Thursday, June 4, 2015

Evolutionary Deadends

The Daily Mail carries three female writers' thoughts on growing old and single in response to Kate Bolick’s new book, Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own, which apparently argues that spinsters should be proud of their single status and enjoy their lifestyle.

One of the responding authors, Kate Mulvey, writes of how she was recently attending a birthday party for the son of one of her friends:
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.
She also notes:
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.
The next two writers are still in their 40s. The first of these, Claudia Connell, who is in her late 40s, reasons that at least she is not stuck in a lousy marriage. She writes:
I’m glad, and rather proud, that I didn’t allow myself to feel pressured or panicked into being with somebody who didn’t feel right, as so many of my friends did. 
In fact, the very same women who urged me to be less fussy are now the ones who tell me how much they envy my life. 
They’re the ones stuck at home with moody teenagers who won’t leave home until they’re 30 and a boring, lazy husband they don’t seem to even like, let alone love. 
I have freedom, a good amount of disposable income and only myself to please. I know who I think got the better deal.
Melissa Kite, 43, writes:
We are capable, high-earning women who are opting for a life alone because we prefer it. Alone, not lonely. There’s a difference. Yesterday, I woke up, sauntered to an Italian deli for coffee, walked the dog, did some work, drove to the country and rode my horses, drove back into town, popped a chicken in the oven, watered the garden while it cooked. After dinner, I sat in my immaculate living room and read a gripping thriller in perfect peace and quiet. Finally, I made a cup of herbal tea and slipped between the crisp white sheets of my king-size bed with my spaniel curled up beside me. Perfection. 
If you ask me how that same day would have passed with any of my last three ex-boyfriends, my answer would be: somewhat tediously, very stressfully, and with hidden tears of frustration. 
I would have been drawn into a dozen logistical nightmares over accommodating his life before I could even think about mine. He would have wanted a far more complicated dinner than chicken with salad. I would have had to make pudding. I hate pudding. 
We would have watched a bad movie until the early hours, too bored and fed up with each other after a day of niggling over the small stuff to even try to have sex. 
Now, I ask you, what’s in it for me to live like that? 
I suppose, you would say, companionship or the joy of children. The problem is I have never had a great yearning for babies and my friends make great companions.
What all three seems to have missed is that men are the gate-keepers of commitment. Mulvey is at the age that men are not interested in her, and she is facing the sudden realization that her health will not last forever, and being childless was not an accomplishment.

Connell's rationalization that at least she is not stuck in a lousy marriage is pitiful. It is a tacit acknowledgment that she was incapable of a having a healthy relationship, or unwilling to put in the time to build a healthy relationship--i.e., that she had commitment issues. I suppose it is a good thing that she has only herself to please because it is only herself that will bother to please her.

Kite is the most delusional of the three. She likewise concedes that she is incapable of healthy relationships. Under her two scenarios--spending a weekend with her dog and spending a weekend with her imaginary bad boyfriend, she still winds up with no sex. That she reveals that it is frustrating to accommodate anyone's else's desires and values an immaculate house and crisp white sheets above companionship just shows that she is a selfish control freak.

It is also interesting what is not said: all the things these women contribute or do. They have traded companionship for self-pampering. They don't build or create anything, at least that they reveal. They appear to represent dead-ends not only evolutionary, but socially and creatively. Nothing will mark their passing.

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