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Ben Finley

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Spinsterhood

Posted: 10/11/11 08:12 PM ET

June 24th, 2011. A day that forever changed my perception of my free-spirited singlehood I had so blissfully been celebrating. A day that gave me great hope for equal civility in my country and yet invariably a day that jolted me off kilt in my New Balance sneakers like the subway coming to a screeching halt (a frequent occurrence if you ride the N train out of Queens by the way).

While watching the breaking news with bated breath unfold from our AC360 control room at CNN where I work, the end result concluding that lesbian and gay New Yorkers could finally legally wed their life partners, a thought occurred to me that I hadn't considered before. As a close friend and colleague frantically thumbed congratulatory text messages to his coupled friends, I realized that my carefree, bachelor lifestyle had suddenly vanished like Mischa Barton's career. At the over ripe age of 35, I was now a spinster.

That's right... a spinster.

Don't believe me? Scoff if you will, but Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines spinster as "an unmarried individual and especially one past the common age for marrying." Ok so perhaps I substituted the word "individual" from "woman" but hey, if right wing conspiracy theorists can change the definition of marriage, then I can change the definition of spinster. If Americans expect equal rights then apparently we also best be ready for equal stereotypes and terms of slander by society-at-large. Besides, isn't the phrase "the common age of marrying" relative depending on where you come from anyway?

But I digress. For the sake of an argument and perhaps a game show door prize, I challenge you to find the state or nation that considers the age of 35 as "the common age of marrying." Hell, where I grew up, in the lower-middle class city of Streetsboro, Ohio if you weren't engaged by prom season you were pretty much a social reject.

With our state legislative leaders finally granting me the basic right to legally bind myself with my life partner, there were new stereotypes to be had. I was now free to rent a tuxedo from Men's Warehouse, book the local Moose lodge for a buffet reception and ask my Aunt Minnie to design matching cummerbunds (masculine tones of course, something in a soft lavender). There was just one slight snafu of course, aside from not having a local Moose Lodge in my neighborhood...I was without a partner to betroth, a man to marry, a ball to my chain.

Poof! Just like that, my gay bachelorhood seemed damned. I was now a plain old fashioned good time spinster and suddenly categorized with the likes of unibrowed Susan Boyle, crusty Ann Coulter, sociopath Lizzie Borden (totally misunderstood by the way) and the haggardly biddy from the "Old Maid" card game.

For years I've supported equal rights for any tax paying red-blooded American, particularly when I had a vested interest. This provision to the plan however, was something I had foolishly not considered. Life was so much simpler when I was just another slave-to-the-grind, hard working American without a "better half" to answer to and children to put to bed as I gallivanted through life without an ounce of responsibility. Now, with the state of New York eyeing ME as an equal tax-paying citizen, I would have to begin taking my personal life seriously!

The sudden pressure to find legally binding romance became more unbearable at every third wheel dinner one of my happily married friends invited me to. Beads of sweat sprouted from my forehead and mass empathy for all my single Jewish Manhattan girlfriends consumed me. Paranoia was instantaneous and I became convinced that Babou the corner deli owner, my gym trainer Rob, even homeless people on the street and random passersby were aware of my spinster status. It didn't help that without warning I was being quizzed about "the big day" with judgmentally raised eyebrows by my closest relatives and confidants.

"You know how I like the ocean, maybe you should do something on the beach?" hinted my mother. "I'm dieting this month, will the caterer be having any low-carb options?" not so subtly mentioned my brother. "No matching suits!" winced disapprovingly one of my better homosexual friends who should've known better than to even presume. Apparently the Albany vote not only granted me the legal right to wed but also granted everybody else the legal right to weigh in on my newfound marital status, or hint about its lack thereof. Gone forever, (unless I moved to New Jersey) was my cherished single non-committal lifestyle.

For years I had taken pride in the fact that I wasn't tied down to one particular person. I had cataloged enough bad dates to make Dr. Drew's head spontaneously combust on "Love Line" and became quite comfortable with not having anyone in particular to answer to. Spinsterhood wasn't sitting well and had me itching to throw myself back into the dating pond with the other single fish. Although past "fishing" excursions baited nothing more than a few putrid smelling carp, I was eager to cast the rod once again. Surely, I wasn't the only instant spinster unhappy with this social status I pondered. Perhaps this time around, I would finally meet my match.

It was only a few days later at my favorite pub that I bumped into "Terry", a fellow thirtysomething that had me suddenly caught between a moon and New York City. After some mild flirtatious banter and a quick exchange of cell phone numbers, I was on my way home, deliriously anxious to meet for our first date. Terry, a young Tom Selleck look alike, was easy on the eyes with a smile that could melt a stick of butter. FINALLY, a guy that I could live out my "Magnum P.I." fantasy with. Jumping back into the dating pond was going to be easier than I had imagined. What on earth was I so worried about? Happily ever after was just a Vegas drive-thru away.

The next day I was on my way to meet Terry at a café downtown for my first post-"Marriage Equality Act" date. Magnum P.I. Terry was on his way too. Only he managed to arrive 45 minutes late and appeared with a suave looking, portly little man in tow named Miguel. Terry, sensing my bafflement, quickly introduced Miguel as his "other" date for the evening...the one he'd recently met online.

Before I could even uncross my eyes and object to the preposterous nature of the situation, Terry casually continued that "mass dating..." as he referred to it, "...was a great way for singles to mingle rather than waste time on dates with just one person." Apparently somewhere amidst the many years of my cavalier bachelorhood this had become acceptable in the world of dating, or at least in the world according to douche bags. This seemed to be a breach of etiquette beyond anything I could comprehend. I mean I was no Emily Post but for heaven's sakes, two dates at once?
For a few solid moments, I stood there with my mouth agape before quickly making a beeline for the door. Maybe he'd consider me old-fashioned, but these shenanigans were a complete waste of my time. Learning how to use Twitter was as hip as I was going to get, mass dating was just a little too new age for me. Aside from having my ego damaged and like I'd been cast in a bad Andy Cohen reality show, the idea of someone assuming this was completely acceptable to do to another person ultimately left me feeling disappointed and slightly insecure.

I don't even recall the long walk home to my apartment. What with the whirl of thoughts passing through my mind how could I focus on anything else? Police cars with sirens blaring could've driven by chasing a herd of pastel colored buffalos but I wouldn't have noticed. My mind was spinning with questions I was desperately trying to answer. Did I miss something here? Who the hell does that? Maybe I was being too uptight? What nerve? Was it something I said? How did I misread this one? This is exactly why I stopped dating! Maybe I should go back? What an asshole!

By the time I made it home I had stopped second-guessing myself and stabbed the neurotic insecurity demon to death from my mind. This guy was just a jerk, plain and simple. At the very least, this was going to make a fantastic story to share for weeks, possibly months to come I convinced myself. Perhaps I had been too eager out of the gate and should learn to be a bit more selective as I continue on my marriage material quest. Regardless, I wasn't going to let "mass dating guy" ruin my mission of legally binding love. The panic at finding myself suddenly single had subsided and been replaced with the future prospect that I might one day legally wed.

In the meantime, I'd make a quick stop to the animal shelter for a couple of cats and settle into my rocking chair. For now I'd be ready to embark on my newfound era of spinsterhood.

Now, where had I placed my ball of yarn?