My cousin wasn’t having a bar of it. She called me names that I’d never been called before. Well, actually that last bit is a lie – I have been called a sook, a woos, and a big baby plenty of times before, and not just during my baby years. Most memorably, from my point of view, I would be called those names, and more, when I balked at going camping. Lots of people love camping – I feckin hate it. When I talk about camping, I’m talking about shit-in-the-woods type of camping. But to be honest, campground camping doesn’t cut it much with me either. Finally, at around age thirty, I got enough vagina to actually say “enough” and refused to be bullied anymore into doing something I didn’t want to do, just because other people wanted me to do it.
Until my cousin shamed me into accepting her invitation to her 60th. Of course, I’ve been shamed more times than that over various things since I dug my toes in about camping, and capitulated more than once – but getting me to capitulate is a slightly tougher job now than it once was. However, my cousin is a mighty fine woman, so she got to shame me with impunity.
Why didn’t I want to accept her 60th birthday invitation? Because being an older single woman at a party can often be a bit like being the ‘spare prick at a wedding’. I’m not sure if one can be a spare vagina at a wedding, but I know that being the spare prick isn’t good. My cousin is married, so my assumption was that her party would be firmly coupled-up, too, as are most parties after our younger years. I have been to a few parties and dinners as an older single woman, and it can be bloody a grim place to be. The only people who really want to talk to me are the other older single people also by themselves – which is absolutely fine, and often preferable. There are some good conversations to be had there. Trouble is, I suspect that like me, they find attending gatherings as a solo to be rather crap, because they’re scarcer than hen’s teeth at these events, yet I know that there are plenty of us in the world. The couple who don’t know anyone else also don’t mind having a conversation with me. If I had the social butterfly thing nailed, then this wouldn’t be a problem. I would flutter into any event, and charm all and sundry with my scintillating wit and conversation, and have a totally fun night every time. Of course, if I was a social butterfly, I would probably have a crowd of friends with me, anyway, and feeling like the spare prick/vagina at a wedding would be a moot point.
Now, I’m no rebel with a gun (although, in a different life maybe …. ), but I’m just not very mainstream, and that can put me in the social dog-house. Chit-chat is an important part of socialising – it can fun and light hearted and relaxing, determine common interests, and reinforce group bonds. However, I don’t tick very many of the mainstream social chit-chat boxes. But I’m not a total loser – I’m proud to say that I have mastered several social crimes instead:
- I’m an older single woman – enough said.
- I’m a feminist – true, mostly an armchair feminist, but I have Opinions.
- I’m a vegan, so I’m not really going to enjoy the story about the best steak you ever had, or watching you eat the best steak you’ve ever had, In turn, you will think that I’m dour and brain f*cked. Just so you know, you’re not alone – my father told me once that I had “always been weird about food”. When I became vegan, he really couldn’t get his head around the whole compassion for animals thing, even though he wasn’t a cruel man towards animals himself.
- I care about the environment, so I don’t wet myself about stories that involve excess consumerism.
- I don’t have kids, so have no children or grandchildren stories.
- I don’t have a husband, so have no husband stories. These can be great bonders amongst women, so that’s another fail.
- I’m usually driving, so can’t get shit-faced – or at least pleasantly uninhibited enough for none of the above to matter. If I do get ‘pleasantly uninhibited’, I usually get looked at like a something initially considered dead that’s come to life. Note to self: must work on doing more of this – it sounds like a worthwhile pursuit, upon reflection.
I do know how to have fun – honestly. It’s just that it’s more along the lines of niche fun. I believe that there are many people like me – i.e. off-mainstream – having fun in the ‘underground’, but there are just more who do it the mainstream way. Mainstream is where marketers try to push us, because there is more money to be made in that place for their products. Although people can be, and are, perfectly happy in the mainstream, I defend my own inability to flow with it by believing that it doesn’t automatically equate to being ‘normal’. I mean, who the hell knows what ‘normal’ is anyway, when we’re manipulated so much by unseen forces. And I’m not talking about aliens from another world.
When I got to the parts of whining to my cousin about the problematic aspects of being vegan at a party with food, and a single woman in a room full of couples, she cut my feet out from under me in one well-practised swipe. “There will be a few people with different dietary requirements, which will be catered for,” she said, accompanied by “You’re not the only single woman I know.” Stupid as it may seem, that stopped me. Trying to pull out the ‘vegan card’ was admittedly a dumb move with her, because, although it can work quite well in some circumstances, hello! my cousin knows me. But, the scars of previous dire experience had obviously blinded me to the possibility that my cousin’s shindig might be okay, and I just might be able to survive it. She is gregarious and outgoing – I swear that I’m telling the truth when I say we’re related – so of course she was going to have more than just a tight wee circle of coupled-up friends.
A word about the average Kiwi and Aussie party – guests arrive, say hello to the host/ess, and then are left to fend for themselves. I have heard that in some other countries the host/ess will actually introduce people to each other at a party, and also mingle to see if everyone is okay. And then, the party-goers will even seek out people they don’t know to talk to them! This is a world away from a Kiwi or Aussie bash.
So, time to pull on my big girl pants my cousin told me, and just bloody get over myself! She’s had a kid, so knows how to talk to someone who’s being one. I was never going to win this.
Of course, the party turned out to be fine. My cousin looked after me, then I muscled my way into a table of people, and made them talk to me. They had nowhere to run or hide, so things went swimmingly. Best of all, my cousin enjoyed an evening with a crowd of longtime friends and family, who clearly have a lot of love and respect for her. That in itself was worth going for.