Here’s the New York Times’s answer to the infamous 1986 article on single women’s chances of getting married over the age of 30.
I’m not unsympathetic to the men in this article, and I’ve certainly thought a lot of similar thoughts: “Did I do something wrong that I don’t have the life I thought I should have by now? Did I want it?” “Should I have done something differently at this point 12 years ago?” And so on. I realize it discusses the cases of a few men and tries to make them universal to contemporary single experiences. But some of my thoughts are
-Why doesn’t this discuss divorce or ended long-term relationships, a common experience among sometime married or partnered people, with kids or without? Being in your 40s (or 30s, or 20s), probably means you’ll encounter someone with “baggage.” But anyone over 30 probably has emotional baggage, married or not, even for those of us always single. And marriage and divorce are certainly not off limits to 20-somethings. It’s as if we’re all 28 or 30 (and full of magical energy!) until we’re suddenly 44.
-It’s very black or white about single versus married or in a committed relationship. A recently divorced 30-something friend of mine has weeks where she lives similarly to the guys in this article: she and her ex-husband share custody of their daughter, so some weeks she picks up her daughter from school and comes home to her family, and other weeks she’s by herself and probably wanting companionship the way they do. She’s dating, but at this point her adult dating life is very separate from the ideal of marriage and family. This is probably not unusual for men in this age group, either. “Never marrieds” have a different set of things to struggle with, for sure, but a lot of people’s lives just don’t match either warm, happy home or loneliness.
-It’s entirely possible to have marriage and children and still be as lonely as the men in this article. It’s just uncomfortable and difficult to think about, or talk about publicly. And the alternatives in this article are either family life, or nothing. Not community, or a sense of belonging somewhere as a single or married person, or “family” defined more broadly. Granted, these things take a lot of emotional work and connection, and our society hasn’t really caught up with the changing reality of marriage, singledom, and long-term relationships, all of which sometimes don’t last a lifetime.