Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Useful Spinster

If you haven't seen Downton Abbey yet but you're planning on watching it, maybe skip this post? It contains a bit of a spoiler if you're fussy about that sort of thing. 

My mom is seeing Meg for physical therapy but I am in charge of other aspects of her rehabilitation. Namely, I make sure there are groceries in the house and I watch hours of Downton Abbey with her. We squeeze in episodes here and there, but the best time to watch is first thing in the mornings. I get to the house, make us coffee and we sit in bed and watch an episode while she ices her knee. Then we get on with the day.

We are on season three and this morning Lady Ethel was jilted at the altar.

It was very dramatic.

In the aftermath, Edith gives a woe-is-me speech as she's forcing herself out of bed the next morning. 

"I'm a useful spinster, good at helping out. That is my role."

Oh, how I identify, Lady Edith. 

I am not writing this to be dramatic. I am not even writing this to make any of you feel sorry for me. I am simply writing this because it was phrased so perfectly and I identified with it so strongly.

I am a useful spinster, too.

I know, I know. Spinster is a bit of an ugly word but I certainly qualify.

And I feel exactly that: like I am the single girl who is very good at helping (watching babies, throwing parties, tending gardens, bridesmaiding, baking cookies, putting out fires) despite not having, or maybe because I don't have, much noteworthy of my own.     

I hate that I do that, by the way: the reducing the worth of my life down to my marital status. I feel like I should be more evolved than that way of thinking but I always come back around to feeling that way. It's how I feel. Incorrect or not.  

Maybe it goes without saying that reading Kate Bolick's new book, Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, is on my list of things to do this summer.

As is rejoining eHarmony. Just in case I wasn't mean to be a spinster after all.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I am guilty of reducing my worth down to my marital status, too. I sometimes don't feel like I can say "I'm so busy" because I feel like my friends w/ kids are mentally rolling their eyes at me and thinking "you don't even know what busy is." But I AM busy and I AM tired. Maybe not as busy and tired as I would be with kids, but I have a full life... That all sounds whiny, though... I really am not trying to complain but sometimes it's hard to be the one flexing to other people's lives... Again, that sounds whiny so I'll just stop there before the internet throws tomatoes at me.

NewNew said...

I always defined myself as being free instead of as being single. I had my family (mom, dad, bro, aunts, uncles) and family obligations, but I still did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted however I wanted. Sometimes by myself, but once I pushed myself to do more activities alone, I loved it. The majority of my friends are married and their compromises, no matter how reasonable or understandable, made me cringe. I'm so used to being free.

There are some cultures *cough mine* where there's a designated spinster in each family. It's not mandatory, but if you're a female family member who reaches a certain age and are still single, it's sort of expected that you won't get married and have a nuclear family of your own.

Your role is to be there for everyone else when needed, but it's not a subservient role. Surprisingly (for an oppressive, macho culture), there's no backlash to living on your own or going out and enjoying life however you want. And it's more of an adviser/linchpin/money giver role (very little baby-sitting or party planning) until your parents need in-home care at which point you move in with them or they move in with you. It's a highly respected position. More respected than even a married woman who birthed a bunch of sons. You are trusted and seen as wise. Those women enjoy their freedom for however long it lasts.

JBean said...

I feel the same way! I don't think it's 'wrong' it's just how we feel. When all of your friends and family members are married with kids it kind of automatically reduces you to the helpful spinster status. But our day shall come! Goooooooo eharmony!!

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