The 30-Year-Old Spinster

By Raina Lipsitz

A friend recently showed me a photo she’d taken of a poster in a bus station: “Dear 30-year-old Amy,” it said, “It’s time to look into freezing your eggs. Love, 42-year-old Amy.” I laughed and rolled my eyes, but at the same time I felt a tiny clutch of fear: would my 42-year-old self forgive 30-year-old me for laughing at the poster’s message?

My younger brother and his fiancee went to Buffalo last weekend for his fiancee’s bridal shower. When they came back, they were full of news about various relatives. “Jimmy wants to know if you’re engaged yet,” said my brother. “Well, I’m not,” I said, smiling. “You’re gonna love this,” my brother continued. “He says you’re getting up there. He says you’ve only got a couple of years left.”

Jimmy is a cousin of mine who knocked up his girlfriend at age 25. He wasn’t ready for fatherhood, but he accepted his new role with the grim fatalism of young Catholics everywhere. For Jimmy and other relatives of mine, this is the natural order of things: meet young, make a mistake, and spend the rest of your life pretending it wasn’t a mistake. This has worked out fine for some of them. It doesn’t seem to be working out so well for Jimmy.

Still, unplanned fatherhood strikes him as far less tragic than the accidental childlessness he thinks I’m headed for. Once upon a time—and even today, in some parts of the world—unmarried women were seen as “old maids” at the age of 23. These days, at least in some parts of America, you’re allowed not to panic until you hit 28. I’m in a better position than many to resist this cultural narrative: I’m educated and I live in New York, where “growing up” is defined not by parenthood but by whether or not you’ve appeared in a national magazine or purchased an apartment. And I’m lucky to know a number of happy, successful unmarried and/or childless women who are in no way tragic or pitiable. But I’d be lying if I said posters like the one my friend showed me and comments like Jimmy’s don’t bother me.

Most women I know (myself included) feel like failures in some respect: we fail to exercise enough, eat healthily, get promoted, earn more money, get a date, get a ring, get pregnant. But wouldn’t it be better to question why we want these things than to berate ourselves for failing to “achieve” them? “What are you saying? That I should get married to someone right away in case he’s about to die?” Meg Ryan’s character asks a friend in “When Harry Met Sally.” The friend’s answer? “At least you could say you were married.”

Maybe I’ve just seen too many (self-aware, accomplished) women my age (and younger) driven batty by this kind of pressure. I’ve listened to smart women make self-denigrating comments about not finding a husband which accept the premise that they are worthless without one. And it has made me want to opt out of this whole conversation. Because if you give ‘em an inch, the patriarchy and its handmaidens will take a mile: to admit to feeling lonely, on occasion, let alone to yearn openly for a partner and a houseful of kids, is to risk becoming a poster girl for anti-feminist forces, an object lesson, a cautionary tale: “This, ladies, is what happens when you spend your twenties reading Sisterhood is Powerful and ranting about misogyny.” You wind up a 30-year-old spinster.

Many people still see wanting kids as “natural” and not wanting them (or not having them) as freakish and sad. I don’t. When I was younger, I dreamed of having a conventional life, but living it in an unconventional way: I’d have a husband but I wouldn’t take his name; I’d have a baby but I wouldn’t let motherhood define me. I’d have my cake and eat it, too. I believe that’s still possible. I also believe that if I don’t get married or have babies—or if I don’t do it “on time,” i.e., by the time I’m 32, since I’ve already missed the socially enforced deadline of 30—I’ll still have a good life.

This is what privilege of the kind I’m lucky to have (including money, education, health care, and citizenship in a democracy) guarantees us: more choices, and more freedom. Sometimes it’s lonely or scary or sad, but mostly it’s wonderful. Even privileged people don’t control as much about our lives as many of us wish we could. But despite what those whose self-esteem depends on keeping women riddled with angst and self-doubt want us to believe, life does not have to dead-end in domestic drudgery or lonely spinsterhood. It’s an infinitely changeable choose-your-own-adventure story. And as long as you’re kind to other people and committed to a cause or belief system that does no harm and might even change the world for the better, there’s no such thing as running out of time.

