M is a 34 year old writer-editor (or an editor-writer) living in New York City.
How did you arrive at the decision to not get married?
I grew up with the same idealistic view of marriage (and weddings) as most people, I suppose, but after I left the Church at 16, and then left the rural-suburban village in which I grew up at 17, I slowly realized that it wasn’t really necessary to me and that I’d just been buying into the wedding industrial complex and traditions that didn’t necessarily match with the modern world and my feminist leanings. I didn’t feel I needed a religious institution to sanction any relationship, and, while same sex couples lacked the ability to receive the state’s sanction (which sucks and is wrong), it didn’t seem to prevent the many same sex couples around me from finding the things I’d want out of a long-term relationship: love, companionship, understanding, commitment. And the first time a boyfriend started (prematurely) talking marriage, all I could think was: “Damn, he doesn’t know me at all.”
The one time it was really up for discussion, I told my then-partner that he had to make a clear and convincing case for why his desire to get married trumped my desire to not get married, and “because my parents want us to” and “because everyone expects us to” were not convincing arguments. He never found one, and we broke up anyway because he wasn’t able to be faithful, as it turns out. Since then, my long-term relationships have operated under the understanding that I’m not into the idea: I told my last long-term partner and my current signficant other that I wanted it to be as easy as possible for him to leave (insofar as it’s ever easy to leave a long-term relationship, especially with co-mingled lives and stuff), because I wanted (and needed) him staying to be a daily, affirmative choice rather than an ongoing obligation as enforced by the law.
What do you say to folks who ask you when you’re getting married?
My parents asked me this once, in 2001 or so, I believe, while I was in a relationship with the aforementioned partner who wanted to get married. I told them if they asked it again, I wouldn’t ever get married, just out of spite. (I’d already been clear that I didn’t plan on doing so, so I didn’t really have patience for the discussion at that point.) They haven’t asked since. Neither, for that matter, has anyone else, probably because I excel at answers like that.
Why do you think there’s such a stigma against women who aren’t married/choose not to be married? How has this stigma affected you?
I think that it shows that, despite all of women’s gains in the labor market and society, marriage is still considered an achievement, particularly for women, and an incredibly important one at that. You can see this if you look at the cultural messaging (and oh, goodness, the “literature” on dating) in which women are pitted against other women for the “prize” of a man (usually a husband), in which women are pitted against what men supposedly want or like to “win” his affection, in which women are pitted against themselves, their own needs and their own instincts as obstacles they need to overcome to catch a husband. So when there’s this whole part of our society (and, notably, a lucrative one for some of the very people selling us on it, like the diamond/jewelry industry) dedicated to framing marriage as a “win” for women, of course those women who aren’t married aren’t winners.
For the most part it hasn’t affected me. I tend to surround myself with people who know how I feel and are cool with it, regardless of their own marital statuses, and I certainly understand why some people choose to get married (especially those folks for whom marriage hasn’t been an option in their lives or for their parents/recent ancestors) and don’t judge them for their choices — as I expect them to not judge me for mine. My choices are mine. And people that get judgey about my life, my choices or my relationships can go fuck themselves, basically.
What are your feelings on the word “spinster”?
I find the word “spinster” laughable, as though all that’s left for us poor unmarriageable half-women is to sit in the corner with our spinning wheels (since “spinster” originally denoted women who spun fibers into yarn, which was the only source of non-male income for non-royal women in the 14th century) and talk amongst ourselves. It’s just another way to denote the fact that the thing women are supposed to aspire to is marriage and, without it, we aren’t really “women” in the same way married women are. The idea that I’m sitting at home crying over my wool and my independent income (or, “Bridget Jones” style, into my wine glass before busting out into hairbrush karaoke) is just so at odds with the life I lead, the many people in it who love and care for me and vice versa, and what I’d want differently out of it (hint: not very much) given my druthers that the it just makes me snicker.