass of chilled chardonnay and water is already condensing on the surface of the wine glass.  I’ve wandered about the apartment, dusted random objects; cleaned the futon of cat hair; tossed a stray dirty sock into the laundry basket.  I’ve sampled every type of cracker in my kitchen (there are three), nibbled a few olives and ultimately decided to cook a package of ramen simply for something to do.  Droplets of water are sliding down the wineglass stem and I know it won’t be long before they pool at the base, leaving a wet ring that I will likely find later with my elbow and suffer a moment of, “Oh gross what is that?” before I recall that it is from the glass of wine I imbibed earlier in the evening. 

I could blame my current state on the heat but I think it is due to having free and unscheduled time sneak up on me.  My life has become so full and busy that the only way to manage it has been to keep everything scheduled.  Each day structured to squeeze in the maximum amount of achievement.   And now suddenly, on this Saturday night, I find I’ve hours of open time; a void that I could fill with anything and instead of weighing all of my options and choosing one, I just sit and fidget and wait. 

The glass of wine is empty.  I’m contemplating fetching a towel to wipe away the ring of wet the glass left behind just to fill time. 

And now, “ding, ding!”

A text message on my iPhone; a friend wanting to know if I’d care for a visitor this evening and I think, Yes.  Yes please…I would, and I rise to pull another glass from the cupboard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not the mom...

A week or so ago I was having a discussion with a friend about how much of the basic human personality is what it is due to cultural conditioning and how much of it is due to biological imperative.  Our conversation centered mostly on sex and coupling and how while our basic instinct drives us to mate, we don’t seem to be designed for long term fidelity (the more our DNA is spread around the better for the diversity of the gene pool, etc.).  And yet, our culture has elevated coupledom to shrine status, and while many of us are brought up to desire it, once we are in it we are not really very good at keeping it going and often have to fight against our own instinct to stray and sprinkle the world with our offspring. 

Many do succeed at this, living monogamous lives for years or decades.  The human mind is a powerful thing and when we really want something badly enough, we are often able by will alone to make it happen.  We can overcome our own biology and live quite happily. 

Now, my blog post isn’t about the topic of coupling, though I could likely write pages about my opinion on whether permanent partnership is a natural state of being or not.  The idea however, did arise due to that discussion.  What my post is about is a biological drive that has never, with one exception, figured prominently in my life but which, purely by being born a woman (according to biology) should have, and that is children; more specifically my lack of desire to be a mother.

I like kids; my brother’s children are great and one of my best friends has a son whose birth I was present for and who has since grown into one of the cutest things on two legs.   And while I’m not sure I’d be the world’s greatest mother, it certainly isn’t because I don’t think that were it to come down to it that I’d be a terrible parent.  I’m sure I’d rise to the occasion.  It is simply that I’ve not had the desire to be a parent.

 When I was younger I thought that I might have kids one day, not because I really wanted to, I just sort of thought that it was required.  When I look back at old journals I actually wrote about how if I had kids I simply had to make sure I had a job that paid well enough that I could send them away to boarding school so I could travel.  In fact in one entry from high school in which I made a 15 year plan, I had myself married, divorced, two kids away in boarding school (or living with their dad) and living in Paris with a well established writing career, all by 27.  It was apparent that part of me thought, “Well if I HAVE to do this, I might as well get it out of the way early.”

While it may seem I am being a bit light hearted here, there was a time I gave motherhood serious consideration, because I had to.  In my early twenties I found myself unexpectedly pregnant.   For about a million reasons that I won’t go into here, I made the decision to give the child up for adoption.   Saying I didn’t want or was not ready to be a parent and then sitting with the reality of holding the baby I just birthed into the world are quite different things.  So, while my lack of desire to be a parent played a role in the decision, giving him up was not by any means an easy thing to do.  It was, however, the best thing I could do for that child at the time, I’ve never regretted the choice and I still think it was one of wisest decisions I have made in my life. 

Since then, the thought has crossed my mind when I’ve seen friends with their new babies and wondered if parenthood was for me.  Once I even told a significant other that I’d reconsider my decision to not be a mother because he wanted a child so much (I know, go ahead, hit me with a high heeled shoe.  I wasn’t rational at the time, I’m quite sure that in that moment I would have been declared temporarily insane).  However, the desire was always temporary and soon faded.

I grew up hearing about that tick-tocking biological clock which should be ringing alarm bells like mad right about now, but I’m guessing someone hit the snooze button because I’m nearly 40 and it hasn’t made so much as a buzz.   

