On Spinsterhood…

by Sadie Mills on July 8, 2013

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And here we see one of the greatest aberrations of nature: the lone female homo sapien.  Mateless; dejected; eschewed by society, this thirty-something is doomed to a lifetime of watching Come Dine With Me (or Man Versus Food in the US) whilst eating microwaved dinners for one.  In her advancing years, she’ll develop a penchant for tweed, savings coupons and gaudy lipstick (to be applied liberally to the teeth).  Throughout the course of her tragic existence, she’ll work her way through 3-4 trillion gallons of Pinot Grigio, and amass an unholy number of cats.  In her latter stages of life, she’ll develop a fanatical devotion to crosswords, spectacle chains and Sudoku.

What does the word ‘bachelor’ conjure up in your mind’s eye?  Personally, I see a guy in a tux.  Top button undone, bowtie hanging loose, heart-wrenchingly handsome (the prefix eligible is a given).

If I say ‘spinster’…?

Urgh.

It really is a terrible word.  The sound of it alone is enough to make your sphincter retract.  The origins of the word ‘bachelor’ go back to Anglo-Norman times.  It means ‘young squire in training’ (to become a knight – golly, how dashing).  The word ‘spinster’ goes back to Medieval times and the occupation of spinning wool (this being the only trade a woman could engage in that was lucrative enough to allow her to support herself).

In Language and Woman’s Place (pah!) Robin Lakoff explains that:

“If someone is a spinster, by implication she is not eligible.  She has had her chance, and been passed by.”

How very inspiring.

The term ‘spinster’ is almost universally recognised to be a derogatory term now.  ‘Spinster’ and ‘Bachelor’ were dropped from UK Marriage Certificates in 2005 and replaced with the all-encompassing ‘Single’.  The term ‘bachelor’ remains without stigma, well, apart from being a bit of a gigolo, wink, wink; nudge, nudge.  What is the acceptable term for a single woman these days?  In the UK, we haven’t embraced ‘bachelorette’ just yet.  Really, there is nothing.

I don’t think it’s all down to that word anyway.  A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.  To that end, so would a turd.

There’s a negative connotation for any woman of my age (don’t even think about asking) still remaining ‘up on the shelf’.  How often do you hear that term applied to men?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a raging feminist; I’m not about to go burning my bra (perish the thought).  All I’m saying is there’s a dual standard.

A single man in his thirties may attract a light ribbing by his mates, but part of them’s still wondering “How did he do it?”.  Whilst they’re wading through Pampas and getting up in the middle of the night, his life is apparently one long party.  This loser in love attracts nothing but sly glances of admiration (or maybe they suspect he’s still in the closet).  Young(ish) free and single, he has the world on a plate.  Conversely, we ladies get sympathetic looks from our friends.  As Helen Fielding put it best in Briget Jones’s Diary, because “underneath our clothes our entire bodies are covered in scales”.

Here’s my take on single life.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life hopelessly ensconced in one relationship or another.  Singledom is a relatively new concept to me.  It’s only in the past few years that I’ve finally embraced it.  I do not enjoy being the third, fifth, seventh, ninth [insert unhappy odd number here] at a dinner party.  I don’t like turning up to weddings alone.  I do miss physical and emotional intimacy.  I do get lonely from time to time.

However, from my vast experience of fatally flawed relationships, I can say with hand on heart that the loneliest place in the world is to be trapped in the confines of one of those.  There’s a lot to be said for being skipper of your own ship and not knowing what’s over the horizon.  As John Lennon put it best: “For tomorrow, who knows”.  It is disconcerting to know that some of my best friends have children who’ve finished school already, whereas I haven’t even started yet.  The clock is ticking, and grows louder by the year.  But I’m holding out for Mr Right, not Mr Right Now.  My tastes have grown progressively more selective over the years.

The demise of a relationship gives a person the opportunity to go one of two ways.  They can either spiral into self-pitying oblivion, or they use it to learn from and grow.  Incidentally, I don’t know how many ladies get this, but personally, ice cream holds no attraction for me when a relationship has just crashed and burned.  My body goes into starvation mode – the mere whiff of food makes me feel violently sick.  On the plus side though, I think it’s mother nature’s way of preparing you for the next suitor.  You drop pounds.  Atkins diet?  Pah!

