‘A pretty girl like you can’t be single.’
Eww, gross, dude in the café. No one would ever go out with you after that line. Yes, I was not wearing a wedding ring at the time. What my ring finger wears does not define me.
Last month, I did something which is a rarity – I went out for lunch to see a visiting friend. In turn, I was at a table with a bunch of women, all of similar age and lifestyle. The woman next to me, someone I know a little, asked me, ‘so, how is your husband?’
This is a simple question, but I stumbled for a moment. Why? Because a long time ago, my marriage detoured from the traditional route. I gave a polite, simple answer, as I am sure all people do when asked this question. I didn’t mind being asked this question, no, but it did get me thinking.
Not far from where I live is a place where a factory has been outfitted to be a giant set of trampolines. My children adore it (my bank balance, less so), and there are fifty jumpers per hour, most aged about 12 or less. Kids jump, parents sip lattes and play with the phones. If I wear a wedding ring, I can sit and drink my smoothie and (try to) take pics of my kids jumping and laughing together. If I don’t wear a ring, single dads having family time manage to somehow sit at my table. I am not suggesting I am some femme fatale, it’s more of a case of people of similar lifestyles (at least trying to) come together. But the trouble is, there is no defined marital status for me – I am a married spinster.
What is a married spinster?
Firstly, I’m owning the name ‘spinster’. It is not an on-the-shelf 40-year-old whom no one wanted to marry at the turn of the 19th century. A spinster is a single woman, and I associate no negative connotations with this harmless word. But, through my married spinster definition, that means I am both married and single.
I have a husband, and we are about to celebrate 14 years of marriage, 17 years in a relationship. None of that is in doubt. We are partners, and I will fight to the death for the man, if needed. But we are not a normal couple. When someone asks me about my husband, I stumble because I haven’t seen him much lately, and that is not unusual for us.
Husband works hard – he is away a lot, and can skip the country to sun it in Europe at a few days notice. When he is in the country, there can be weeks where we don’t talk much. We are not in some weird fight or anything, we just have separate lives. I have a home and raise my kids, work, write books, see friends, struggle through university exams (A+, baby!), and Husband lives with me. We have our own spaces for our lives, though, of course, aren’t exclusively separated into them, we can do whatever we like. There is a calendar on the wall in his office, and everyone’s activities get put on it, so we can schedule all that is going on (plenty in a house of six), so we can do what we need to, and the kids are given the best of everything from both of us.
If my car breaks down, do I call Husband for help? No. When I am sick, do I ask him to pick up the slack? No. Does Husband mind what I write on the subject? He has never read anything I have ever written, in any format. Husband has his own life, and I have mine. Does that sound a bit harsh? Admittedly, yes, it does. But it makes sense to us. Our children live in a stable, happy home.
But no wedding rings?
I lost my wedding ring back in the summer, and spent several months waiting, hoping I would find it somewhere around the house. No luck. I suspect I lost it working at the Cricket World Cup semi-final match. I also wear no jewellery at home, or out sailing, so not wearing my wedding rings feels quite normal. No ring became a habit a long time ago. What does Husband say? He doesn’t mind; it changes nothing.
We don’t need date night. I don’t get birthday/Christmas gifts, or Valentine’s flowers. We don’t go to bed/get up at remotely similar times, or share a mealtime. It’s sort of like a long-distance relationship, or ships passing in the night. I am on my own most of the time, and it can feel like a single life. Cold winter nights? I was cuddling up with tea and duvets, not a man. Husband was on the other side of the world, and I wrote an entire novel in a few weeks, a few hours every night after the children went to sleep. Everyone was doing what they wanted and were happy. Yet, when people hear I am on my own with my kids, they give me a look of pity, as if there is something wrong with me. You are on your own when the kids are sick? Poor Caroline. You are going to the opera by yourself? Poor Caroline. Your husband won’t come to your book launch? Poor Caroline.
No! I am fine. I love doing things by myself. I have my life, and I have no desire to have a boyfriend/lover/etc following me around. People actually ask if I have an open relationship, as if we are seedy for not being one of those couples who do the Saturday afternoon bbq circuit in the summer. (God, my neighbours are, with their cheap wine and stilted conversation. Husband and I fist-jab at the concept of missing out on all that).
Yet, while living a single life with my children, I am still married. If something happened to Husband, I would totally be there for him. If he needs anything, I am available. We have jokes we only tell each other. We have the same cynical humour that gets us through irritating occasions. I am a feminist and Husband is a traditionalist. I am ‘bleeding heart socialist tree-hugging leftie’ (as husband says) and he is a conservative right-winger (don’t hate on me, I was young when I married 😀 ). We can debate to the death, and we can back each other till the enemy is beaten-down.
I would never want a different kind of marriage. I would never want to be married to anyone else. Maybe when I married at the tender age of 21 (I was only old enough by three weeks to not require parental consent), I expected traditional marriage. Now, as I come to 35, I am a grown-up, who spends a huge amount of time with kids at home and at work, and I have been given the freedom to be myself (not to say traditional marriage wouldn’t have, but whatever), and I gave Husband the freedom to do anything/everything he wanted.
I live a single life and have a husband. I am a married spinster. Everyone important is happy with our lifestyle. Now those around us who don’t get it just have to catch up. This is not designed to tell people what is right or wrong, just that happiness comes in many forms.
(Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been very sick. See you again real soon)