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Old Maid
aka: Christmas Cake

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Always being one.
Never being two.
Re-arrange the furniture,
There's nothing else to do.
Keep an empty house.
Watch your brothers wed.
Dream an empty dream at night
Upon an empty bed.
Old maid! Old maid!
Lizzie, 110 in the Shade, "Old Maid"

When a single female character reaches a certain vaguely-defined age threshold (anywhere from 25-40, depending on whom you ask), she will eventually be subjected to the most terrible of insults: "Old Maid". The underlying assumption is, of course, that a woman's value exists only in how successfully she serves and pleases her husband and family, so a woman who is unable to snag a husband is a pathetic worthless failure at life who deserves contempt and ridicule, particularly in older stories from times where traditional gender roles were more strongly enforced. A woman doesn't even have to be called an old maid outright to be threatened; even the hint that someday she might become an old maid — usually because she's not acting in a sufficiently conformist way — is enough to make her either conform or fall into despair.

The insult is still used today, along with the just as insulting "spinster", but mostly as a generic inflammatory comment towards women that the speaker doesn't like. Reference will often be made to cats, homely appearance, detestable demeanor, being a lesbian, loneliness, and uselessness. Nosy parents who are wanting for grandkids or are worried about their child's happiness are a rife source of this, as well.

While not invariable, the reasons for their never marrying may bring them more or less sympathy. Never marrying after the intended bridegroom of an Arranged Marriage died may be regarded as honorable; if it was a love match, it may be regarded as romantic. This can apply also if the man had to marry for reasons of honor — or state. Having your heart broken by a cad, or quarreling with a sweetheart, may also be romantic, and makes the character less pathetic than an old maid who never managed to attract anyone — but the Proud Beauty who rejected a whole slew of offers only to find her beauty faded and herself unable to attract a man may be regarded as suffering Laser-Guided Karma.

An associated Japanese concept is the Christmas Cake (formerly a separate trope): the idea that just as a Christmas cake stops being desirable after December 25, a woman stops being desirable for marriage after age 25. This has since given way to the less popular "New Years' Noodles", where the age limit is increased to 31 (after December 31).

The relatively rare romance is usually December–December Romance. The commonest plot is New Old Flame for an old maid who quarreled with her love. A Second Love is possibly for a woman whose true love is deceased. Old Flame Fizzle is rare but not unknown. This is sometimes reinforced with tropes like Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced, with women leaving the main story after they grow old or start families.

