Flash Memoir: ‘Spinster’

Flashes of IlluminationNote: I’m off hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore this week, so I’ve posted one of the stories from my flash fiction collection, Flashes of Illumination. This is what I call flash memoir: a type of creative nonfiction built on things that happened to the author. I’m working on more of these.

I wrote this story ten years ago. I’m still not married, but I am in a serious relationship these days.


by Nancy Jane Moore

I got my first cat when I was 19. My grandmother said, “Oh, dear, you’re going to be an Old Maid.”

I’ve had cats ever since. But I never did find a husband.

My grandmother was the only person who ever made a big deal about me being single. Though older men still ask me, “How come a nice-looking woman like you isn’t married?” I think they’re flirting.

The stereotypes still haunt me. I’m a maiden aunt. I have a nephew – a grown nephew.

The OED says a spinster is “an unmarried woman, especially an old maid.” But the first definition is more interesting: “A woman . . . who spins, especially as a regular occupation.”

A woman with an occupation. An independent woman.

Jane Austen wrote of spinsters with no income, living in tiny bed-sits or totally depending on the largesse of a brother-in-law. Her characters got married for solid, economic reasons.

Sometimes I think Jane Austen wrote horror novels.

In the 1960s, a study of teenage girls found that 5 percent did not intend to marry. The study labeled these girls “deviant.”

I wasn’t one of them. I always thought I’d get married someday. I just never got around to it. I was too busy having a life.

Several years before she died, my mother and I were talking. She said, “Oh, 1946. That was a crazy year. I was so confused.”

I said, “Were you trying to decide between marrying Daddy and some other man?”

She said, “I was trying to decide whether to get married at all. I was working on the San Angelo paper and loved my job. But I was getting a lot of pressure from my parents to get married. My father kept referring to all my unmarried friends as ‘that old maid.’”

She was 23.

I said, “Are you sorry you got married?”

She didn’t answer me directly, just smiled and shrugged.

My parents were married for sixty happy, tumultuous years. But my mother never once asked me when I was getting married.



Flash Memoir: ‘Spinster’ — 2 Comments

  1. And I planned from the time of about age five to never get married.

    But I did. Twice. Since the first marriage was a disaster it’s astonishing that I did it again!

    Love, C.