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"Then who opens the pickle jar?"
October 13, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

All The Single Ladies - "In the cover story for the November issue of The Atlantic, which just came online, 39-year-old writer Kate Bolick explains why she hasn't gotten married and why many of her friends haven't either." (via The Hairpin: an email interview and a link to a video interview with the author)
posted by flex (219 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Indeed, my single friends housed me as I flew around the world to research this article; by the end, I had my own little (unwritten) monograph on the very rich lives of the modern-day single woman. Deb gave me the use of her handsome mid-century apartment in Chelsea when she vacated town for a meditation retreat; Courtney bequeathed her charming Brooklyn aerie while she traveled alone through Italy; Catherine put me up at her rambling Cape Cod summer house; when my weekend at Maria’s place on Shelter Island unexpectedly ballooned into two weeks, she set me up in my own little writing room; when a different Courtney needed to be nursed through an operation, I stayed for four days to write paragraphs between changing bandages."

This should have been at the beginning.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 10:44 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Indeed, my single friends housed me as I flew around the world to research this article; by the end, I had my own little (unwritten) monograph on the very rich lives of the modern-day single woman.

One hopes she chose to describe their lives as "rich" advisedly.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


I wish I knew more people with rich lives, so I could sponge off them.
posted by biffa at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2011 [29 favorites]


For all the changes the institution has undergone, American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do.

Dolla dolla bill, y'all.
posted by Trurl at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


Do I want children? My answer is: I don’t know.

Too late.

At the rate things are going, the next generation’s pool of good men will be significantly smaller. What does this portend for the future of the American family?

The definition of "good man" changes.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:55 AM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


She makes a good point when she notes that the contemporary view of marriage as a romantic/legal union is not much more than 100 years old (in European society).
posted by KokuRyu at 10:56 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do.


Isn't the whole point to shrink that stupid tradition and make everyone equal? She says this like it's a bad thing.
posted by spicynuts at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see so many unhappy sham marriages around me that I welcome any initiative that gives us more alternatives to marriage.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:58 AM on October 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do.

The last time I checked most feminists were wanting more equality in education and salary for women, which I am all about. But on a statistical level if you have more equality in education and pay you are necessarily going to have a smaller pool of men who are "more educated and earn more" than women. To bitch about this is trying to have your cake and eat it too.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:58 AM on October 13, 2011 [61 favorites]


If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace—and of course it is—today we’re contending with a new “dating gap,” where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players.

True of both sexes, I would think. If it's a marketplace -- and of course it is -- the problem may not be with just the consumer, but with the product. That's the single person's unacknowledged nightmare.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:00 AM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Do I want children? My answer is: I don’t know.

Unless the answer is "yes" I'm pretty sure the answer is "no." It's not like ordering Thai. You'd better be pretty committed.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:01 AM on October 13, 2011 [39 favorites]


Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and ..."

Boo fucking hoo.
posted by Melismata at 11:01 AM on October 13, 2011 [24 favorites]


Interestingly, she seems to place blame on her baby-boomer proto-feminist mother. I won't be surprised to see this as the trend throughout the rest of my adulthood (blaming the misplaced but well-meaning values of baby-boomers, that is; but not proto-feminism per se).
posted by jabberjaw at 11:01 AM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.

But we're on the brink of a new era where it is also a contract for a man to own a man or a woman to own a woman.
posted by The World Famous at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


“Then who opens the pickle jar?”

You know what? I really suck at opening jars. Turns out my boyfriend is really good at it. (It works out OK, though. The other day he called me into the bathroom, shrieking from behind the shower curtain, to kill a bug for him.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Heterosexuality continues to confuse the heck out of me.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I flew around the world...Chelsea...Brooklyn...Cape Cod...Shelter Island...

"Around the world?" I don't have time to read the article at work -- did she actually travel to more places than that? Because that's more like "around New York City with a side-trip to Long Island and Cape Cod". (Unless that's the Chelsea in London, I guess.)

Oh, New Yorkers, never change.
posted by The Tensor at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2011 [52 favorites]


You run the pickle jar under hot water to more easily open it is what you do.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


She says this like it's a bad thing.

To be fair, I think she's saying it like it's a major change.

the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment

Well duh. Why do you think any man wants to be rich in the first place? To fuck hot chicks, i.e. from later in the article, "Why marry if you don’t have to?"

I see so many unhappy sham marriages around me that I welcome any initiative that gives us more alternatives to marriage.

I am married myself (ha), but I agree. I've long supported Alternatives to Marriage.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


you've got 6 more years

Then they take you out in the back and shoot you because you're USELESS.

WTF?! Demi Moore has been doing just fi....

scratch that.
posted by stormpooper at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I think "trends" are really confirmation bias. Most of my friends from high school (graduated in 1998) are married with several children. The fact that my partner and I have a domestic partnership makes us oddballs. I don't know any single women my age.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:03 AM on October 13, 2011


I especially like one of the comments in the Atlantic's forum, posted by someone named "Archdukechocula"

Here it is:
"The unfortunate reality that feminism has ignored for so very long now is the nature of human biology and psychology. Men place a higher value on sex and access to sex because a single sexual encounter can potentially pass on their genes, and especially find women sexually attractive who display markers of fecundity (red lips and cheeks, certain hip to waist ratios, large breasts, etc). especially if sexual access is low cost and the woman has other markers of genetic fitness (which can include intelligence too). Women place a higher value on relational stability and the economic and genetic resources of a partner because they have to bear the costs of reproduction in the form of pregnancy and early child rearing. Humans have come up with myriad ways of dealing with this conundrum, but no society has ever overcome human nature. It is ignorant to imagine that in a society where relationships are entirely at will, you can have your cake (relational stability, high value mate, economic security) and eat it too (personally unable to offer fertility, sexually unattractive, limiting sexual opportunity for the partner, etc).

"The problem right now is, everyone has been taught to believe that only the ideal mate is acceptable. But, naturally, only a very small percentage of the population falls anywhere in the "ideal" category. Therefore, it is a seller's market. Those who have high value qualities are in very high demand. It is why rich energetic men can play the field with ease and why sexy young women willing to sell their sexuality via the media can command a very high price on the market. But the bottom 80% of men who aren't well educated stable high income earners and the bottom 80% of women now trying to find a partner but who have passed their most attractive years are both finding it difficult to get what they want. They have unreasonable expectations for what they can get relative to the actual demand for their traits. This isn't something mysterious. It is a large shift in supply and demand resulting from the creation of a "free" market that was made possible by the Women's Rights movement.

"Society is definitely reorganizing and redefining its notion of what a relationship is about. The thing is, people don't want to accept the realities of the new system. Everyone wants the best of both worlds. Nothing ever quite works out that way though. We've picked our poison. Might as well drink it with a brave face. "
posted by Vibrissae at 11:04 AM on October 13, 2011 [46 favorites]


The reason I've never married is I want to make sure I am in a financially comfortable position and can take care of myself and not be a burden on another.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:05 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


“Then who opens the pickle jar?”

Is this a euphemism?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:05 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heterosexuality continues to confuse the heck out of me.

Tab A goes into Slot B.
posted by bondcliff at 11:06 AM on October 13, 2011 [25 favorites]


Unless the answer is "yes" I'm pretty sure the answer is "no." It's not like ordering Thai. You'd better be pretty committed.

I know a couple where the guy didn't want any kids and the girl wanted lots of kids. Seemed like a bad idea. Her mother said, 'Oh, you can compromise!'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it's a marketplace -- and of course it is -- the problem may not be with just the consumer, but with the product. That's the single person's unacknowledged nightmare.

But of course we are all consumers and products simultaneously.

Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count

As a mathematics educator I feel one of my colleagues has not done their job.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:06 AM on October 13, 2011 [46 favorites]


After many years in a relationship in which my partner and I earn about the same, I find it hard to imagine one much different (either earning much less or much more). Money issues (not to say problems, mind) are nonexistent. We split rent. Shared items are paid for by both of us; individual items, big or small, are paid for individually. There is never a thought, not for a second, that someone "shouldn't" have spent money on something. It doesn't enter into it.

*However*, that means that rather oddly, I'm potentially (if single again) faced with the prospect of taking a woman's income into account, which is mostly still (I think) an unusual and frankly unpalatable idea. Though roughly equal income seems more justifiable than looking for someone else to pay the way to comfort.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:06 AM on October 13, 2011


I went to a college that, a decade ago when I started, was more than 50% women and more than 40% GLBT identifying students. Dating for a lot of people was difficult since the ratios were very unlike other schools, but there was still a lot of dating. A lot of hooking up, but also a lot of dating.

All that said, this article completely ignores the fact that more than just the ratio of men to women have changed on college campuses, in the workplace, etc. and that that is impacting marriage....

I know she mentions something about having children and something about gay marriage forcing heterosexuals to look at marriage creatively, but really....she's completely ignored another HUGE HUGE factor in how the entire dating sea and the fish therein have changed so significantly, or maybe just openly, in the last thirty years.
posted by zizzle at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1944, a new Family Law was passed, which essentially freed men from responsibility for illegitimate children; in effect, the state took on the role of “husband.” As a result of this policy—and of the general dearth of males—men moved at will from house to house, where they were expected to do nothing and were treated like kings; a generation of children were raised without reliable fathers, and women became the “responsible” gender. This family pattern was felt for decades after the war.

What? Usually this works the other way around. You put the policy in place because men are not in a position to provide whatever it is the state has to step in to do. Speaking as a single mother produced welfare brat, this narrative is absurd. The functional difference between state funded support or no support would not have been to make my 19 year old father a better father, for example, it would have probably meant state enforced adoption or starvation, depending on your era.

Cultures where there are less resources for unwed mothers don't have more responsible men, they have women relying on irresponsible men. For a person who travelled the world she certainly hasn't gone very far in her explorations of other people's lifestyles.
posted by Phalene at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


“Then who opens the pickle jar?” ... Is this a euphemism?

If so, then I do not recommend hitting it with the blunter side of a butter knife.
posted by zippy at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2011 [26 favorites]


I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again.

Uh Huh. Um, no. No you haven't. It's not like a new wardrobe or vacation spot. The right mate is as much about allowing room to grow into yourselves as it is loving the present.

YMMV
posted by yoga at 11:09 AM on October 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I know a couple where the guy didn't want any kids and the girl wanted lots of kids. Seemed like a bad idea. Her mother said, 'Oh, you can compromise!'

