As a controversial book says women who’ve never wed should treasure their freedom... is it possible to be a happy spinster?
Kate Mulvey is a real woman with a good brain who obviously has all the normal hormones and instincts. She has long wanted matrimony -- see here -- but took a long time to figure out what she was doing wrong -- see here.
And, as she starts out saying below, children are the big issue. There is no greater happiness than children and you don't have to be a genius to figure that out. During my day, I see a lot of mothers with young children and you only have to smile at the child to see how bursting with pride and happiness the mother is over her child. You get a huge smile in response. Children can be difficult but only the rarest mother would be without them.
Some people accuse the voluntarily childless of being "selfish" but the truth is absolutely the reverse. Having children is very selfish. It is choosing the greatest possible happiness for yourself. Children can of course turn out badly but it is a rare woman who wishes she never had the child concerned. Mostly, mothers just keep on loving the child concerned. It's the greatest love there is.
Women who choose childlessness are not selfish. They are foolish, abnormal or maladjusted. They are often women who find giving difficult -- but they will also be given little. As the apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:7: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". And as Jesus once said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As always, the Bible has the needed wisdom. I am an atheist but whenever I try to live by Christian principles I get a reward. It's wisdom that can help anyone
Kate Mulvey, 51, says: As I stood in the middle of the room, my eyes pricked with tears and mustering all my strength not to cry, I felt a gaping sense of loss.
I was not at the funeral of a loved one, but at my friend’s son’s tenth birthday party, and I was the only woman there without an army of squabbling brats and a man to call my own.
Most of my friends were there, a medley of middle-aged couples, settled around the kitchen table, content and relaxed as they swapped in-jokes about truculent teenagers and the grind of GCSEs.
Amid the hubbub, I was shouting into my mobile, organising my Saturday night ahead. I laughed and joked about yet another date, but my laughter was empty, merely a mechanism to cover up the loneliness I felt.
After all, I am 51, and quite honestly, I’d much rather be spending a cosy night in with a husband and children than running around like the teenager I so obviously am not.
Yet, according to U.S. author Kate Bolick, I should be out and proud, enjoying my exciting single lifestyle. Her book, part memoir and part eulogy to the state of spinsterhood, challenges the idea that women who don’t marry are somehow sad and pathetic.
Being single, she says, shouldn’t be seen as a default position for we modern bachelorettes, but a life choice, a conscious decision to exist independently and self-sufficiently.
I used to think like Bolick and even wrote articles about living an unconventional life that was unfettered and free. But who was I kidding? Myself, actually.
Because the idea of being able to have a happy, fulfilled life on your own is a myth. I can’t tell you how many times I have come home to a cold house and an empty bed and felt utterly dejected and scared.
Yes, I may be able to eat chocolate profiteroles in bed, watch daytime soaps and drink mojitos in the bath — the usual arguments trotted out by the Bridget Jones generation. But, as pleasurable as all this may be, I know I’d enjoy it far more if I shared it with someone I loved.
Which is why Bolick’s premise that life can be lived more fully on your own — she even writes of finding herself yearning, when with a man, for ‘the extravagant pleasures of simply being alone’ — seems to me like a slow-burning recipe for unhappiness.
I wonder if Bolick has factored in what will happen when old age catches up with her. The fact is, she is still in her early 40s, stunning with tumbling locks and full lips. Wait till the lips are puckered and the cheeks sunken. I often wake in the night terrified no man will ever want me again.
Because — and here’s the nub — Bolick’s feminist mantra of ‘If bachelorhood can be celebrated, why not spinsterhood?’ is simply naive. I am sorry, but as cruel as it is, being single is different for women. It’s unfair, even disgustingly so, but it is also true.
Only the other day I was at my local bar chatting to a group of men in their early 60s. They listened to me attentively, until a blonde thirty-something wafted in. One even managed to arrange a date with her. And it is not only dating disappointments we mid-life singletons have to contend with. I also wonder, with no children of my own and growing health niggles, who will look after me as I age?
And as if that wasn’t enough, there is the problem of ageing parents. Five years ago, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. My sisters, with their many child-centric responsibilities, left the bulk of caring duties to me. As my father pointed out, it wasn’t as if I had any family commitments. And he was right.
When she passed away this time last year, it was my job to look after my devastated father. To make him his favourite meals, sit and chat about the happy times and have the hankies ready when the tears came.
I don’t resent it, and am happy to be useful. But to be honest, it is a bit like landing the booby prize. Never in a million years did I ever think my life would end up like this. It is far from the footloose ‘living on your own terms’ that Bolick talks about.
So I am sorry to contradict the author and her merry army of glad-to-be-single followers, because it may seem glamorous, glossy and daring now, but come a certain age, being on your own is simply sad and lonely.
No, we spinsters, don’t need to be pitied or laughed at, but neither do we need to pretend to ourselves and the world we are having a ball. Because we’re not.