Both coupledom and parenthood are things that, according to custom and/or biology, I am supposed to desire and yet I don’t (and in the case of parenthood, I never really have…I definitely came and went on the couple thing for a long time).   This might mean that I have in some way failed to fulfill my ‘duty as a human,’ but I can live with that, because in the end just as I don’t feel anything is missing by not being paired off, neither do I feel I am lacking something in my life because I’m not a mother.   

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Big Sex Post

“This ‘spinster thing’ you’re doing.  I get the alone bit, but what do you do about sex?”

“So you don’t like sex?”

“Spinster, eh?  I bet it’s been a while right?  You know if you ever have the need, I’d totally help you out.”

Since publicly declaring my spinsterhood questions about sex have been posed to me in one form or another by genuinely curious friends, inquisitive blog readers and of course the occasional hopeful potential partner.   While the motivation, wording and level of crudeness varies the big question everyone seems to want answered is, “Do spinsters have sex?”

What some of you really want to know is whether or not THIS spinster has sex, to which I’ll respond that despite much of my life being publicly shared across the blog world, whether or not Spinster Jane gets any on a regular basis is really none of your sweet business.  I know, I know, you were hoping and it’s still possible that there is a drunk blog post full of all kinds of naughty in my future, but if breath holding is involved you are quite likely going to lose consciousness before that ever occurs.  Now, back to the question at hand…

I could go into an entire post about how if I had a penis and this blog was titled Bachelor John, you’d likely not be asking.  In fact you’d probably assume that I was having my more primal needs satisfied on a regular basis, but we’ve already had the bachelor vs. spinster debate.    

According to various online etymology dictionaries (relax, this post really is about sex...keep reading) the word spinster originally meant just what it sounds like; a woman who spins*.  Back in less enlightened times, to remain unmarried was basically unheard of since, social stigma aside, it generally meant that one had no means of support.  Marriage in most cases meant survival.  However, taking in wool for spinning was one of the very few ways a woman could have an independent income outside of marriage and so for some women who either never found a partner, or who, even in those times, may have chosen to not seek one out, spinning was a way to support themselves financially. 

While I can’t claim know that spinster took on the stigma that it did because people may have looked down on these women, (though there were probably relatively few women who were able to do this, and many may have wanted to marry but for one reason or were never able to, they were more likely than not on the fringe of their particular society) by the 17th century it was being used regularly in legal documents to denote a woman who remained unmarried beyond the expected marriageable age.   Eventually it came to have the meaning most of us associate with the word, unmarried, lonely, slightly crazy cat lady who, if the thought even crosses her mind, has a sex life that only involves something that needs batteries.

My intent in using the word spinster has always meant to be a reclaiming or redefining of the word that is at least in part inspired by those spinsters of old who were able to be independent and in control of their own choices at a time when a woman being alone was practically unheard of.  While applying the word spinster to myself does carry the obvious intent to not seek out permanent partnership with any one person and to embrace living life as a single woman, it also means that I am choosing to live an independent life in which I am my own priority and that all of the decisions in my life are mine alone to make.  That includes the decision of whether or not to have sex. 

So, to answer the big question, do spinsters have sex?  The answer to that is, yes of course they do…if they choose to.   Some spinsters have a lot of sex; some might only do it on the weekends; and some might even be downright promiscuous.  And yup, some spinsters don’t have sex.  Some are unable to find appropriate partners; some don’t like sex; and some are just too busy doing other things.   

There you have it folks.  Spinsters, breaking the rules for over 400 years…

(By the way…um, your lips are turning a bit blue) 

* "spinster." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 18 Jul. 2011. <>.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living Alone (a spinster list)

I've lived in my own apartment for just over two years now and I've found that during this time I've developed some, well...some habits that are definite indications that I am quite comfortable with this lifestyle.  Actually, I'm more than comfortable, I downright proud of my solitary status.

Today I share with you a list of ten signs that I not only enjoy living alone, but I should probably keep it that way.