Don’t Speak

By Shulamith Firestone

When the man beside you in bed is present but unavailable.

We were in bed when I asked him, as lightly as a woman can ask such a heavy question.

“Hmm…what am I looking for?” he repeated, stroking my cheek. “That is a really good question!” I waited, my body tensing in the dark. “We-ell,” he said, after a long pause, his hand moving lower, “I guess I should tell you, I’m not in the market for a relationship right now. I’m really focused on my career these days. But I’m definitely up for having some fun.”

“Ah,” I said. “That’s disappointing. Because I think you’re funny and smart, and I like you.”
“Aww! I like you too! But I swore I’d take a break from dating after my last relationship ended.”
“Why’s that?”
“She just . . . started to expect more from me that I could give her. And I started to feel like I was letting women down all the time. So I figured I’d better take a break from the whole relationship thing for a while.”
(Doleful shake of the head)
“Got it,” I said, trying not to wince.

I wish I could say I thanked him for his honesty and asked him to leave. Instead we had sex again and I tried to argue him out of his relationship resistance, which, no matter how persuasive you are, never actually works. It wasn’t the first time I had that conversation, and it wouldn’t be the last.

As frustrating as it is to have no clue what’s on a man’s mind, it’s worse to know exactly how little he’s willing to give. There’s a certain kind of man—the kind I’m helplessly drawn to—who is sweet, sensitive, even intuitive, and honest to a fault. He can’t or won’t (does it matter which?) give me what I want, but he’s smart and self-aware enough to know exactly why.

The man who wasn’t interested in a relationship but was up for “fun” was a friend of a friend. His name was Jeff, and he was my favorite combination of edgy-cute, bitterly funny, and unpretentiously brilliant. I felt like we were connecting when he came to my birthday party and we stayed up all night cracking jokes. The friend who brought him to my party tried to warn me. “He’s a really sweet guy,” she said, “but I think he has some commitment issues. Also he only dates women in their very early twenties.” Jeff was 36 at the time; I was 28.

At my party, I teasingly repeated my friend’s remarks to their subject. “Helen warned me about you,” I said. “Oh yeah?” said Jeff. “What did she say?” “She said you only date 12-year-olds.” He was momentarily thrown off guard, but recovered quickly. “Oh come on, that’s ridiculous!” he said. “Just because my last few girlfriends happened to be in their early 20s? It’s not like it’s a policy.”

But in bed a week later, he admitted that it kind of was. “I guess I tend to go for younger girls because they don’t expect as much,” he said. “And I feel too guilty to go out with women in their late twenties and thirties, because I know most of them are starting to get serious about finding somebody, and I hate to waste their time. If you date a 22-year-old for a year and it doesn’t work out, she’ll be sad but she’ll get over it. If you screw around for a year with a woman in her thirties, she’ll be pissed.”

His sensitivity and perceptiveness impressed me, but his coolly rational compromise enraged me. Sure, he wasn’t wasting my time, but only because he wasn’t dating me at all! At 28, I was too old for a 36-year-old man.

I’d spent the better part of that year dating slightly older men, in the hopes that they would be more mature than men my age, or at least more interested in a serious relationship. With few exceptions, they weren’t. If anything, I discovered that men in their thirties were more screwed up about relationships and less interested in falling in love than men in their twenties.

Once when I was defending an ex-boyfriend—“He’s very aware of my feelings! He says all the time that he doesn’t want to hurt me!”—my therapist cut me off mid-sentence. “There’s a very simple solution for that,” she said. “He could stop hurting you.”

At the time this struck me as deeply wise and even revelatory; I left the boyfriend in question for good shortly after that conversation. It’s easy to scoff when a man says he doesn’t want to hurt you, and it’s tiresome, when you’re the one being let down, to hear how sad it makes him to keep hurting you. The funny thing is that they mean it; some men (and some women) just don’t know how to stop causing pain. They’re genuinely conflicted about what they want.