Acting, learning to scuba dive, travelling across Egypt, skydiving, writing – these all came to me off the back of being a spinster.  I can’t really knock it.  It’s a free pass to be utterly selfish – do what you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want – without having to feel bad about it or explain yourself.  You report to no one.  Now and again I may see a couple walking hand-in-hand along the seafront, smile sadly and think ‘I miss that.’.  Bickering over the remote; missed Birthdays; smelly socks?  Yeah, not so much.

These past couple of years have been the best of my life.  I have accomplished so much.  I know exactly who I am; what I like and what I don’t.  Maybe I’m better placed to enter into a relationship now that I’m finally comfortable in my own skin?  It would have to be someone pretty special though.  I’m thinking an Italian-speaking skydiver who enjoys opera.  Maybe an American – Americans are pretty hot.  He’d have to be an animal-lover though.  Not really religious, but not an atheist either (it’s kind of pessimistic).  Must have a thick head of lustrous dark hair (curly or straight, I’m not fussy).  Obviously enjoys washing up and, above all else, ironing.  Likes travel, romantic comedies, scuba, the theatre; Chinese, Indian and Thai food.  Must have a wicked smile, a great sense of humour, and all-in-all be one heck of a good guy.

I guess until he steps up to the plate, I’ll be enjoying my freedom for a  little while longer.

“As for tomorrow?  Who knows.”

 

 

 

 

{ 3 comments }

On Book Reviews…

by Sadie Mills on June 27, 2013

I released Virtually Perfect back at the end of March.  It seems a long time ago now.  I remember hitting ‘save and publish’ with a quaking finger (publishing your first novel is a scary business), then sat back for what seemed an eternity waiting for the reviews to come in.

The first came from friends whom I’d told about my publishing escapades.  As a first time publisher, you have no fan base.  Who is going to want to buy your books when you’re a complete unknown?  You’ve spent six months holed up, slugging away, writing, rewriting, reading, rewriting, over and over again.  You think you’ve got it now; you think you’ve honed it down.  It’s been edited and you’ve found a great cover designer.  You believe in it – it’s your baby and you want it to do well in the world.  Your friends nod and tell you it’s pretty.

Actually having them read it though, especially when you’re a fiction writer, particularly so when your genre is romance (there are some pretty steamy scenes in that book), is terrifying.  I’d compare it to getting up on stage and taking off all your clothes, but it’s not just your body you’re laying bare: it’s your soul.  You can’t take it back.  It’ll be on their Kindles/bookshelf forever (unless they decide to delete it or take it down to the charity shop).  I know that book caused a few raised eyebrows in my social circle.  I dread to imagine what Freud would have thought.

The feedback from the handful of friends I selected was overwhelmingly positive.  Now, in retrospect, of course it was – they’re my friends after all!  So I ran a promotion and put it up free on Kindle to download for a couple of days to see what Joe Public thought.

Now, I’d love to sit here and tell you it received unanimous 5* reviews and became a bestseller overnight.  It didn’t.  It did receive over 13,000 downloads internationally though and hit #12 in Amazon free books overall.

It’s had mixed reviews, mostly positive, some rather less so.  I think the worst comment I’ve had yet was ‘The only good thing about this book was it was free.’  Now that was the first negative review I’d had and as a first time self-publisher, and I don’t mind telling you, it floored me.

But then the good ones flurried in, bolstering me.  Characterisation is particularly important to me.  I strive to make my characters real.  5* reviews where it’s obvious the reader has read and enjoyed the story and characters really are gold dust when the insecurities start seeping in.  However, having said that, abrasive remarks serve a purpose too.  It doesn’t take many before your skin starts thickening up.  I’m not talking about criticism here, just people being plain rude.  I’m pretty nonchalant now.  Swearing in an Amazon review?  Really?

My gut instinct is to defend my characters.  Eve’s had a bit of stick, but hey at least those readers cared enough to take the time to log in and vent – what’s worse than indifference?  Ben, conversely, has yet to have a word said against him, which is interesting.  I think I did put him way up there on a pedestal as I wrote the story.  Maybe I just painted him in a better light?

