The S Word

A friend exclaimed recently, ‘You’re not a Spinster. Spinsters are old!’

The problem with the word ‘Spinster’ is that it’s so out-dated.

But according to the dictionary, that is exactly what I am. A Spinster; never married, no kids. But trying to categorize my status  is almost impossible.

Labelling me a Spinster is like calling an iPod, a gramaphone.

You get the meaning but at the same time, you totally miss the meaning.

What I am is a new demographic entirely.

I’m not a Miss Marple type – I do more than coo over other people’s kids, bake and knit.

I have a media company, read newspapers, wear Marc Jacobs, worry about my finances, travel for work, exercise, blog, podcast, write screenplays, eat brunch with friends. Oh, and I still enjoy sex (with the right person – there are no more drink-fuelled late-night (zipless?) fucks. I’ve certainly moved on from that kind of behaviour. But that’s not Spinster-hood, that’s called growing up).

Does my life scream Spinster to you?

This is what I did yesterday: went for a morning run in Central Park, interviewed a famous actress, had dinner with a friend who runs a multi-platform independent film company, drank Prosecco, bought make-up, read the New York Times, called my mum on Skype, had a business meeting, paid some bills and ate a steak.

Spinster doesn’t quite cover it, does it?

But because I didn’t get the kids ready for school, or wave my husband off to work, I am now being punished with a title that makes me sound like the kind of dry old Austen matriarch who walks around with a permanent sneer on her dusty, crumpled face.

Interestingly, the modern day Spinster is making in-roads into popular culture. Charlize Theron portrays one in Diablo Cody’s Young Adult. When I described her character Mavis as being in a ‘Spinster panic’, she laughed out loud, and told me that she was going to use that phrase in all her press interviews.

The Mavis character is flawed in many ways but I found myself after the press screening trying to explain to baffled journalists why a beautiful woman in the prime of her life might be so destructive and unhappy.

It’s because that while we have it all, we have nothing. The same could be said for every woman, be them married or single, but when you’re still single and over 35, the spotlight of despair, desperation and frustration, seems to shine more brightly.

Women at that stage in their lives have to make a choice: do you compromise and grab the first bloke you trip over, or tread your future path alone?

Young Adult, I hope, is the start of a dialogue about this demographic. Cody’s work paints a Spinster in broad strokes – and as a married woman with a child I find it hard to fully stomach her portrayal of my tribe. But it’s a good jumping off point.

My generation of disenfranchised women arrived at this curious mountain-top via Steinem, Greer, Paglia, Wolf, Freidman, D’Argy Smith, Gurley-Brown and every other feminists who blazed the ‘women can have it all’ trail.

We are the spawn of feminists.

We are ‘Spawnsters’.

It may not look good on a t-shirt but until I can think of something better, it’ll have to do.

Spinny out.


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