Worried About Being an “Old Maid”

Last spring I read an interesting article by Cooking Light’s Amanda Polick about being older and not married. It’s what old timers would have called an “old maid.”

I thought about it today. A colleague introduced me to a smart and savvy victorious woman. She wanted to know more about the Five Year Marriage. We talked for a short while. Then she asked me what advice I have for single women who want to get married.

I understood her anxiety from my single days. There were so many weddings! And I was a bridesmaid seventeen times!

During the reception, invariably someone asked why wasn’t I married. Sometimes they made me feel like there was something wrong with me.

Of course,  when I answered, I put on a brave face. Sometimes I explained that I hadn’t found the right one yet. Other times I laughed and said, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t date. I did, but not a lot. When I did, I couldn’t seem to make the connection last long enough to even wonder if he was “the one” for me. Friends told me I was too picky and too fussy. They said I had to make compromises.

However, as time marched on, many of the people whose weddings I attended started getting divorced; they were the lucky ones. Too many friends didn’t get divorced but should have. That wonderful man who was once the man of their dreams turned out to be a nightmare to live with every day…year after lonely year.

Over time I started to realize that marriage wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. My focus changed and I decided to work on being the best me, without a man. I developed a new attitude (thank you Patti LaBelle).

So, when the younger woman asked for tips on getting married, the first thing out of my mother was, “Remember it’s better to be an old maid than wish you were one.

That wasn’t all. Here is the rest of my advice:

  • Be who you really are. Like attracts like and, when you work on being your best self, you will attract the best person for you.
  • Find your personal happiness. For me, coming from a strict and old-school Italian family, it took a very long time for me to touch into my personal power. Step-by-step, for years, I worked on feeling empowered within myself (versus seeking validation from others). A ”shining star” moment came when I bought my first house. I was the first woman in my generation to do that without first being married. It was a BIG deal.
  • Take a deep breath of gratitude. I was engaged to a guy, Jimmy, when I was twenty-two. I broke it off, but I was devastated. A few years later a heard he married. A year or two later I ran into his brother and his posse in a bar down the shore. They were ebullient when telling me I should be so glad I didn’t marry Jimmy. Apparently he was a serial cheater.
    When I heard that, I was so grateful. All I could think was “but for the grace of God go I.”

So, whenever you feel frustrated because you haven’t yet found “the one” yet, be grateful. Think about the guys you dated that you didn’t marry and remember: It’s better to be an “old maid” than wish you were one.

A Different Christmas

I had a different Christmas this year.

After years of hosting Christmas dinners for my mom, the parents of a friend, and Joseph’s siblings, things changed. My mom passed, my friend’s parents (with whom we usually spent Christmas Eve, moved to New Mexico with their son, Joseph’s brother adopted his new spouse’s family and he hasn’t been keeping in touch with his sister since their mother passed. And so we were just the two of us.

At first, it was a little strange. But my work got busier so not having to get ready for eight or ten people wasn’t so bad.  Still, this year I wanted a little tradition and a little excitement.

On Christmas Day, Joseph and I drove to Williamsburg, Virginia. Driving together is something Joseph and I like to do. The weather was mild and there was almost no one on the road. The drive through Delaware and Maryland was dotted with WAWA stores (like an upscale 7-11) that were open, so that’s where we had sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. The drive was so peaceful.

Having done this trip before, we knew to time the drive so that we would be crossing the Chesapeake  Bay on the Bay Bridge Tunnel right at sunset.  Though it was freezing on the fishing pier, we enjoyed the quiet beauty of the shore as we watched the sun sink into the bay.

By the time it did, however, we needed a few minutes to defrost when we got back into the car. Happily we found a WAWA and some hot tea just after we got onto Virginia’s mainland. Feeling fortified, we drove the rest of the way to Williamsburg. We checked into our hotel and headed for the Williamsburg Inn, where we enjoyed a couple drinks and a relaxing dinner served by a charming woman with a good sense of humor.

We were only in the Williamsburg area for a couple days, but while there we had a “plantation breakfast” at a wonderful old southern restaurant, The Old Chickahominy Inn. The breakfast included the oddest biscuits I’ve ever seen – flat and oblong-shaped…and with a taste that makes me want to go back again soon.

The day after Christmas we went to historic Jamestown to see the active archeological dig. There wasn’t any digging going on through the winter but our tour guide was one of the dig volunteers. He was so knowledgeable and painted a fascinating picture of life during those early days in the 1600′s.

That night we enjoyed a candlelight concert at the beautiful Bruton Episcopal Church. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry are among those who worshiped at Bruton in the 1700′s. But it’s a modern-day, very active parish and in this day and age, even the current governor worships in the “governor’s pew” when in town.  The big treat for me was the chandelier. It’s candlelit and gives off plenty of soft light, added by electric sconces on the walls. After the concert, I was fascinated watching the process of putting out all the candles with snuffers.

On Friday we went to Yorktown, which was a significant battle during the Revolutionary War. There I took more pictures of the Victory Monument than anyone would ever need to…but what’s a Victorious Woman to do? Look at these beautiful ladies!

As the sun set, it was such a mild day that we  enjoyed a long walk along the river at dusk followed by a couple drinks at a local tappy.

We made it an early night so we could leave early. We returned home yesterday with just enough time to get ready for the party we’re hosting on New Year’s Day.

I don’t know what we’ll do next year. Williamsburg is where Joseph and I took our first vacation, so it always has a special place in our hearts. But I don’t think I’ll make Christmas in Williamsburg an annual event. But for this transition year, in the midst of this year’s change, it was a great idea.

Change. It’s never easy.  But sometimes you can find a way to make the challenge softer. That’s what happened this year.

Maybe next year I’ll just stay in my nightgown and have a video movie marathon. Or not…