Did they perhaps start a dog kennel?
posted by echo target at 11:09 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


$100 says this will be turned into a movie starring kate hudson and matthew mcconaughey.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


...And that the movie will end in a marriage.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


I flew around the world to research this article

What a lazy, anecdata-filled article. Even the OKCupid blog posts are more informative than this.

The Economist recently did a cover story on this same topic which was actually informative and covered several countries.
posted by benzenedream at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are a lot of interesting things that she touched on without going into further depth. Like the whole trend towards het couples owning property and having kids together without any desire to get married. My parents basically sat me down and told me I had less security in my relationship by choosing to not marry my longish term partner. And of course there is this underlying assumption that I secretly want to marry him because that's what women want. When actually, no, we're on the same page with the whole marriage thing because this is something we talked about and didn't assume to know the other person's wishes.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:13 AM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


The reason I've never married is I want to make sure I am in a financially comfortable position and can take care of myself and not be a burden on another.

I find this attitude toward marriage really interesting because it's the exact opposite of my own. One of the great things about being married is that I'm perfectly free to burden someone else, economically, emotionally, whatever. Right now I'm not making very much money at all; I could be, but for the sake of my long term career prospects I've chosen a position making very little. Without a wife, I would have to take the higher earning option and hope to hell that my later career survived. Sample goes for my wife, when she's been unemployed or in school or what have you, we've survived on my income. Sometimes I don't know how single people do it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:13 AM on October 13, 2011 [32 favorites]


The reason I've never married is I want to make sure I am in a financially comfortable position and can take care of myself and not be a burden on another.

Yeah, well, the reason I've never married is that no one wants to marry me. Life is hard.
posted by Melismata at 11:16 AM on October 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


These spinsters are OUT OF CONTROL
posted by zemblamatic at 11:18 AM on October 13, 2011 [24 favorites]


What a lazy, anecdata-filled article

The only way I could have known it came from The Atlantic rather than Cosmopolitan was the oppressive length.

Next month: "5 Reasons The Tea Party Doesn't Think Romney Is All That"
posted by Trurl at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


So I've been the 'Allan' in the article, and it was absolute shit. I put piles of effort into the relationship, building possibilities for a future, and it was swept away by some cold feet at the eleventh hour. The 'Kate' of my relationship had pulled something nearly identical with her prior husband (oh hindsight, how are you so twenty-twenty?), and kept up a longtime friendship with him after their divorce, and she suggested we do the same. But it's a bullshit arrangement, throwing away a relationship and trying to keep your favorite parts, regardless of the needs of your (now ex) partner.

Beyond my personal issues, the article is just plain bad. I think Mr Fabulous' comment hits it on the head:

The last time I checked most feminists were wanting more equality in education and salary for women, which I am all about. But on a statistical level if you have more equality in education and pay you are necessarily going to have a smaller pool of men who are "more educated and earn more" than women. To bitch about this is trying to have your cake and eat it too.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:19 AM on October 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


Yeah, well, the reason I've never married is that no one wants to marry me.

I'm still adding a "yet" onto the end of that sentence, but yeah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems like a percenter to me.Do we really need more articles about how the percenters live?

that is my new pejorative for rich people
posted by Ad hominem at 11:21 AM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


Really the nature of marriage hasn't changed all that much. My mother's generation were married by their mid-twenties and divorced by their mid- to late-thirties, and a good number were remarried by their forties.

My female friends and I have had a few live-in boyfriends over the years leading up to our mid- to late thirties and about half of us have married.

Basically, the only thing we are doing differently from our mothers is not marrying the first man we get into long term relationships with. I'm 36 (soon to be 37) and I just got married for the first time this year. I'd been in two long term relationships before hand and never considered marriage, mainly because I understood that they wouldn't last and I had no desire to get married only to divorce years later.

All this flailing about marriages and the "lack of marriable men" and "dying alone" is just the same as the Cosmo articles in the 70s and 80s complaining about the same thing. It's a lovely way of trying to convince women that they can't have financial and social equality without giving up romantic relationships.
posted by teleri025 at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman a woman to be guaranteed some form of child support if she has children by a man.

FTFY, mrgrimm. Men never needed contracts to own women - under medieval law, the assumption was that a woman was property of some man (her father, if unmarried), unless granted femme sole status by the courts.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:24 AM on October 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


If there not being a lot of single straight guys around and/or waiting until the point where you would probably need assistance in reproduction was something that doomed you to misery forever, lesbians would have a pretty horrible time of things, wouldn't we?

All of this focus on finding the man to marry--at what point do you just have to get over it? Gay or otherwise, I will probably get married at some point, but maybe I won't. Maybe I'll end up married multiple times. This is not something I angst over. Even at thirty. It's not something I think straight chicks ought to angst over, either.

Some segment of the population manages just fine without men in their lives. The secret to the pickle jar is a rubber jar-opener, or in a pinch, a pair of rubber cleaning gloves. If you just want "a man", and not some particular man, then you're letting something besides your own concerns dictate this. And if you don't just want "a man" and feel the need to write long articles about that--I'm sorry, I'm not sure I really believe you.

The thing that poor women need is not men. The thing poor women need is education, health care and employment prospects. Evidently, from reading this, the thing that rich women need is backbones.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.
I'm guessing Mr Grimm never got divorced.
posted by w0mbat at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count

1 boyfriends.
posted by GuyZero at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


1 problems and countability is one.
posted by kmz at 11:32 AM on October 13, 2011 [59 favorites]


The secret to the pickle jar is a rubber jar-opener,

Or, as my sainted granny called it: "The Rubber Husband."
posted by Floydd at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:57 PM on October 13 [+] [!]


I don't know if this was meant as a joke or not, but at least in Western developed countries, I'd say it's wrong. I'd say now marriage is a contract for mutual ownership.

My parents are 72 (Mom) and 82 (Dad), and my mother tells me that when she was married--at 21--at that time, living together was unheard of, and women took a major risk to their reputation if they had premarital sex. She's no prude, but she and my father didn't sleep together even after they were engaged. "In those days," she says, "you got married to have sex."

She also is fascinated by the "trial lives," that she has seen her children and her friends' children enact--multiple long-term, monogamous relationships, sometimes living together. She's envious, at times.

In those years, the early 60s, men did own women through marriage, because premarital sex for women carried a high degree of reputational risk. Not for men, of course. But for women, certainly.

That is not the case at all now. Women are, by and large, free to date, to cohabitate, to have long-term boyfriends, with no reputational risk. So why get married?

One reason is love, and the power of commitment to make that love deep and profound (although not for everyone). Another is financial, and there are certainly areas of the country where social norms mean a lot of pressure to marry. Another is (for some people) to have a family.

But for men and women today--and pardon the unromantic verbiage--marriage can be the price of access to each other. It is a mutual contract of free agents.
posted by oneironaut at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


A pickle jar and a grilled cheese sandwich. Hmmm.
posted by Melismata at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Floydd: "as my sainted granny called it: "The Rubber Husband.""

TMI
posted by idiopath at 11:37 AM on October 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


She frets about marriage more than I do and I got married this year. The best and worst thing about marriage is that people change. The person you marry in your twenties or thirties is not the same person ten years later, and neither are you. You both grow and compromise together and ultimately hope that you have something greater than you would on your own. You're not buying a car, you're buying a vacant building and hoping it has a good foundation. The catch is that while rebuilding it you only get to make about half the decisions.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:37 AM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


I think this is only an issue for a certain kind of person. What was referenced above as a "percenter." All the ladies I know are married, and none of them wrung their hands over whether their mates made more money or were better educated. In fact, in most of the couples I know, the woman has more education. But then, marrying a community college dropout who does I.T. work isn't the path to having multiple vacation homes, so I suspect the people I know wouldn't be in this author's cohort.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:38 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't think there's really any question that traditional marriages/families are sharply on the decline, for a whole myriad of reasons (the simplest being economic stability and the absolutely outlandish cost of family-appropriate housing that's nearly an order of magnitude more difficult for us to afford than it was for our parents).

This author is a bit of an exception, because I don't think that many people forego settling down into a family so that they can live some sort of rich/lavish/outlandish lifestyle. I also don't see too many friends putting off the notion of having a family because they're dirt poor, but rather, because they're (rightfully) concerned about their long-term outlook. Also, a dual income is more or less required today to provide for a family.

The commonly-repeated adage that "kids today" are maturing later also does hold a grain of truth and relevance to this topic -- postsecondary education is more or less mandatory for a great majority of careers, and the first few years in any job out of college are going to be filled with many long hours. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that people want some "freedom" time before settling down.

Also, cars and the internet have seriously taken a toll on interpersonal relationships. It's harder to meet people today, and even harder to meet "that special someone." Maintaining a relationship is tough work, and I think it's tougher than it used to be.

However, you've got to chuckle at the "family values" conservatives who are fighting tooth-and-nail against the one *#$&ing demographic in America that actually wants to get married and settle down into a house with 2.3 children and a minivan in increasing numbers, compared to previous generations, whilst the entire institution crumbles around them...

And, seriously. If a guy wrote an article like this about "women today," he'd be dragged over the coals for it, and rightfully so. What the fuck did Sex and the City do to our culture, and how can we fix it?
posted by schmod at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


I started reading this the other day, drawn in by the stuff about the Soviet Union and historical takes on marriage. Unfortunately I rapidly became overwhelmed by the idea of trudging through 12,000 words worth of upper-middle class anecdotes.
posted by ghharr at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.

You have clearly not been to my home.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:40 AM on October 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


A pickle jar and a grilled cheese sandwich. Hmmm.

Is that code?
posted by kmz at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2011


The problem right now is, everyone has been taught to believe that only the ideal mate is acceptable.

I don't think that's a new dichotomy. There are those people who are brainwashed to believe they are going to find Prince Charming; then there are those of us who are looking for love in the janitor's closet. It's impossible to find the perfect mate; it's not so hard to fall in love.

And when you do fall in love, you don't just end a relationship because you're not ready to "settle down." You can't even imagine not living with that person that you love and you can imagine the massive despair you would feel at their loss. Whether or not you get married, you want them around.

And regardless of whether you have children or not, falling in love and getting married (or not) is not "settling down"--it's a pretty challenging adventure all by itself, and wherever you want to go, your partner can often help.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


"looking for love in the janitor's closet" is also a euphemism, but look it up yourself, lol
posted by mrgrimm at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


What sets my hair on fire about articles like this is that I have been in loving, stable, long-term relationships with men who are just TOO WEIRD for someone like the author to even look at. I am in such a relationship right now, in fact. "Too weird" does NOT mean broke or ugly, for the record. If you only want Ken, sure, you might have trouble finding Ken. But if you, gosh, want someone who loves you for yourself alone, and not your yellow hair (how alternative), then your options expand considerably.

