Facing the horror
Becoming an “old maid”
in A table for one

Incorporating recent literature on age, feminist theory and singlehood, this chapter re-evaluates the image of the old maid alongside the omnipresence of age, sexism and ageism in current discourses on singlehood. This chapter asks what gives this powerful stereotypical image so much discursive force and makes it so defiant to resistance and deconstruction?

This inquiry is further developed by exploring how the predominant cultural perceptions of age appropriateness, age segregation, age norms and ageism play a crucial role in the construction of late singlehood and gendered timetables in general. That is, the argument put forth is the contention that single women are faced with a triple disfranchisement, based on age, gender and single status. Given this, the argument presented here is that single women undergo a process of accelerated aging, leading them towards their social death. Thus, this chapter also makes a significant contribution to critical age studies and feminist age studies by reworking these categories and opening up new ways to critically revisit the authority of age, sexist and ageist practices. It also points out that ageism and age-based discrimination do not necessarily apply merely to the social category of old age and old people, but are practiced at different phases of the life course.

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A table for one

A critical reading of singlehood, gender and time

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