Do You Have a Life of Your Own?
I recently devoured Spinster: Making a Life of One's Ownby Kate Bolick. It's a memoir about Kate's own personal decision to fulfill her "spinster wish" and not marry and it's also a window into the lives and work of five women in history, Kate's "awakeners," who also chose to forgo matrimony or to explore the landscape of "spinsterhood" in cultures where marriage was expected.
At first, I couldn't tell why I was so invested. Yes, riveting and exquisitely written, but it was more than that. At one point, I turned to my husband and joked, "she makes a pretty good argument for not getting married." We had a good chuckle. But what was it? Why was I blazing through the pages, dog-earing passages when, on the surface, this book is so not about me and the life I've opted to lead?
Because it is about me. That's the thing. It's about all of us, in a way. And I realized this as I read, but then confirmed it when I reached the end of the book and Kate directly addresses the reader,
I grant that a wholesale reclamation of the word spinster is a tall order. My aim is more modest: to offer it up as shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you're single or coupled.
If you're single, whether never-married, divorced, or widowed, you can carry the word spinster like a talisman, a constant reminder that you're in very good company - indeed, part of a long and noble tradition of women past and present living on their own terms.
If you find yourself unhappily coupled, you can use the word spinster to conjure a time when you weren't, and to recall that being alone is often far preferable to being in a bad relationship. Figuring out how to reclaim that happier self can offer a road map out.
For the happily coupled, particularly those balancing work and children, spinster can be code for remembering to take time out for yourself. And if you've never learned how to be alone in a way that feels fruitful and energizing, there's no time like the present.
Wow, right? I consider myself "happily coupled" and I am most certainly balancing work and children and I'm decent about taking time for myself, but I'm not sure I've ever truly learned how to be alone in a way that is fruitful and energizing to me. I'm alone when I write, yes, and this is certainly something, and I spent lots of stretches on my own, thinking and wandering my city, but I'm also aware of my own restlessness, my inclination to reach for my phone or do something else to distract myself from the potentially precious alone-ness Bolick describes.
Anyway, it's a fantastic, thought-provoking book and I recommend it. It will make you think about your life and your choices whatever they look like. I'm so thrilled Kate will be joining me for a Happier Hour Literary Salon to discuss the book next week!
Before I go, I will leave you with a couple questions, questions that are intended to unsettle, provoke:
Are you single, unhappily or happily coupled?
Do you have a life of your own?
Should this always be the goal?