on being a spinster

i am really starting to find it tedious when people ask me what my knuckle tattoos say (“spinster”) & then they gesture toward jared & say something witty like, “well, not anymore.” excuse me? are jared & i married? did we secretly get married & i just forgot about it? also, do you think that’s not the immediate response of at least 90% of all people who see my knuckle tattoos & have foreknowledge that i am in a relationship? if you really must comment, at least generate some original material.

even better are the people that ask, “what if you want children someday?” if being married is a prerequisite for having a child, i guess the embryo currently residing within my uterus didn’t get the memo. lots of people are having kids without being married these days. lots of people are having kids without even being partnered these days! hello, it’s 2012! & what about queer parents that are legally prohibited from marrying in their states of residence & don’t want to jump through the hoops of getting hitched in one of the few states that allows it? lots of queer couples are having kids these days, after all.

i generally don’t make assumptions or ask nosy questions about other people’s marital or partnership status. maybe i’m a weirdo, but it doesn’t even occur to me to look for rings. maybe i’m a super-weirdo, but i usually assume that a wedding ring is just a fashion statement until someone actually says, “this is my wedding ring.” i have been married but never had a ring. my parents were married for almost 28 years & both of them lost their wedding rings sometimes in the 80s. although my brother, who was three years old when my dad’s wedding ring fell off while he was swimming in lake michigan, was concerned that losing the ring might mean that our parents weren’t married anymore, rings actually have very little to do with a person’s marital status.

this all kind of reminds me of asexuals on tumblr who are constantly writing epic diatribes in which they go into great details about their sexualities & romantic preferences. not only do they go on & on & on about how they MUST be asexual because they don’t fantasize about specific individuals when they masturbate (thanks, i needed that info), but they also go on & on & on about how they’re constantly freaking out squares by introducing their queerplatonic aromantic life partners as their queerplatonic aromantic life partners. like, at work events & cocktail parties. if someone came up to me at, say, the history conference reception & said, “oh, i’d like you to meet diana, my queerplatonic aromantic life partner. we live together, but we have separate rooms & don’t engage in a sexual relationship. we want to share our lives with one another & eventually raise children together, but we don’t have romantic feelings for one another,” i would back away slowly. not because i’m judging them for being asexual, but because i am judging them for oversharing & not having appropriate social boundaries.

i feel the same way about people that nose into my marital status & make weird assumptions. i recognize that in my case, i kind of asked for it by getting a visible tattoo that kind of makes a statement about my marital status. but i still think it’s kind of a leap & not really socially polite for a relative stranger to start asking weird questions. a sampling of what i’ve gotten:
“what if you meet someone & fall in love?”
“you’re too young to give up on love!”
“don’t say that! you’re beautiful! you’ll find someone!”
“oh, are you, like, really into knitting?”
“cool! are you a deejay?”

i have seriously gotten the last two questions at least half a dozen times each. it always makes me laugh. i love the people who immediately go from “spinster” to “spinning wool” to “knitting” & assume that i am just really hardcore about making sweaters. i need to start befriending those people.

i am thinking about all of this stuff again because jared & i went to a barbecue the other day, with a bunch of his history colleagues. pretty much everyone there knew we’re expecting, or they found out at the barbecue by overhearing other people ask us about it. the hostess inquired about my knuckle tattoos & then, in all her brilliant originality, said, “well, not anymore,” & nodded toward jared. I waved my hand & said, “whatever. we’re not married, are we?” she kind of blanched…why? because i was so blase about getting married, something that a lot of people still see as a major life goal? because she knew i was pregnant & was disturbed that i wasn’t married as well? maybe i’m reading too much into one momentary facial expression, but she pretty much turned away & left all conversations i got involved in for the rest of the barbecue. i don’t know.

& there was a recent survey in which people were asked to rate the relative morality of various life situations. the results were then broken down by political party. apparently 47% of the american population still sees having a child out of wedlock as immoral or morally questionable. maybe i live in my own little bubble, but…really? what the hell is the big deal? again, what about people who are having kids but are prohibited by the government from getting married? i asked jared about this & he said, “like you?”

“like me what?” i asked.

“like you, how the government won’t let you get married or you lose your disability benefits.”

