Ashamed to have a Boyfriend in your 20s? REALLY?!

…in which Happycrow floats what is probably the least popular idea in America.

I was going to comment on this article in The Atlantic, but life caught up to me, and Susan Walsh has beaten me to the punch by a mile.

(edit: looks like some of the ladies already agree with this one.  Chez Happycrow may not be all that far out in the ether)

Of course, my first inclination is to say “what kind of fucked-up world have the feminists created, if they’ve made young women ashamed to have a boyfriend?”  Well, outside of “why the hell  do people keep looking at television of all things, as a measure of actual human life,” that’s “cue the Mommy Wars” territory, and the same generational madness that first told women that they were failures if they stayed at home to raise their kids, and are now fighting over whether pursuing a career is a self-centered and morally doubtful enterprise.

Susan Walsh’s take:

As women, we face choices. You cannot give 100% of yourself  to a career and another 100% of yourself to your family. You cannot be a superstar in both realms, it is impossible. Over the years, I have known many women who had careers and children – hundreds. I have never known a woman who had a high-powered career and a close relationship to her husband and children. Not one.  Maybe Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer will be the exceptions, but I doubt it. Every single one of us must compromise if we want to find balance in life.

That balance is complicated by a woman’s expiration date.  Phoebe Maltz Bovy asks:

Women in their 20s are told they’re too young to settle down. Then, seemingly overnight, they start hearing they’re spinsters. What gives?

There’s two reasons for that.

First, just like men, you have a biological expiration date; you’ll have a harder time having finding mates and having kids as you get older.  There is a horrible politically-incorrect truth that none of the 40+ single women on internet dating sites wants to face: once you hit “the Wall,” the vast majority of women can no longer attract a man her own age — unless she is very unusual (and very lucky), she’ll only get interest from men who are five to ten years her senior, if not older.

A 22-year-old woman can get a date with a 22-year-old guy.  A 40-year-old woman is going to be attracting older men.  A woman in her 50s is going to get attention from guys who are drawing Social Security.  Women start out with vast dating power and ability to be choosy while they’re fertile, but their ability to attract men declines step by step with said fertility (don’t know how this works for the actually aged, but I suspect the Boomers are going to provide us with a lot of data).

Second, and this is just as politically-incorrect, and just as important:  women pushing hard for careers and then looking for quality men aren’t going to find them.  The plaintive feminine wail of “where have all the good men gone” you can find on any dating site can be answered by “they found a good girl and settled down while you were busy hooking up with that bad-boy loser.”  Quality men are attracted to high-quality women, and those few who wind up still on the market, or back on the market in their late 30s and 40s certainly aren’t going to pursue a woman who wants a man to your accessory item, a mantlepiece to her awesome life and career.  He’ll go for a woman who, first and foremost, wants to be a wife.   Because otherwise, what’s in it for him?  Your awesome resume and high-dollar spending habits?

Now, I know some gals who have won the lottery and done fine this way, but they all have three things in common:  they’re scary-smart, they’re smoking-hot (Happycrow comes from a smoking-hot mom and has very harsh standards, regularing grading gals 6s and 7s who others consider 9s and 10s), and they ALL — every single one of them married men significantly their senior.  And, actually, they’re all quite happy.  So “play that game but be open to adoring and having kids with an accomplished older man” seems, at least anecdotally, to be a valid play.  Anecdotally, the folks I know who married very young seem mostly to be stable, happy, and winning-at-life, with the exception of one down-in-flames divorce involving alcohol and drugs.

But Happycrow’s sample size is admittedly limited, and the plural of anecdote is not “evidence.”  I very nearly went this route myself, and would have wound up somewhere in Amarillo instead of somewhere in Central Europe.  I like my life, but I certainly can’t say the other route would have been a train wreck or disaster, and it might have rocked.  Road, more or less travelled, rinse, don’t repeat: for better or for worse (and Happycrow has a great life he ain’t trading in) we all know the story.

—-

What we have here isn’t a moral problem.  It’s a socio-economic problem that faces women, and it’s “what choice do I get to make?”  That’s not bad:  ask all the men up in the peanut gallery saying “why should I give a shit, since I don’t get any choices and nobody’s offering me one?”  (Answer: guys get plenty of choices if they don’t care about kids – if they do, then they have to put shoulder to wheel and support that mom while she’s pregnant and after and unable to do more than put in trivial work-hours, for as long as that lasts). 

Well, if you have a girlfriend or daughter, you need to care, because society is scaring the shit out of young women by saying “you’d better choose right, or you’re going to ruin your life.  But, I’m really trying to force you to live a life that lets me vicariously claim your achievements, so I’m going to brand you a failure no matter what you pick, if you don’t make the choices I like.”  Tyrannical solipsistic bitches like Simone de Beauvoir, who would actually have banned stay-at-home motherhood if given the chance (none, because there were very few people stupid enough to listen to her), are only the most extreme example.  As JudgyBitch puts it, “bitter old feminist is bitter and old.”

What we really need is an option where these two are not so mutually-incompatible (guys, bear with, this gives you options down the road, too — see below).  Now, for a truly high-powered career, you can simply write that off:  you pull 60+-hour weeks, your relationship with your family is going to suffer.  Period.  That’s the sacrifice you make when you choose to chase a career (and tragically, the “box” people who have convinced themselves that they must pursue a career <i>for the sake</i> of the family find themselves in if they don’t actually pay attention to what the family members are saying).  If you find yourself forgetting your kid’s age and you’re *not* a Head of State, you’ve got some serious questions to ask yourself about this whole “work-life balance” thing.