When Jeff told me he wasn’t interested in a relationship, I got angry. Rationally I knew he didn’t owe me anything: he hadn’t made any promises, he hadn’t betrayed my trust, and he was being what I always claim to want, which is straightforward and honest. But I was sick of hearing the same speech from every man I dated. As he struggled to identify and articulate his feelings, I snorted. “Bullshit,” I said when he was finished. His eyes widened in surprise. “You think so?” he asked, genuinely curious. “Yeah,” I said. “If you were really so worried about letting us down, you wouldn’t be dating women at all.” He was quiet for a few minutes, then said, “I see your point.”

“How come it’s always all about what the man wants, anyway?” I raged. “How about what I want? I want a boyfriend! One who’s crazy about me! Because I’m smart and funny and fun and I deserve to be more than just some girl you show up at 1AM to bone!”

“Wow!” said Jeff after I’d finished my tirade.
“You’re so right! You’re a great catch, and you totally deserve a real boyfriend.”
“I mean, I have a little sister, and when she asks for my advice about guys I basically tell her exactly what you just said.”
“So, since I’m not up for a relationship right now, I guess we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore.”
(Sound of me punching the pillow in frustration)

In retrospect, I am grateful to Jeff for his honesty. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but on the whole I prefer men who know themselves well enough and have a good enough understanding of what I’m looking for to save me the time and trouble of attempting to date them. My most serious ex took three and a half years to figure out that (a) I was (probably) not the girl for him and (b) he (maybe) didn’t want to be in a relationship after all. He was a champion equivocator, always trying to leave the door open just a sliver in case he changed his mind and wanted to come back again later.

Shortly after the Jeff debacle, a new guy asked me out. Hope momentarily restored, I went. We had a drink, and what I thought was a great time, and eventually we went back to my apartment and started making out. We stopped kissing for a few minutes and he began to explain why it would be a bad idea for us to sleep together, mentioning, among other reasons, his undefined quasi-involvement with a girl named Sage. Then he made out with me some more, told me he “hoped [I] understood” that he wasn’t “in a place” to date right now, and left my apartment at 5AM. A few days later I received an email from him: “Sorry that I’m not in a more available place, but, right now, I’ve got a lot of myself that I need to sort through.”

Months later, I found myself in bed with a man I liked enormously. I’ll call him Chris. Chris was quick-witted and fun, he read constantly and enjoyed talking about books, and he made me laugh. I liked him so much that I risked asking what had become, for me, the dreaded question. “I guess I’m looking to settle down with someone,” said Chris. I felt my whole body expand as it filled up with hope. Then he laughed.

“But whenever I say that, I realize as soon as I’ve said it that on some level it’s not true. I love women! I love dating! And I’ve never been able to shake that feeling of, you know, ‘What if there’s someone better out there?’ Also, I’m a guy, so I don’t feel any of that biological clock/time pressure stuff. I figure when I’m really ready to get married, I’ll find some nice girl and ask her to marry me.” I was quiet. He stroked my arm and tenderly kissed my forehead. “I guess the best way to put it is that, for a variety of reasons, some more legit than others, I’m just emotionally unavailable right now.” Then he noticed my face.

“Oh, no! I’m sorry!” he said. “Was that disappointing to hear?” “Well, yeah,” I said. “Plus it’s the eighth time this year I’ve heard that speech from a man.” “Oh, no,” he repeated. Then, thoughtfully: “It must be tough being a woman sometimes.” In the dark, I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, well, it’s no picnic.” He pulled me close and kissed me.

A few months after that, a different guy came home with me, sat down on my bed, and sighed. “I’m really attracted to you,” he said, “but I just don’t think it would be a good idea for us to get involved.” He then lay down on my bed and spent the next forty-five minutes explaining why—there were many reasons, involving various fears and feelings—until finally I cut him off. “Look, I get it,” I said. “I’m a big girl; I can handle rejection. But if this isn’t going to happen, I need you to leave.” He looked surprised, then hurt. “Oh! Okay,” he said. “No problem.” He left, and I stretched out on my bed and sighed. I was alone, but no more so than I had been three years, three months, or three minutes before.

