The 21st century spinster

I love films these days; more than television series. I read a sizzling article about Breaking Bad in a Rolling Stone feature and being a fan of characters who transform, it’s an appealing show to delve into, but the task of actually sitting down to watch it is insurmountable to me — 5 years, 13 episodes a season?!

Are you kidding me? Who has time like that to spare? That’s endless hours wasted, when a film lasts an hour and 58 minutes and you can resume your life.

Speaking of losing time, I recently watched Young Adult. I’m also a fan of raunchy, sassy, female writers, lapsed in the politically correct department, which sums up Diablo Cody well.

She penned the off-center, teen pregnancy comedy Juno (which single-handedly made Jason Bateman cool again). I loved it’s rawness, honesty and quirkiness.

Young Adult stars the impossibly gorgeous Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, She’s a ghost writer for a series of books aimed at young adults, not of the vampire or werewolf variety, but glittery, prom queens pitted against pasty, socially deficient nerds (anybody remember Sweet Valley High?).

As the movie unravels, it’s revealed that Mavis was popular in high school and coming off a divorce, her habits and life are less than mature. She has a toy dog named Dolce, dresses in Hello Kitty t-shirts, drinks coca-cola as her morning coffee and eats KFC obsessively.

Her only way to communicate with men is to drink copious amounts of alcohol on dates, half-listen to their banter and immediately bed them, without even pausing for a breath.

What’s worse is she finds herself drifting as her current job is about to end, the young adult series is cancelled. Oh, but the stinger? She’s 37. Ouchie.

37. Single. No husband. No children. Unsure what her next career step might be (if there is any).

One fateful day she receives an email from old high school friends and what appears is a baby’s face. Not hers, but that of her high school sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson). Buddy ended up staying in Mavis’s hometown and marrying another high school classmate, Beth. Who I have to say is portrayed with plucky aplomb by Elizabeth Reaser.

She decides this is a lightening bolt – a sign from the heavens. That her and Buddy are meant to be together (be it wife and baby damned), so she packs her bags and her toy dog to set off for her Mercury, Minnesota.

Mavis plots to woo Buddy back, ignoring that he’s happily married and is content to stay in Mercury. Awkward encounters ensue with her parents, Buddy and former high school classmates, until she befriends Matt, the guy who was labelled gay and bashed by jocks, leaving him partially crippled.

Matt is no-holds barred, at one point shouting at Mavis to grow the hell up, why dontcha!!

The pivotal scene for me is when she finally breaks down in front of all of these people (her parents included) when reality finally intrudes on fantasy.

“Yeah, Buddy got me pregnant at 20. And we were gonna keep it! We were gonna have a little baby and a little naming party and a Funquarium. All of that. And then 12 weeks into it, well, I had Buddy’s miscarriage. Which I wouldn’t wish for anyone. Maybe if things were just a little bit more hospitable down south in my broken body, Buddy and I would be here right now with a teenager and probably even more kids because we always found each other. Always! Right, Jan [Buddy's mother] ? Tell them! “

She’s the popular girl who lost steam in adult life. Buddy does not want her. She’s lonely. Unfulfilled. Aging. A pathetic spinster – whose looks may be intact — her sanity not so much. Time disappeared, like a sack of stones sinking to the darkened bottom of a lake. It’s murky and elusive, proof she will never be able to turn back the clock.

That’s where I relate to Mavis. She is staring at the next phase and it smells like mediocrity. I even think being in your thirties is considered the ‘safe’ zone, but once 40 hits?

Shudder the thought.

When I venture to ask anyone what 40 looks like, the answers are not what I want to hear or more so what I fear.

Mavis Gary – my doppelgänger

Or at least, they don’t seem to fit me. The image I have of myself. I don’t fill my wrinkles with too much face powder and wear offensively low-cut blouses and bury a 23 year-old man’s face between my boobs. I haven’t ‘let’ myself go and take pride in eating healthy and feeling good. I haven’t had a mental breakdown worthy of Sylvia Plath yet.

This forces me to question whether I’m delusional.

That maybe my crutch isn’t chugging coca-cola, dressing in cutesy clothes and running to Mercury, Minnesota to reunite with a fictional high school romance, but my delusion is that backpack currently sitting in my closet.

That really, I am a lonely, sad spinster who didn’t run to Mercury, but ran away to the world and I may not have a litter of cats, but at least imaginary ones.

I discovered something this past summer that told me a shift is coming. I sat in a hostel in Prague and hated it all. Having to share bunk beds with rude, loud and inconsiderate kids half my age who’s only goal in their tender life is to party, get laid and share all of it on Facebook.

Discovering this made me feel crotchety. I immediately fell into denial and reasoned that it was other factors. Exhaustion. PMS. Hungover.

But no, more followed.

For the first time in my backpacking career, I actually bought a suitcase with wheels. And a handle. A freakin‘ handle. Then I used it. And liked it.

Even though I do yoga nearly everyday, am more bendy than I was at 25, it makes my lower back ache to haul a 62 liter backpack around now.

So now I balance on the tightrope between devil-may-care youth (the backpack) and sour, old woman (rolling suitcase). I have not tipped the scales either way — afraid to give up one for the other. Making that decision sets things, or re-sets things in a way I’m not entirely comfortable with.

Something is hard to dismiss in all this spinster spinning. how come this version of spinsterhood feels so freeing? So right? Less muddy and more clear?

These tremors I allude to could simply be a new outlook, a perspective that I never had before. That there’s more than one way to move around the world, backpacks are not the only method.

Or spinsterhood is an outmoded, derogatory term that must be redefined. 40 is not death. With the possibility of 30 more decades to live, how can it be.

That I can be sexy without being gauche about it. Playful, without reeking of childish antics.

I’m trying to remember that day to day, my story is still unwritten.  I may cling to the threadbare illusions of who I am and where I’m going, but…

I’m just not ready to grow up.

Image [Young Adult]: Lost in the Multiplex