  1. At the moment, there isn’t a doorknob inside my apartment that doesn’t have some sort of undergarment hanging off it.
  2. English muffin pizza topped with sliced hotdogs has become an acceptable dinner.
  3. The sniff test is the standard used to ascertain the wear-ability of clothing and to determine the risk level of ingesting certain items in my refrigerator.*
  4. Peanut butter + spoon = lunch
  5. I can make it from my bed to the bathroom and back with my eyes closed (because you know, if I don’t open my eyes, I’m not really awake).
  6. The only reason I have paper napkins, is because I might run out of toilet paper.*
  7. The dinner table is only used for its named purpose when there are other human beings present.
  8. Some of my interactions with the resident felines include two way conversations and reading interesting snippets from books and news articles aloud (just to be clear, I’m the one doing the reading). 
  9. There have been occasions that I have not answered the phone because a really good song came up on my 80s Pandora station.
  10. Inside the confines of my living space, pants are a purely optional item of clothing.*
*These three can also be signs that one is on the verge of moving from spinsterhood to becoming a dude. I'm dangerously close...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Really...I could do without most of July.  There is such a thing as too damn hot.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jane's Got Rhythm

There are times, like last night, when I watch a sunset that I lose the illusion of the sun dropping below the horizon and I become conscious of the fact in reality I am spinning away from the sun at the pace of a few hundred miles per hour.  This realization leaves me with a physical sense of vertigo and an awareness that most of what happens in the universe is far beyond my control.   At the same time, I know that this is simply how existence works and though there is no grand plan the universe still has a rhythm to which it dances. 

(Alright, prepare yourself.  We are about to dive into the land of metaphor and how the grand non-plan of the universe helps me make sense of my own, sometimes crazy life…here we go.)

When I left my apartment yesterday evening I had three things on my mind, the mess and clutter of my living space, my week long battle with writers block and sex.  Okay, really that last one was just to see if you were paying attention.   Though I do think about sex nearly as often as a dude ahem, with some, um, fair amount of frequency (hey, spinsters have needs too you know), what I was really thinking about was how in the past few weeks my life has flipped like a pancake as I’ve moved out of the world of steady, full-time corporate employment to making a commitment to pursuing opportunities that feed my heart (and hopefully keep me supplied with enough ramen to not starve).

Just over a week ago I left a job at which I’d been working for six and a half years, which is the longest run I’ve given any employer to date.  This act in itself isn’t overly remarkable, I’ve left jobs before.   My leaving was long overdue, I’d given plenty of notice and, unlike times past when I’ve felt the time had come to end a run with an employer, I’d actually had other employment lined up.  Though the new job has fewer hours and much lower pay, it is a whole lot more interesting and comes with much greater flexibility. 

In addition my main creative pursuits have begun to take off into directions I’d always hoped (maybe expected?) they would go.  I’m doing my best to continue to nudge them forward, which means dedicating a lot more time to them, which I am absolutely okay with and, thankfully, due to the change in jobs I actually have oodles**  of time to do this. 

All of the above is positive, and while I wonder about things like what lifestyle changes I’m going to have to make to adjust to my reduction in income, how to better manage my time to fit in all that I need to do, and trying to calm the small but very vocal part of me that is totally freaking out about all of this (are you nuts?  Doing this NOW at almost…well, almost old enough to know better?), I also know that all of this is happening because I am finally finding my own rhythm. 

Yep, just as the earth rotates on its axis and flies through space around the sun, I have my own orbit.  I could have chosen to stay in the place I was, to continue to try to corral my creative nature into a small pocket of my life, or I could let it become the center of my personal universe and go willingly along for the ride.  I’m choosing the latter and though it is somewhat frightening, disorienting and definitely gives me a sense of inner vertigo, I know that this is my rhythm and in many ways, I’ve about as much control over it as I do this spinning planet.  

Yep, this is my rhythm so I might as well dance to it. 

** Oodles, pretty sure this is an adjective that the mere use of lowers one’s cool factor by about half a point. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Flipping the Futon...

I am proud that I live an independent life.  I manage to handle all of the basic tasks of living without the assistance of a life partner or roommate.  I pay my bills, feed and clothe myself.  My social needs are met by the vibrant and diverse circle of friends that surround me.  Most of the time I don’t give my solitary lifestyle much thought, because I like my life this way and yet, there is this one moment, this one regular event that causes me to temporarily reconsider it…

It isn’t a big thing, actually it is pretty insignificant when compared to other tasks, but it is perhaps the one chore that is made much easier when there is another body around to assist.  In fact, while it is doable by a solitary individual, it is such a pain in the ass to do alone that I have been known to put it off for months.  My procrastination is made all the more easy because the not doing of it isn’t going to cause there to be bad smells in my living space, it won’t attract bugs or mice.  The majority of my friends and acquaintances would not know at all that I neglect this task on a regular basis.   They will be completely oblivious to my dereliction of household duty. 