(Now, granted, if you’re from the part of the cultural world where being afraid of having a boyfriend in your 20s sounds like “I have issues and need therapy,” none of this is a problem.  But all these gals doing the interviews and publishing the books can’t just be pulling these unhappy girls out of their asses.  At least, I hope not.  That would hurt.)

What we need is something significantly different:  a lower cost-of-entry for education, and for women to not only consider settling down in their 20s, but to consider settling down in college.  That means growing up faster than television says to, but fuck television, seriously.  This Sex-and-the-City-style “hookup culture” bullshit does nothing but make an alarming number of young women miserable.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/boys-on-the-side/309062/

Wanna find a quality guy?  Find a guy who doesn’t FREAK at the prospect of:

  1. Getting married in school and being seriously careful about school debt.
  2. Spending time with your spouse in school/grad-school.
  3. Having kids early, working as necessary to manage the bills, and supporting the guy’s career if possible.
  4. Re-entering the workforce to pursue career once the kids get into school, preferably in a way that’s not being enslaved to the corporate ladder but lets the gal call a lot of her own shots: dental hygienist, real-estate agent, part-time office gig, retail management, or part-time high-skill-trade.  Low-end to high-end, whatever suits her talents and the need for flexibility
  5. Giving the guy the option to keep pushing on the career, or else revamp to cycle-down into something more basic and family-oriented, rather than telling him he’s got  to always have his nose to the grindstone until he dies.
  6. OR, enough support from family, etc, to let her be the hard-charger while he takes care of the kid and home-school stuff and then similarly ramps up, details tbd once kids are in school.

Your immature, bad-boy loser types will freak out and run from this at a thousand miles per hour.  Your serious, high-quality men will figure out “hey, she’s put some thought into this,” assuming attraction, and won’t freak out.

There are some problems, of course:  a lot of the guys who seriously get this are guys working in trades, who don’t have the economic privelege of being a permalescent (or “tween,” some people are calling it).  They have to grow up and get with it or starve.  How do they meet?  How do young couples make some of the hard compromises that early careers (read: “moving”) entail?  What does the girl do if it turns out that the guy is living in fantasy-land and has a career predicated on the world adopting his special flavor of wishful thinking?  What if either of them “trades the other in” down the road?

All of those are problems (especially the “got traded in” issue, which victimizes both men and women). But they’re pretty minor compared to the near-guarantee of “pursued career and ignored men until 40, now can’t find a husband, children looking impossible.”  It’s got a lot going for it, for both people involved.  Gals get commitment and support.  Guys, seriously:  how much of a young man’s “night life” is basically wasted looking for some gal to hang out with?  Instead of being in a steady relationship, getting laid two or three times a day, and mutually supporting each other while all those single people look on in jealousy?  (Especially considering the old and very true wisdom, that there is no hornier creature on earth than a happily-married good girl.  The gal I almost chased back in the day said “yeah, once I’m married, I’ll do him on the ceiling, but I have to wait until then.”)

Now, is this something that actually solves the problem?  Ehhh, no.  In essence, it’s just “yet more advice being thrown at women.”  Except that this one’s being pitched to women and men, because, seriously, you kinda need two for this situation.  Women are the gatekeepers of sex:  men are the gatekeepers of commitment.  And a guy who’ll put commitment on the table as an option right off the bat, without being one of those “creepy barnacle guys,” shows a depth that good-time bad-boys can’t put on the table, and that “cads” who are looking for a pump-and-dump won’t put on the table.

Beats the hell out of being one of these poor sad sacks Susan’s talking about, 47 years old and desperately dropping money on expensive, dicey fertility treatments.

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4 Comments

  1. All true.
    My mother was not terribly happy when I married very young and left most good career options and advancement off the table (military moves you around too often to settle really). Then her big thing was putting off having children. She actually told me I could and should wait until I’m 40 to start trying. Very glad I had ’em in my 20s. Can’t imagine having babies late in life…even if there weren’t fertility issues, they take up too much energy!

    Reply
    • My wife and I got a VERY late start (long story but basically we met late), and had a kid at 40. It will be almost impossible to have more, which breaks my little petty heart. We would have had to pass on a few things, but could honestly have made a run at it much earlier w/o necessarily falling afoul of some of the later complications (of course, that would mean I would lose my HappyChick, not on the table).

      Reply
  2. sqt

     /  March 14, 2013

    I got very *very* lucky and met my husband when we were both young enough to put thought into family and what timeline we’d follow and I had both of my kids by the time I was 35. We sacrificed a lot in the early years so I could stay home (we were so poor) but it’s all been worth it. Now I’m lucky enough that it’s unlikely I’ll have to go back to work. Which is the best option, in my opinion, because my brothers went off the rails when my mom went back to work when we were older. Thank goodness my husband agrees that older kids need supervision just as much as younger ones- but that’s another topic.

    I straight-up tell my husband that he has reached the stage where his options and desirability have eclipsed mine. Both so he knows that I’m aware of the switched dynamics and so he knows I’m grateful to have him. He’s still under the delusion that I’d be desirable to other men, and therefore have as many options as he does (bless him), but I think that’s the result of a long-term relationship and not the world as it really is.

    Reply
    • I’m pretty sure my wife would be able to replace me if I got hit by a truck. I sure hope so!

      Glad it worked out for you. Mine was in some ways sub-optimal, but in others, quite frankly, I’ve been just amazingly lucky. I could have been dead in SO many ways that it actually IS funny.

      Reply

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