She writes of "a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with."

Fantastic! This is where I begin my hustlage! Plus, I love cheese.
posted by skbw at 11:47 AM on October 13, 2011 [44 favorites]


A well-to-do writer from The Atlantic muses on marriage and it's not Caitlin Flanagan? That's progress of sorts, I suppose.
posted by wensink at 11:48 AM on October 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


From the comments:

"Have you ever tried building a robot on an Arduino microprocessor? Lots of fun, and bound to take your mind off marriage for days at a time."
posted by 200burritos at 11:51 AM on October 13, 2011 [48 favorites]


Metafilter : Leering By The Cheese Table.
posted by w0mbat at 11:52 AM on October 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


We need Elizabeth Wurtzel to really fire up this article.
posted by benzenedream at 11:52 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


A well-to-do writer from The Atlantic muses on marriage and it's not Caitlin Flanagan? That's progress of sorts, I suppose.

You missed all the Sandra Tsing Loh Metafilter excitement, eh?
posted by Jahaza at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


postsecondary education is more or less mandatory for a great majority of careers

Swear to god, read as "postsecondary education is more or less masturbatory for a great majority of careers". While I'm not sure I agreed, it didn't startle me into realizing my mistake.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:54 AM on October 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


And what's more: freedom to reproduce (or not) is obviously a basic human right, but reproduction at the time of your choice with a partner of your choice in economic and social comfort is NOT. It is what they call a privilege.

Good Lord. Building a robot on an Arduino microprocessor will take your mind off these things. So will adopting a sweet, innocent, cute 18-month-old African-American toddler from the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who needs love and attention and nurturing. Good Lord. I mention this to my friends who are on the author's trip and you'd think I was telling them to live on kibbutz and send their kids to the children's house to be raised there. I've got no patience for it.
posted by skbw at 12:03 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


A person misidentifies their fears as constituting a dearth of choices. Film at 11.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:06 PM on October 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Also "Bolick" is an excellent name for someone who writes bollocks like this. It's like that twee thing in Harry Potter books where Hermione is always leafing through some book like "A Guide to Dragons" by Randolf Scorchedbottom.
posted by w0mbat at 12:09 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace—and of course it is—today we’re contending with a new “dating gap,” where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players.

....this....I did not like this.

I do not like this way of speaking, of commodifying persons and relationships and ranking them like cuts of beef (can't get Kobe, settle for sirloin!).

There's interesting discussions to be had about whether marriage is necessary are desirable. It would be nice if we stopped using the marketplace metaphor to describe the situation, because it's dehumanizing and gross. Gross when a man does it, gross when she does it.

Frankly, if that's how she sees men, maybe she shouldn't marry one, because she apparently sees them as nothing more than a collection of attributes of varying market value.
posted by emjaybee at 12:12 PM on October 13, 2011 [36 favorites]


"You have clearly not been to my home."

I have, but you weren't home. Or you were sleeping.
posted by Eideteker at 12:20 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You have clearly not been to my home."

I have, but you weren't home. Or you were sleeping.


Now who's getting owned?!?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:23 PM on October 13, 2011


Even my "thought she was going to die alone and cats would eat her face" wife thought this article was bleached and shallow. Seems trollish to me. The Atlantic does that a lot. The article about the state of American education that Joel Klein wrote came off the same way.

/ignore derail
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 12:25 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The market metaphor may be distasteful; that doesn't mean it's inapt. What is the partner selection process other than competition, branding, advertising? At least that's how it's always seemed to me (from the vantage point of the factory seconds bin).
posted by orrnyereg at 12:25 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, this was one of the least insightful articles on the subject I've ever seen.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a lazy, anecdata-filled article

Yes, a total load of Bolicks.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:29 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Where are all the good men? How come I'm surrounded by deadbeats and creeps?" she cries, while simultaneously rejecting or refusing to even look at all sorts of perfectly good, marriageable, non-deadbeat, non-player guys. "More ex-boyfriends than I can care to count," she moans, without ever realizing that the one common factor in all those relationships was her...
posted by naju at 12:31 PM on October 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Good Lord. Building a robot on an Arduino microprocessor will take your mind off these things. So will adopting a sweet, innocent, cute 18-month-old African-American toddler from the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who needs love and attention and nurturing. Good Lord.

Adoption can be a lot more economically challenging than having your own.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


from the vantage point of the factory seconds bin

Hey, there's some good stuff in that bin! It's not all just irregularly sized sweatshirts, trucker's hats, and Kris Kristopherson CDs!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:31 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


What is the partner selection process other than competition, branding, advertising?

Connecting with another human being and trying to find some sense of meaning through sharing some of the few finite moments we all have on this tiny rock, spinning in empty space?

Maybe I'm just doing it wrong
posted by crayz at 12:32 PM on October 13, 2011 [42 favorites]


Surely there must be a large pool of Nice Guys she can choose from?
posted by maxwelton at 12:33 PM on October 13, 2011


I'm surprised at the backlash this article is getting. I read it as being pretty reasonable, with the takeaway that the old model of marriage -- that the husband needs to be a good provider and have a bunch of specific and manly attributes -- is fading quickly. That means we should think about how we want to choose our partners in this new reality; open up your eyes to men who don't fit the mold, but who make you happy. I also liked her bits about how it's unrealistic to expect every single emotional need met by your partner -- and that expectation is also a relatively new one, as our social and familial support systems have shrunk over the years.

But what do I know, I'm a 39-year-old white woman who's never been married, so I must have something wrong with me/ be bitter/ ugly/ worn out etc. etc...
posted by chowflap at 12:33 PM on October 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Please excuse the evil, but I must. One passage in particular had me a'snortin'.

From the article (emphasis mine): "I’ll never forget the post-first-date e-mail message reading: 'I wanted to marry you last night, just listening to you.' Nor the 40-ish journalist who, on our second date, driving down a long country road, gripped the steering wheel and asked, 'Are you The One? Are you The One?' (Can you imagine a woman getting away with this kind of behavior?)"

Oh my yes. Ask hetero men and lesbians about dating. You'll hear stories just like this. Lots of them. Everybody who's been out there for any length of time has at least a few "and then my date said X and revealed his/her depths of insanity" stories. For extra fun, then ask if the person you're talking to kept on dating the crazy person, and for how long. The answers are often "yes" and "way longer than I should have."

When I was young and stupid, I assumed this was a gender thing -- women be crazy, amirite? Now old and stupid, I've heard enough stories going the other way to know it's not a gender thing. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's food additives or mind-warping rays projected by toaster ovens that makes us like this.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:39 PM on October 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


“Then who opens the pickle jar?”

They make machines to do it for you now.
posted by drezdn at 12:41 PM on October 13, 2011


Rubber Husband is definitely a euphemism.
posted by motsque at 12:44 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: food additives or mind-warping rays projected by toaster ovens make us like this.
posted by Wylla at 12:45 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nor the 40-ish journalist who, on our second date, driving down a long country road, gripped the steering wheel and asked, 'Are you The One? Are you The One?'

He was talking to the car, I assume.
posted by The World Famous at 12:46 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even my "thought she was going to die alone and cats would eat her face" wife

They start with your calves.

A tenant of mine quietly killed himself but forgot to leave extra food for the cats.
posted by rocketman at 12:47 PM on October 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Keep them barefoot and pregnant and you won't have this kind of nonsense.See what came of giving babes the vote?
posted by Postroad at 12:47 PM on October 13, 2011


Next step?

Form a club, choose a common sperm donor, and send your kid off to stay with one or more half sib when you need some time to yourself.
posted by jamjam at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2011


They make machines to do it for you now.

The amount of money people will spend on something that does the job that can be more easily accomplished by their hand and a little effort is shocking.

Apply this as you wish to whatever topic from this thread you find most appropriate.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


See what came of giving babes the vote?

President Harding?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oy. This really is a generational problem, but she's framing it as a gender problem.

I'm 33, which places me squarely in what I refer to as "the hopes and dreams generation". As in, "follow your hopes and dreams!", the advice given to us by our Boomer parents in nearly every situation. Boomer parents who had a completely different set of pressures and opportunities to contend with. Some of this was, no doubt, a reaction to their own Depression-raised parents, who were less likely to say "follow your dreams", and far more likely to say "do the practical thing".

So what did we do? Well, we followed our dreams. All of us. And a lot of us didn't make very practical decisions. And now we have to live with them.

What will the future bring? I kinda doubt it's going to be the femi-utopian collective motherhood Bolick suggests at the end of this piece. That's a "follow your dreams" scenario, one that our childrens' generation will look at with skepticism. No, I think the girls gathered around that kitchen table -- the ones weary of hookup culture and promiscuous alpha males -- are going to get married.

And they're probably going to tell their children to "do the practical thing".
posted by Afroblanco at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


I’ll never forget the post-first-date e-mail message reading: 'I wanted to marry you last night, just listening to you.' Nor the 40-ish journalist who, on our second date, driving down a long country road, gripped the steering wheel and asked, 'Are you The One? Are you The One?'

Perhaps people continue to Mosby her.
posted by drezdn at 12:54 PM on October 13, 2011


I really hope my wife of five years (as of tomorrow) doesn't care about the fact that I'll never make nearly as much money as her.
posted by drezdn at 12:55 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Indeed, my single friends housed me as I flew around the world to research this article; by the end, I had my own little (unwritten) monograph on the very rich lives of the modern-day single woman. Deb gave me the use of her handsome mid-century apartment in Chelsea when she vacated town for a meditation retreat; Courtney bequeathed her charming Brooklyn aerie while she traveled alone through Italy; Catherine put me up at her rambling Cape Cod summer house; when my weekend at Maria’s place on Shelter Island unexpectedly ballooned into two weeks, she set me up in my own little writing room...

Richness in life comes from relationships not possessions and fancy abodes. The doesn't mean you have to be married etc. but upscale living is not necessarily rich living.
posted by caddis at 12:56 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay rocketman, I think we need to know more.
posted by orrnyereg at 1:05 PM on October 13, 2011


The doesn't mean you have to be married etc. but upscale living is not necessarily rich living.