Unless of course, they stay the night and they are forced to navigate the mid-mattress bulge caused by not flipping the futon on a regular basis. 

Despite the small size of my apartment I have been hostess to out of town friends visiting the coast for a weekend of playing tourist; the occasional broken heart that needs comfort, an ear and time away from memories; and of course those who have had one too many on a night out and need a place to safely crash.   My door is open to all.  I will feed them, comfort them and promise to keep the table dancing photos to myself.  And I will also make sure that their stay is a comfortable one…which means that once a month I flip the futon mattress.

(Yes, I know I could ask those who make use of said futon to assist with the turning of the mattress, but if you are not already aware of my tendency towards absentmindedness you’ve simply not been reading this blog long enough.  I have the thought…after they have walked out the door and back into their merry lives.)

And so, inevitably every few weeks I find myself standing, hands on hips, staring down the futon, plotting my strategy.  The problem isn’t that it is heavy, and it is weighty, I’ve the strength to handle that.  No, the problem is the mattress itself, its personality.  You see, futon mattresses are by nature unruly creatures engaging in continual acts of defiance to prove they cannot be caged.  

For instance…picture this:  During a bout of cleaning up you spend a few minutes adjusting the futon mattress on the frame, neatening the cover and making sure all parts are properly aligned.  Satisfied you walk away to take on another task, but before you even turn your back that mattress has begun its slow, slumpy crawl off the frame towards the floor.    When you return minutes later it won’t be the same neatly tucked and adjusted piece of furniture, it will be drooping off the bottom of the frame, the cover now bunched and loose at the top transforming your living room from bohemian salon to bachelor crash pad.

…or you’ve met someone.  Someone you find interesting and attractive enough to invite back to your solitary nest to sit on said futon, share a glass of wine, chat for a time and then maybe engage in a bit of mutually consensual adult activity.  Things go swimmingly and soon you find yourself lip locked and about the lay back when your interesting and attractive new friend stops, and points at something on your leg.  A peanut.  A peanut? A peanut is stuck to your thigh and you know that the last time you had peanuts was six months before when you went hiking; and you remember eating the remaining trail mix while lying on the couch, the laptop on your belly, catching up on missed episodes of Desperate Housewives; and you KNOW you have flipped the futon at least twice since that time.  Yet here you are, peanut on your thigh, mortified and realizing that this interesting and attractive person now thinks you are a disgusting slob and hoping that messiness is not something that they find to be a mood killer.

…or the time comes to flip the futon.

There is a bit of preparation that must be done before this task is taken on.  I clear away the throw pillows and the blankets I have draped over the back to keep handy for chilly nights and to hide the cover bunching.  I push the coffee table and stool out of the way because this isn’t just a chore, it’s a wrestling match and the last time I didn’t make room things were broken.  I take a moment to clear my head, take a deep breath and….

I have in mind that if I can grab the mattress firmly enough in the middle of the outside edge I can slide it off the frame while lifting it straight up so that when it is then balancing on its opposite edge I can bump it in the center with my hip and it will fall placidly into place without a complaint.  I continue to believe that this strategy will work because it did once, when the futon was still new. My housekeeping habits are not the best and I am pretty sure that upon arrival at my home it assessed the situation and thought it would be forever safe from the flip and thus I was able to take it by surprise.  It has not made that mistake since.

What happens instead is that it stubbornly sags more and more in the direction opposite of where I want it to go.  When I have it raised it just to the point where I think I might be able to give it the required bump, it takes the opportunity to shove its full weight against me, and I am forced to release it or be pushed to the floor.  Upon letting it go it opens up, falling flat across my living room floor, making it necessary for me to flip, drag and pull it back onto the frame one corner at a time.  And so I do, grunting and complaining until, through the force of my own stubbornness, it is in place once again. 

I neaten up the cover, replace the blankets across the back, arrange the throw pillows in a pleasing way and head to the bathroom to fetch an emery board to fix the broken nail that always occurs as a part of this process.   I return, sitting down on the (now slumping) futon, smiling to myself, enjoying my triumph, happy that I won’t have to face the task again for another month.  I stretch out my arms across the back of the futon, satisfactory sigh at the ready. As my hand comes to rest on the blankets my fingers brush against a small object, an object with a size and feel that is familiar. 

I know before I even look that what my finger tips have found is a peanut…