Supertrope to Maiden Aunt. All other examples should be listed here. Male counterparts to this would be the result of Loners Are Freaks, Basement-Dweller and You Need to Get Laid. Compare White-Dwarf Starlet. But don't confuse with an actual domestic servant of advanced age or experience.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Yumika in Amai Seikatsu is 25, later 26, and nearly everyone (including herself) treats her like she's an old woman since she isn't married yet.
  • Asobi Asobase: Chisato Higuchi isn't that old, but she has a huge complex over not being married yet (especially considering three-fifths of her female friends during high school are already married), and at one point notes that she's older than her mother was when she gave birth to her. A Running Gag consists of her having Felix Mendelssohn's Wedding March as her phone's ring tone, further showing how fixated she is on the issue.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Despite being at least in her mid-20s, Yukari implies that she's never been in any romantic or sexual relationships, which clearly bothers her. She once gives her class a pop quiz just because one of her friends got married. The next day, however, she seems smug that her friend had apparently "rushed into things". This is in sharp contrast to Nyamo, who drunkenly reveals that she has a very storied past in this regard... and yet, she's also single throughout the series, to her dismay. This trait is generally less present in the manga compared to the anime, which dedicates a whole episode to Yukari and Nyamo's marriage woes.
  • Bleach: In the anime, Rangiku Matsumoto's age is a very sore point for her, with one filler episode going so far as to even create a male version for the sole purpose of having one kid press two berserk buttons by referring to Rangiku as "oba-san" and Yumichika as "o-san" in the same conversation. The anime later takes Rangiku's age references even further by making it such a big issue in the Zanpakutou Arc that it's actually the reason why Rangiku's zanpakutou, Haineko, is angry with her. Averted in the manga, where it's never an issue for either Rangiku or Yumichika, making it an anime-only trope.
  • In A Bride's Story, it is mentioned that the newly-wed Amir is a bit old for marriage. She's twenty, and her husband is twelve. A bit of Truth in Television because Asian girls at the time did tend to be married off in their early teens.
  • Case Closed:
    • Subverted. 28-year-old detective Miwako Satou was offered a matchup by her mother since she looked as if she Must Have Lots of Free Time, and hence, would become a Christmas cake. Which turned out to cause a Wedding Deadline-like moment for her boyfriend, Detective Takagi. Really not helped by how the guy Satou Sr. wanted for her daughter was Takagi's romantic rival, Detective Shiratori.
    • Subverted in an earlier case, too. The victim is Sayuri Matsumoto, a Christmas Cake that was Shinichi and Ran's middle school teacher, and even when she's getting married now, she's still past the "average age" of 25. The would-be killer was... the groom, hell-bent with revenge since her father caused his mother's death many years ago. They do reconcile and get married for real... but only several years later.
    • In the "Distinguished Family's Consecutive Accidental Death Case", the eldest daughter Nobuko not only is single while her younger sister Yasue is married and her brother Hieomi is engaged... she is already 39. It doesn't help that she treats her brother's girlfriend Miyuki (herself a little past the limit) like shit; her father reacts via openly citing the trope.
    Nagato: I apologize for my daughter's behavior... I believe she's like this since she hasn't been able to get married.
    Conan (inner thoughts): With a personality like that, she never will.
  • A recurring Crayon Shin-chan character is Ume Matsuzaka, the class teacher for Futaba Kindergarten's Rose Class, whose lack of a boyfriend at age 24 is a Running Gag mentioned more than once throughout the series.
  • In Girl Friends (2006), Narumatsu-sensei is rather sensitive about her age, since after she mentions that she hasn't been on a date since she was in high school ten years ago, she insists that Mariko "Mari" Kumakura, one of her students, not try to calculate her age. Of course, she has recently gotten married, but she's not very happy about her husband.
  • Gregory Horror Show: The Second Guest is an unmarried woman who is, if Judgement Boy's observation is true, in her late twenties/early thirties. The fact that she chose her career over her boyfriend (resulting in him breaking up with her) and that she had to watch her best friend marry the guy actually turns out to be the root of all her mental problems. Poor woman...
  • Happy Negative Marriage has a Rare Male Example, and one more focused on the social expectations than on the individual's own insecurities. Keita doesn't particularly want to be married, but the company he works for expects that men will be married by 30. Its compensation plans are set up to favor married men, project management is unofficially restricted to men who can head a family, and its singles dorm kicks out anyone who turns 31. Keita's boss also forces him into a marriage interview at the instigation of his mother; ignoring a "request" from one's boss is tantamount to suicide. But, you know, nobody's forcing him to get married. Everything goes well for completely unrelated reasons.
  • High School Ninja Girl, Otonashi-san: Aya Kunitachi is still husband hunting at age thirty. To her dismay, the man she falls for, Kariya, is a Jerkass who considers her an Abhorrent Admirer due precisely to her age, despite being 32 himself. To him, there is a significant difference between thirty years old for a man and for a woman.
  • Midori from I'll Bring You Mille-Feuille! is almost twenty-seven and obsessed with finding a husband... Despite being gay. Her friend is unamused by her wants to have a beard and states she's only hurting herself.
  • Lucky Star: The main characters' world history teacher, Nanako Kuroi, is 27 years old and is secretly insecure about still being single. She mistakenly assumes that Konata's cousin Yui is also single and attempts to bond with her over it, even though Yui is actually in a commuter marriage.
  • Mr. Right Turned Out to Be a Younger Woman!? stars Haruki Shiina, a 33-year-old woman who is desperate to find a boyfriend while she still can, not to mention sensitive at how Risa Takagai, a woman ten years her junior, is already about as good at her job as she is. While Haruki is treated sympathetically overall, her desperation sometimes leads her to make rash decisions, and is implied to have ended her relationship with her last boyfriend.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Midnight, who is a history teacher at U.A. High, flies into a rage when Mt. Lady takes a jab at her age (she's 31) and the two end up in a Cat Fight in a talk show. Doesn't help that Midnight is known as the 18+ Hero (with an S&M motif) so has an obligation to maintain a sexy image.
    • Pixie-Bob, a member of the Wild Wild Pussycats, gets so sensitive about her age, she grabs Midoriya by the face and tells him "I'm 18 at heart!" forcing him to agree. Moreover, she's desperate enough to "call dibs" on Midoriya, Bakugo, Iida, and Todoroki "in three years." Lampshaded by teammate Mandalay when Aizawa asks about it: "She's getting desperate. She's at that age."
  • Naruto: Shizune, as shown in one of Shippuden's omakes where she whines about how she's unmarried at age 31, (due to having spent alot of years accompanying Tsunade and having to make sure she did not get into too much trouble) unlike Kurenai who has already a boyfriend. Becomes Harsher in Hindsight when said boyfriend, Asuma, dies.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Touko Kuzunoha is the calm and composed Shinmeiryuu mentor of Setsuna. At least, she's calm and composed most of the time. When the scheme of the Big Bad in the Mahora Festival Story Arc went off without a hitch, ruining her love life, and leaving her a future where she'll remain an unmarried 30-something, she snapped.
    Kataragi: It could still work out...
    Touko: I'll be in the magic world, and on top of that, an ermine! What the bleep kind of long-distance relationship is that!?
  • Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy: As you might expect, the protagonist Y-naga cares more about food than romance, but she still stresses about being 31 and unmarried, and struggles to find a man.
  • Patlabor: Shinobu is in her mid-late 20s and a dedicated police captain of the Special Vehicles 1st section. As such, her mother worries about her chances of marriage, fearing she may be injured before she finds a husband. While Shinobu appreciates her mother's concern, she appears to be in no rush to get married. Though, given the way she and her fellow captain, Gotoh, relate to each other, you'd think she already was.
  • Phantom Quest Corp.: Ayaka realizes she isn't getting any younger and wonders if she'll ever find that "special someone". So she sometimes asks Madam Sumei to read her fortune, only to be told her chances are nil. Though it's subverted, since she knows Detective Karino is in love with her and she isn't above flirting with him. But she doesn't make it easy for him either.
  • RahXephon: Haruka Shitow is 29 years old and has presumably remained unmarried due to still carrying a flame for her childhood sweetheart Ayato, whom she lost when she was 16.
  • Read or Die: Yomiko Readman is 25 years old in the OVA, and 30 in the TV series and lives by herself in an apartment full of used books. She used to have a boyfriend/lover in Donnie Nakajima, but he died ...and it turns out that Yomiko was the one who sent him to his end in the manga. In the anime, it's implied Joker killed him off, though it's never explained what happened. Though, the manga clarifies that it's both: Joker arranged for Yomiko to be forced to kill Donnie. When Yomiko found out at the end of the manga, the events of the anime backstory happen. She still has a couple potential suitors. It's just that neither of them are men.
  • Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Moriko Morioka is 30, unmarried, and a socially awkward NEET. She believes herself, at 30, to be "practically an old maid" and wonders why any male would be interested in her, and thinks wearing a bikini is something for younger women to do, not herself.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, Mizore Shirayuki is a yuki-onna, and her race can only bear children from the mid teens to mid twenties. She is forced into an Arranged Marriage so she can marry and have kids. She tries to escape by going to the one she is in love with, stripping, tackling him, straddling him and begging him to have sex with her. The next three chapters show very explicitly- Mizore's problem is not that she personally wants to have children. It's the fact that her particular version of 'arranged marriage' means 'legally bound, forever, to be the Sex Slave, or watch said slaver destroy your hometown and everyone in it.' Nothing justifies her attempted rape of Tsukune, but it's understandable that she got a little crazy. (We see Mizore's fiancée sexually violating her later in the manga, incidentally. It is the trauma of this that drives her to attempt suicide.
  • School Mermaid: The third story has a school gym teacher named Noriko join in on the mermaid hunt because she nearing 30 and desperately wants a boyfriend that's she willing to invoke the mermaid spell to get one. The disturbing thing however the object of her curse is a school-aged boy.
  • Spy X Family: Yor finds a man who's willing to be in a Fake Relationship with her (and later a Marriage of Convenience), but only because an unmarried 27-year-old woman draws the scrutiny of the Secret Police, and that's the last thing an assassin needs. However, her and Loid's marriage slowly undergoes a Romantic Fake–Real Turn as they both grow to care for one another and Loid's daughter Anya.
  • You're My Pet: Sumire is viewed by her coworkers with a mixture of awe and hostility for being a 28-year-old working single woman whose high education and intelligence scares away men. She does find a patient boyfriend in her first crush, Hatsumi, but in the end goes the Likes Older Women route and hooks up with Takeshi who is 8 years her junior.