The focus of her descriptions of their lives "richness" gives a pretty good idea what she values in life. Also worth noting how much time she spent at her "friends'" empty houses while they were out of town - that's what friends do right, share their possessions, not themselves?
posted by crayz at 1:07 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the 'romantic market' in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing)."

Yes, because the unemployed are all deadbeats.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:08 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


A well-to-do writer from The Atlantic muses on marriage and it's not Caitlin Flanagan? That's progress of sorts, I suppose.

You missed all the Sandra Tsing Loh Metafilter excitement, eh?

Missed this particular episode, Jahaza, but got to witness plenty during my time at the mag.
posted by wensink at 1:09 PM on October 13, 2011


39-year-old writer Kate Bolick explains why she hasn't gotten married and why many of her friends haven't either

We're burning calories discussing habits in a sample size of ... what? ... six women? Ten?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:09 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay rocketman, I think we need to know more.

No, really, I think we've heard quite enough about that. Thanks!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:10 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised at the backlash this article is getting. I read it as being pretty reasonable, with the takeaway that the old model of marriage -- that the husband needs to be a good provider and have a bunch of specific and manly attributes -- is fading quickly. That means we should think about how we want to choose our partners in this new reality; open up your eyes to men who don't fit the mold, but who make you happy.

I think she's saying exactly the opposite, that her and her generation think they are all entitled to as she puts it "the hottest guy on campus":
Do I realize that this further narrows my pool of prospects? Yes. Just as I am fully aware that with each passing year, I become less attractive to the men in my peer group, who have plenty of younger, more fertile women to pick from. But what can I possibly do about that? Sure, my stance here could be read as a feint, or even self-deception . . .

I kid! And yet, as a woman who spent her early 30s actively putting off marriage, I have had ample time to investigate, if you will, the prevailing attitudes of the high-status American urban male. (Granted, given my taste for brainy, creatively ambitious men—or “scrawny nerds,” as a high-school friend describes them—my sample is skewed.)
The idea that every woman is going to get the "hottest guy on campus" is as dumb as every guy going to get the supermodel.

In the end, I believe that TV and popular culture is to blame. We are constantly shown the most beautiful, perfect people on the screen. So we assume that is our goal. its a problem for everyone.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:16 PM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, man, these plates of beans, they are just getting bigger and bigger.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:16 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


chowflap: "I'm surprised at the backlash this article is getting. I read it as being pretty reasonable, with the takeaway that the old model of marriage -- that the husband needs to be a good provider and have a bunch of specific and manly attributes -- is fading quickly. That means we should think about how we want to choose our partners in this new reality; open up your eyes to men who don't fit the mold, but who make you happy. [...]"

Ah, no, actually it's saying that the men who are unmarried are shit (your option of deadbeats and players, hanging out with lecherous looks by the snacks), and her ultimate solution is to get to know her girlfriends better, not to rethink her standards. The article is a big angry mash of gender generalizations, supported mainly by stories from well-off friends (and one poor african-american woman with four kids). Even the bits about the '80/20' hook-up culture focus mainly on how that culture makes the 20% of men into assholes rather than on how to re-envision relationships amongst the many who are dissatisfied with these cultural systems.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:17 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Granted, given my taste for brainy, creatively ambitious men

I'd really love to hear her definition of "creatively ambitious."

Somehow, I think this is more "I run a new-media hedge fund" and less "I play in a garage band."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:18 PM on October 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Opening pickle jars?
Mechanical advantage is your friend.
posted by plinth at 1:25 PM on October 13, 2011


"You missed all the Sandra Tsing Loh Metafilter excitement, eh?"

Wow from her list of article titles, she has definitely unlocked the "Paid Professional Troll" badge.
posted by stratastar at 1:26 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd really love to hear her definition of "creatively ambitious."

Malcolm Gladwell?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:26 PM on October 13, 2011


It's possible my own opinions are coloring my reading of this essay, but I don't think she's saying all unmarried men are shit. She says several times that the pool of TRADITIONALLY "marry-able men" is shrinking, which to me does not mean that "modern men aren't worth marrying."

I guess I am thinking of parts like this:

"Now that we can pursue our own status and security, and are therefore liberated from needing men the way we once did, we are free to like them more, or at least more idiosyncratically, which is how love ought to be, isn’t it?

My friend B., who is tall and gorgeous, jokes that she could have married an NBA player, but decided to go with the guy she can talk to all night—a graphic artist who comes up to her shoulder. C., the editorial force behind some of today’s most celebrated novels, is a modern-day Venus de Milo—with a boyfriend 14 years her junior. Then there are those women who choose to forgo men altogether. Sonia Sotomayor isn’t merely a powerful woman in a black robe—she’s also a stellar example of what it can mean to exercise authority over every single aspect of your personal life. When Gloria Steinem said, in the 1970s, “We’re becoming the men we wanted to marry,” I doubt even she realized the prescience of her words."

To me, this means "choose a man who you love, no matter what his job/height/whatever" but again, I may be reading this through my own lens.
posted by chowflap at 1:31 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Marriage is important because it let's you get divorced. Which is a very cynical sounding statement, especially coming from me who, as a kid [80s-90s] had very few friends whose parents were divorced-and even less family friend adult types who divorced.
But, when you've been forced to read enough contract law cases about women attempting to garner rights/divide stuff using promissory estoppel because they're leaving their long term boyfriends (in the MAJORITY of states that do not have common law marriage), not their husbands....well, marriage makes a lot of sense.
Divorce [and therefore, marriage] is not the exclusively good thing about marriage, but from a legal/state perspective, it's one of the most important.
Where the state is/should be concerned, a marriage is a contract, and divorce is a step by step, hopefully protective of everyone's interests, way to end it.
This "why marriage matters" thing fits perfectly into pro-gay-marriage arguments.
posted by atomicstone at 1:36 PM on October 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


There is something that I keep wanting to find in these navel-gazing articles about Singledom and/or Single Women that is never there, and I wish it would be, because I am having a terrible time articulating it myself.

It's something about how there is less incentive for financially and emotionally non-dependant people (not just women!) to put up with incompatible partners—which is a good thing, in my opinion—but it can go too far (again, in my opinion) and result in people refusing to make any compromises at all, and therefore be really unlikely to enter into any lasting or meaningful relationship commitments.

Having the sense and self-respect to choose to remain single rather than be with someone who isn’t right for you is all to the good—but being too inflexible/unwilling to accept the foibles and weaknesses of another person is not. And being willing and able to put the needs of another person on a par with your own—thereby acknowledging that you will not get to do everything exactly the way you want to forever and ever amen—is a pretty fundamental part of being a partner (as opposed to just dating or whatever).

The Western model has generally encouraged women to do most of the accommodating, but that is changing as women in general get more parity, and it’s changing faster for well-educated and privileged women who are more likely to have sufficient means and opportunity to be successful without a spouse, if they so choose.

Finding a balance between honoring your own legitimate needs and wants without being too self-centered to be a true partner is actually not all that simple, and finding someone else to do it with you is also not all that simple, and being able to continue to do that with the same person for your whole life is not all that simple. And it's not something that necessarily gets easier as one ages and gets more set in one's ways, and perhaps less interested in making compromises or sacrifices, especially if the person asking for those compromises doesn't have a long relationship history with you.

I don’t think it’s about ‘marrying up’ or getting ‘the hottest guy on campus’—I mean, maybe it is about that for this particular author/essay, but I think the general concept that this article is nudging around is interesting, and something that a lot of adults struggle with.
posted by Kpele at 1:36 PM on October 13, 2011 [32 favorites]


"Even the bits about the '80/20' hook-up culture focus mainly on how that culture makes the 20% of men into assholes rather than on how to re-envision relationships amongst the many who are dissatisfied with these cultural systems."

She goes on to say that the remaining 80% sit out on the hook-up culture altogether (and instead, date and have more traditional relationships). But since the 20% are the loudest and flashiest, they get all of the media attention.
posted by chowflap at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2011


oooh...also, on marriage's side is privilege-as in your boyfriend might have to testify against you, but not your husband. Want to keep him quiet? Marry him.
posted by atomicstone at 1:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


She's in her late 30s or mid 40s-- more ex-boyfriends than she can remember [oops "count"], nice job, nice apartment, friends with nice apartments.

So it seems the author won't be able to "marry up." It won't be easy for her to find a man who has more money and more education than she does. She might form a lateral marriage, or marry down [younger man, less educated, less money] but ANYTHING is better than raising children as a divorced mother.

People think divorce is something you get through, but really it's very hard for women to recover from divorce. Remarriage is much less likely for them than their first marriage was, and they lose any/all of the equity they built in their twenties and thirties, starting over with a large debt hangover, expensive dependents, and a reduced ability to make money due to their family responsibilities. They can save less for retirement, one they will face alone, because it takes so much time to recover from the divorce.

A reasonable article about co-parenting ["You are never divorced if children are involved. You are perpetually divorcing. Why would a couple who divorced due to irreconcilable differences be able to co-parent well? "] degenerates into vituperative comments about divorce attorneys and family courts.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:56 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Hey, there's some good stuff in that bin! It's not all just irregularly sized sweatshirts, trucker's hats, and Kris Kristopherson CDs!"

I'm irregularly-sized. Will Kate Bolick date me? Kate, when you find yourself in the inevitable self-google, my e-mail's in my profile. Pls send pix with today's date so I know you're not secretly Alyssa Bereznak.
posted by Eideteker at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2011


The thing that poor women need is not men. The thing poor women need is education, health care and employment prospects. Evidently, from reading this, the thing that rich women need is backbones.

And the thing that all people need is to feel supported and loved. Marriage or not, I think that what people really need is friends and lovers.

insert song here
posted by davejay at 2:06 PM on October 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman."

Could you call my wife? I think she missed that memo. She doesn't seem to understand the whole "obey" thing.

"The secret to the pickle jar is a rubber jar-opener,

Or, as my sainted granny called it: "The Rubber Husband.""


Oh my, so much opportunity there...
posted by MikeMc at 2:09 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The invisible hand has been spending so much time keeping the marriage market running smoothly, by adjusting expectations or whatever, that some other markets may've run slightly off course.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:10 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never figured out how one opens a pickle jar using one of those rubber things either, MikeMc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:13 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


'As Walsh puts it, most of the leftover men are “have nots” in terms of access to sex, and most of the women—both those who are hooking up and those who are not—are “have nots” in terms of access to male attention that leads to commitment. (Of course, plenty of women are perfectly happy with casual, no-strings sex, but they are generally considered to be in the minority.)'
There's nothing there about dating or having more traditional relationships that I can see, and she goes on to talk mainly about 'soft-harems' and the terrifying prospects for women involved. I also dig that she sets aside that parenthetical to make a space for women who may be interested in casual sex, but feels no need to mention (or perhaps just lacks awareness) that there might exist men who are interested in building meaningful, lasting relationships.

