One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles is that I’m constantly bombarded by thought-provoking intellectual discourse.1 And so it happened this weekend that I came across two women at Starbucks whose conversation blew my mind.
Woman #1: Do you think I’m an old maid?
Woman #2: No, not at all!
Woman #1: I think I am.
Woman #2: Honey, you’re so not there yet.
Woman #1: I don’t know, I feel like I am.
Woman #2: You’re totally not.
Keep in mind that Woman #1 had probably just turned 22 (she was wearing knee-high boots with shorts and stretched out “uh huh” into three syllables). At this point, Woman #2 deftly latte-swerved2 into a fascinating new topic (yoga!) and they abandoned the old maid talk. But it got me thinking: At what point do you go from being a single woman to being an old maid? What’s the lady to hag cutoff age? And then: Jesus Christ, am I an old maid? Wait–Why am I even thinking about this? Why is anyone thinking about this?
Other than psychopaths, single women are probably the craziest, most irrational people in the whole world. Our incessant desperation appears to stem entirely from our pathetic role in history: Years ago, it was a lot easier to know whether you were packing up your hoo-ha for good. Back in the olde days (when people added an “e” to “old” and my ancestors were building your railroads), everyone hooked up so young. Once a girl hit double-digits, she was hiking up her petticoat and courting her cousin. If a chick wasn’t married by 18, she was relegated to spinsterhood or thrown into a river (my ancestors). But as we moved into the 20th century, it seems that the hag cutoff age was pushed back. Feminists tried to suppress the entire “old maid” paradigm, because hey, women don’t need men! We can vote now!
But of course, that’s not true.3 And so the “old maid” label persevered, bandied upon any husband-less, child-less woman with an unexplored crevasse and shriveled-up fallopian tubes.
Nowadays, the whole spinster exemplar has almost become chic. The new-age old maid has evolved far past the cat-loving, never-been-kissed spinster of old(e). While there are still classic examples (Susan Boyle, Susan B. Anthony, Suddenly Susan, and every other woman named Susan), there are now “career women” old maids (Condi Rice), “hot but mean” old maids (Ann Coulter), and “probably lesbian” old maids (Diane Keaton). The old maid has become the equivalent of the expired cheese puff that you find between your couch cushions: revolting, yes, but somewhat endearing at the same time.
So back to the original question: When does a single woman become an old maid? I don’t know. It now seems anti-feminist to even think about such a thing. So, I want to make a declaration, for all the single ladies out there who are so freaking worried about their descent into sad-sack spinsterhood: Girls, STOP FREAKING OUT. That thing that you want so desperately–to get married and then half-get divorced?–It will happen one day. And if it doesn’t, well… kill yourself.4 But for now, just know that you should not have to put an expiration date on your happiness. You should not have to settle. Stop counting down the days to some imaginary deadline*, and just enjoy your life. Besides, if Jennifer Aniston could be called an old maid, then we’re all screwed anyway.
*By the way, it’s probably, like, 37.
1 – If intellectual discourse was limited to only the weather, the gym, and new vegan restaurants.
2 – Latte-swerving is a fabulous conversation-avoidance technique honed in Los Angeles in which you switch topics by making a comment about your coffee. “Oh my God, I just burned my tongue on this coffee. Woo! That hurts! Anyway, enough about global warming, let’s talk about the gym!” It’s brilliant.
3 – Women totally need men. We need men to kill things, like spiders.
4 – Do not do this unless you are Ann Coulter.