One Woman’s Notes from a Panel on “How to Write a Book Proposal”

INSIDER TIPS to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure your voice comes through.
  2. The three topics that ALWAYS sell are: Lincoln, doctors, and dogs.
  3. Be sure to mention anyone you know in the writing/publishing world. (Reach out to Jhumpa Lahiri!!! Only met once at a cocktail party, but she liked your scarf.)
  4. Never close with the phrase, “I look forward to hearing from you.” Ask a question instead.
  5. There is no exact science to writing a successful book proposal.


Remembering Lincoln: One Woman’s Journey Across America with Her Doctor Husband and Canine Best Friend


Mine is the story of one plucky young-ish woman, Mitzi Feldman (me!), her adorable dog, Tootsie Roll, and her handsome doctor husband, Dr. Frank Antone. Together, Mitzi, Dr. Frank, and Tootsie Roll travel around the country visiting Lincoln memorials and pondering the rich legacy of our nation’s greatest president.


Why am I the best person to write this necessary and compelling story? Simple: I am in reality married to a Dr. Frank Antone (full disclosure: I may have to overstate his handsomeness for the purposes of this book). Also, I have a dog named Tootsie Roll, who is adorable. Does our little family really have a passion for Abraham Lincoln? Not yet, but for the right kind of book deal, we could!

About the Author

Mitzi Feldman is the author of seven cook books for dogs and the people who love them, including but not limited to: Fit for a Dog: Preparing a Meal Worthy of Man and Beast and Good Dogs Deserve Dessert. She maintains a very popular blog, “The Canine Caterer,” which receives over 3,421 unique visitors per month. Ms. Feldman is an avid reader of John Grisham novels, and she once met Jhumpa Lahiri at a cocktail party at her friend Magda’s apartment on the upper west side.

Outline/Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Dr. Frank and I book a flight to Buffalo (after discovering it takes eight hours to get there by train from New York City—who knew??). We hear there’s a gorgeous statue of Lincoln, America’s most admired president, in a local park there. In visiting the statue, we learn a great deal about life, love, ourselves, our marriage, etc. Tootsie Roll frolics adorably in the background.

Chapter 2

Our family visits a statue of Lincoln in Muncie, Indiana. Tootsie Roll makes friends with another little dog at the local dog run (photos available upon request).

Chapter 6

The mid-point of the book. Dr. Frank, Tootsie Roll, and I are South Dakota-bound. Mount Rushmore!!! The very name is majestic. It’s here in our nation’s heart that Dr. Frank and I hope to achieve a sense of inner peace while learning even more about life, love, the greatest country on Earth, and everyone’s favorite president.

Chapter 12

Dr. Frank and I visit another Lincoln memorial, this time in Chicago. At this point, we are learning more about the Civil War than we are about our marriage, because Dr. Frank and I will probably have stopped speaking to each other by then (we don’t travel together well). By the book’s end, I’ll be asking myself some tough questions about my marriage: is being married to a doctor all it’s cracked up to be? Could I have done better than Dr. Frank? What ever became of that nice Sam Roberts, and why didn’t I go out with him a third time? With Tootsie Roll by my side, I will bravely face an uncertain future.


I am fully prepared to do all of my own publicity. As a highly acclaimed blogger, I already have a built-in platform from which to promote this project. My blog reaches thousands of people per month, and, because this book will be a hybrid (part memoir, part travelogue, part self-help/relationship advice/pet training book) my project has a potential audience of millions (from Lincoln aficionados to dog lovers to women ages 19-59 who fantasize about being married to doctors).

Comparable Titles

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; Doctor’s Orders: A Medical Romance; Part Wild: One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs.

Think Eat, Pray, Love meets Assassination Vacation meets Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus meets Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog.

Sample Materials

I haven’t included any sample chapters in their entirety because a book like this will write itself!! All I need from you is an advance hefty enough to cover food, travel, and accommodations for two humans and one small dog for a period of 3-4 years.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Are you interested in receiving a fully written sample chapter? If so, please contact my agent, Dr. Frank Antone.

