O the goodly years that might have been — now desolate and bare!
After recently revisiting the retro/manky charms of "Old Maid" and its catalogue of ineligible bachelors, I did a quick search to see how the Old Maid herself, that icon of socially-unacceptable spinsterism, had fared down the years. The resulting image haul (pictured below) is meaty enough to keep Gender Studies scholars occupied for several lifetimes. Behold a random sample.
1) Clad in black, austere, severe, surrounded by cats. Here is the Old Maid archetype. The terrifying spectre of moth-balled, odd-ball female singledom that haunts the dreams of women everywhere (or so patriarchal bastard card-mongers would have you believe). She stares vacantly into space. Impossibly empty space. Joyless and despair-filled space. Silent space punctuated only by the dull "plop" of cat shit hitting the floor.
2) Chirpy, unreasonably optimistic, and demented gargoyle. Tragically out of step with contemporary fads and fashions. Caked in cheap make-up in a late and desperate bid to hook a man. A pantomime dame, a drag queen, a disaster. A lesson to ladies everywhere. Dear God, don't leave it too late.
3) Clad in the mode of a terrifying maiden aunt, her meanings seem, at first glance, easy to unpick and unpack. But there's that roguish smile. And there's that…um…circus. Is she proud of that "Admit One" ticket she so brazenly displays? Is this an "Old Maid" content with her singular lot? Can society cope with such a creature?
4) Rich. Eccentric. Crazy cat lady. Rattling tipsily around a decaying mansion. Simple.
5) Mary Poppins with an inhuman taste for man-flesh. Crazed rictus grin revealing teeth sharpened into vampiric points. Not just sexually and socially dead, but undead. Yet still somehow predatorial. Flee, menfolk. Flee! She wants to chomp yer balls clean off.
6) Young girl thinks – "Whatever happens in my life, I must not become her".
7) Parrot shrieking the name of a lost love (drowned at sea). Animal menagerie stinking up the house with the odour of faecal matter and social maladjustment. Heart arrowed not by Cupid but by his malevolent bastard cousin. A motif that recurs in our next offering…
…which has the added non-bonus of spectacles (Ugh! Intellectual!), a bedraggled and suicidal feline, and knitting – the non-sexiest thing one can do with one's hands. You can't knit passion. You can't knit a child!
9) A greater sin than unwanted, unwonted and grossly inappropriate sexual aggression is…ice-cold, buttoned-down, purse-lipped frigidity. Who does she think she is?
10) Witch and her familiar. Drinker of infant blood. Pure evil.
February 17, 2011