Single ladies: Can I be a housewife if I'm not married anymore?
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Single ladies: Can I be a housewife if I'm not married anymore?

Can I call myself a housewife if I’m not married anymore? There’s a question I asked myself while I indulged in a little Real Housewives of OC. It’s my guilty pleasure on those lonely nights where the children are at their father’s. I live in the OC and it’s my dream to have a series of the show made here in Canberra - they won’t even have to change the title.

(And neighbours, don’t you worry, I already have the cast picked out. You have a starring role. All that - to quote the show’s credentials - “living large, plastic surgery, working out, shopping, drinking and dancing” we’re doing every night in the inner north.)

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said, a marvellous film.

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said, a marvellous film.

But I digress. I do that sometimes.

Can I call myself a housewife if I’m not married anymore? There’s a few definitions of housewife. I like this one: “A housewife is a woman who has chosen to not work outside the home for money, but rather devotes all time, energy and love into creating a safe, warm, clean home for her family to grow and thrive. She cooks, cleans, does dishes, laundry, childcare, shopping, countless errands and careful money management all while supporting her family and community through community service work, volunteering and general parenting.”

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I did all of those things while I was married - and working, mind you - and I do all those things now. Even in the weeks I’m on my own. (And are you ever really on your own when the kids are texting because they’ve forgotten to take something, or just need your advice, or your credit card number.) So maybe I am still a housewife.

But other definitions make mention of said woman being married. And I’m definitely not that - it’s actually official now - and for as much as I love my home, and I am committed to it, it’s not really a marriage.

So what am I if not a housewife?

Spinster

I reckon I could rock this one. I’ve already been called Aunty Karen by a few kids to whom I am not related by blood. I don’t think I’d mind being that crazy aunt who turns up at family events even though she is not family. But then what is family? That’s a whole different discussion. But does the term spinster imply I’ve never been married? The stereotype of being “childless, prissy and repressed” doesn’t fit me at all. Does it? But I like spinster. Its etymology goes back to the day where unmarried women of a certain age filled menial jobs, such as spinning wool. I like to think that being single means I can put my spin on anything.

The gay divorcee

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers set the tone in their 1934 musical which was quite risque for its time. Ginger arrives in England, seeking a divorce from her husband whom she has not seen for several years. Back then, there needed to be some fault - I guess the husband choosing to absent was not his fault - so her bumbling lawyer arranges a set-up where she will be caught in an adulterous relationship in a seaside hotel and thus, the fault would be hers. She mistakes Fred for the set-up lothario, the pair sing and dance the night away.

Sounds kind of like my life. But with less singing and dancing. Must rectify that.

And if I’m thinking of other films, where divorced women lead a gay old life, check out Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated (but stay clear of Kramer v Kramer), Julia Dreyfus in Enough Said, a marvellous film,  and Diane Keaton in Hampstead, which I have only just found. There is hope.

Cougar

I tried the younger man thing. It wasn’t for me. In my limited experience there is long line of young men who are looking for an older woman. They’re all looking for a woman who is sure of herself, who isn’t caught up in worrying about what other people think of her, a lot of them probably just have mummy issues but, when the mood strikes, I'm not going to apologise for the fact I like interacting with younger men. In theory it sounded fabulous. In practice it wasn’t. In fact the sexiest men I’ve met are men in their 60s. Perhaps I could find a sugar daddy? In practice that might prove impossible too. Could I be a sugar mumma? I doubt that. So too does my bank manager.

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All the single ladies

I’m having an existential discussion with myself about whether or not I can call myself a single mother. I’m a single woman who just happens to be a mother. I don’t parent by myself.

I tried listening to Beyonce’s anthem for inspiration but really there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on putting a ring on something. But that’s not going to happen. I would like to be able to a) dance like that in heels and b) have legs like that. But that’s not going to happen either.

What’s going to happen is that I can spend the next 30 or so years living my life without any label at all. Putting my own spin on things, singing and dancing, spending time with whom I choose. Not a bad way to define myself.

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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