I, too, am carrying a bunch of my own baggage with me into the article, and am trying to read generously, but she's certainly not making things easy...
posted by kaibutsu at 2:24 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


ℵ1 boyfriends.

She just dates irrational men.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:37 PM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


> I'm 33, which places me squarely in what I refer to as "the hopes and dreams generation".

Bit of a derail, but I think today's kids are getting even more of that than we did. You can't watch any American Idol-style show for more than ten minutes without someone giving the "follow your hopes and dreams/you can do anything you want if you try hard enough" boilerplate.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2011


Deadbeats or players?

She obviously does not get around that much. I know a lot of guys who are both!

> Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count

That is not true. The fact is when the number gets above a certain number (25? 35? 45? 115? the number is obviously going to vary from person to person) she cannot bear to continue counting. It's not like an integer above 500 or something. When jumping rope I can count even to 5000. But at a certain point she dislikes continuing the exercise.

"Too many to count" is a good description of the number of people who showed up at the Ayatollah's funeral; ex-boyfriends, no way.
posted by bukvich at 2:44 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm definetly bringing my own baggage to the article as well and trying not to read that into it.

That being said, two pieces from the accompanying interview stuck out to me:


"As for the male reaction: Honestly, I have no idea. What do you think? Imagining myself into a man's head is beyond my abilities (maybe if I could do that I'd be a novelist?)"

I think that is a telling statement. It seems to me that in order to be inatimate with someone you need to be able to empathize with them, which leads to sympathy and care. I wonder whether the author's unwillingness to enter into a long term relationship, which is what her story comes down to, has anything to do with any changes in men or gender roles, rather than simply the removal of social pressures to marry at any cost.

On the other hand:

"Which brings me to a concern I'm having about our interview: Should I talk way up at the start about how mine is NOT a story saying there are no good men left? I'm terrified of people reading it that way — when in fact the reality, as I see it, is much more subtle and complex. Statistics are indeed showing that more men are struggling now than in the past, which is a result of vast economic forces, as well as social ones (Christina Hoff Sommers wrote very presciently about "The War Against Boys" in 2000). And this is serious, and needs to be paid attention to.

But the argument that there are fewer "marriageable" men than in the past relies on an archaic definition of "marriageable": husbands who are higher-earning, better-educated, have more status, and are taller than their wives. (The "taller" thing keeps cropping up — just because it's a very concrete and measurable thing.) The very good news for everyone is that women tend to be much more flexible in what they find attractive, so they'll love and marry men in spite of any new so-called "failings." And who knows — perhaps even prefer them? I for one have never been drawn to the "traditional" catch — the captain of the lacrosse team, etc. — but I know I'm weird like that.

A darker aspect is that this new power balance/imbalance means men are having to grapple with feelings of inferiority that they're not quite accustomed to, and this can be hard on couples, particularly in a world that almost presumes women will have inferiority complexes. Too, the studies around how men behave when they have the demographic upper hand is sobering — less committal, more promiscuous, etc. — but women have to keep in mind that female attitudes abet that dynamic. There was a great little piece in TheRoot.com a year or two ago about how if women want to find their Obama they need to start changing what they look for, as once upon a time Obama was just a scrawny guy with big ears and too-short pants, but Michelle knew how to see right through that. Same goes for this whole "neo-concubine" thing that I describe Susan Walsh talking about; for that big man on campus to be bedding seven women in rotation, he's got seven willing playmates, all of whom, I'm willing to bet, are ignoring huge swaths of the male population for his meager crumbs."

So she isn't completely hyproctical, unself reflective, unsympathetic to men, and unable to acknowledge the role that woman themselves play in the situation. At least intellectually.
posted by eagles123 at 2:52 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


as once upon a time Obama was just a scrawny guy with big ears and too-short pants, but Michelle knew how to see right through that.

He was going to Harvard Law at the time. She's also Ivy-League law, so its not like he was the Richmeister in the office "makin' copies."

In fact they were all courting him wildly. My dad met him in the early '90s when they brought him in to a Fortune-250 corporate board meeting he was running. You don't do that for your average law student. You do that for the superstars. And he fit the bill, my dad was instantly certain this guy was going to be something amazing.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:08 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


TheRoot.com? From a downunder perspective, that sounds like a porn site.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:09 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count

Ho!
posted by stormpooper at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was ready to snark all over this, but it's not that bad. I thought this was noteworthy:

The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfillment above all else.

Very on point, and I think the source of much malaise among post-college folks today not just in our romantic lives but in our professional ones as well. But I don't think it's a matter of "emotional fulfillment" being lacking; I think it's about an inability to be present in the moment, and to appreciate the good things we have, because they may not look like the perfect, blissful things we had envisioned and that our parents taught us we were entitled to.

The whole "settling for a partner or being alone forever" dichotomy is part of the problem. You were never going to find the perfect person; maybe you'd be able to build an ideal relationship with someone, but it isn't just going to happen to you.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:27 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


So glad I'm married and don't have to take this shit seriously.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:34 PM on October 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yes, because the unemployed are all deadbeats.

While I don't think it's fair of the author to suggest that (which she does), I think don't think it's unreasonable for someone to be unwilling to get into a relationship with someone who is unemployed. If they become unemployed once you've committed to one another (in whatever way works for you, it doesn't have to be marriage), that's different, but most people aren't willing to say: "You don't have a job? That's cool, I can pay for all of our dates until you find one."

So, no, all unemployed people are not deadbeats, but it's not unreasonable that she would choose not to date them even if they are great guys.
posted by asnider at 3:41 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


He was going to Harvard Law at the time.

Not just going to Harvard- Editor then President of the Harvard Law Review. Hardly the nerdy guy in the corner!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:51 PM on October 13, 2011


I think don't think it's unreasonable for someone to be unwilling to get into a relationship with someone who is unemployed.

I do. I guess our votes cancel each other out.

Dates don't have to cost money, and kissing is (usually) free.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:15 PM on October 13, 2011


Also, just because someone is unemployed doesn't mean they can't pay. There are these places called banks, where you can keep your money if you don't spend it.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:28 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The more annoying thing about unemployed (or underemployed) partners is that unless they have something interesting to keep them busy during the day, every day, I've found that they tend to wait around until you've finished work, then it's all this needy "entertain me!" when you just want to unwind. It can become a drag very quickly when you're not on similar kinds of daily schedules.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:37 PM on October 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


"All the Single Ladies"
Oh man, this is going to be about Beyonce or an essay on the unchartered dating terrorites of women today. Should be interesting.
"130 Comments"
This is either a really interesting article, Beyonce parody video, or trite click/comment bait.
"In the cover story for the November issue of The Atlantic ..."
Well that answers that.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 4:41 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are these places called banks, where you can keep your money if you don't spend it.

Surely Mr. or Ms. Right uses a credit union.
posted by grouse at 4:42 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does anyone who write these kinds of stories follow higher education trends at all? These days, we are bombarded with messages about how a college degree is worthless, about how all the rugged heroes of our age like Bill Gates don't need a pansy diploma. But somehow when women have them, these worthless pieces of paper confer magical powers that elevate them above all their male peers.

Where are all these women going to college, and what are they majoring in? As far as I can tell, there are:
  • "Impractical" majors, which tend to be gender-balanced or female-heavy, except for probably philosophy. The canonical example of a graduate with crushing debt and no prospects is a woman who majored in something like psychology, English, or communications. She's probably a barista. Pretty hard to "marry down".
  • Practical female-dominated majors. A nurse or teacher may indeed have a higher degree than her husband who is, say, a firefighter or police officer. But these unions have never traditionally been considered "marrying down" on the woman's part.
  • Other practical majors. Many of these are in STEM fields. Women are much less likely to go into STEM fields and, when they do, as a recent Dept of Commerce report shows, much less likely to end up with STEM jobs. That leaves fields like law and medicine, which are becoming gender-balanced but still somewhat male-dominated.
And then we have to consider where these degrees are from. The top universities remain gender-balanced or male-dominated. A man with a bachelor's degree from Harvard is not "marrying up" when he weds an MSW from a small community college.

I guess you could argue that a degree confers social class regardless of one's salary. But are we really supposed to think that two people who grew up on the same block and went to the same high school are too far apart socially ever to marry because she spent two years getting an associate's degree and he didn't? Or maybe he has the associate's degree and she scraped through four years at a third-tier liberal arts college?

The Atlantic loves the "women are getting too accomplished for their own good" storyline -- it has been one of the only genres for which they will actually publish women writers -- but it simply does not square with the facts about who is going to college and why.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:25 PM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


The unfortunate reality that feminism has ignored for so very long now is the nature of human biology and psychology. Men place a higher value on sex and access to sex because a single sexual encounter can potentially pass on their genes, and especially find women sexually attractive who display markers of fecundity (red lips and cheeks, certain hip to waist ratios, large breasts, etc). especially if sexual access is etc.

This is such twaddle. The "reality" is nothing like this at all. Men are not speckled throatwarblers looking to plant their seeds for the continuation of their genepool, inspecting possible sexual partners for such telltale signs of fertility as red lips and hip-to-waist ratios. We live in a modern society, and our sexual cues and triggers come from entirely different sources today than they did when we were cowering under the shadow of the encroaching glacier wall.

I can appreciate the greater point about the changing "ideal" - and I think popular culture has had a tremendous influence on what both men and women consider ideal. That point I am totally down with, and I welcome any honest examination of the media messaging of the ideal romantic partner and its influence on us.

But I am so very, very tired of "man is adventure hunter, look for sturdy hips in mate with pendulous, milk-giving breasts!" and "woman is shuddering, frightened little bird, she want make big nest, need big man to defend her from the sand people!"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:29 PM on October 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


Omf. Could I just-...might I point out that she's so freaking ENTITLED and unwilling to compromise past the end of her own nose that I am not surprised she's 'still' single. Her friends are probably the same way. They aren't looking for husbands, they're looking for employees. Marriage is a partnership, an agreement. Not a dictatorship in which women rule because we've earned it. Gawd. I could roll my eyes a little further but now I'm getting a headache.

I get it, really I do. I attended an all-female University through the early nineties, I understand our mothers worked hard so that we would be equal but it seems as if those who took feminism a little less seriously are those who are now married. Successfully. Happily. Fulfilled. Maybe it's also anecdotal but I've been married for 18 years. Out of my friends I am the only one still married to my original partner, and I'm the ONLY one who doesn't take every opportunity to disrespect or emasculate my partner in public. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.
posted by pink candy floss at 5:32 PM on October 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


The canonical example of a graduate with crushing debt and no prospects is a woman who majored in something like psychology

Really? It's anecdotal, but I've known (or known of) heaps of psych grads with reasonably lucrative corporate jobs, in HR, or with recruitment agencies or marketing. Also training - just about every single highly paid general (ie non technical) training person I've been trained by has had psych qualifications - they're presumably necessary to lend credibility to the "there are four types of people in any organisation..." Myers-Briggs type stuff that you spend an obligatory hour on, every single course.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"there are four types of people in any organisation..."

There are four types of people in any organization: those who can do math and talk to people, those who can do math and can't talk to people, and those who can talk to people and can't do math.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:42 PM on October 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


I understand our mothers worked hard so that we would be equal but it seems as if those who took feminism a little less seriously are those who are now married. Successfully. Happily. Fulfilled. Maybe it's also anecdotal but I've been married for 18 years. Out of my friends I am the only one still married to my original partner, and I'm the ONLY one who doesn't take every opportunity to disrespect or emasculate my partner in public. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.

Equally plausible explanatory mechanism for the set of anecdata presented: the failed relationships are less related to "being serious about feminism" and more related to "treating one's spouse with contempt."
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:44 PM on October 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


So utterly lazy and dishonest. If you're going to write a New York anecdote story, for every one like her and her friends, you can find a dozen women, just as well educated, with a minimally promiscuous dating history who are staying at home, married to and raising the children of an older, taller, high-earning, equally-well- or better-educated man who gladly married her when he was his 30s or even late 20s.
posted by MattD at 5:47 PM on October 13, 2011


...most people aren't willing to say: "You don't have a job? That's cool, I can pay for all of our dates until you find one."

That reminds me of this from Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying

"... and of Rosemary, his girl, who loved him--adored him, so she said--and who, all the same, had never slept with him. Money, once again; all is money. All human relationships must be purchased with money. If you have no money, men won't care for you, women won't love you; won't, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that matters. And how right they are, after all! For, moneyless, you are unlovable. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. But then, if I haven't money, I DON'T speak with the tongues of men and of angels."

Also, we're more or less in agreement. I wouldn't ever advocate dating a deadbeat, it's just a completely different state of being than "unemployed." I thought the equivocation of the two was an interesting little tell for a pretty widely held cultural bias.

posted by Gygesringtone at 5:53 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does the Atlantic pay per word?
posted by IndigoJones at 6:02 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely. Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman.

Why then is it so often the women in unmarried hetero couples who pushes more for marriage than the man?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:25 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does the Atlantic pay per word?

$20. Same as in town.
posted by The World Famous at 6:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you're going to write a New York anecdote story, for every one like her and her friends, you can find a dozen women, just as well educated, with a minimally promiscuous dating history who are staying at home, married to and raising the children of an older, taller, high-earning, equally-well- or better-educated man who gladly married her when he was his 30s or even late 20s.

And a dozen women who are also just as well educated, and have just as minimally promiscuous a dating history, and would CHEERFULLY marry someone younger or older or broker or shorter or rounder or taller or skinnier or geekier or WHATEVER-er, or even just DATE them, except no men are ASKING them because THEY'VE all turned up their noses at anyone over the age of 25, or are bitter from earlier run-ins with self-centered women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meh. I'm 35, and everyone I know is married.
posted by secondhand pho at 6:48 PM on October 13, 2011


Equally plausible explanatory mechanism for the set of anecdata presented: the failed relationships are less related to "being serious about feminism" and more related to "treating one's spouse with contempt."

Sadly, the two always went hand in hand. I would argue, "Do you want to be better, or do you want to be equal?", and the answer I was given was always "Both."
posted by pink candy floss at 6:51 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


pink candy floss, could you please explain what you mean by "being serious about feminism"?
posted by likeso at 7:06 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I am so very, very tired of "man is adventure hunter, look for sturdy hips in mate with pendulous, milk-giving breasts!"

But what about when we are?
posted by asnider at 7:14 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orwell, like a surprising number of men, apparently forgot that sex made babies in the era before access to birth control. Perhaps Rosemary didn't want to get pregnant by her jobless and apparently clueless lover for good reason.
posted by emjaybee at 7:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps Rosemary didn't want to get pregnant by her jobless and apparently clueless lover for good reason.

Without spoiling anything: you're right.

A large part of the book is the protagonist feeling sorry for himself because he's miserable because he feels sorry for himself. Which is probably what brought it to mind in the context of the article anyway.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


The only reasonable conclusion I could draw from this was that she probably shouldn't have broken up with her ex (who is a really great guy!).

The rest was a lot of half-made points strung together without ever actually cohering into anything greater than "YEARGH!" it didn't even make it all the way up to "GRAR!" I kept waiting for the Soviet ladies and the statistics on African American marriage rates to come together to form a greater narrative and just got singing kumbaya in the Hamptons.

Also this side argument about how divorce is easy and an argument for marriage? I laughed myself into a heart attack. I'll be sending you the bill.
posted by sonika at 8:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so fiercely independent in my relationships - both financially and socially - that looking for someone based on looks or income is a ridiculous reason to marry, but thats just me. Only insane chemistry and perfect friendship and respect should be the basis of marriage. And sex is really important, too. I've never had baby fever, so I think maybe that made me pretty chill about not marrying until after 30.

That said, yeah, if you don't have a spouse or children to financially and emotionally support until you're an older woman, of COURSE you're going to have shitloads more time to travel and save money and muse about your midlife identity in The Atlantic I mean obviously you guys *sigh*.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:04 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


insane chemistry

thought you'd left those days behind.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:12 PM on October 13, 2011


“We are not designed, as a species, to raise children in nuclear families,” Christopher Ryan, one of the Sex at Dawn co-authors, told me over the telephone late last summer. Women who try to be “supermoms,” whether single or married, holding down a career and running a household simultaneously, are “swimming upstream.” Could we have a modernization of the Mosuo, Ryan mused, with several women and their children living together—perhaps in one of the nation’s many foreclosed and abandoned McMansions—bonding, sharing expenses, having a higher quality of life? “In every society where women have power—whether humans or primates—the key is female bonding,” he added.

Sex At Dawn, the urban liberal's fave sociobiology text (Dan Savage loved it, so it must be totally progressive on men's and women's roles, right?)

Seems like this is basically just the usual Atlantic women-are-too-educated-and-should-go-back-to-the-kitchen screed, dressed up as a memoir this time.
posted by Wylla at 9:30 PM on October 13, 2011


Likeso: pink candy floss, could you please explain what you mean by "being serious about feminism"?

Those are Uniformitarianism Now!'s words, I used the phrase "those of us who took feminism less seriously".

Basically we listened and we understood the gravity of needing equality for the sexes without the...propaganda that went along with it. We were basically taught that women are better. That men exist as sperm providers and heavy lifters and it turned me off at an early age. I do admit I come to this discussion with a heavy chip on my shoulder as a result of that indoctrination.
posted by pink candy floss at 9:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


“Then who opens the pickle jar?

I have this cool rubberized gripper tool that opens jars for me. And I just suck bugs up in the vacuum and let them spin for a bit... I wonder what I keep a husband around for... Oh yeah, he's funny and I love him.
posted by HMSSM at 11:38 PM on October 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


But I am so very, very tired of "man is adventure hunter, look for sturdy hips in mate with pendulous, milk-giving breasts!"

A chicken is an egg's way of making more eggs. Do you have a more parsimonious explanation for the mate selection algorithms with which we've been endowed? You come from an unbroken chain of successful sexual encounters that extends back to the very first sexually reproducing organism. Our mating strategies may sometimes be sub-optimal—they might not even pierce our conscious awareness—but they have been influenced by selective pressures that affected the reproductive rate of our ancestors.

It's possible to ignore biology when discussing psychology, but I think thats an impoverished filter through which to view human relationships.
posted by Human Flesh at 5:04 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Human Flesh, I think the complaint is more about the extreme lengths to which people take that kind of evolutionary-psychology argument. Yes, arguments can be made for certain trends among statistical samples, but the thing about statistical samples is that there are always outliers, so bringing general trends up to address specific situations is a little naive.

Also, there are a hell of a lot of guys who fall back on "but...but...evolution! spreading seed! younger and more fertile! genetics!" as an excuse for cheating on the wife with the younger secretary, and that's not fooling ANYBODY.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, but it's also naïve to ignore the wealth of data that biologists have given us. Generalisations are useful for compressing data and understanding trends.

It's possible to criticise the naturalistic fallacy without criticising what biologists have to tell us about mating strategies.
posted by Human Flesh at 5:55 AM on October 14, 2011


I don't think anyone's "ignoring" it. I only see people complaining about people relying on it overly much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 AM on October 14, 2011


I get it, really I do. I attended an all-female University through the early nineties, I understand our mothers worked hard so that we would be equal but it seems as if those who took feminism a little less seriously are those who are now married. Successfully. Happily. Fulfilled. Maybe it's also anecdotal but I've been married for 18 years. Out of my friends I am the only one still married to my original partner, and I'm the ONLY one who doesn't take every opportunity to disrespect or emasculate my partner in public. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.
Or maybe your friends are just not particularly nice AND happened to be feminists.
You're closer to my parents' generation in age than mine. And I can play this anecdotal game, but veering the other way. My mother and her friends have been married [almost all of them to their first and only husbands] on average, for 35 years. And they're self-described feminists-the kind who take it "more seriously". And I've rarely seen the disrespecting or emasculating behavior you've described. I've also not seen the converse from their husbands.
Which doesn't make my observations any more valid than yours-it only proves that yours are nothing but that-your observations.

Anyway, it was my DAD who bought my mom that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" T-Shirt. Not wearing it would have been disrespectful, no?
posted by atomicstone at 6:17 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Someone who thinks that adipose deposits, sexual dimorphism, parental investment patterns, access to resources, and status are all irrelevant to understanding contemporary human mating habits is ignoring a great deal of biological research.

An earlier comment claimed that "We live in a modern society, and our sexual cues and triggers come from entirely different sources today than they did when we were cowering under the shadow of the encroaching glacier wall."