“oh yeah! yeah, like me! i mean, i meant gay couples, because i totally could get married to you if we were okay with the concept of being plunged into destitution as a result. we are making a choice here that other people don’t get to make. but yeah, it is really frustrating sometimes that we can’t just do what would really be easiest for us as soon-to-be parents because i would be denied 80% of my income as a result.”

& that is probably the most annoying part of the whole “assume ciara is married” thing, for me. sometimes people want to know why jared & i aren’t married, if we already live together & are having a kid together & everything. i don’t really like to talk freely about being on disability because so many people are still such raging assholes about it (“well, sometimes i get migraines but i still get up & go to work,” “you seem perfectly fine to me,” “you’ve got a real nice scam going,” “you’re using up money that other people really need,” etc etc etc). funny how being on disability makes people feel entitled to flap their gums about my financial situation in a way they’d never do if my income came from, like, slinging lattes or being a librarian or whatever.

okay, i feel like i did kind of a lot of pointless whining in this post, but the bottom line: do you make assumptions or feel entitled to information about other people’s marital/relationship statuses? if so, why? how do you feel when that kind of nosiness is turned on you? maybe you should knock it off. remember: if we all work together to create a world in which people can just be in relationships or not, be married or not, have kids or not, & none of it is really any big deal, we’ll be that much closer to never having to deal with another asexual person trying to freak us out with their queerplatonic zucchini, & that’s a world i really want for my unborn child.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

3 thoughts on “on being a spinster

  1. My partner & I get all the same assumptions about marriage now we have a baby. It began as soon as I was pregnant actually… Also, as we’re largely not married for political reasons (as well as thinking paying for a wedding is a big waste o’ cash, even if we did it cheaply why bother at all when it makes no difference to us?) it’s hard to avoid offending other people when explaining our choice as people see our different choice being a criticism of theirs.

    It’s most annoying, as you say. & here in Scotland literally half of babies are born to unmarried mothers, so it’s not even a statistically logical assumption!

  2. The prospect of losing most or all of my benefits is reason #1 why B & I are fake married. #2 is what difference does it make? Our relationship wouldn’t change if we got real married. I don’t think the perks of a paper marriage (tax breaks? Is that it??) are worth it when my fake marriage is exactly the same otherwise.
    When I told my mom you were knocked up she asked if you were married. *facepalm*

    1. i think that once there’s a kid involved, there can be a few perks to being married (assuming that you are married to the biological father, as i would be if i married jared, or that your partner is willing to assume legal parental responsibilities). for example, we need to look into whether or not the state of kansas would automatically sue jared for child support if i put him on the birth certificate when we’re not married. apparently that’s a pretty standard thing that happens in florida, even if the couple is living together & co-parenting. if they’re not married, the state assumes they have to force the dude into paying. & there might be other stuff that comes up…i still know next to nothing about the legal intricacies of parenting, & especially about paternity. i know that my medicare won’t extend any health insurance coverage to the kid, but can jared get it on his university health insurance plan? does he have to be on the birth certificate to do that (not that i would prefer to keep him off the certificate)? & at some point down the road, he might be truly making enough money to support his both, & it could make more sense assets-wise for us to have a legally recognized relationship with one another. i also worry sometimes about if one of us is in a catastrophic accident/end of life care. even filing domestic partner paperwork could cause me to lose about 75% of my disability income, but without it, i wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to see him in the hospital if something horrible happened, & vice versa.

      it bothers me that the disabled child program is organized this way. they assume that a person disabled before age 22 will just…what? never become partnered? or that whomever they partner with will be able to support them financially? so many adults these days struggle to find jobs that will support themselves! with jared a graduate student, i actually make more money than he does–by a significant margin! it would be impossible for us to maintain our current standard of living if my income was slashed. & it’s a lot of pressure to put on jared to ask him to go out & get a job that pays well enough for him to support us both with no help from me.

      i don’t know what your disability situation is, but if you’re only collecting on your own record, you could get married without affecting your benefits. i was married when i was first approved. but the disabled child program, which is 75% of my income (my dad’s record), is only available to unmarried people.

Leave a Reply to Ericka Bailie-Byrne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: