Marriage was once immutable, like forests and wild animals and clean air. It was as inevitable and reliable as the tides. But it isn’t inevitable anymore, nor reliable. With the majority of the people in the United States now single people, not married ones, we’re looking at a clearly more fluid entity when we look at marriage. But, just as I hated that Atlantic cover that asks us to conflate the rise of women with the end of men, so do I hate being told that the rise of single people means the end of marriage. It doesn’t. Marriage is alive and well and being entered into by more couples now than it ever was, thanks to gay marriage. Has it changed? Yes. The forever marriage we aways idealized has gone the way of clean air, and the kind of wife we’ve always always idealized—the perfect one that made more wives unhappy than it did happy, may be mercifully gone. Because here’s the thing those scary magazine and newspaper headlines forget to say: Women changed marriage. We changed it intentionally.
Archive | October, 2011
A very long piece in The Atlantic this month has pointed out several things we’ve been talking about in my books and blogs for over a decade. Which only illustrates the extreme disconnect between what has been going on statistically in this country for years and what the culture wishes to deny. The author of this piece, “All The Single Ladies,” Kate Bolick, tells us many things, among which are that marriage has changed. That women, who are on the ascent in the workplace, no longer need men to put a roof over their heads, which frees them to choose men for emotional rather than strictly financial reasons. That many men, who are not on the ascent in the workplace and aren’t earning as much as they once did, are not as traditionally “eligible” as husband material of yore…which means choosing a husband for financial reasons isn’t a winning proposition. That traditional marriage was predicated on the men-as-provider; women-as-nurturer model, and if we still have a yearning for that model, we have a decidedly shrinking chance of getting it.
First, notice how The Atlantic entitled its two major articles this year regarding women’s ascent in the workplace and the shifts in the marriage landscape. The first was “The End of Men?”, and this one, “All The Single Ladies.” Both are Scare Titles, reminiscent of newspaper headlines in the 80s that sent those women hoping to find husbands OUT of the workplace and back into the home, while recapitulating the preposterous idea that if women do well, men plummet. Continue Reading →
I’d rather talk about weightier issues than relationship etiquette, but I just heard for the second time this week about another person who ended a relationship by email. I can’t stand it: How rude and cowardly can you get? It was a woman, alas, so we can’t blame it on gender cluelessness.. She said she just “didn’t have it in me” to do it in person “after two years of being together”– which is clueless.
You HAVE to do it in person. You just have to avoid these five pitfalls:
1. Don’t try to win his approval. You can’t reject a partner and simultaneously get his blessing. You’re here to do dirty work and you both know it. So do it without asking for reassurance.
2. Don’t ask “Can we just be friends?” Ick. You’re not in high school. Why pretend your offer of not sleeping with someone anymore is an exciting opportunity? Why pretend that cavalierly offering to take someone’s love but not his body is anything but a booby prize? Have respect for your former lover’s comprehension abilities. You may end up friends, but it’ll be awhile if it happens.
As a passionate advocate for women, and obviously therefore an advocate for putting women at the helm not only of corporations, but of cities and countries, I nevertheless think it’s dangerous to suggest that women are so benign, so aggression-free, that all violence would vanish if we alone were running things.
The front page review in Today’s New York Times Book Review section is of Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has written brilliantly on linguistics, says that violence in our era has decreased more than it ever has, and for a host of reasons– one of which is the effect of women. Noting this, the reviewer, Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton, writes, “The empowerment of women does, Pinker argues, exercise a pacifying influence, and the world would be more peaceful if women were in charge.”