A person who is actually interested in gaining insight into mate selection algorithms can easily find research that shows what humans have in common with other animals.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:31 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas, I mean the kind of insane feeling of chemistry that assures that we have different but complementary immune systems.

In fact, there's a new study that shows that feeling of romantic love can last more than 21 years, so yes, insane levels of complementary chemistry with your partner can make lust/love last for decades. Specifically, look into the role played by vasopressin, which could be linked to monogamy (at least in the prairie vole... they're studying humans now).

Now! That said, I guess we've all been "insane" or "crazy" over someone who was terribly wrong for us, and yep, those days are behind me - but understanding brain chemistry and attraction are part of my job, so I love these kinds of threads!

And Human Flesh is right - for example, bonobos kiss open mouthed like humans do. No other primates do this.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:35 AM on October 14, 2011


Someone who thinks that adipose deposits, sexual dimorphism, parental investment patterns, access to resources, and status are all irrelevant to understanding contemporary human mating habits is ignoring a great deal of biological research.

Who here has been saying it's "irrelevant"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Human Flesh is right - for example, bonobos kiss open mouthed like humans do. No other primates do this.

So? Bonobos also fling poo.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Empress, read the part of the comment that says "This is such twaddle. The "reality" is nothing like this at all."
posted by Human Flesh at 6:43 AM on October 14, 2011


Sometimes you can hit middle age without ever having made a lasting connection with someone. You can have tried, but it just didn't last. The marriage thing is a red herring. It's the connection that's important. It sucks when it's out of reach if that's what you're pining for. Nevertheless, one still has a life to live. Thank fucking god life is more than just one thing!
posted by h00py at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


read the part of the comment that says "This is such twaddle. The "reality" is nothing like this at all."

It may be extreme, but she does have a point -- that evolutionary cues are not ALL that there is to human mating behavior.

We are animals, yes. We have animal instincts, yes. But we also have societal conditioning laid OVER those instincts, and we also have the intellects to develop unique preferences ALONGSIDE those instincts, many of which contradict those instincts greatly. As do the societal cues, quite frequently.

Marisa was reacting strongly -- perhaps a bit strongly than I would have -- but it's borne of frustration with people flouting evoultionary psychology as a sort of total panacea. The truth is, while evolutionary psychology may be a factor, it is not the sum total explanation for human mating behavior, and should not be treated as the be-all and end-all. It should be one of a number of factors, many of which contradict each other.

In short: understanding trends is one thing, so long as it doesn't stop you from treating people as individuals.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The comment didn't propose a non-biological explanation for contemporary mating habits. Marisa Stole the Precious Thing merely made a straw man caricature of evolutionary psychology.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:04 AM on October 14, 2011


A decade ago (and at a wedding reception, come to think of it), a friend of mine working with numbers in NYC explained what "SARAH" meant: Single And Rich And Happy. And at the time, she was all of those. Now she's married to an old friend of mine and they have a couple of great kids -- but back then, I don't know that she was desperately unhappy or anything, living as she did in one of the most exciting cities in the world with no worries about money.

*shrug* I love The Atlantic, but they're not doing themselves any favors running articles so fluffy when they cold have more pieces with real substance.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The comment didn't propose a non-biological explanation for contemporary mating habits.

There didn't need to BE one.

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing merely made a straw man caricature of evolutionary psychology.

No, she criticized the idea that it was the EXCLUSIVE predictor of behavior.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 AM on October 14, 2011


Do you have a more parsimonious explanation for the mate selection algorithms with which we've been endowed?

Yes: Various humans use different sexual strategies to make and form long term to temporary groups to allow for the extreme variance in humans themselves.

The actual number of strategies is highly variable and includes a broad range of fetishes, kinks and non-reproductive sexual activity, and humans are notoriously unreliable about telling the truth, so the signal to noise ratio makes parsing out people to whom it never would have made babies even before birth control, but would have non-procreative sex; the infidelities; the non-socially acceptable fucking that gets swept under the rug and the socially acceptable fucking that fails to go off properly all make it impossible to definitively predict if two humans will do the nasty except using hindsight logic.

A lot of the issues that come up in trying to tie visual attraction, power, or other single characteristic factors to what humans find sexy is hampered by the fact that both a broad range of habitats and a broad range of diamorphism means that human power, a standard thing that's treated like the be all an end all for men, is subject to whatever your culture values; and that extreme human physically variability means that we look pretty darn different from each other. You can't say that it's all about the milk filled titties when a fair number of women are fairly flat chested. You can't say it's all about your capacity to murder other men when plenty of people are Jonesing for a sweet tempered pacifist. This is even leaving aside the amount of procreation where one or both parties is thinking fervently about other things or people to get off.

Unlike a lot of other critters, we fuck outside of a biologically defined estrus, we don't exclusively depend on one sort of visual display or ritual combat, much of our sex is based on imagination or particular, learned social events, we have multiple family structures that are interchangeable according to the needs of the moment and so on. Get back to me when we find other animals masturbating to genital torture, red hair and being (for example) the best cook in an eight block radius, but until then we're not going to be able to sum up why we have sex or are attracted to people with just hip to waist ratios and bank balances.
posted by Phalene at 7:10 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Phalene, your explanation wasn't as parsimonious as the adage about a chicken being an egg's way of making more eggs.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:21 AM on October 14, 2011


The foods that we eat may vary, but the reason we inherited the capacity to be reinforced by salt, fat, and sugar is simple. An account of the factors that influenced the development of our mating algorithms cam be compressed similarly.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:25 AM on October 14, 2011


The top universities remain gender-balanced or male-dominated. A man with a bachelor's degree from Harvard is not "marrying up" when he weds an MSW from a small community college

I'm both English and have a degree from a 'top university', and yet I feel the concept of marrying up/down is completely dated bollocks.
posted by mippy at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's possible to ignore biology when discussing psychology, but I think thats an impoverished filter through which to view human relationships.

The comment I was responding to, as you see, was an oversimplistic dismissal of feminism on the grounds that men are attracted to women who bear the traditional signs of fertility. Some surely are, but this is hardly the case for all men everywhere. Our sexual cues, in a modern, industrialised society, are based on many, many other things, and in many cases have nothing to do with fertility. It is not the driving force that trumps all over sexual drives. I don't think this is controversial or needs proving.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:56 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who cares if an explanation is "parsimonious" if it is not correct or complete. You seem to have a fetish for innapropriate reductionism. The mark of a good scientific theory is how well it explains or predicts reality, not how simplisitic it is. If you need to throw out outliers and other observations that don't fit the theory in order to make it work, the theory is flawed or in need of revising.
posted by eagles123 at 8:12 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can come up with a number of reasons for going into my kitchen that don't answer the question: "why do kitchens exist, and how did they come into existence". Is that metaphor too cryptic?
posted by Human Flesh at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2011


I'm sure you can. Just don't act like you are being scientific or truthful while you are doing it.
posted by eagles123 at 8:25 AM on October 14, 2011


Eagles, I don't think you get my metaphor.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:33 AM on October 14, 2011


The accounts that people give for their own behaviour are not necessarily relevant to a discussion abut the ontogeny of a desire. However, general theories about a particular desire ought to be informed by research on the ontogeny of said desire.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:34 AM on October 14, 2011


Who cares if an explanation is "parsimonious" if it is not correct or complete.

The theory of natural selection is correct and parsimonious.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:41 AM on October 14, 2011


Marriage is still mostly a contract for a man to own a woman a woman to be guaranteed some form of child support if she has children by a man.

Oh, how I wish it were so. I signed another alimony and child support check for my ex-husband just this morning.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 8:41 AM on October 14, 2011


Nobody said anything about the accounts people give of their behavior. Actual observations of behavior give plenty of counter evidence anyway - if you are willing to look. Is it a majority, no, (although thinking about it I'm not sure how we could ultimately tell) but that is not the point. An explanation of human behavior that does not actually explain human behavior, even when it deviates from the norm, is not complete. Invoking "parismony" as a measure to evaluate theories attempting to explain human behavior is therefore innapropriate. Trying to develope a "general theoy of desire" that does not account for these differences is pointless.
posted by eagles123 at 8:45 AM on October 14, 2011


What mate selection metrics invalidate the idea that selective pressures in our ancestral environment altered the flow of genes that code for reproductive behaviour?
posted by Human Flesh at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2011


None. The problem is tying a specific "mate selection metric" to a specific "selective pressure" or even a specific genotype, and then using that classification to create a theory that actually explains how people behave. Take the acendote from the article of the tall beautiful woman who married the short graphic designer "becaue she could talk to him". You might think I am using that to invalidate whatever metrics I think that you came up with - but I am not. I could say that disproves the idea that all woman are looking for powerful mates to provide for their offspring, or I could say that it proves that idea since intelligence is neccessary to gain power even if the person possessing the intelligence chooses not to use it. I could say practically anything, invent any story, to allow the data to fit into the theory I am creating. As a result, we are either left with a theory that is too narrow, and therefore excludes data that does not support it, or we are left with a theory that is so broad and diffuse as to be completely meaningless.
posted by eagles123 at 9:06 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


If we're back here again, the books Delusions of Gender and Love of Shopping is Not a Gene are pretty good accounts of why many "evolutionary psychology" or "sociobiological" are over-simplistic or based on flawed science.

But Human Flesh, you're beginning to seem a bit desperate in your search for a strawman who denies any effect of genes on behaviour. Desperation can be a real turn-off, try acting a bit more alpha?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


See what came of giving babes the vote?

President Harding?


If you've been watching Ken Burns, you know the answer is Prohibition. No women vote, no Prohibition.

for men and women today--and pardon the unromantic verbiage--marriage can be the price of access to each other. It is a mutual contract of free agents.

True in specific cases, but not generally. It won't be true until women have the same wealth and power that men do, not to mention some minimum legal protections for childbearing and child raising. /my2c
posted by mrgrimm at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2011


If we're back here again, the books Delusions of Gender and Love of Shopping is Not a Gene are pretty good accounts of why many "evolutionary psychology" or "sociobiological" are over-simplistic or based on flawed science.

Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot pretty much crushes the idea that male and female brains are "hardwired" any which way or another. Research strongly supports a very plastic brain for both sexes.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are thousands of books on food that ignore evolution and digestion, but that doesn't change the fact that at a fundamental level, the purpose of eating is to stay alive.

Ultimately, mate selection algorithms are tools that our genes use to perpetuate themselves. They provide us with heuristics for evaluating potential mates. We have genes in our cells that are older than the human race. They have the potential to outlive us by centuries. From a gene's perspective, we are simply short-lived vectors.

