Life and the Sacrificial Spinster


DSC01658To begin with, I am not married.  I never have been.  I am not involved with anyone, and have basically had no one in my life, in any way, what-so-ever in well over a decade.  No, it is not by design.  It just happened that way.  Life sucks, then you realize it’s basically over and you’re alone,  unloved, and unwanted. In other words, in society’s eyes, I a not only a total failure, but a non-person.  When you reached the age of forty, and are not married or involved, it is the social kiss of death.  If I had it all over to do again, I would make up some tragic story, and have a social life.  At my age, if I were divorced, it would be great.  It would be even better if I’m widowed.  I’d get all manner of attention.  Unfortunately, I was stupid enough not to make up some back-story about my life.  Ergo, I am a total and complete social failure.  I am a non-person.

This has been brought home to me, in stark reality, this past week.  I have always thought my only purpose in being part of my family, was to care for my parents.  I’ve been taking care of my mother since I was in the 6th grade.  As a teen, then as a young adult, I would opt to be part of the family, rather than have my own life.  That’s how I was raised. Little did I know I was the family’s Sacrificial Spinster. There’s one in each generation of my family.  We’re the ones who are stupid enough to think we have a duty to the aging parents.  Maybe it’s because our siblings are off getting married, having families and lives of their own.  Since we have no lives, we get to take care of the parents.

You eventually learn, as have I, that love and attention is rationed.  Since we don’t have families of our own, we are expected to do the bidding of those who do.  Our desires and wants for family events are pushed aside as being selfish and mean spirited.  If you want to do something at your home, or the way you would like an event, you are being selfish and demanding.  Never mind that you never get to do anything the way you want, with the family.  You have no rights.  You are one single person, they have lives, homes, children, and friends.  You do as you are told, appear when you are told, and bring what you are told.  If not, you are a selfish, self-centered monster.

I realized this week that family time, for me, is rationed.  What I want is considered selfish.  If I want to have any interaction with my family, I do so on their terms, not on mine.  After all, I’m just one person.  I have no real life.  They do.  I am to dance to their music, appear when allowed, and have no real say in what my desires are.  After all, I’m just one person.

On Saturday, I realized I’ve been required to spend my entire adult life this way, walking on egg-shells, made to feel like a horror if I express my desires, and then expect equal treatment.  There is nothing equal about it.  I’ve basically been put on notice if I want to have family time, I do as I am told or die old, alone, and in the gutter. I’ve been expecting this.  I think my problem is the fact that I’m just too pig-headed to give in gracefully.

Once upon a time I had hopes and dreams.  Now, though, because I’m the Sacrificial Spinster, those are no longer allowed.   Oh, they are, as long as I do what I’m told and have no desires or requests of my own, but I’m not going down gracefully, at lest not for awhile.  At least the nieces and nephew will get beautiful, never used sterling, china, and crystal.  I spent so many years putting things together for a nice home, where I could entertain and have friends and family in for meals.  That is no longer an option.  My life has degraded into nothing.  I’ve had it sucked away, being the dutiful daughter.

I only wish people knew how hurtful it is when you are told that, you must do what they demand, or you have no part of their lives or their family.  Since I’m alone, with no one to fight for me, to take my side, or stand up for me, it really doesn’t matter, does it? Because I will never surrender, I suspect I will die alone, surrounded by my old and dusty things I never had an opportunity to use, because in doing so, in expressing my own desires to have my own life, I was being selfish to the rest of my family.

Not long ago, there was a family event.  I wanted to get out a specific set of dishes and do something fun and attractive.  My mother basically told me that I was being selfish, and I should let her do things the way she wanted to do them.  So I did.  Later I told her that I’d spent my entire life being told to let her do things the way she wanted them, and being made to feel like a creep if I wanted to do something different.

The same holds true with family time.  If I don’t scrape and bow to everyone else, and don’t take life on the terms of the members of the family who have lives and families of their own, then I’m being ugly and selfish.

Why is that?

This is a cautionary tale.  It is not just about me, but about so many other women in my position.  As I write, I know of one highly successful woman who must ‘retrench’, and give up her life to care for an aging mother.  She has siblings, but she’s the single one.  It’s her duty to sell her house she likes, pack up everything she owns, and move into her mother’s home.  Sure, married couples do the same thing, but it is also the ‘duty’ of the single daughter to give up her life, to sacrifice it all, for the parents.  The worst part of this, by the time we are able to reclaim our own lives, if we are fortunate enough to have parents who live for a long time,  is the fact that when we do acquire our real freedom, we are going to be too old to enjoy it.   Our lives will be virtually over, never having been truly lived.

When do we get a break in life – or do we?