The New Singleness

October 25th, 2011

by Maggie Gallagher

October 20, 2011

The decline of manhood and norms around sex, marriage, and family produces for young women what may in fact have to be endured. But it shouldn’t be celebrated.

In the cover story of the November Atlantic magazine, Kate Bolick declares her liberation from marriage: “It’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family–and to acknowledge the end of ‘traditional’ marriage as society’s highest ideal.”

The odd thing about “progressive” tropes is their peculiar, static, timeless quality.

For progressives, time stands still. Each new generation is posed as poised to break through taboos that, in truth, vanished long ago.

The modern youngish woman like Kate (mateless and childless at 39 years of age) must find a way to view her sexual predicament as a social breakthrough, a revolutionary act, an act of liberation from her mother’s restricted and restrictive norms.

“In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. . . . She’d never had sex with anyone but my father. Could she have even envisioned herself on a shopping excursion with an ex-lover, never mind one who was getting married while she remained alone?” Kate wonders.

Kate is probably the very last generation of (not very) young women who can even imagine themselves re-enacting this fantasy of sex as liberation. She is the very last generation of women whose mothers married young in a world that frowned on premarital sex, had children with husbands and–because any actual marriage is finite and human longing is infinite–fantasized a better, bigger life and marriage for their daughters than the humdrum reality of married love.

I know. At 51, I’m about a decade older than Kate. My son is just a decade younger.

The next generation of Atlantic cover girls on marriage will have mothers who had too much sex before marriage, and perhaps even afterward, who came of age in a society that celebrated casual sex, divorce, unwed-motherhood, abortion.

Your mother’s been there, done that.

Of course, that will not stop the “progressive” young women from trying to find some way their ongoing sexual perplexities represent a revolutionary advance for women.

But because Kate is an honest woman, her essay reads like a dreary slog through the gap between myth and reality of the sexual revolution.

Kate goes back to speak to younger women today, and is appalled by what she finds among 20-somethings:

Keep reading.


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  1. Roivas
    October 25th, 2011 at 15:07 | #1

    “Kate goes back to speak to younger women today, and is appalled by what she finds among 20-somethings”

    People have been bemoaning how terrible it is the younger generation isn’t exactly like them since Socrates. Forgive me if I find one woman’s bellyaching unconvincing.

  2. nerdygirl
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:09 | #2

    Does this really op-ed piece really need to insult Kate for choosing to remain single? As if being “single” is the worst thing about her?

  3. Sean
    October 25th, 2011 at 17:05 | #3

    Still, as adults, I’d like to remind Ms. Gallagher that, just as she chose to have a baby out of wedlock, defying the norms at the time, other adults would like the freedom to choose what works for them.

    Rules are nice, until we turn them into strait (or straight) jackets. Insisting that only straight people marry is like putting a strait jacket on gay people, who choose same-sex persons for love and romance.

    It’s awfully hard to prescribe what’s best for a stranger. Worse is to make laws that force strangers to live the life you might want for yourself.

  4. Martin.
    October 25th, 2011 at 20:18 | #4

    So sad. A large cohort of women in this situation. Much misery in the coming decade. They threw their lot in with the liberal tradition and it has turned out to have been a terrible thief.

  5. Bob Barnes
    October 26th, 2011 at 02:51 | #5

    Statistically, when a young woman marries she sees up to a 50% chance that her marriage will end in divorce. But wait. Her former husband has a high 60s percent chance that he’ll remarry, her chance is about 40%. If they had kids, her chance of remarrying sinks even lower, while his doesn’t change. Bottom line, his standards of living are unlikely to change, where hers takes a nose dive after divorce.

    I’d say anything a woman can do to keep her life in a stable standard of living is a good thing.

  6. David
    October 26th, 2011 at 06:48 | #6

    1. The bemoaning may be perennial, but sometimes it’s right.

    2. This op-ed doesn’t insult, it observes the obvious: that Kate is HONEST and that her own statements suggest something less than “fulfillment,” and a need to justify both her past choices and the fact that those choices have not led her to the future husband and 1 (at MOST 2) children she was expecting.