When you don’t get the 5* that we’re all striving for, the initial reaction of a newbie author is righteous indignation.  But if you can leave your ego at the login page and take that criticism on board (where it’s constructive) you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Of course, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and if you tried to please everyone, you’d drive yourself around the bend.  One reviewer didn’t like my love scenes; another said they were the best part – some of it is very subjective.  But where you have the same comment made by multiple reviewers, you have to be a big enough person to take that on board, make changes and republish, particularly when you’re starting out.  I don’t know it all, it’s a learning curve.  Sometimes the less than complimentary remarks are the most valuable of them all.

I’ve read some horrific stories where indie authors have taken umbrage at reviews, arguing with them and berating the reviewer.  As I’ve said, your book is your baby and your instinct is to protect it, but the sad fact is, once you hit ‘save and publish’, it isn’t yours anymore.  You’ve given it away to the world.  You may have spent months of agony and anguish writing it.  A reviewer may read it in just a few hours.  But that’s a few hours of their life they’ll never get back.  If their feel it was misspent, their entitled to say so.  Their opinion is valid.

Some indie authors, even newbies, don’t read their reviews.  They put one book out then trundle straight on to the next one.  That to me is a bit of a shame, but I can understand the logic.  If a book sells well then reader satisfaction is self-evident.  Checking reviews, Twitter comments, FB remarks etc. is a vacuum into which precious time can disappear pretty quickly.  But I enjoy the interaction aspect with readers.  Writing in itself can get very lonely.  It’s nice to come up for air every once in a while and get some feedback.

The most rewarding aspect of writing for me is building up a following.  Knowing that people enjoy my work; that they actually ‘get’ me, and that they’ve bought my books time and again.  It’s flattering, of course.  It’s also incredibly motivating.  If I’m asked when the sequel will be released, that to me is the biggest compliment of them all.

As a writer, I see these people as my employers.  Everyone wants to know they’ve done a good job, and I strive to do a better one every time.  I don’t want my readers left feeling disappointed or short-changed – if they do, they’ve every right to complain.

So for all of my readers who’ve taken the time to leave a review for me on Amazon, contacted me via Twitter, Goodreads, FB or this blog, thank you.  It really does mean a lot.   I’ve been writing for over a decade, but only recently took the leap into getting my work published.  I imagine it will always be a learning curve – even the most established author doesn’t know it all.  But having repeat readers who support you (some of whom have been incredibly kind) is all important to me, particularly at this stage.  Thank you.  I don’t think I could do it without you and it would be futile to try.  After all, without readers, what would be the point?  That would make me just a crazy lady keeping a diary about the exploits of all her imaginary friends.

 

 

{ 2 comments }

Skydiving Versus Falling in Love

May 17, 2013

I did my first tandem skydive on 4th August 2012, at Dunkeswell Airfield, Devon. It’s still a mystery how I wound up there. It wasn’t top of my bucket list (I didn’t have one, back then). I’d never even thought about it. I can only attribute it to too many beers one Friday night, running […]

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Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Religion and Women

May 6, 2013

Saudi Arabia is subject to a serious negative press in the West.  It’s the birthplace of Islam and (let us not ignore that whopping great elephant in the room) there’s a general perception here that all things Muslim = bad.  Stoical, serious, conservative, pious.  I’d just like to drop this in here. I have never touched […]

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Brighton (and a smattering of Thatcher)…

April 19, 2013

My first living memory of Brighton was on the news in 1984, when I was all of six years old.  It was coverage of the terrorist attack on The Grand Hotel, the Tory Party conference and assasination attempt on our then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, by the IRA. Now I don’t know what your political/religious persuasion is.  Frankly, […]

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The Pregnant Pause

April 14, 2013

Publishing your first novel is like jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet, or swimming with a five foot barracuda, or a shoal of scorpion fish.  Actually, it’s way scarier than that (and yes, I speak from experience).  At the heart of every writer, I think, is someone who’s dying for approval.  They want […]

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Welcome to sadiemills.co.uk

April 14, 2013

Welcome to my website. If you’ve read my debut novel, Virtually Perfect, you’re probably getting the idea that I’m fairly frenetic in my thought process.  Don’t expect any different here. I’ve created this blog, not just to sell books (I’m not going to lie though, selling books is always nice).  What I’m trying to achieve […]

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