On Hating Terrorists

By Raina Lipsitz

I was not a New Yorker on 9/11. I was a coddled college sophomore, ensconced in a nicely appointed dorm room in New Haven, physically and psychologically far enough away from the city I would later call home to get through it all relatively unscathed. Watching images of the planes crashing into the towers and desperate Manhattanites clutching homemade signs, sick with worry for their missing relatives, I felt despair: what kind of world was this? But although I felt sadness, fear, and intermittent furnace blasts of hopelessness, I did not feel rage.

Why not? Partly because New York was not yet “my” city. And partly because rage felt beside the point; the men who’d crashed the planes were dead too. The United States hadn’t yet found and executed the “mastermind,” but, somewhat nonsensically, that didn’t feel as urgent to me as it would have had the actual hijackers escaped unharmed. My politics also made anger unlikely: I wanted the surviving “bad guys” to be caught and tried in court, but I don’t believe in the right of governments to assassinate or execute individual people. And I believed that my government had blood on its hands (which doesn’t mean I think we “deserved” 9/11; merely that I think acts of terror are never justified, whether they consist of U.S. soldiers bombing women and children in foreign villages or a band of extremists flying planes into American buildings).

I am not a Bostonian. But for reasons I don’t fully understand, the Boston marathon bombings—the latest act of terror in an increasingly terrifying world—pushed me past some internal tipping point. For the first time, I felt rage.

I fantasized about being there when the police caught and interrogated the men who did this. I pictured neo-Nazi perpetrators (the least sympathetic kind I could imagine), big, angry, male cops, and an extremely rough interrogation (even in my revenge fantasies, I am rarely the violent one). I thought about how much I’d enjoy watching terror bloom in the eyes of the skin-headed bastards cold-blooded enough to blow up an 8-year-old.

And then, last Friday morning, I saw photos of the suspects (one of whom had already been shot and killed by the police). I saw their faces. And while my rage didn’t disappear, its intensity faded. The suspect they hadn’t caught as of last Friday morning reminds me of my 21-year-old brother (big, bewildered eyes, tousled hair, dark complexion). The suspect they hadn’t yet caught is 19 years old.

19-year-olds can be dangerous. They can be murderers. But they can’t be more than 19 years old. A 19-year-old is a 19-year-old, for better or worse, in rich countries and poor. And an 8-year-old killed by a bomb is an 8-year-old killed by a bomb, whether that bomb was planted by Chechen terrorists in Boston or by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or Vietnam or Japan. Somebody’s baby is somebody’s baby.

It’s not that I didn’t want the 19-year-old who appears to have planted one of the Boston bombs to be caught. But, having seen his face, I badly wanted him to be caught and tried rather than tortured and killed. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if no 8-year-olds were ever bombed while standing on their streets or playing in their backyards, no matter what country they live in?

It’s hard not to feel that this is a lousy world. But rage doesn’t make it better. Revenge doesn’t make us safer. And hating the people who do things like this doesn’t reduce the number of people who do things like this. Tempering legitimate anger with compassion, which is far more difficult to summon, might help. It’s worth trying.

Love is a Choice, Not a State of Being

By Shulamith Firestone

Will you say, “I do” even when you think you don’t
And hope things can change in a day?
Will I say, “I love you” even when those are just words
The way words sometimes are when you pray?

–“Heading Home,” Nerissa and Katryna Nields

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to fall in love. I imagined that having a serious boyfriend would mean I’d be happy all the time, never feel bad about my body, and have mind-blowing orgasms on demand. Then I grew up and learned the difference between my romantic comedy-inspired fantasy of love and the real thing.

The real thing wasn’t bad. In certain ways, grown-up love lives up to the fantasy most of us have as teenagers. It does feel great to find someone with whom you’re sexually compatible, it is fun to have someone to go to the movies with, and it is wonderful to be told you’re pretty by someone other than your parents. At what felt to me then like the extremely advanced age of 20, I acquired my first boyfriend, and I loved every second of it. I made out with him on street corners, snuggled up to him in bars, and texted him obsessively. I talked about him nonstop. In an ill-advised bid to be treated like an adult, I dramatically revealed to my profoundly un-shocked mother that I was sleeping with him. It all felt thrilling and sophisticated and hugely significant. This was what it meant to have a lover! This was what it meant to be in love! I was finally sexually visible, in the precise way I’d always yearned to be: a boy had claimed me.

