Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Last Spinster

I am currently in a quaint village on the outskirts of Stuttgart Germany. Light rain is falling outside and I am sitting by the window with a steaming cup of coffee with warm milk watching the drops slowly descend from the sky and fall to the gray pavement below keeping cozy watch. I look out and see the rows of gnarled grape vines with green buds starting to spring from the vines signaling, it’s Springtime in this quaint German village. My mother slightly snores from the adjoining room, as I sit and reflect on the years she has owned this house -- the last vestibule of her heritage. Her family having owned a house in this village since the 12th century. Winemakers, most of them. (And most of them are buried at the cemetery across the street.)

Bells ring every fifteen minutes here, signaling the hour, quarter past, half past and three quarters past. You get quite used to the ringing of the automatic clocks in this town and I soon realize it’s no wonder Germans invented the cuckoo clock.

But the real reason I’m here is because my mother has sold the house. Tomorrow the new owners take residence and it will leave our family for good. It’s sort of a closure on my mom’s part. It’s not inexpensive to own and maintain a house in Europe that she only visits once every two years. Not to mention, the house is over a hundred years old (and there are all sorts of signs bearing its age). The last relative who owned this house was her Aunt Elfriede, her father’s youngest sister. Elfriede was a spinster, meaning, she was a woman who never married. I met Elfriede once, circa 1985 on my first European trip.

I had never heard the term spinster before I came to Germany. I’m not sure where the term originated from, did single women spin spools of wool? But I do have a girlfriend of mine who was part of a social circle in Southern California called “The Bachelor’s and The Spinster’s” which was an elite group who attended meetings in efforts to pair off. I always thought it was quite odd and old fashioned. Not to mention that “Bachelor” sounds much nicer than “Spinster”. Who would outwardly join this group and stamp themselves “never married”?

But my Great Aunt was a spinster. And I don’t think it bothered her, like it bothers me. Maybe she was onto something. She did have a lover (who is even buried with her across the street). Over the years, my sister and I have combed through photographs, letters, and old relics and have pieced together and romantically fantasized about their love affair. (We’re working on a book/movie about their love story, actually). I’m sure it was quite the scandal back in her day. I kind of relish her vigor to not be pressured to marry. But is this status still taboo?

My Great Aunt lived alone in this three story house, until she met her love, Ludwig. He eventually moved into the house, but held a separate residence on the third floor. Under the same roof, but separate. They had meals together, kept each other company and had their own space. They travelled quite a bit together, and honestly kept each other company during cold, rainy Sundays (like today).

Elfriede was a pharmacist who didn’t travel much until she met Ludwig. He made her come alive. She wasn’t alone, she had a companion. He was also quite attractive, and she was, how do I state this? She was not. Short, round, kinky mop of hair, as compared to his tall, lean and handsome face, but Elfriede had a smile that beamed in his presence.

We will never know the real reasons why Ludwig never married Elfriede. Those conversations will be trapped within the walls of this house forever, but she held fast in her glory, that a spinster was not a boring woman.

The German Village among the grape vines.

And as I sit here in this house, and I am “never married”. I guess you could say, I’m the last spinster of this house as well.

I’m not sure I want that title but it is what it is.

It’s finally stopped raining outside and I hear my mother, toss and turn about to wake up. Today we will finish packing the last of the boxes, and I will hike the stairs around the vines, and maybe I’ll visit Elfriede and Ludwig’s gravesite. And maybe she’ll give me some advice on keeping a lover and I will keep my eye open for a house with a third floor to keep him in.

The bench I imagine Elfriede and Ludwig having date at.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Going the Distance

I have a friend who hasn’t been all that successful in her online dating quest.  As she teeters on the “give-up moment” I told her she should widen her search.  Date out of the area if you will.

“I don’t want to drive that far,” was her simple response.  

You’re kidding, right?

Here’s the deal, I lived in a beautiful, yet far location, just north of Los Angeles.  I moved there because I was working in Malibu (which is beautiful but far from Los Angeles, too.)  I dated men from Santa Barbara to San Diego…and put in my profile, “I don’t mind driving.”  While gas prices soar, yes, it’s a bit harder on the wallet, but my search was successful.  Why narrow your options? 

While Los Angeles is crawling with men, sometimes it’s refreshing to get out of “the norm” and find someone who is completely different from you.  If you’ve had your fair share of men in “your area”…branch out and see what else is out there.  What do you have to lose? (This also applies to New Yorkers who just can’t seem to get off their island.)

It is no secret I’ve been dating someone.  We are complete opposites, not to mention, lived on opposite ends of town.  When we met, I was living a THREE hour drive from him (and that’s without traffic).  We did all the communications routes: called, texted, skyped, emailed until we finally met face-to-face.  I knew so much about him when we met in person, it was as if we were already dating.  Living far away from each other gave us a chance to plan our dates, make our face-to-face dates special occasions which turned into weekend long visits and well…absence does make the heart grow fonder.  It took him a whopping three months before he asked me to move in with him.  And you know what…I eventually moved.  (I wanted to anyway…bad juju living close to my prior job was annoying me.)  Now I know this is an extreme case of odd things working out, but what if I never agreed to go out with him because he lived so far away?  Wouldn’t that have been a crime too?

I have heard stories of men who drive to far away locations to meet women and women who drive long distances to meet men…and they turn out horrible and they feel trapped.  First, I’m not advocating you stay at their place or move right away.  I’m merely suggesting you give them a try and not be so narrow minded in your quest.  Now, it also helped that my boyfriend was living in an area I actually wanted to move to.  I will admit, I wasn’t really interested in going to say Bakersfield (sorry Bakersfield…it’s too hot for me), and I definitely had some “winking” men from the Inland Empire – those weren’t necessarily cities I wanted to move to.  

One thing I did discover was once I said “yes” to moving, he was also open into the idea of us getting a place together so I didn’t feel like I was moving into his place or vice versa.  Many friends and family were leery of my move “it’s too soon,” “you own your place, why doesn’t he move to you?” etc etc…The simple thing is, we were far apart, and now we are under the same roof.  Happy and making it all work out.

And before you give me any “but, but, but…” my boyfriend said he would have never have made communication with me in our dating process because I lived too far.  That’s right…I approached him.  I was willing to move.  I was willing to drive.  I was willing to try new things.

So take this sage advice.  Widen the net. Cause I’m not home alone with my two cats anymore.