merriam-webster.com says of “bachelor:” “a man who is not married, especially a man who has never married.” As I rambled through a number of sites defining this word, there didn’t appear to be anything unappealing or unattractive attached to it. “Bachelorette” was coined to define an unmarried woman, especially a young unmarried woman. Either a bachelor or bachelorette may or may not be looking for a marriage relationship, leading to adjectives like “eligible” or “confirmed.”
I hunted for other words defining the unmarried male, without finding any. Now, I’m not saying that in any way the life of the single man who desires a Godly marriage is any easier than that of a woman. But, for the unmarried female – there are a few unattractive descriptions.
OK – I’m going waaaaaaaay back now. I have to admit, though, that when I was a kid, this was still a common description of an older woman who had never married and was childless. Of course, the childless part was still understood because, for the most part, not engaging in sexual relationships went without saying.
Originally, “spinster” simply meant “a woman who spins,” as it was an occupation a woman could do while still at home with her parents in order to bring in some income. Then, it became narrowed down to “unmarried woman.” In former times, women often stayed in their parent’s home until they had opportunity to marry. Then, the term was narrowed down even further to describe a “woman beyond marriageable age, having negative qualities such as fussy or undesirable.” (dictionary.reference.com) Oxforddictionaries.com adds this: “From the 17th century, the word was appended to names as the legal official description of an unmarried woman.” It later became a “derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy and repressed.”
Harrumph! I may be unmarried and childless. But, I refuse to accept “fussy, undesirable, prissy, and repressed!”
Old Maid, Maiden Lady, and Various and Sundry Other Terms
merriam-webster.com says of “old maid:” “a woman who has never married and is no longer young.” And then, it adds, “a prim fussy person.” As a kid, I remember it was also a term used for popcorn kernels which remained unpopped. And, of course, there was the game of Old Maid where you didn’t want to be left with the black queen card because it didn’t have a matching mate. Now, the term “maiden lady” was a shade better than “old maid,” as it was applied to someone who still had a shadow of hope for marriage. Other terms I remember hearing were things like “unclaimed blessings,” “left on the shelf,” “unchosen ones.” Well now, I refuse to accept terms like those either. I am abundantly blessed by God, paid attention to by Him, and certainly chosen by Him. Paul affirmed this in (NIV) I Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you. . .”
Singleness – More than a Title
So, I guess “single” is as good a term as any, isn’t it? My friends are a bit surprised when I tell them that when I think about who I am, the word “single” is always the first word to come to mind. They just know me as “Mary.” My life is full of activities which foster relationship with friends and family. I have a number of needlework hobbies which help my imaginative streak. I’m a pianist and organist, and staying on top of those little black dots on the page keeps my brain active and alert.
But, do you remember Scrooge’s travels with the 2nd ghost of Christmas present as he looks through the window of his nephew’s house and sees the merriment of the family inside? Now, I’m definitely not a ‘bah humbug” sort of person, but I have to say that once in a while, I feel like the outside one looking through a window of unmet desires.
I take great comfort from these words from Moses to Joshua as he was about to take the children of Israel into the promised land. (NIV) Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” And, Jesus said in closing words to his disciples: (NIV) Matthew 28:20b “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I choose to use my singleness as an arena for getting to know God in deeper and deeper ways. Is it possible to find contentment in the midst of unmet longings and desires? Yes! Is it easy? No! “Is it worth the pain? Yes!
How about you? What can you share with others in your journey?