Created By: SomeGuy on December 15, 2010
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Old Maid

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When a female character reaches a certain vaguely defined threshold age-wise she will be treated with the most terrible of insults- "Old Maid". As in, no one wants to marry someone who is too old because all the cool guys only want young wives. Oftentimes this doesn't even have to be a literal threat- simply the idea that a woman is nearing the point at which she is incapable of snagging a husband is a horrific insult and reflects poorly on her ability to attract a mate. And, by extension, her real value to society.

Back when women's roles in society were, ahem, more narrowly defined, this trope was far more common, and was an expected part of gossip. Nowadays it's generally only used as a pejorative against women who clearly want to get a man to marry them but are apparently (not necessarily actually) unable to. Nosy parents eagerly wishing for grandkids are a rife topic for this.


Examples:

  • This is Mary's fate in the bad world George sees in It's a Wonderful Life. Apparently without George around she couldn't get married at all- which seems a little strange considering that earlier in the movie she was using an offer of marriage from Sam as a tool to try to make George jealous.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • December 16, 2010
    Arivne
    This appears to be Christmas Cake.
  • December 16, 2010
    TonyG
    Old Maid is the Western term. Perhaps make it a redirect.
  • December 16, 2010
    JohnDiFool
  • December 17, 2010
    EternalSeptember
    Make it a redirect
  • December 17, 2010
    Shale
    This is NOT Christmas Cake. Every attempt to rename Christmas Cake to something even remotely intuitive is met with objections that it's a distinct, though similar, trope from the western notion of a spinster or old maid. So instead of renaming it, we're making a trope that fits the western examples and has a name that doesn't suck. See here and here.
  • December 17, 2010
    Doxiedame
    I don't think it's Christmas Cake, really, rather that Christmas Cake falls into this. A Christmas Cake is something that should all rights still be appetizing, but since it's over a certain date, no one wants to eat. In other words, a young woman who has reached her culture/countrie's too-old-for-marriage age is still beautiful and vibrant, but is still seen as unwanted.

    An Old Maid would be someone who is past that age regardless of how sexy/attrative/pretty they are.
  • December 17, 2010
    Doxiedame
    Sorry for the double post, but to give examples.

    Selma and Patty, Marge's sisters from The Simpsons are Old Maid s. Not many would agree that they're "appetizing."

    However, a woman looking like Kate Winslet who just turned 26 and is therefore looked own upon for being unmarred can still be very attractive.

    Old Maid is more in line with the Spinster image, whereas Christmas Cake seems a bit more counter intuitive.
  • December 17, 2010
    randomsurfer
    On The Dick Van Dyke Show all of Sally's Man Chasing was due to her fear of becoming an Old Maid. During the run of the show the actress (and by extension the character) turned 40, which even now is considered pretty old for a never-been-married woman who doesn't want to stay unmarried.
  • December 17, 2010
    JoieDeCombat
    From the Christmas Cake article: 'Thus, "Christmas Cake" is used as a metaphor term for what Western audiences might call an "old maid."'

    Seems pretty clear to me that a redirect would suffice.
  • December 17, 2010
    Doxiedame
    Except that Christmas Cake seems to be more about attractive women whom most men would snatch up in an instant whereas Old Maid doesn't have to be seen as attractive by anyone at all.

    Look at it like this, would you call Miss Censordoll of Moral Orel a Christmas Cake?
  • December 17, 2010
    Shale
    This is the Internet. Be careful what you wish for.
  • December 17, 2010
    Doxiedame
    Ouch. I was no thinking, was I?

    Anyway, my vote is for making Old Maid as a super trope with Christmas Cake being a sub trope.
  • December 17, 2010
    Shale
    That's the reasonable way to go, yes.

    In its original context, the term Christmas Cake refers to a much more specific situation than the Western idea of an Old Maid. To anyone who's already familiar with the term, examples like Patty, Selma and Miss Censordoll don't fit the trope. To anyone who's not familiar with the term, it's unintuitive gibberish. A split is the natural solution.
  • December 18, 2010
    cathstuart
    How about some more examples than just Its A Wonderful Life? This is such a Dead Horse Trope. If it is something different in 'Eastern Culture', how about coming up with a name that reflects that, instead of just Old Maid? Eugh.
  • December 18, 2010
    Shale
    Besides the aforementioned three (Patty and Selma, Miss Censordoll and Sally? Okay, let's raid Wikipedia.

    • The title character in the 1930s film The Old Maid.
    • Katherine Hepburn in at least three different leading roles - The African Queen, Summertime and The Rainmaker.
    • At least one character in Sex And The City obsessed over becoming an old maid when she hit her late 30s unmarried.
    • I could go on, but I have a lunch appointment.

    The "Eastern Culture" version is Christmas Cake, which isn't going anywhere. Why should this trope have a name that reflects what it isn't?

    As for the name of the page, why reinvent the wheel? "Old maid" is the term that's existed for literally centuries. Shakespeare used it. Do you want to argue with Zombie Shakespeare? I don't.
  • December 18, 2010
    Marlborough
    Old Maid would be more ideal over Christmas Cake
  • December 18, 2010
    CrypticMirror
    There is no need to rename Christmas Cake, for one it isn't causing a problem, and for two the quirky names are part of the appeal of the site. Its supposed to be fun, if someone is looking for dry and straightforward then head on over to The Other Wiki, which people keep telling me we are not.
  • December 18, 2010
    Marlborough
    How is Christmas Cake more "quirky" than Old Maid? They both strike me as straightforward in what they attempt to accomplish. And the problem is that Christmas Cake is a lot more obscure and specific than the all-encompassing Old Maid.
  • December 19, 2010
    Elle
    No one (with a vested interest in this YKTTW) wants to rename Christmas Cake. What we do want is to rework it so it refers just to the Japanese concept, and Japanese works (or works set in Japan that use it). Currently, it's collecting examples that are technically just Old Maid, not specifically Christmas Cake examples.

    As for examples, trawl Christmas Cake for ones that don't fit by the above standard (but not me, it's bedtime).
  • December 20, 2010
    americanbadass
    Maybe a Redirect for westerners then?
  • December 20, 2010
    Meeble
    Since this is a super-trope of Christmas Cake, Christmas Cake should probably be linked as a "see also" in the description.
  • December 27, 2010
    SomeGuy
    That's pretty much it. The current plan for examples on this trope is to go through the Christmas Cake references and just poach the ones that do not refer to Japanese women over the age of 25.

    I'm not sure how much of the page will be left at that point, but the description is more oriented toward the Useful Notes rubric anyway.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=916qk7oqk1rjai975hsodv3u