It's possible to have maladaptive mate selection algorithms. Some mate selection metrics could neither help nor harm our potential to spread our genes. They can hitchhike on us like the many introns and benign viruses that we carry, but the mate selection metrics that improve chances of survival are the ones that you read about in evolutionary biology textbooks. They spread far and wide. That's why they're salient to discussions of human sexual habits.
posted by Human Flesh at 9:27 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Human Flesh, are you just trying to get the last word here?

If you tell me what it is you want people to say, I'll say it just so we can move on from this point you seem to be stuck with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Whats the gene that codes for spending too much time arguing on the internet?
posted by eagles123 at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are thousands of books on food that ignore evolution and digestion, but that doesn't change the fact that at a fundamental level, the purpose of eating is to stay alive.

This, and your earlier kitchen analogy, are both disingenuous. I have to eat if I want to live; I do not need to reproduce. But apart from that, Phalene already addressed the points you keep repeating. Human sexuality, and what makes one man or one woman attracted to someone else, is incredibly varied and complex, with only a portion of the spectrum of motivations related to reproduction. This is an observable fact in the world around us. Were it not the case, yeah, we'd have a world of heterosexual Venus of Willendorfs and Conan the Venture Capitalists. Hope that's parsimonious enough for you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:54 AM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Atomic Stone:Or maybe your friends are just not particularly nice AND happened to be feminists.
You're closer to my parents' generation in age than mine. And I can play this anecdotal game, but veering the other way. My mother and her friends have been married [almost all of them to their first and only husbands] on average, for 35 years. And they're self-described feminists-the kind who take it "more seriously". And I've rarely seen the disrespecting or emasculating behavior you've described. I've also not seen the converse from their husbands.
Which doesn't make my observations any more valid than yours-it only proves that yours are nothing but that-your observations.


This is precisely my point. The article is written from the author's observations from her own experiences and that of her social circle, so she can't see that maybe her behavior or her attitude has as much to do with why she hasn't gotten married yet as any other reason mentioned in this thread. And the age range is bang on. She is 39. I'm 40. Maybe things softened in between the nineties and the 00s. I hope so, anyhow.
posted by pink candy floss at 1:02 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think Atomic Stone was mainly objecting to your contention that it is the women's serious attitude towards feminism that caused their marriages to fail rather than their dismissive attitudes towards their husbands. My mother is a staunch feminist, yet I cannot imagine her ever belittling my dad in public. And this:
Basically we listened and we understood the gravity of needing equality for the sexes without the...propaganda that went along with it. We were basically taught that women are better. That men exist as sperm providers and heavy lifters and it turned me off at an early age. I do admit I come to this discussion with a heavy chip on my shoulder as a result of that indoctrination.
is very very far from my experience of feminism. Seriously, sperm providers and heavy lifters? This is a straw man version of feminism, and it's no wonder you have a chip on your shoulder if this your only experience with it.
posted by peacheater at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised the author of the article didn't make a quick stop by Chateau Roissy.
posted by Ted Walther at 5:18 PM on October 14, 2011


This, and your earlier kitchen analogy, are both disingenuous.


Disingenuous? You think I don't believe the things that I wrote.


I have to eat if I want to live; I do not need to reproduce.


In a few decades, you will die no matter what you eat. Your genes don't need to suffer a similarly transient existence, but if they don't reproduce, then they will die, too. Some of the genes that you harbour are older than the human race itself. Genes manipulate your behaviour. They are the things that endowed you with the capacity to experience desire in the first place. You recoil from a hot surface and you enjoy orgasms because those abilities helped your ancestors reproduce.

Our genes lent us the capacity to feel pleasure and pain in order to control our behaviour. Of course, genes don't have conscious motives. None of this requires conscious awareness—that's one of the reasons why people's personal explanations for their own behaviour are so unreliable.
Human sexuality, and what makes one man or one woman attracted to someone else, is incredibly varied and complex, with only a portion of the spectrum of motivations related to reproduction. This is an observable fact in the world around us. Were it not the case, yeah, we'd have a world of heterosexual Venus of Willendorfs and Conan the Venture Capitalists.

Are you saying that you would accept that natural selection is the most important factor in the development of our mate selection algorithms if men were more masculine and women were more feminine? We shouldn't downplay the significance of adaptations just because maladaptations and adaptively neutral behaviours exist.

If any of our mate selection algorithms weren't forged by natural selection, then what made them? And what purpose do they serve?
posted by Human Flesh at 2:36 AM on October 15, 2011


Our thoughts are even scarier than you think, Human Flesh. Sociobiologists have a comforting teleological worldview where every aspect of human behaviour must serve a higher Purpose, explicable by a suitable Just-so story. But others think that some aspects of human culture may not serve any Purpose at all...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:44 AM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm both English and have a degree from a 'top university', and yet I feel the concept of marrying up/down is completely dated bollocks.

Agreed, but if you're going to buy into this very elitist concept, as Bolick does, you have to take the elitism all the way and not pretend that a degree is a degree, no matter where it's from and what career paths it opens. To do so is a deliberately dishonest formulation that writers like her use because it's pretty much the only possible way to make it look like women are "winning" in some area and therefore have made themselves unmarriageable. No woman, no matter how superficial, has "must have a master's degree in something, from somewhere" on her list of marriage criteria, but she might very well have "must be a doctor or lawyer" or "must have attended an Ivy."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2011


If any of our mate selection algorithms weren't forged by natural selection, then what made them? And what purpose do they serve?

I think I see the problem here. You seem to think I believe natural selection never served a purpose in reproduction. In fact, I said the very opposite from my first comment. I'm speaking from our cues and triggers of sexual attraction today, which is an incredibly varied and wide-ranging spectrum.

But at this point we're both just repeating ourselves.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:38 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a result, we are either left with a theory that is too narrow, and therefore excludes data that does not support it, or we are left with a theory that is so broad and diffuse as to be completely meaningless.

You may not find evolutionary history interesting or useful, but biologists do. Geneticists have discovered that we have more female ancestors than male ancestors. A person who doesn't know much about biology might not understand why our female ancestors outnumber our male ancestors, but the reason is obvious to someone who studies evolutionary biology.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:41 AM on October 15, 2011


You seem to think I believe natural selection never served a purpose in reproduction.

This might sound like a trivial semantic quibble, but I'm honestly having trouble parsing that sentence. Natural selection is just a process. It doesn't have a purpose (unless, I suppose, we give it a purpose by writing genetic algorithms, cellular automata, or some other stochastic process that involves filtration—though I guess that might be called artificial selection).
posted by Human Flesh at 2:55 PM on October 15, 2011


When someone makes a statement like: "a kitchen is a type of room in which food is prepared", the anti-evolution folks raise objections like: "What twaddle. Kitchens are incredibly varied and complex, with only a portion of the spectrum of motivations related to food. Yesterday, I used my kitchen to make Shrinky Dinks, and I have a friend who never cooks. The food processing theory is a simplistic, reductionistic, just-so story."

Those objections might be true, but they don't seem very insightful.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2011


Human Flesh, you have picked rather an unusual hill to die on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:27 PM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Human Flesh, I think you're pointing toward the very disconnect here. Others are pointing out that while an evolutionary history of kitchens can explain much about kitchens in aggregate -- especially in regards to what most kitchens have in common -- it's certainly fair to say that it would have trouble explaining why I always keep two rubber bands in the second drawer from the left. This isn't to dismiss the history of kitchens as itself reductionist, only to point out that it's frustrating to see kitchen historians in the public media take those portions of kitchen knowledge that are firmly graspable by their work and extrapolate into areas of kitchen specificity that are beyond their (current?) models.

When talking about romance, you acknowledge that their are certainly a slew of maladaptive and fitness-neutral traits in play, some of which will push their host in contradictory directions. And you acknowledge that "the mate selection metrics that improve chances of survival are the ones that you read about in evolutionary biology textbooks. They spread far and wide." But then you assume "That's why they're salient to discussions of human sexual habits."

And maybe they are salient to a discussion of human sexual habits in aggregate, some mushy average of human sexual habits (though we might ask to be extra-cautious when a generalizing theory seems to shore up conventional wisdom about, say, gender roles, extra cautious because certainly those bits of conventional wisdom could have affected our scientists'/writers' choice of which traits to study or which traits to emphasize in their work). The primary objection, I think, is that these mushy averages might be considerably less salient when discussing any one individual's behavior, and it's at least debatable whether an article on how hard it is to find a mate would be better off taking the world as a loose aggregate or whether -- especially if you're searching for a single mate among a sea of possibilities -- it might be better to conceptualize the masses as a series of discrete, unique individuals, almost all of which will deviate considerably from the 'norm.'

Or to put it slightly differently, maybe those potential maladaptive/selection-neutral traits become a *lot* more salient to a discussion of any one individual.
posted by nobody at 3:45 PM on October 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


(ugh, excuse the typos, please.)
posted by nobody at 3:46 PM on October 15, 2011


anti-evolution folks

Weren't you the one who provided a Wiki link to "straw man" earlier? This is a great example. I am not "anti-evolution". I like what evolution has done for me, and for most people I know. While it's entirely your choice if you want to deliberately ignore/dismiss a very simple, singular point I'm making about what makes people sexually attracted to each other, there is nothing "anti-evolution" about believing that there's more to the spectrum of sexual attraction than pure biology. It's a real reach to accuse people who disagree with you of being uneducated, not to mention disrespectful, so at this point I'm wondering what your motivation is here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:17 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know what you believe. You didn't say which mate selection algorithms we have that weren't honed by natural selection.

Your belief that "We live in a modern society, and our sexual cues and triggers come from entirely different sources today than they did when we were cowering under the shadow of the encroaching glacier wall" sounds like someone who holds an essentialist view of modern H. sapiens sapiens and other species. I tried to understand your position when I asked, "Are you saying that you would accept that natural selection is the most important factor in the development of our mate selection algorithms if men were more masculine and women were more feminine?", but you didn't answer.

I used the catch-all 'anti-evolution' because it's hard to succinctly sum up all of the aspects of our evolutionary history that eagles123, Phalene, and TheophileEscargot contend.
posted by Human Flesh at 1:38 AM on October 17, 2011




Why Are Most of the Atlantic Cover Stories Written By Women About Marriage and Babies?

Because the men editing the magazines don't accept the article pitches from women that are about things like politics or sports.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


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