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Chi Lives: spinster's not a dirty word

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Last fall a producer for the Ricki Lake Show invited Beth Wade to appear on a program about women who marry for money. The producer had seen the northwest-sider's Bitter Barren Spinster Club Web site--a saucy send-up for confirmed bachelorettes that "lets us know that we are not alone, adrift in a 'singles-limbo' full of kitty litter, Diet Pepsi and frozen Lean Cuisine meals"--and wanted her to represent an opposing viewpoint.

"I feel like I sold my soul for a free trip to New York," says the 31-year-old Wade, who works part-time as an Avon lady, drives a 1973 Honda 350 motorcycle, and lives with two cats, two dogs, several fish, and a parakeet in her parents' basement. "I couldn't believe those women were for real, saying they only date guys who make $200,000 a year. I said something about how those women do a disservice to other women, because men think we're all like that. I said we should be self-sufficient. That men should be the icing on the cake--not the cake."

In 1999, Wade and a group of happily single friends used to kibitz at the Six Penny Bit, an Irish bar in Portage Park. "We were approaching 30 and our families and friends kept asking, 'When are you going to get married and when are you going to have kids? What's wrong with you?'" But she admits that the spinster-club concept also has roots in the breakup of a five-year relationship. She says she has a knack for attracting assholes. "I've dated them all. Convicts, drunks, adopted people, people with mother issues, stand-up comics--you name it."

For Christmas that year Wade made a BBS handbook, packed with tirades, clippings, lists, and advice, for a friend. The following month she launched the site, which is modeled along the same lines: The advice column gives tips on how to get people to stop nagging you to join a dating service ("Look around the Internet and find articles outlining the pitfalls of marriage"). Polls ask readers to fill in the answers to questions like "When I turn 30 I plan to . . ." (the winning response: "Nail an 18-year-old"). Elsewhere, Wade--who's known on the site as B.W. or MegaBeth--rants about marriage, Valentine's Day, aging, and "shaggy haired, 'vintage' clothes wearing, vegan men" who can't fix a flat tire.

It's all tongue-in-cheek, she says, but "when I say I don't want to get married and I don't want to have kids, people say, 'You're just saying that because you haven't met the right guy yet. You'll want to have kids.' When I was 23 I wanted to have kids. I was young and stupid. Since I'm older that desire has become less and less. Children are messy and noisy and expensive and time-consuming. They would really cut down on my 'me' time."

When the Ricki Lake episode aired last October she invited a bunch of friends over to watch. "There was a lot of screaming and laughing and hiding behind pillows," she says. Then came the fallout. "People sent me E-mail saying, 'Get over it, it's your problem--you just need to get laid.' It's mostly guys who say that. But there are women who don't get it, either. People think we hate men. We don't. I've given up trying to explain it. Either you get it or you don't."

Wade's working on a book tentatively titled "Caffeine and Nicotine: Life as a Bitter Barren Spinster." The Web site is at www.bitterbarren spinsters.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.

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