Last month was a great month for news about the marriage prospects of America’s single women, if by great you mean completely disheartening.
We started with the news that America is now a majority-single nation. This should be good news for anyone looking for a partner, right? I mean, as Pew notes, 25 percent of “never-married young adults ages 25 to 34″ are already living with a partner, and another chunk are probably dating a partner (or multiple partners, poly people exist too), but still… the odds should be in the single-but-looking woman’s favor!
Then we learned that men of all ages prefer women in their 20s. Well, maybe like Blanche DuBois, I can look like I’m in my 20s if I stand in the right light. (As The Toast well noted, A Streetcar Named Desire’s “aging widow” Blanche is only 30 years old, the same age as Jess from New Girl. We’re not supposed to think of 30 as “old” anymore, unless we’re a guy on OKCupid.)
And then we got some statistics from Pew that were theoretically about “values, economics, and gender patterns” but which were quickly analyzed to reveal an uncomfortable truth: there just aren’t enough marriageable men. If, by “marriageable,” you mean “employed.” (At first “marriageable” was defined as “never previously married” and “employed,” and then when they didn’t like that number they decided to throw in all the divorcés too and there still weren’t enough employed men for every “never married young woman.”)
Someone wrote to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax today about an unwanted adventure:
I am writing because my husband and I are facing a huge dilemma. He cannot find a job in the United States. He recently got a job offer in Asia and wants us to go. I have conflicting emotions about this, as I do not speak the language and feel it would be very isolating for me. I would be leaving all my family and friends. We have no kids, and my husband thinks now is the time to take a risk. Any advice?
“Conflicting emotions”? The only evident emotions are negative ones, specifically fear of loneliness and the unfamiliar. And that’s totally fair. Big changes, like living abroad, are not for everyone. Perhaps the LW is an introvert and requires the support of the family and friends s/he would be leaving behind. S/he doesn’t mention a job but it might also be hard to earn money abroad, and not having the structure of work in a foreign place can be doubly daunting.
Here’s a cheerful story about a female academic whose potential employers were queasy about her marital status. This is known in the ivory tower as “the two-body problem.”
my marital status kept popping up in preliminary interviews, campus visits, and even in discussions with my letter writers. “What would your poor husband do?” emerged as a refrain in my job search. One of my recommenders repeatedly asked whether I would take jobs if they were offered. Later, I wondered if married male colleagues had to endure similar conversations. Did their spouses figure so heavily in the calculations of recommenders and interviewers? Were their wedding rings analyzed? Were their poor wives influencing possible job offers? Apparently not. Writing in The New York Times, English professor Caroline Bicks describes how her husband emerged as a “problem” in her job search, whereas no one ever asked him about his wife. “It felt as if my wedding ring was a hurdle I had to clear to prove my commitment to academia,” she writes, “while Brendon’s was a badge of stability and good-guy gravitas.”
And oh God it gets worse:
According to Role Reboot, which got the story from the Frisky, husbands are happier when their wives also bring home the bacon. Why not, right? Twice as much bacon! Or, since women are paid less, ~1.85x as much bacon, but still. All that bacon makes bedtime sizzle.
MONEY asked couples to subjectively rate their happiness in relationships, as well as report on the “hotness” of their sex life. Of couples where the wife earned as much or more than her husband, 83 percent reported they were happy or very happy (compared to 77 percent of couples where the wife earned no money or earned less). Couples with higher-earning wives also reported the best sex lives, with 51 percent attesting that what goes down between the bedsheets is “very good.” But it wasn’t just the couples together who reported happiness. Men, specifically, said they were happy with their sex lives with high-earning women: fifty-six percent of those married to women who earned as much or more called their sex lives “very good” (compared to 43 percent when the wives earned less). These men also expressed more overall happiness.
Are the wives similarly thrilled? Not entirely:
Bridesmaid costs are exorbitant, to the degree that should you bribe the bride $1000 to pick someone else, you’d still quite possibly save money over what you would have spent. An Alternet essay, reprinted in Salon, makes the point that when participating in a friend’s special day has the potential to bankrupt you, the situation is ridiculous and needs to change.
Much has been written about the average cost of a wedding as well the average cost of being a bridesmaid. A 2012 study by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com reported that the average wedding budget was $28,427 – the highest number it had reached since 2008. And Mint.com estimated in 2011 that the average total cost of being a bridesmaid totaled $1,695. … The Today Show reported that approximately 10 percent of people said they went into debt simply to attend or be in a wedding.
How does this enormous number come to be? There are the obvious factors: the dress, which can cost anywhere from $100 to more than $400; and then the alterations, which can add another $100 or more; and the shoes which can ring up as anything from $30 to $150. Then there are all of the events related to the wedding: the showers, of which there are usually more than one (along with the customary bridal shower, recipe and lingerie showers are now the norm). Then there’s the bachelorette party, which, for many, has evolved from a night of bar hopping to a destination event that involves airfare or gas, a hotel and several expensive days and nights at spas, restaurants and bars. Factor in manicures, pedicures, hair and makeup for the wedding itself and the total cost could easily exceed that $1,695 average.
Ester: Hello! Could you introduce yourself in a general way?
Rebecca: Um, I am a radical leftist extrovert nerd feminist Jew. I work as a fundraiser and communicator for a racial and economic justice community organization. I have lived all over the world and the East Coast.
Ester: And you are getting married this weekend!
Rebecca: That too! I am a “bride” and a “fiancee” (though I don’t identify as the latter). I am a partner to my partner as I have been for a while and a housemate and householder-homeowner-homemaker with three other people including said partner.
Ester: Your housing situation is unusual and — I think — fascinating. Can you describe it a little before we get into the details of the upcoming nuptials? Billfolders love real estate.
Rebecca: My partner and I were living in an awesome co-op house with four other folks, and our dear friends MB and JB also lived in an awesome co-op house. We all wanted to keep living the big-house-with-lots-of-people lifestyle and in several cases had done that from during college. So 10+ years into grownup co-op life I didn’t want to get married and disappear from my friends and really from myself into some partnered love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.
We talked with MB/JB a lot about living together and then there was this crazy confluence/opportunity: 3 sets of mutual friends own houses on the same block and we sort of happened on an open house on said block. The house was in some ways just another rowhouse but in others really ideal for a 2-family shared situation — like, there’s sort of 2 suites of bedroom/office/bathroom on the second floor, and a big 2-car garage, which is unusual in our city… so all of a sudden we were like OK let’s buy this thing. A week later (and a lot of fevered financial dealings, honestly) we had an offer accepted.
Ester: This, I should tell you, was always my childhood dream. To live with and among friends. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. But did you envision something like this when you were young, or younger?
Rebecca: This has been my dream as well, since let’s say college. It was always a little vague because it seemed sort of impossible: how do you find the right people who are also ready and willing at the time, etc.? I sometimes imagined myself in a bigger commune-y kind of thing but I like living in the city. I seriously feel very lucky and blessed to have these friends who were down for the whole idea and all of us are just having the best time. Lots of people’s response is like yours — they want this kind of thing too. It’s shocking to me that more people don’t try for it, but it is pretty unusual.
Ester: My best friend lived in an anarchist co-op once and she hated it; no one washed their dishes. And I lived on kibbutz once. It was less than ideal. But I think the reason a lot of people don’t try it is that it’s hard enough to mingle finances with one individual, a romantic partner — the idea of getting your money tied up with that of another couple can be pretty daunting. Money can kill relationships faster than anything, after all, except sex.