Added: Keyonia Stilwell - Date: 16.04.2022 15:05 - Views: 26731 - Clicks: 1974
I remember the moment my sister told me she was having a baby. I was spending the evening with a group of friends and, halfway through, Kate said she needed a word. We ducked into a bedroom, where she looked at me so solemnly that I ransacked my brain for anything I could possibly have done wrong in the past half-hour. The seriousness of her announcement made me giggle out loud. Plus, the thought of my little sister being a mum was innately funny. I was — am — still single. But becoming an aunt brought with it a phantom modifier, one that echoed across my empty flat, even though no one had spoken it out loud.
There are many reasons we no longer use that term: its misogynist undertones of sour dessication, or bumbling hopelessness, to start with. The label went out of official usage in when the government dropped it from the marriage register, thanks to the Civil Partnership Act and, in an age when becoming a wife is no longer necessary or definitive, it seems almost redundant. Nor has it been replaced by anything better. So what else are we formerly-known-as-spinsters supposed to call ourselves: free women? Rather insulting to everyone else, I imagine. Lifelong singles? The Office for National Statistics shows that women not living in a couple, who have never married, is rising in every age range under In the decade-and-a-half between and , the figure for those aged 40 to 70 rose by half a million.
The percentage of never- married singletons in their 40s doubled. Singleness is no longer to be sneered at. Never marrying or taking a long-term partner is a valid choice. For a brief spurt, it even appeared that the single-positivity movement was the latest Hollywood cause, with A-listers such as Rashida Jones, Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Handler going proudly on the record about how they had come to embrace their single lives. Give it another 10 years, I wanted to say.
But there I go, living down to the spinster stereotype of envy and bitterness. How is it possible that, despite being raised by a feminist mother and enjoying a life rich with friendships and meaningful employment, I still feel the stigma of that word? Through a formative literary diet of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and PG Wodehouse, I grew up alternately pitying and laughing at spinsters, their petty vendettas and outsize jealousies born out of their need for ificance in a world that found no use for them.
They were figures of fun and frustration, not women I was ever expected to relate to. After all, like many spinsters-to-be, I never considered myself on that track. I assumed that my own situation was a temporary aberration, one that required no sense of emergency or active response. My social calendar was full, my work constantly introduced me to new people. Mother Nature would, surely, pick up the slack. But now my little sister was having a baby, and I was single and approaching a big birthday. The fact that the average age at marriage in heterosexual couples has never been later — One of the cruellest tricks spinsterhood can play is to leave you feeling like an outlier and a freak — yet my status is far from unique as the statistics show.
I see that in my own close friendship group — almost a dozen of us are never-married in our late 30s and early 40s, and none through choice. Annually, we manage a small smattering of dates between us. Most of us have grown weary of online dating, which requires you to treat it as an all-consuming hobby or part-time job.
In our 20s, my friends and I used to revel in gossip and talk endlessly about the guys we were interested in; now, the subject is sensitively avoided, even within the sisterhood. As we age, the distance between our shared life experiences and viewpoints has only been widening. Many of them long to be part of a couple — there was a lot of feeling of cultural pressure, but there was also a sense of that norm being internalised. Single people felt a bit of a failure, that something had gone wrong, and that they were missing out.
Are we missing out on the greatest emotions a human can have? Shall we slide into selfishness, loneliness, or inificance? Who will be there for us when we grow old? And is a life without intimate physical companionship one half-loved, and half-lived? And so we feel obliged to hide any feelings of shame or inadequacy or longing. Western society has always struggled with the issue of what to do with unmarried women.
Take the religious mania for persecuting so-called witches in the middle ages. And yet the original spinsters were a not-unrespectable class of tradespeople. The term came into existence in the mids to describe those who spun thread and yarn, a low-income job that was one of the few available to lower-status, unmarried women. Most still lived in the family home, where their financial contributions were no doubt greatly appreciated. The term bore no stigma and was used almost as a surname, like Smith or Mason or Taylor. Spinsterhood was accompanied by unusual legal and economic freedoms.
And yet it was ultimately the Victorians who, with their indefatigable sense of purpose and powers of association, rescued the spinster, championing in her the rebel spirit that fanned feats of political and social reform. Out of impoverished necessity, never-married women pioneered the way to the first female professions, from governess to nursing, and expanding to typing, journalism, academia and law.
They became philanthropists and agitators, educators and explorers; some rejected sexual norms while others became quiet allies of the homosexual community. Of all the anxious experiences of spinsterhood, one of the most debilitating is the sense of a life on hold, incomplete.
As Roseneil argues in her book, membership of grown-up society is marked by coupling. When Professor Paul Dolan , a behavioural scientist at LSE, published research claiming that single women without children were happier than married ones, he was taken aback by the response. Whether a spinster is happy with her state depends, of course, not just on her personality, her circumstances, and her mood at the moment you ask her, but an ambivalent definition of contentment. It is time, surely, to change the rules, and the conversation. As the population of never-married women expands, we should be honest about what it meant, and means, to be one.
We should celebrate our identity and the life experience that has given it to us. We should reclaim our history and stop being defined by others. Why not start by taking back that dread word, spinster? The Observer Women. Why are increasing s of women choosing to be single? Emma John. Sun 17 Jan Topics Women The Observer Relationships features. Reuse this content.Married and lonely wanting chat with girls
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Why are increasing s of women choosing to be single?