February 24, 2005
My friend has a red velveteen frog that lives on the arm of her red velvet sofa.
Her living room has become the gathering place for our little group, five of us, all single. We spend many a night on these couches, shoes kicked under the coffee table, ordering Chinese food, watching "American Idol."
One day, I looked over at the frog, and I thought, that thing is so spinstery. And that's when we named him Spinster Frog. We make him talk, which is hilarious to spinsters like us. He holds up his stuffed hand and says, "Slap me four" -- because, of course, Spinster Frog only has four fingers. We pick him up and move his spindly arms and make him say things like, "Don't go out with that guy, he wears bad shoes! Stay in and hang out with us. Spinster Frog hates second dates!"
Spinster Frog never turns into a prince. He celebrates spinsterhood.
It's a good time to be a spinster, if you ask me, but before I tell you why let's define our terms.
Spinster: "A woman who is not married, especially a woman who is no longer young and seems unlikely ever to marry."
Of all the dictionary definitions I found, most of which are the same, this is my favorite because of the phrase "no longer young," which I prefer to "old" as in "old maid." I wish they would let me put "no longer young" on my driver's license, under date of birth.
The word spinster doesn't scare me. In fact, I love saying it. If you want to have some fun, just greet one of your girlfriends with a casual nod and a "Hey, spinster." Of course you can only do this if you yourself are a spinster. Otherwise, you will be violating the cardinal rule of taking back terms that were once meant to malign (If my Jewish friend says, "Hey Heeb" that's a funny greeting; if a non-Jew says that, it's an ass-kicking).
At various times in history, spinsters were thought to be witches, lesbians and prostitutes -- or worse, unattractive. They were even hired out as slave laborers in 17th-century England. Today, it's hard to say what age is "no longer young" and who is "unlikely ever to marry." For every woman who seems to be on the fast track to Spinsterville, there's some 60-year-old hottie on the JDate of her life, meeting her soul mate.
True, many of my fellow spinsters would prefer marriage and are simply making the best of things until a man comes along. I myself like being in a committed relationship. I'm in one now. Still, I have to be honest; how can I get excited about entering into an agreement that's easier to get out of than a cellphone contract? When one of our friends, a former member of our red couch clan, got engaged last week, she came over, told us the proposal story and showed us the ring. It was all very magical and romantic, even to a coal-hearted "no longer young" spinster like me. There were tears and genuine joy (although Spinster Frog was very sad) but a part of me had to think big whoop.
I just signed a deal with T-Mobile. Where's my champagne?
OK, that sounded bitter, and spinsters really have to be careful to avoid the appearance of bitterness. I celebrate the ritual of marriage for those who want it. I say, "l'chaim" to you. In my now-engaged friend's case, she couldn't be happier. They are a perfect couple. Marriage was made for couples like this.
When telling us the proposal story, she recalled, "I barely even noticed the ring when he gave it to me, because my fantasy isn't about a ring, it's about being married."
That was so beautiful.
And I wish I felt that way, but to be honest, I was thinking the opposite. I'd like some jewelry and a fun proposal story to tell my friends, but the lifetime of marriage part gives me the willies.
That's just me. My point is, whether marriage seems enticing or not, there's no hurry like there used to be, when you'd have to marry the last guy to take an interest in you before the spinster window shut. For most of recent history, if we weren't married, we were pitied. These days, for every desperate spinster there's a desperate housewife.
Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She's on the Web at teresastrasser.com.