M is 30 and lives in Eastern Kentucky.
How did you arrive at the decision to not get married? How firm are you in this decision?
I thought about getting married once. A boy I loved asked and I said yes and I thought about me in an amazing dress being showered by wildflowers out in some romantic spot in the woods in the fall, just as the leaves were turning. I think it’s easy to get swept up in the glamour women often can’t help but associate with weddings. I never got past the daydreaming stage, though. There was no ring and no serious planning and eventually, there was a melodramatic break-up in the middle of my twenty somethings. I jokingly tell people that I’m glad I dodged the bullet. They laugh and I laugh, but I totally mean it. “Decision” may be a strong way to describe my thoughts on marriage, because I do firmly believe that life is unpredictable and that sometimes making decisions is a fruitless effort. Who knows, I might end up drunk and hitched in a chapel in Vegas someday, in spite of the way I loathe cliche. However, I can’t see myself getting married. I can’t imagine it anymore. I don’t feel as though I need a government issued certificate to verify my love. I don’t like the idea of changing my name, or even discussing changing my name. I suppose it’s easy to say that I highly value my independence, but it seems more complicated than that. I firmly value love and loving, not an institution.
Where did you get your thoughts about marriage?
Marriage was always sort of looming growing up as a girl in Appalachia. Marriage is something that happens, it’s what you do. Even at eighteen when I was full of frustrated hormones and angst, I thought I’d probably be married by the time I was twenty five or so. I was surrounded by successful, happy marriages. Partnerships, really. My great grandparents and my grandparents and my parents were friends as well as spouses. Life wasn’t always idyllic, even happy couples are only human, but they always seemed to enjoy being with one another and sharing their lives and their love. I was flipping through a photo album with my Great Mamaw once and we came across a picture of her, holding hands with her first boyfriend Thurston. I asked, “Gramaw, why didn’t you marry him?” It was the 1920s, she was obviously of age for the age at fifteen or sixteen, I wondered if there was something that made this handsome young man unsuitable of her affections. She cocked her head and looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well, I didn’t love him!” For me, marriage was presented as side by side with love and affection. I came from a family who believed in soul mates. And I myself was born a bastard, outside of wedlock, because my mother refused to marry my biological father. She resisted the pressure of the community and conventions and changed my life for the better by not giving in to a redneck romeo who overdosed in 2004. He was only human, too. Just not the “right one”. She married my stepfather when I was four years old and they’re celebrating an anniversary next week. Twenty six years, I think.
What do you say to folks who ask you when you’re getting married?
Ohhh, the pressure is on all of a sudden, since I turned 30. Folks ask me that question all the time. Typically, I just say “NEVERRR!” and we all have a good laugh about it. When I’m forced to answer in a more serious way, I just cop out and use that aforementioned “right one” excuse. Oddly I’ve found that the people asking are usually friends my own age or a little younger. They seem so excited to be married and starting adorable new families. I’m happy for them, genuinely. But it’s hard to explain through that glaze of nearly newlywed bliss that I don’t want the same things from life right now. The concern is sweet, the worry for my loneliness. I try to explain that “single” isn’t a dirty word. I enjoy my life just the way it is, I enjoy the time have recently taken for being alone. I have allowed plenty of room for possibility and happiness in the romance department should it present itself along the way. Pressure is a drag.
Why do you think there’s such a stigma against women who aren’t married/choose not to be married? How do you think this stigma has affected you?
Single women are scary! Grr! I mean, I suppose marriage is the comfortable option in our society for women. Marriage is widely accepted, even respectable and holy. Or at least that’s what we want to believe that we believe as Americans. Maybe a woman being unmarried makes people squirm uncomfortably. An unmarried woman is intimidating, unnatural in the mainstream swing of things. Personally, I get a lot of sad looks from doe-eyed little old ladies. They pat me on the arm like they’re mourning the death of my womanhood. Or like somebody just died. And i get a lot of little old men shaking their heads at me in bewilderment. I know they’re wondering why I can’t keep a man, since I can cook AND possess a pretty impressive set of breedin’ hips. The stigma bounces right off of me, most of the time. I’m confident in my choices and don’t put much stock in living up to conventional standards.
What are your feelings on the word “spinster”?
I kinda’ like it! It’s fun to say. I mean, the connotation seems negative. Crazy cat lady meets Miss Havisham, something that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. But I’ve chosen to embrace it. ‘Cause by Eastern Kentucky standards, being unmarried and childless at 30 makes me a spinster in a lot of eyes. I can tell that my Great Mamaw, who’s 96, is getting concerned about the “s” word. She had a sister who never married, a spinster. She owned a general store and used to give me free Coca Colas and those tiny cans of Beenie Weenies. I always thought she was a happy woman and only just realized that she had never married, didn’t even occur to me in my vague memory of her. I don’t like Gramaw worrying, but again, I think it’s more of an issue of concern. Her relationship with my great grandfather was literally awesome, as in awe inspiring. They were so funny and sweet together and so equally matched. She wants me to find that and her values insist it come with marriage.