Blogging for Books: Spinster

spinster cover

Despite 5 years in a more-or-less functional relationship, I was very interested to read Spinster by Kate Bolick. Part of my BA is in Anthropology so the way societies and cultures view marriage is very interesting to me on an academic level. On a personal level I’m not sure that I believe that marriage should exist as a legally binding, government overseen thing (but recognize that current society structure makes the right to marry very, very important in a legal sense). So despite the fact that I will probably never meet any technical definition of a “spinster” I was interested to read Bolick’s book as a study on changing marriage trends.

Except that’s not what Spinster is. Spinster is a study in Bolick’s personal thought process and the way that she has justified to herself her decision to not get married. The book starts with “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” And I dare say it’s true. Playing wedding was a favorite and consuming passion as a child: when would I meet my future husband? When would I get to wear a pretty dress? Cake. So growing up and adapting my thoughts on marriage as an institution and my growing desire to throw a huge party with cake (and reconciling the two thoughts) I felt like there would be a lot for me to digest in the book. There are no larger insights about trends as a whole, just anecdotal tales about women writer’s who Bolick has drawn inspiration from. (Though I did identify with Bolick’s need for independence and fear of losing that in a relationship).

Don’t get me wrong, Bolick is a good writer and the book was interesting when it was taking a biographical approach to Bolick’s “awakeners” (Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton). Where the book fails is in trying to examine the way marriage has changed and why being a “spinster” is more likely and acceptable now than it was 100 years ago. And I never really felt like that was addressed. Instead I felt like Bolick was protesting too much in trying to justify her own decisions. I know a lot of women who have decided they have no desire to get married, I know some who are entirely aromantic and asexual. They all seem at peace with their decisions and when they need to talk about them they don’t come off as defensive or needing to justify, they’re simply stating facts: they like the beach, asparagus is iffy, marriage is great for some people but not me!

Now, my friends and I range from 10 to 20 years younger than Bolick so maybe that mean something about our attitudes. Maybe I’d know if they book had been the studying of marriage and singlehood as advertised. I lost interest towards the very end of the book (so not bad) because I was tired of Bolick. Which was serendipitous because then she perfectly described my problem with her: “More than a few people have told me I wear them out. Several years ago a dear friend confessed that she “couldn’t keep up with” my enthusiasm. “You have so many of them,” she said […]” (269).

Bolick exhausted me. She is 40 years old and all her relationships go belly up for some reason or another (a lot of them good ones, by her account) and I’m honestly not sure if she is actually ok with being a spinster and not getting married. She seems to have latched on to women she sees a part of herself in, ignoring many complexities for hackneyed comparisons. The analysis of marriage is crammed in the last 20 pages and is not very indepth.

I would give this book 3 stars, because it is well written and can be engaging in parts. But it is not what it is trying to be.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  

Advertisements

The Patron Saint of Strays

I saw her Monday morning and panicked.

Last year (and it’s been a year exactly since the first sighting) I was haunted by a cat with long calico fur and the unsettling humanoid face of a capuchin monkey. It would sit motionless and stare at me in the mornings as I got in my car and drove off, unmoving. Later in the day I would inevitably hear about a plane crash. It was unsettling enough to make someone as uninterested in omens as myself feel on edge.

So when a ball of fluff darted out from under our neighbors car Monday morning I was filled with a sense of dread that actually lead me to refresh the CNN webpage, and I hate CNN.

Twelve hours have passed now, and because it is trash night I am carrying down the recycling. I open the door, shuffling around so as not to trap my hand between the large green bin and the door frame when I hear it.

“Mrow?”

The grey ball of fluff has been given some food and has paused from eating to look at me. In an instant it is at my feet, weaving around and balancing on hind legs to get a glimpse at the recycle bin. I set it on the porch and she sticks her head in, excited by the cardboard and cans. I turn around, knowing Manbeast will want to meet this cat. In a flash she is at the door frame, trying to stick her head through while I close it.

“No no, we are outside friends!  I’ll be right back!”

“Mrow.”

“Come downstairs,” I yell to Manbeast, “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

“Wait, what?”

“Now, before they leave!”

He doesn’t know what I’m talking about but comes down anyone. I open the door and like magic the slinky grey kitty is inside the stairwell.

“Bitch I told you we are outside friends!” And fortunately when we head onto the porch we are followed.

“It’s the cat I saw this morning,” I say.

“Is it a he or a she?”

“I don’t know?” We default to he, because neither of us wants to fondle a strange cat.

“Does he belong to the new neighbors?”

“Maybe, that’s the car he was checking out.”

“Hey, buddy, you’re going to knock your food dish off the deck.” I walk over and knock the food dish towards the center of the landing and away from the railing. The cat takes this as an opportunity to sniff Manbeasts toes. He runs his hand through the fur, scritching and scratching in some of our cat’s favorite spots.

“He’s really skinny. His skin is really bumpy too. And look at this, his fur is all matted here. If someone owns him, they aren’t doing a good job.”

I sit down next to Manbeast and the cat runs over with a chirrup and begins rubbing against my knees. The cat still looks young but up close it is not as clean, or fluffy, or well-fed as it looked from a distance. This cat can work its angles.

Tired of my shins, the cat returns to the food dish, face down and slurping. We hear our downstairs neighbors, also crazy cat people, heading down the stairs for their nightly smoke. They are the suspected cat feeders.

“Oh good, she’s still here!” The brunette cries when the cat runs to great them. We take a closer look- she it is!

This is not the first time they’ve seen her- turns out she has been living under the porch for about a week.

“We were talking about the feasibility of taking her in.” I say.

“You have to!” Says the blonde.

“Oh jesus,” Says Manbeast as he stops the cat from leaping off the porch to chase a car.

Plans are hatched- we will clear everything out of our front room (thankful now for our awkward, doortastic apartment layout). They will give us a litter box and some litter. I will buy flea medication and food (that is not for senior cats) the next day. They recommended a vet that does complimentary first visits. Neighbors occupied her on the porch while we pushed everything we could from the front room to the back, leaving a bare kitty space. Then we shut the door to the rest of the apartment and waited while she cautiously trotted up the stairs.

She lives here now, at least temporarily. She doesn’t have any communicable diseases (just fleas) so at some point we can make an introduction with my cat. She’s at least part Maine Coon, not microchipped, and not listed in any lost pet ads I can find. She’s about a year old and so friendly and blessedly litter trained. We suspect she was abandoned. She may have cancer. The vet doesn’t know yet. We do know that inside with us she is safe from pregnancy, rabies, most parasites, and predators. We know that while she holds a great desire to explore the apartment outside the bedroom she doesn’t care about leaving it. She likes her cat carrier. She doesn’t like rectal thermometers. She is at least part pretzel.wpid-20150716_204207.jpg

We said we weren’t going to keep her, just keep her safe. But everyone who knows me has been waiting for this day, the day I bring home strays, the day that I lived alone (or with enough of an enabler) that I wasn’t told “no” when I tried to sneak them home, gave them my dinner, researched customs for those international strays.

One year at Christmas I brought two mugs in a shoebox to my grandparents’ house to wrap. When I walked in the door my grandmother asked “what’s in the box?” “It’s a kitten!” I announced. She blocked my entrance. “You need to leave.” She said. (And I can hear her now “what were you thinking??”).

We’re calling her Agnes. “I think I liked St. Agnes’ story,” Says Manbeast, with his Catholic School background.

“Oh yeah, what’s she the saint of?”

“I don’t remember.” He was thinking of someone else.

Agnes the cat, you picked the right porch to live under.

wpid-20150715_123447.jpg