    3. Indeed, the article should be read by all young women like those Kate mentions who believe that their hopes for marriage and children will in no way be sacrificed by spending their 20s and 30s in serial relationships or the hook-up culture.

  7. Roivas
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:52 | #7

    “Indeed, the article should be read by all young women like those Kate mentions who believe that their hopes for marriage and children will in no way be sacrificed by spending their 20s and 30s in serial relationships or the dating culture.”

    There, I’ve now just written the sentence as it would have appeared 20 years ago. Amazingly enough, people are still getting married now despite the furrowed brows and gnashed teeth.

  8. John Noe
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:56 | #8

    The damage being done by this new definition of marriage and co habiting will be steep in the future when the bonehead liberals find out that the nanny state will be broke. While they celebrate this new sexual relationship that insures no stable reproduction, they are destroying the funding of the entitlement state. Remember entitlements are paid for by taxes on the offspring of stable marriages.

  9. Heidi
    October 26th, 2011 at 13:09 | #9

    Don’t assume that every woman who is unmarried is single!!!!

  10. Bob Barnes
    October 26th, 2011 at 15:30 | #10

    John Noe :
    The damage being done by this new definition of marriage ….

    Yes, still waiting to hear about this. In court, not one pro-prop 8 witness could show harm.

  11. John Noe
    October 26th, 2011 at 17:54 | #11

    You and the others have heard about the damage but you chose to ignore it. You are like the tobacco smokers who simply chose to ignore the evidence and then state that they are waiting to hear this.
    But we are doing a fine job of getting our message out to the people in the voting booth. We are undefeated in elections when we take the message to the people. Unable to prove their cause to the public at large the homosexuals have lost fair and square time and time again when the people have rendered their verdicts.
    They resort to dishonest lawsuits before their own hand picked judges in a San Francisco courtroom and feebly claim that this proves their cause. I am confident in the democratic process and that we will win again in Minnesota, North Carolina, and the election of 2012. The only way we lose is if the other side has to resort to lying and cheating by looking for corrupt judges to overule the electorate.

  12. nerdygirl
    October 26th, 2011 at 19:09 | #12

    So, I’m supposed to just latch myself on to one guy and not let go, like an octopus? I mean, I see bemoaning the hook up culture, but multiple relationships are bad? I’m a just supposed to sit around and wait for some guy to ride up on white horse with an engagement ring?

    The way “unmarried” kept being mentioned read like the way a germaphobe would write about the “unclean” Mcdonalds bathroom.

  13. Bob Barnes
    October 27th, 2011 at 02:31 | #13

    John Noe :
    You and the others have heard about the damage but you chose to ignore it.

    No, this is no proof of any harm because there is none. And I see you have nothing but aimless accusations.

  14. John Noe
    October 27th, 2011 at 16:07 | #14

    All of the harm that is being done by false marriage as the only true marriage is between one man and one woman has been well documented by NOM, the Ruth Insittute, and many other sources. Any open minded person can see it if they just take the time to see the evidence. As more see this I see us winning in even more future elections. There was a great NOM post that the support of our cause in Maryland has grown bigger and stronger than before.
    I would love to see a revote in one of the states that voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Any resonable person can then see what this open minded person has seen. The threat from false marriage is real and is causing harm in our society. Thus we win the election again except by even bigger margins than before.
    This is why the desperate homosexuals are now judge shopping and trying to get a corrupt judge to overrule the people and impose their view on the electorate. This is what happened in the federal Prop8 trial. The trial was a sham presided over by a biased judge who should have recused himself and had no business in hearing this case. Even the CA Supreme Court that ushered in the phony same sex marriages in the first place admitted that we the people have the right to amend our Constitution. It is only delusional gays and their leftist followers who think that it is unconstitional for the people of a state to amend their own Constitution.

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