Breaking Old Maid Notions

So, I got called "matandang dalaga" (old maid) recently and in jest, but then I found myself mulling about it after.

What’s with the term? Why do people continue to use it in these supposedly more enlightened times? And why the negative connotations that still come with it?


I’m over 40 (I reserve the right to remain mysterious, haha), and single (as in never been married), so I realize that definitely qualifies me as an “old maid.” But here’s the thing: why can’t I just be called single? Does it have to be an insult to be single at my age? Because what are the connotations for such… that no one loves me? No one wants me? No one has wanted to marry me? I’m an ice queen who doesn’t know how to love?


Well, none of those are true. I have chosen to remain single up to now. It’s been about seeking my match, knowing what I need and want, not feeling ready, not settling or lowering my standards… you get the drift.

What’s with the term? Why do people continue to use it in these supposedly more enlightened times?






Kaling once said, “I don’t need marriage. I don’t need anyone to take care of all my needs and desires. I can take care of them myself now.” AFP

What else could it mean when people call somebody an old maid in a derogatory manner or tone? That it’s always better to be in a relationship? That everyone’s end (read: highest) goal should be to get married (and have kids)? That single people are sad (or worse, losers)? That people who are married/in a relationship are better than those who are not? That those same people deserve an award for being part of a couple? That anyone who argues against these notions are necessarily “bitter?”


Shall I even bother to answer these questions? Clearly, the answer to all of them is no. But I won’t expound, because I’d rather you think about these on your own.


What I want to do instead is to address my “age issue.” I acknowledge that I have one, because I do hesitate to declare my age to anyone and everyone just like that. It’s an indication that I do care about the possible judgments and the connotations associated with being single at my age.


No matter that I don’t look it…as in someone who doesn’t know me would never guess my age. And no matter that I don’t act it… not in an embarrassing way, but I remain youthful on many levels, as seen in my activities and disposition. And no matter that I have a lot to show for it…meaning “may pinagkatandaan ako”, as we say in the vernacular, or I have grown wiser with age. 


Owning my age, every single year and minute of it, is literally owning and being grateful for all the growth, personal achievements, learnings, and experiences I’ve bravely and solidly achieved, taken on and embraced all these years.


So why be ashamed of my age? If there’s something I should be feeling, it should be pride, joy and loads of self-love.


I ought to be telling myself: “Well done, Em! You make me so proud. You’ve weathered so many storms, and achieved so many things. You’ve always striven to live according to your principles and standards. Which is not to say you didn’t make mistakes or was always the highest version of you, but you always picked yourself up, always tried to do what’s best for all concerned in the end. You weren’t afraid to feel your emotions and to deal with them. You wiped off your tears, licked your wounds, learned your lessons and moved on. Countless times. You’ve been adventurous, brave, diligent and mostly mature (haha). You continue to strive to be a good and happy person, a loyal and genuine friend, a loving and reliable family member, a patriotic and productive citizen, and someone who is of service to the world. Carry on. I am so in love with you.”






In an article busting the old maid myth, quotes Hollywood actress Diane Keaton saying in 2001: “I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less.” AFP

I turn another year older in less than a month. Time flies indeed, and age is an indicator of how much I have lived and how far I have gone. Let me remember this next time someone pokes fun at my being single at my age.


If you find yourself being curtailed by self-defeating labels and mindsets, or simply wish to live your best life and want more clarity and push for your vision and goals, I offer a free 60-minute Strategy Consultation for my Work Smart, Love Smart coaching. You can check out my website for more details.