    Fan Works 
  • Not as Planned is about a girl from our modern world who falls into The Lord of the Rings, but has no chance to marry famous characters like Legolas or Aragorn. When the girl is twenty, she is already an old maid. To escape this label, she enters a loveless marriage.
  • In Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy, it's brought up by Mrs. Berkowitz, who is worried her twenty-year-old tenant Linda Danvers is clinging to a guy she just met because she's afraid of becoming an old maid.
    "I see a nice woman like you. 29 and you ain't never been with a man. Am I right?"
    "That's right," nodded Linda. "Not... before Dev, that is."
    "So you know this man? How?"
    Linda drew a breath. "I know this man very well, Mrs. B. A lot more than you'd believe?"
    "Oh? You do? How, Linda?" She held up her hands again to stop Linda's reply. "Listen to me. Yesterday you go to Mr. Clark Kent's wedding, the nice man whom you met in Metropolis when you was in the orphanage. You were excited, sure, but not like you are today. I even think you were a little sad. Now, today, you're up in the air, your feet don't touch the ground unless they're anchored. You say you met him after the wedding."
    "That's correct," Linda said.
    "In other words, this gentleman sweeps you off your feet just after you see two people get married, and you're maybe thinking that you're never going to go to your own wedding in your lifetime. Also correct?"
    Linda opened her mouth. No words came out.
    Ida Berkowitz looked at Linda with some pity.
  • In The Eternity Effect (a sequel to Not Completely, Altogether Here), which takes place roughly in the late 1800s, Pfannee is 26 and already considers herself to be too old to be unmarried. She says that she's lucky if a man even looked at her as a marriage prospect.
  • Master and Student: In this Mob Psycho 100 gender swap Reigen(female) is constantly reminded of her Christmas cake status. Even Mob's mother talks about it, giving Mob (female) the unhealthy idea that she needs a boyfriend right now because she needs to be married by the time she's twenty five.
  • Parodied in Touhou Project fan works. While most character ages are ambiguous even in the Worldbuilding Bonus Material, and most bosses in the games are canonically Really 700 Years Old anyway, there are certain characters that are categorized into an "old maid alliance." This generally gives them an excuse to be depicted dressing up in silly clothing in an attempt to be seen as younger and getting angry when addressed as "obaachan" (or "Ma'am"), even when it would only be proper.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane! is an American film but has a character bemoaning the fact she is twenty-six and still not married.
  • An Autumn Afternoon: The fear of Michiko becoming one drives Shuhei's desire to find her a husband, and thus most of the movie's plot.
  • Becoming Jane:
    • Jane Austen falls in love with Tom Lefroy and they plan to elope, but Jane breaks if off and she remains single. We see her as a woman approaching a middle age unmarried, but she appears satisfied with her lot in life. She's an admired writer.
    • Cassandra Austen gets engaged early in the movie, but her fiancée dies. Like her sister Jane, she never marries.
  • It's not directly addressed in the movie, but the novelization of Crimson Peak has a character wondering why 36-year-old beauty Lucille Sharpe is unmarried, because "she must have had chances." In the film's 1901 setting, this is even more unusual than it would be today; the protagonist, Edith, is 24 and endures sniping about her chances of dying a spinster. Of course, it turns out that Lucille is homicidal and sleeping with her brother- and likely too traumatized to ever have a functional romantic relationship anyway.
  • In Darby O'Gill and the Little People Katie gets warnings about becoming one of these if she doesn't settle down soon.
  • Katherine Hepburn fit this trope in at least three different leading roles: The African Queen, Summertime and The Rainmaker 1956.
  • The Heiress plays with this trope and ends up being one of the few works to portray it positively; the main character never marries her Gold Digger love interest or anyone, and is shown to embrace spinsterhood and be confident in herself in a way she never was when she had to worry about the prospects of marriage.
  • A notable example in It's a Wonderful Life: when George wishes he never existed, he discovers, to his horror, that his wife is (gasp) an old maid.
  • In Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer, two films by Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko Hara plays a woman in her late 20s named Noriko who is unmarried. She is pretty much OK with being unmarried, but in both movies her family thinks that this is a major problem, and they decide to make an Arranged Marriage. In both she gets matched up basically against her will to an older man the audience never sees. The difference is the ending; one is a Downer Ending in which she's badgered and pressured into going through with the marriage, while the other is a less depressing ending in which she instead marries a different man she has genuine feelings for.
  • Toula of My Big Fat Greek Wedding is only 30, but her parents seem to think she needs to get married right away.
  • The title character in the 1930s film The Old Maid.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Marion is motivated to set the film's action in motion that is, steal $40,000, and run off with it in order to pay off her boyfriend's debts so he can marry her in part because she is over 35, and desperate to get married. The film was released in 1960, and audiences believed this character motivation. When Gus Van Sant remade the film shot-for-shot in 1998, with a younger Anne Heche as Marion, the motive vanishes. Aside from the age of the character, an audience in 1998 was not inclined to believe a woman would commit a felony to avoid being an old maid.
  • In Robin Hood (2010), it is mentioned that Lady Marion didn't marry until her early thirties, and was already established as an old maid by that time.

    Games 
  • In the card game, the point is to avoid being stuck with the Old Maid card, the only unmatched one in the deck.

