Old maids and money

“I want to make choices that are healthier for me and if that means that I’m single for the rest of my life, and I don’t have another relationship, so be it. It’s better to be healthy and to feel better about yourself, in my opinion, than to grab a man just to have a body next to you.”

That’s from an interview I just finished editing for my new book about Woman of a Certain Age who’s never been married. Spinsters. Old maids. Singletons, if you prefer Bridget Jones’ term (although that’s a little too close to simpletons for my taste).

This interview was with Sheryl, a 50-something resident of Los Angeles. As with so many of the women I’ve reached out to for this project, Sheryl was remarkably frank and open as she talked about her relationships, feelings and life experiences.

Because I find these conversations so interesting, I know that other people will, too. And it goes beyond interesting. These interviews have helped me reflect upon my own life as an always single woman and put my experiences into perspective.

Sheryl talked about growing up with an alcoholic and domineering father, a date rape she suffered as a naive young woman, a mostly successful career in the fashion industry, some wonderful relationships she had with men – and some relationships that were not so wonderful.

She became most emotional, though, while talking about a period of her life when she was in a financially precarious position, after having lost her job during the recession.

Money is one of the topics we invariably explore during these interviews, since single women do not have the dual-income safety net of marriage. They – we – are on our own.

Does being married really make it easier to handle a financial crisis, or does it actually add to the pressure one feels?

Would love to hear what you think about this.


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2 Responses to Old maids and money

  1. Spinster Threat says:

    I think it could go either way depending on the type of man you marry. Putting yourself financially into a man’s hands is a gamble too many women take. Men are human, not superhuman. People lose jobs, make bad investments, borrow money for things they can’t afford. A lot of husbands who don’t know what the hell they’re doing feel entitled to be in charge anyway and drag their families down with them.

    Even though today women and men are “equal” in theory, in social practice there’s a tacit expectation that men must make more money than their wives and be “head of household.” This adds somebody’s irrational ego to the financial equation. Sometimes the maintenance of that ego can become more important than making financially sound decisions.

    In my early 20s I was married to an irresponsible man who couldn’t hold a job and spent money, mostly mine, on stupid things, including drugs. He honestly seemed to think he was contributing more to our finances than me, regardless of what our bank statements and paystubs said. He was so blinded by thinking of himself as the automatic “head of household” that he was in for a rude awakening when I left and he realized he couldn’t afford to live on his own anymore and moved back with some old roommates.

    Even long after we were divorced I discovered he had tried applying for a loan or credit card using my name as a joint account holder. It didn’t happen, but reminded me of what my financial situation might have been had I stayed with him.

    I’ve fallen on hard times periodically and have wondered if having a husband or live-in partner could’ve helped, but then remembered my ex-husband.


    • moparaventi says:

      Thanks for sharing your throughts, Spinster Threat (and for giving me an interesting blog to follow). I think there are still plenty of women who seek marriage for financial security. In some ways it makes sense; men do earn more than women, plus there’s the two-can-live-cheaper-than-one equation.

      But MANY of the women I’ve interviewed for my book have cited financial security as a big reason for NOT getting married. They’ve worked hard to create good lives for themselves and worry that a financially irresponsible man could threaten that.

      Your cautionary tale resonated with me. A good friend of mine was married to a charming man who turned out to have a gambling problem. He ran up extraordinarily large debts during their marriage – which she was on the hook for, even after they divorced, because he was unemployed for a long time. It took her forever to pay the debt off and restore her credit, and she was the sole provider for a young child at the time.

      I also have a friend who works three jobs to her husband’s one, to support his various hobbies. It’s a frustrating situation for all who know her.

      I do worry about myself, though, being single and heading toward retirement age. I was laid off during the recession, unemployed for nearly two years and currently earn much less than I’d like to. Like a lot of people…

      Liked by 1 person

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