Of course we were students—on study abroad, no less—and neither of us had any real responsibilities. Fast forward to my mid-twenties, when I lived with a boyfriend for the first time. I loved him with such girlish intensity that the first weeks floated by like a dream; I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to share a bed with him every night. But soon the illusion broke and our life together seemed less and less idyllic. He left dishes piled up in the sink, worked constantly, and rarely expressed affection; I grew resentful and bitter and felt miserably alone.

At 30, I’m in love again, and we’re considering living together. I’m old enough now to know that love is not a glowing bubble that encases you in perfect happiness and makes it impossible to get hurt. It’s a promise; it’s a prayer; it’s a delicate balance that requires constant maintenance, seriousness of purpose, and good will from both partners. It can come and go in a day—but if you’re committed, you work hard to bring it back again. Love is a choice you have to keep making if you want to stay together. And it gets harder and harder to make as you get older and other pressures begin piling up (kids or no kids? where to live? how to make money and how to spend it?).

I’m still grateful for love. And amazed by it. But I no longer believe it can fix me as a person or free me from pain. Sometimes I wish I still did.

Things ex-boyfriends have said to me after I said, “I love you”*

by Shulamith Firestone

  1. I feel something for you that’s stronger than “like” but not as serious as “love” . . . I would say that I “loke” you.
  2. Who really knows what “love” is, anyway?
  3. I know.
  4. I don’t not love you.
  5. I’m not sure what you mean by that.
  6. I think you’re very smart.

*At least they were honest! If you’re not ready to say it, you shouldn’t. And in hindsight I’m grateful to these guys for crushing me in the moment rather than stringing me along for God knows how long.

Why don’t depressed people just snap out of it?

by Shulamith Firestone

A recent conversation with a friend of mine who has been depressed for years made me think about how we treat friends with chronic mental health issues. If you have known and cared about a person for a long time, and they never seem any happier than the last time you saw them, what can you say or do to help? What is decidedly unhelpful?

It’s hard to be a depressed person. You are tired all the time, and sad all the time, and live in a perpetual state of hopelessness and anxiety, with little reprieve from either. Some depressed people I know self-medicate with drugs and alcohol; most take legal, prescribed medication as well. Some are, amazingly, able to be good friends to others while trapped in their own private hell. Others are incapable of fulfilling the basic duties of afriend: they’re profoundly self-absorbed, bad at staying in touch, and have trouble talking or thinking about anything other than their own mental state.

But if you know someone is unable to be a good friend because they’re struggling with something awful that’s beyond their control, you can’t just drop them. You’re their friend! You’re supposed to care about them, and accept their flaws, and help them get better. Maybe you feel like you’re trying. Maybe you feel like you can’t tell them, again, that you think they should find a therapist/find a better therapist/stop talking to their ex/take medication/stop taking drugs. Now what?

Of course everyone’s different and there’s no perfect solution. I’m lucky to have many friends who are brilliant, sensitive, and creative; not un-relatedly, some of them are also depressed. Through a painful process of trial and error, I’ve learned that some approaches work better than others.

It helps to listen. It’s not helpful to say, “I feel the exact same way” or “I feel that way all the time” (unless you really do). It might help, a little, to say, “That sounds really hard.” I learned from one good friend in college that “You’re not the only one who feels this way” may not be the right thing to say (I thought that saying it would make my friend feel less alone; she told me it made her feel less understood, as if I didn’t think she was a unique person with an individual, specific set of problems).

Ultimately, it’s good to remind yourself that true depression is not a self-indulgent pose; it’s a clinical diagnosis. No one would choose to feel the way someone who is clinically depressed feels. So telling someone to “snap out of it,” “stop dwelling,” or “focus on the positive” is not only patronizing; it completely misses the point. If you know someone who is depressed, stop feeling guilty that you haven’t fixed them, and start cultivating patience and humility.