    Literature 
  • Jane Austen:
    • Charlotte of Pride and Prejudice. This concern only really shows up when Elizabeth objects to Charlotte marrying Mr. Collins under the assumption she's doing it to help Elizabeth's family. Charlotte tells Elizabeth point blank that she [Charlotte] is a 27-year-old single woman with no prospects and no family—the fact that the marriage also helps solve a problem of the Bennetts is only an added incentive.
    • Sense and Sensibility:
      • Elinor is only 19, but based upon easy-going remarks from acquaintances (that aren't meant to be cruel but still hurt Elinor), a few people think she should marry soon. For the 1995 film adaptation, Elinor was aged up from 19 to 27, because Ang Lee, the director, thought that a 19-year-old worrying about spinsterhood would strain the modern audience's credulity.
      • The trope is alluded to by Marianne, who notes that a woman of 27 would be lucky to marry the 35-year-old Colonel Brandon since she's past the age at which she could properly feel anything anyway.
    • Emma:
      • Miss Bates never married, and there's no indication that there was ever anyone she might have married. Her ordeal is quite hard, because she comes from a respectable genteel family, but after her father's death the family lost their chief source of important income and they are poor. She takes care of her elderly mother and she adores her niece Jane who is an orphan.
      • Discussed when Emma talks about her intention of never getting married. Harriet thinks it is a dreadful thing to be an old maid like Miss Bates, but Emma argues that a rich single woman of consequence can command as much respect as anybody, and be as pleasant and sensible as anybody else. She thinks she has an active mind and will always have something to occupy herself with, and her sister has five children, so she will have people to love later in her life as well without having to get married.
    • In Persuasion, the female lead character, Anne Elliot is considered nearly unmarriagable due to her age — she's 27.
  • Avoiding becoming an Old Maid is the motivation of Irma Prunesquallor in Gormenghast. She marries an eighty-six year old man out of desperation, meeting him after holding a party with no women invited, wherein the only invitees were hopelessly pathetic professors of the castle's school.
  • Washington Square plays with this trope and ends up being one of the few works to portray it positively; the main character never marries her Gold Digger love interest or anyone, and is shown to embrace spinsterhood and be confident in herself in a way she never was when she had to worry about the prospects of marriage.
  • Bridget Jones considers herself to be a spinster, though she is just over thirty and has had some serious relationships, so she could as well see herself as a young modern woman.
  • Alix Crown in Quill's Window is an especially blatant example, as she is attractive and wealthy in addition to being single at twenty-five. Incidentally, she does have a good reason for this, as legally she would stand to lose many of her legal rights if she were to get married.
  • In the Little House books starring Laura's daughter, Rose, the Wilders board an old maid teacher. Rose's town friend, Blanche Coday, sings a mean song about how she must be ugly if no one wants to marry her. Rose asks her why, thinking to herself that her blind Aunt Mary is an old maid. Blanche basically shrugs and says that what everyone says. After some mishaps, the teacher does end up married.
  • Jo of Little Women was originally meant to be this, as Alcott was quite intent on showing that marriage is not the most important thing in the life of a woman and being an old maid is perfectly okay. Sadly, she had to give in to fan pressure.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
    • Katarina's personal maid Anne is in her early 20s and approaching the point where women find it difficult to marry. Katarina and her father, Duke Claes, are both worried about her not being able to get married, so when Anne's father comes with a marriage partner the duke is relieved. However, Katarina can't bear to part from her maid and close friend and begs her not to go, leaving Anne to call it off. However, Anne is secretly relieved because even apart from her proposed fiancee being a creep, she doesn't like her own father and didn't want to get married in the first place. She's much happier serving Katarina and truly adores her, so becoming an old maid isn't just okay, it's actually what she wants. If she doesn't marry she can stay with Katarina forever.
    • The head maid is a straighter example. She wasn't as pretty or outgoing as her sisters, so she focused on her career instead. When she got promoted to head maid she focused even harder to show she deserved the job. Before she knew it, she had become the strict no-fun boss that nobody really likes even though she's actually quite a kind person and has lots of girly hobbies like making sweets. Katarina helps her open up a little and, unlike Anne, she was rather lonely and is surprised to find a young gardener courting her not long after.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Arianne Martell is only 23, but is considered to be one of these. After all, she lives in a world where marriage at 14 is far from unheard of. Still, while she wants to get married, she doesn't suffer the usual social consequences of being a so-called Old Maid — after all, she is a princess and the heiress of Dorne, she is obviously very attractive and can lead a sexually liberated life and lives in a region where contempt for unmarried women is mostly non-existent, in contrast for the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.
    • Lollys Stokeworth is unmarried at 33. Her mother, Lady Tanda Stokeworth, is desperate to marry her off to produce an heir, because her eldest daughter, Falyse, is childless despite being married for ten years (her husband is unfaithful and prefers the company of maidens over her). Too bad that Lollys is obese, dimwitted, and loathed by pretty much everyone. Then things get worse when she ends up raped by fifty men during the riots at King's Landing, thus making her Defiled Forever. Eventually, Bronn decides to accept Cersei Lannister's offer to marry Lollys, and though he obviously uses her as a Meal Ticket he seems to have some fondness for her.
  • In The Thorn Birds, this idea is referenced several times. Meggie is nearly twenty-five and has never dated due to her continued love for Father Ralph. This leads her to quickly marry Luke O'Neill. Meggie's daughter, Justine is similar, at the end of the novel, she is nearly thirty, and is not close to marriage, but ends up finding love in her longtime friend, Rain.
  • Charlotte M. Yonge's The Clever Woman Of The Family (1865) achieves two twists on this trope: At the beginning of the book, Rachel is secretly happy to have reached age 25 without marrying, because her family no longer expects her to marry, and she would prefer to be an old maid. By the end of the book, though, Rachel has married, in spite of her age and disinclination.
  • In Lonely Werewolf Girl, Thrix falls (reluctantly) into this category, not so much due to her being a werwolf with a borderline psychotic family, but more to her being a chronic workaholic.
  • Gone with the Wind:
    • Scarlett is not an example, but she considers herself to be unmarriageable at 19 years old, worrying that her chances for remarrying are slim due to her age, ("Men always prefer silly young things") and the fact that she is also a widow with a child. Scarlett eventually marries two other times, she wasn't so much worried about remarrying (with the exception of Ashley), she was more worried about being considered homely and unattractive.
    • The book refers to a woman who is considered a spinster at 25. Extreme example but Justified Trope considering that girls married very young in those days.
  • The Gargoyle: The trope is referenced by name and explained in relation to Sayuri and her family; she disregards the 'rule' and goes off to America, where she eventually meets and marries a man named Gregor, although the wedding comes a bit late, and well after 25.
  • In The Age of Innocence, Newland Archer's sister Janie is indicated to be approaching this point. When her mother balks at giving away her wedding dress, wanting to save it for her daughter, she is reminded that Janie is "nearing the age where pearl grey poplin and no bridesmaids would be more appropriate", rather than the elaborate ceremonies meant for younger brides.
  • V. C. Andrews:
    • In Garden of Shadows, Olivia mentions that at 24 years old she was already considered an "old maid." She rapidly deludes herself into thinking that she loves Malcolm Foxworth because she believes she will never have another chance at marriage.
    • Olivia Gordon of the Logan Series marries a man she doesn't love — partly to show that she can land a wealthy man like her sister, but also because she's close to this trope and all the girls who attended school with her are now married.
