Betsy Trotwood

It is a word almost out of use these days – spinster. But it is a word which has been bothering a close friend of mine because she thinks she is one. Technically, she is. But gone are our ideas of the curmudgeonly Betsy Trotwood-esque figure of a spinster, which, for the purpose of this blog, just means one who has not married.

Having been married for over 20 years, – and by most standards it’s a very successful one (happy kid, happy dog, happy parental units, enough food, own flat, double-income, you know, the works), I will be less than honest if I said spinsterhood was not something I longed for several times in these 20 plus years.

My best friend in the whole world, then, is a spinster. She is the most intelligent, ‘awesome’ (my son says, and he sees her from his teenage-blinker-eyes), fun-loving, loving woman I know, who would think nothing of remortgaging her house if I suddenly needed money. I couldn’t do that for her even if I wanted to, because guess what, I am the joint owner of my flat. My husband might agree to do it, I will grant him that, but then again, he might not. I don’t have the luxury of deciding. Especially since I just am not rich enough to have a house of my own.

No, kids in the neighbourhood are not scared of her and do not start rumours that she is a lesbian with a basement full of snakes. In fact, I have seen droves of them gathering in her Norwich house, because she is eccentric enough (OK, maybe not having a kid, as in, not marrying to have one, might have added to the ease with which she can be eccentric) to allow all manner of kids rummage in their wet wellingtons through her pristine carpets to her back garden to feed the squirrels. She has been in that same quaint house for ages now and there has been no news of property prices plummeting because of her presence in the area.

Ok, she does not much care about kids. I did not either, till I had my nephews and nieces. And now of course I am a mother, so caring for a child comes with the territory. Does that make me a bad person? You can reserve your opinions, ladies and gentlemen, but I aint what is called a bad person. Neither is she. She likes my kid as her own, spoils him rotten, and has loved him since he was a bump in my tummy, but will run miles away from any commitment or responsibility. Which is a great state to be in, methinks, great indeed.

Not liking kids is a perfectly valid reason not to marry, because once you do marry, assuming the partner agrees initially not to have kids, he might change his mind and put the pressure on you, and this will happen just when you were getting used to his club memberships and big flat, you’ll think, oh b****r, now I have to make lifestyle changes and you might baulk  at the idea, and so you have to carry on being married.

She does not bring a new dog or cat home every week and she sure as hell does not cry herself to sleep. I cry myself to sleep on days, crying for my lost youth, for the wrinkles under my eyes as opposed to her laughter lines, each one of which can be attributed to some dramatic incident – son’s bad results, sleepless nights over his illnesses, husband going incommunicado because of a new electronic toy in the house, you name it, a crease is dedicated to it.

The presence of another person in the house can often be very irritating. Not one’s children, but…er…even your spouse/partner. Just when I have finished the day’s work and am settling down to read the paper, or if I am lucky and even audacious, a book, – the man of the house, or the child or somebody related to the general picture of domesticity a married life becomes, comes over and either wants to eat or talk or wants you to sit with them. This last one makes me a horrid woman if I don’t wish to do, I am told very often. And I don’t, a lot of the time. I want to read my book lying down, (is that so wrong?) but he wants me to sit and read the book while he watches TV. This kind of forced invasion of privacy is normal in a marriage. But try getting sympathy from anyone around that idea, and watch your friends – why, even your mother – disappear.

The word spinster brings on images of a person, introverted, feeding pigeons on the window sill, nattering to herself, often confused for a lesbian, who prefers internet to real life, watching reruns of ‘Friends’ because all supposedly real people have more interesting real lives and friends. Right?

Wrong. Or it should be. These are those lucky people who don’t have to think of their children’s college admissions and yet be glorified for making a donation to a god child’s future. They can make more friends and be closer to the ones they have because there is no other quotidian things to worry about. If she wants to sit and read, soft, her-type-of-music playing in the room, and sip on Chardonnay, she can. There is no heavy metal music jarring her peace from the teenage-stranger’s room. There is no dinner to think of, no tables to be laid, just some munches and dips and that can be it.

The spinsters I know have been to more places than others, taken sabbatical to go and work in the animal sanctuary of Kruger National Park, living for free deep in the jungle, not needing to really be in daily contact with anyone, taking spontaneous vacations. When she gains weight, there is no one in the house to whom she has to shout she ‘is in great shape and the shape is round’, no child to tell her, as mine did today, ‘ma, you’re looking dopey in shorts’. She does not have to grit her teeth to resist giving an answer she dies to but has to desist from.

Apparently married women are scared of spinsters because they fear they will ‘catch’ their husbands. Hah! Little do they know! Most married women are sure – especially after several years of marriage – nobody will have their husbands. As I said, my best friends are spinsters, and one in particular sits and argues and chats with my husband till the cows come home (or the wine/whisky gets over), saving the world, ending world hunger.

And then she can wake up late, as late as she wishes, in enough time to just put on her clothes, brush her teeth while having coffee in a show of impossible dexterity, and rush to work.

And I, groggy eyed, had to wake up at least 2 hours earlier, with blood alcohol levels similar, to make breakfast, snacks for school, getting the inept male species of the house ready to face their diurnal duties. Still think marriage or a stable relationship is important?

Your funeral.

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4 thoughts on “Betsy Trotwood

  1. I don’t know if you’ve been around women your mum’s generation generally hanging out with each other. They complain incessantly about their husbands and cherish the times they spend with each other sans men (in my social circle, this would usually be when married women came to stay with their mother for a few days, or when families visited each other during pujo). It’s just that, given the social set-up, few could actually live a socially secure, financially stable life without a marrier partner. All the women in my family without a wedding band to their names usually lived in joint families, or sometimes with their married sister and her brood.

  2. So true…while reading, I was going through my life also…so true…it’s such a big price to pay for Roti-kapda aur makan…and nothing else…

    Thanks Lali to scribble out my picture also…

    Luv U…

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