    • In the De Beers series, Willow's cousin Margaret worries about being too old for marriage and is envious of Willow marrying young.
    • An extreme example is mentioned in Heaven. The hill people marry very young (Heaven's own mother was 13 when she married). Heaven's grandmother advises her to wait until 15, considered a daringly late age, because she would then be old enough to make a sensible choice.
  • L. M. Montgomery visits the topic of the old maid and Maiden Aunt frequently in her books. Often the old maid character was either prevented from marriage by an overbearing father, or a quarrel, or an outstanding duty to a family member (something Montgomery herself was familiar with, as she delayed her own marriage many years in order to take care of her grandmother.) Some specific examples:
    • Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables was courted by John Blythe, but they had an argument for which Marilla was too proud to forgive him. By the time she came to regret this, John had moved on, eventually marrying another woman and having a son with her. Later in life, Marilla takes some consolation in the fact that John's son Gilbert and her adopted daughter Anne have fallen in love and married.
    • Miss Lavendar Lewis in Anne of Avonlea has a similar story: her engagement to marry Stephen Irving broke off due to a quarrel, after which Stephen moved to America and Lavendar became an old maid. This time, however, the story has a happier ending. Now a widower, Stephen sends his young son Paul to attend school in Avonlea while Anne is teaching there, around the same time that Anne meets and befriends Miss Lavendar. On a whim, Anne introduces Lavendar to Paul, who writes a letter to his father... which inspires Stephen to return to Avonlea and ask Lavendar to marry him.
    • In "The Materialization of Duncan McTavish", an old maid tells some girls that she had once had a romance and quarreled with him, to prevent their pity and contempt. It works at first — she becomes popular and interesting for the first time in decades. Then... well, the title tells you the rest of the plot. They do end up married.
    • In Emily of New Moon — book three — Emily's Quest, the Murray family eventually gives up on finding Emily a husband, concluding that, eccentric, artistic, and temperamental as she is, she'll never settle down to be a proper housewife.
  • A Rose for Emily tells the story of Emily Grierson, an old maid whose father dominated her and kept her from ever meeting men. She took up with a handsome fellow, but just as it seemed things were getting serious, he vanished. The townspeople therefore refer to her and treat her as an Old Maid, but are never really sure...
  • In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, Stepmama's friends commiserate with her, marrying a man Unable to Support a Wife in a suitable style — but Kat knows that she snatched him because she was already aging unwed.
  • Domina Adelheid von Stechlin and the other members of the foundation for unmarried noblewomen in Kloster Wutz in Theodor Fontane's Der Stechlin.
  • Amer of Tooth and Claw, despite the fact that she, like every other character in the story, is a dragon. Her role as a servant to the Agornin establishment is implied to have saved her from the fate most female dragons in her situation would've suffered. In the setting, a female is either a maiden, married... or dinner.
  • In The Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia Tarrabotti is considered a spinster in the alternate Victorian world the books and manga take place in, though she would still be considered rather young by modern standards.
  • In A Brother's Price, there is a family of old maids, who sell their business to Jerin's sisters because they don't have any daughters who could inherit it. As women in this culture are of marriageable age as long as one of their sisters is fertile, they are really old maids.
  • Patience and Sarah: Patience starts the book at age twenty-seven. She's already considered getting on in age and is difficult to marry off to anyone but a widower. Patience jokes that she's already an Maiden Aunt. Patience's deceased father guessed she'd never marry, but her brother tries to provoke her to settle down. Patience doesn't necessarily dislike the idea of marriage. She just isn't interested in marrying a man.
  • Forbidden Sea: Auntie Minnah, who never married and lives with the Keynnmans, dotes on Adrianne's little sister Cecily while openly despising Adrianne, and Adrianne eventually realizes why - Minnah is full of bitterness about being unwanted, and as the plain, second-best older sister, Adrianne reminds her of herself.
  • Rosaleen among the Artists:
    • Rosaleen is adopted as a child by three middle-aged siblings: Morton, Amy, and Julie Humbert. None of them ever married.
    • As Nick's cousin Caroline reaches her late twenties, she becomes increasingly afraid that this fate will befall her. Her greatest desire is for a husband, but while many men are attracted to her, none of them want to marry her.
  • Ellen Mary Jakes from The Hampdenshire Wonder narrowly escapes this fate, being so plain that she is still single at forty-two. She has resigned herself to spinsterhood when she learns that former cricket champion George "Ginger" Stott is looking for a wife in order to have a son he can train into a great cricket player. She goes up to him and makes her case for why he should marry her, and Ginger, who is borderline asexual and willing to marry any woman who can give him a child, agrees.
  • The Young Diana:
    • The titular protagonist is a spinster in her forties who lives with her parents. When she was a young woman, she was strung along for seven years by a man who eventually abandoned her, and was unable to find another one before she became too old to be considered marriageable. Her parents are desperately ashamed of her, no matter how hard she works around the house to make them comfortable.
    • Diana's friend Sophy Lansing is a happily unmarried thirty-five-year-old suffragette who is grateful to have escaped the Awful Wedded Life of many of her friends.
  • American Fuji: Alex meets a 25-year-old woman who is unhappy with her current boyfriend, but fears that if she leaves him, she will not be able to find another boyfriend. The trope is also a source of much misery for expatriate Gaby, who keeps getting lectured by older men about how, now that she's in her thirties, she should try and settle down with a man.
  • Fear And Trembling is a semi-autobiographical novel by Amélie Nothomb in which she describes her disastrous experience as a foreign Office Lady in a Japanese corporation, her immediate superior is an unmarried 29-year-old woman. It's hinted that her parents are desperate to see her get married before she turns 30 (which she doesn't).
  • In the novel Flower Drum Song, Helen Chao is a plain girl who hopes to marry Ta because she's getting on in years (she's mid-twenties and unmarried!) to the degree that she gets him drunk and date rapes him. When he rejects her, she kills herself rather than live as an Old Maid. For what it's worth, in 1950s Chinatown, laws prevented marrying outside one's ethnicity and immigration quotas meant that there were more men than women - meaning females could be very particular about who they married.
  • High School D×D: Rossweisse stresses about never even having had a boyfriend... despite being similar in age to her sudents, and a Valkyrie (later half-Devil) in a series where supernatural beings have life expectancies in the quadruple digits. Her previous employer was a Dirty Old Man who was undermining her self-esteem to improve his own chance (yes, that's Odin by the way). That said, of all of Issei's lovers/fiancees, Rossweisse is the one who dresses and acts like an adult: Vague Age aside, Rossweisse is a teacher.
  • No-Rin: Bekki Natsumi claims to be 40 years old, but only looks to be in her mid-20's. She often makes it a point to mention her single status to her class a lot as well, which often sours their mood but also breaks up any arguments that may have been occurring too.
  • Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With A Mythical Sorceress! Tanya, a 25 year-old mage, is unceremoniously kicked out of her adventuring party by her fellow party member Ryan. His justification? She's around the age where she should start thinking about settling down, finding a husband, and starting a family.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Gender-Inverted: For a poor male noble like Leon, their only chance at having a decent life is to attract a wife before turning 21, and just having to hope it's not someone abusive. Otherwise, they will be Cannon Fodder likely to die by Uriah Gambit for widow pensions, or Made a Slave by the Forest of Ladies conspiracy. As such, a significant part of the story is Leon learning to throw the perfect tea party as part of these efforts. Basically, the story treats being assessed by a Gold Digger criteria as being equivalent to a woman being assessed only for her body, and uses that for a Persecution Flip.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • At least one character in Sex and the City obsessed over becoming an old maid when she hit her late 30s unmarried.
  • Considering Desperate Housewives stars characters that all seem to be constantly fluctuating between married and single in their mid 40's. This either averts the trope or plays it straight with everyone rapidly seeking relationships to avoid this.
  • The titular Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman calls herself this, depressed about her looming 35th birthday with no husband to speak of, a major taboo in those days.
  • Liz Lemon's constant worry in 30 Rock; her parents bother her about it, too. "It's Never Too Late For Now" has her temporarily embracing "spinsterhood", wearing baggy clothing and a Chip Clip in her hair and adopting a stray cat, which she names Emily Dickinson in the wake of the end of her relationship with Carol. This ends in Season 6, when she gets herself a good boyfriend; and is confirmed done in Season 7, when she gets married.
  • In Doctor Who, there is the vaguely Bridget Jones-esque companion Donna. She was going to get married right before the Doctor poofed into her life, however. Literally, it's her wedding day. On the other hand, in a flashback, she was seen begging her boyfriend to get married and the wedding was only being held to keep her around for a nefarious plot her fiancé centered around her and the coffee she drank every morning. Still, she did wind up happily married in Forest of the Dead. This ends rather abruptly, when it turns out that her children don't really exist and she and her husband were actually "saved" in the dream world of a child-computer and the two are "uploaded" along with everything else. She figures that her husband never existed and leaves just as he calls out to her before being teleported home. Poor Donna has terrible luck... She finally gets married at the end of The End Of Time.
  • The unbelievably stunning Joan in Mad Men would nevertheless appear to be headed this way, judging by the reaction in an episode when an ex-boyfriend distributed a photocopy of her driver's license with the birthdate circled; she's 31, which is pretty far along for a single woman in 1962. Perhaps in panic, she found a nice doctor a year or so later and married him. No more waiting for her much older lover to divorce his wife. Except, as it turns out, he's a complete douchebag, who doesn't get the surgical position he desires and joins the army (just in time for The Vietnam War). She does end up having a child — by Roger, the aforementioned older lover, while her dick of a husband is away. However, things don't quite work out between her and Roger, and she ends up divorcing her surgeon husband and embracing the life of the successful professional single mother, ending up founding her own production company for promotional films, while Roger (who, it should be noted, always keeps a soft spot for Joan even if they aren't currently together), after marrying and ditching his even-younger secretary, ends up with Don's second ex-wife's possibly-divorced (Quebec in the '70s wasn't entirely liberated) mother.
  • The Nanny:
    • Fran Fine has more in common with the looming age limit variant of this trope, especially during the early seasons of the series.
    • C.C. Babcock is a more subdued version. She's in her thirties and not married, and she keeps thinking she will end up with Fran's boss.
  • Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, at least as far as her mother is concerned. Notable in that Lwaxana never thought being married should restrict her activities except for who she slept with, and holds the same views with regards to her daughter; she just wishes her daughter would hurry up and get hitched. Which she does, to a human Starfleet Officer (Riker); following in her mother's footsteps.
  • Carnivàle's snake charmer Ruthie (who has a son and has no intention of getting married), bearded lady Lila (whose whatever-that-is relationship with Lodz isn't marriage), and Iris Crowe (whose relationship with her brother doesn't leave too much time for getting married).
  • The title character of Ally McBeal is severely insecure about her age, her inability to form a viable relationship with a man and her "biological clock". These insecurities of her is often the butt of other (similarly aged and unmarried) female characters' jokes, but it is implied that she is just being crazy over nothing, and her actually celebrating her 32nd birthday (instead of, you know, spending the day wanting to die) in the show's last season is treated as a sign of huge character growth.
  • A Different World. When the girls go out to celebrate Whitley's birthday, Freddy's order is described by the waitress as "the spinster special". When Freddy takes offense to the name, the waitress snarks back, "You got a man?" At this point, Jalesa sheepishly declares, "Better make that two spinster specials." When the waitress asks if anyone else wants it, all of the women in the group raise their hands.
  • Downton Abbey (Edwardian Era England):
    • Lady Mary borders on this trope when she's still unmarried in her mid-20s. Violet is keen to see her get married "before the bloom is quite gone off the rose." After her husband Matthew dies, this problem shows up with Mary again, although being a widow is more respectable than being a spinster.
    • After Mary marries Matthew and Sibyl marries Branson, the parents start to wonder about Edith (who repeatedly worries that she is to become the "maiden aunt", and whom Cora commented was most likely to take care of her parents in old age).
  • Lampshaded by Eun Bi from Flower Boy Ramyun Shop in the first episode when she laments that nobody will want to date her since she's twenty-five.
  • Straight example with Cristina, the main character of Chilean night Soap Opera Soltera otra vez (Single again). The series follows Cristina in her search for a new flame and her interactions with others. The radio ads for the series took the trope and ran away with it, too.
  • On My Name Is Earl, a friend of Earl's named Jasper purchases a Mail-Order Bride from Russia over the Internet. Part of the reason he bought her in particular (in spite of the huge mole on her chin and a rather abrasive personality) is that the agency he bought her from offers free shipping if the women are over 30.
  • Friends: Monica's mother nags her to get married so she can avoid this. Bear in mind the series is set in the modern day and Monica is only twenty four at the beginning, and thirty when she does get married. Justified as Judy is an emotionally abusive Jerkass, and clearly ridiculous in thinking stunningly attractive and kind-hearted Monica won't get married. Despite her abuse having zero logic, Judy does leave Monica with serious insecurities regarding this trope. Luckily though, Monica's best friend Chandler's efforts to prove she won't die alonenote  directly lead to them falling in love and getting married, long before the rest of the main characters.
  • Discussed on Game of Thrones. Not only is middle-aged Brienne of Tarth unmarried and never been in love, she had never even had sex before falling in love with Jamie. Before him, the few men who approached the subject with her were either not her type or not concerned about her consent. However, occasional hints are dropped that she may be asexual rather than unlucky in love, with a Single-Target Sexuality towards Jamie.
  • On Good Eats, Alton remarks that doing popcorn a certain way will result in fewer "old maids". An old lady comes up and hits him with her Handbag of Hurt.
  • Kamen Rider Drive's Rinna Sawagami is 29 years old and often refers to her worries of being too old for marriage. In one episode where a Monster of the Week is looking for a bride, he even rejects her as too old. By the Kamen Rider Mach movie she is finally engaged to her co-worker Otta, although they seem to have an on-off relationship.
  • Parodied in Married... with Children when Kelly laments that "some of my friends from school are already collecting alimony from two ex-husbands!", while she herself hasn't been married even once, all while barely into her twenties.
  • ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?: Grandfather Antonio brings up this trope when he is discussing his niece Patria's marriage prospects. Meeting her new husband (he is not Cuban-American and cannot speak any Spanish) only reinforces his opinion:
    Antonio (in Spanish): Those who wait too long have to settle for choosing among the discarded ones or...the so-so onesnote .
  • Schmigadoon!: The village women gossip in the introductory song that Emma is unmarried at 28.
  • Total Divas has Natalya making a crack about Summer Rae still being single when she's nearly thirty. It's clearly a Berserk Button for Summer - as she slaps Nattie so hard she breaks her nose.

    Music 
  • Rilo Kiley's song "XMas Cake" appears to be about this trope. The lyrics tell the story of a woman who is "twenty-five years old (with) a bachelor's degree" but has no job prospects and already looks "old and defeated" without her makeup on.
  • 22 in which Lily Allen laments for her 30-year-old protagonist:
    It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over,
    There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say,
    Until the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder,
    It seems so unlikely in this day and age.
  • The American folk standard "I'll not marry at all" is a rather positive portrayal; it essentially list a long litany of types of men, gives (more or less good) reasons why they aren't husband material and the chorus is:
    I'll take my stool and sit in the shade,
    for I'm determined to be an Old Maid,
    and I'll not marry at all, at all,
    and I'll not marry at all.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In America, we have former WWE General Manager Vickie Guerrero, a middle-aged but still reasonably attractive woman who is relentlessly mocked for being "fat" and "ugly." Edge, however, genuinely loved her and once almost married her, making him a cake eater.
    • However Vickie is now visibly more attractive than she used to be and this is referenced by her being called a cougar by everyone. It's only Jerry Lawler who still makes jokes about her weight.

    Theatre 
  • Larita of Easy Virtue. She and John like to tease each other about the age difference; he jokingly refers to her as "Grandma".
  • In Hello, Dolly!, Ermengarde is driven to tears when her uncle, Horace Vandegelder, won't let her marry her boyfriend. Her reason? "I'm seventeen and in another year, I'll be an old maid!" Mr. Vandegelder replies that if she turns out to be an old maid, he cut her off without a cent.
  • Parodied in the Li'l Abner musical, which gives Daisy Mae the song "I'm Past My Prime," lamenting that she's an old maid at 17. Apparently in the Deep South girls are supposed to be married at an even younger age.
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic's nanny Ruth (canonically 47 according to the script, but various productions may take considerably liberty upward with this) is one.
    Pirates: Ruth is very well, very well indeed! There are the remains of a fine woman about her!note 
    • and later, when Frederic asks Ruth herself:
      Frederic: Compared with other women, are you beautiful?
      Ruth: I have been told so, dear master.
      Frederic: Ah, but lately?
      Ruth: Oh, no; years and years ago.
  • Lizzie in The Rainmaker and its musical adaptation 110 in the Shade is 27 years old, and has had no luck in finding suitors. When Noah tells Lizzie she's going to be an old maid, the words drive her numb with fear before the thought of her brothers marrying one day and her being a Maiden Aunt to their children sends her flying into a hysterical despair.
  • Marian the librarian in The Music Man with the first motive being her mother saying "this might be your last chance", although she presumably gets married at the end.
  • Charmian from Antony and Cleopatra laments her lack of a husband and children to the point of becoming deadpan about others' love situations.
  • In Picnic, Rosemary is a spinster schoolteacher in late middle age who is utterly terrified of being an old maid. She openly begs her boyfriend Hal to marry her, and at the end of the play more or less browbeats him into agreeing.
  • In Dream Girl, Georgina isn't quite twenty-four yet, but sees that as "practically thirty" and worries about her age a lot, with a character in one of her Dream Sequences referring to her as "this spinster."
  • In act I, Scene 2 of the famed William Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet Juliet's mother seems to think she is a Renaissance Italian version of this. Makes sense considering that Lady Capulet was already a mother at Juliet's age (13), but everyone else sensibly believes Juliet might be a bit young to get married. Her father has a whole speech in which he says that he wouldn't consider her even eligible for marriage until she's sixteen, only capitulating later when he's drunk and grieving his nephew. On top of that, church records show the average age at first marriage when the play was written wasn't that far from what it is today, meaning even the first audience would have thought Lady Capulet was being pretty hyperbolic.
  • Ruddigore: Dame Hannah states that she has pledged herself to an eternal maidenhood after being forced by ethical and moral considerations to stand up her love at the altar many years before.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier series:
  • In Brütal Legend, the demonic Battle Nuns are a parody of this trope. They are self-conscious and all too eager to have Emperor Doviculus' demonic babies, right there, in the middle of the battlefield.
    "I should be breeding now! I'm not getting any younger!"
  • Dragon Quest V: If the Hero doesn't marry Debora, she will complain about nobody wanting her because she is older.
  • Professor Manuela from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a former opera diva in her mid-thirties and frequently bemoans the fact that she's getting older and thus less likely to find her true love. Dorothea, in her late-teens and then early twenties, worries about the same thing as she pursues her own romantic interests, believing that once she gets too old, no one will care about her beauty or her Beautiful Singing Voice enough to marry and take care of her.
  • Persona 5:
    • One of the potential Love Interests, Sadayo Kawakami, has a second job in a Maid Service that requires her to put on an sweet and naive act for her clients. Because she's older, this makes it harder for her to pull off, and as result, she doesn't get many customers. As such, she gives this as justification for why she's ok with the Protagonist using her service, despite being his homeroom teacher. The reason she has said second job? Being blackmailed by a former student's abusive guardians for money after he died in an accident, shortly after she'd been forced to stop tutoring him. As such, Joker's arc with her is to change them to break her free of her debt and renew her passion for teaching. She is the most hesitant entering in a relationship with Joker, with her becoming a form of mother-figure to him if their bond is platonic.
    • Sae Niijima is hinted to be in her early 20s. When her new boss is told that she won't be allowed to prosecute Shido, he condescendingly reminds her that she hasn't found a husband yet, and suggests that she can use her time off to find one, which doesn't make Sae any happier about the news.
    • Ichiko Ohya is one of the potential love interests. At one point during her Confidant arc, Joker pretends to be her underage boyfriend to her boss (to justify why she'd been so tight-lipped about her recent behavior — she'd actually been investigating something he'd explicitly ordered her not to). He says that she's too old and unattractive for him to believe that she could possibly be going out with someone as young and good looking as Joker.
  • Bonnie MacFarlane from Red Dead Redemption is only 29, but given the time period (1911) she's considered a spinster. When she gets kidnapped towards the end of the first act of the story, the In-Universe newspaper says that it can't have been for "personal" reasons (meaning rape) because she's a washed up old spinster and no man would find her attractive. She develops a crush on the protagonist John (who unbeknownst to her for a while is Happily Married) when he shows up as a charming and mysterious stranger to her father's ranch. The crush is so obvious that even his wife Abigail teases him about it. However, it's mentioned in the epilogue that takes place three years later that she has gotten married.
  • The thirty year old Muffy from the Story of Seasons series is always lamenting her failure with men (one of them even dumped her specifically because of her age), and in the Japanese version of Harvest Moon DS, her parents even try to arrange a marriage for her (in the American version, they just try setting her up on a blind date)! She's also one of the available marriage candidates in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon DS — in DS, she'll also eventually end up marrying Griffin if the player doesn't marry her, though in A Wonderful Life, she and Griffin will merely remain in a state of perpetual UST.
  • Raine Sage of Tales of Symphonia makes more than one reference to worrying about her age. All the more ridiculous because, as an elf or, rather, half-elf she'll live for about a thousand years. She can, indeed, pursue romantic involvement with the much younger main character.

    Visual Novels 
  • Chizuru in The Eden of Grisaia ruefully admits in the afterstory that she really does need to get married soon if it's every going to happen at all, but unfortunately the only person she's shown any interest in and can meet with often is ten years younger than her, her student and her family wouldn't approve of him. However, she does have a bonus sex scene that would fit into the canon ending where Yuuji basically has a harem that has her quit worrying about appearances and just go for it.
  • Liar! Uncover the Truth: App Matchmaking: One of the heroine's life goals is to get married before she turns 30, and at the start of the game, she realizes that she has only 100 days left before that. Furthermore, Kathy the fortune teller tells her that she will never get married if she does not get married by 30.
  • Kyoko Kobayashi of Season of the Sakura is 29 years old and is occasionally teased by the protagonist for being single, much to her annoyance.

    Webcomics 
  • A Fake Affair: 30-year-old Shoko Hama has given up on husband-searching because the combination of her social awkwardness and looking older makes her unattractive. When she meets a younger Korean man on vacation, she has an "affair" with him after accidentally lying that she's married. She can't admit she's single when their paths cross numerous times after that because she believes he wouldn't actually date a woman that old and is only in it for the thrill of the affair.

    Web Video 
  • The Victorian Way: Mrs Crocombe is a servant, so her "Mrs" title is honorary. Like other servants, she's not married. However, video "The real Mrs Crocombe" revealed that the inspiration for this character (there really was a cook of this name in Audley End House) later left the service and got married when she was in her early to mid forties.

    Western Animation 
  • Miss Censordoll of Moral Orel. To make it worse, even though she's only 40, she looks even older than that. It's implied that having her reproductive organs removed as an infant caused her to age badly.
  • Miss Prissy from Looney Tunes. Many of her appearances involve her trying to snag Foghorn Leghorn as a husband, by hook or by crook. Or by rolling pin.
  • Patty and Selma from The Simpsons. They were shown to be (for the most part) rather content with their lives, until their Maiden Aunt Gladys passed away and (despite opening her video will with a reading of "The Road Less Traveled" by Robert Frost), implored them to find husbands and not die alone like her. (She even gave Selma her grandfather clock as a reminder that her biological clock is ticking. Selma takes this as intended, while Patty just views it at face value.) Selma begins a desperate search for a husband (and though she does find several, all her marriages end in divorce). Patty doesn't seem to care much about finding a man, and it's eventually revealed that she's a lesbian. Both of them were often depicted as hideously ugly, with revolting personalities to match, and voices that were unattractively deep and raspy. (Partly because it's In the Blood, and partly because of decades' worth of heavy smoking.) Their aunt Gladys was even mistaken for a man at her open-casket funeral! (She was also shown to be something of a Cloud Cuckoolander in her video will, such as keeping a pet iguana that she held like a baby, and referring to a bunch of irregularly-shaped potato chips as her "children.") It's also revealed that at least part of their intense dislike and maltreatment of Homer stems from resentment that their younger sister got married before they did.

    Other 
  • In China, women who are unmarried past the age of 27 are called "sheng nu", or "leftover women" even in state-run media.
  • This trope inspired the name for a cocktail consisting of muddled strawberries, light rum, cognac, pear liqueur, vanilla syrup, lime juice, and egg white (for body). Originally, it was called "The Bachelor", but it was more popular with women (particularly older single women), so it was renamed "The Spinster". When one customer complained to the bartender that he "might as well call it the Social Stigma", the name stuck.
  • The oft-quoted article from 1985 about a study (now recognized as severely flawed note  ) that states that a woman over the age of 30 has a better chance of getting killed by a terrorist than of getting married.


Alternative Title(s): Spinster, Christmas Cake

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