Lopez: How does Manning Up relate to your previous book, Marriage and Caste in America?
Hymowitz: Marriage and Caste was about the breakdown of marriage among lower-income people. It argued that this breakdown was deeply entwined with persistent poverty and inequality. Manning Up looks at what I see as an emerging threat to marriage at the higher end of the income scale. With women earning 57 percent of college degrees, it’s a mathematical certainty that many of them will not be finding men they want to marry. The number of women going to the sperm bank for children is already on the rise. With a dearth of marriageable men, that number will increase. The sad irony is that this will reduce the cultural pressure on men — guys, if you will — to grow up, since it reinforces the notion that they are optional in family life. Marriage and Caste was about marital breakdown’s effect on children. Manning Up is a warning about that breakdown’s impact on men.
Lopez: Do you feel bad for young women today? More so than for young men?
Hymowitz: I think it’s pretty tough for both sexes. I know, I know. These kids have lived very pampered lives. Their parents have taken them on European trips, they’ve given them sushi for lunch, they’ve bought them BlackBerries and iPods and Macs. But aside from the most committed child-men, college grads have to work very hard to get a foothold in the sorts of careers they’re interested in. They don’t have the scripts that previous generations had. They have to be far more entrepreneurial and autonomous.
I guess, though, in the end I’d have to say I feel especially sorry for young women. I’ve met wonderfully smart, attractive, successful, and competent 35-year-old single women who are in deep despair as they come to the recognition that they may not find a man they want to marry. Some are freezing their eggs; others are just going to the sperm bank. Whatever your view of these decisions, they illustrate that the urge to have a baby remains very, very powerful even among very, very busy women. As I put it in the book, pre-adulthood is in tension with women’s biology — not with men’s.
Lopez: What’s your demographically informed motherly advice to pre-adult men and women today?
Hymowitz: Considering the baby lust I just mentioned, I would say women need to be sure they’re not just thinking of their twenties as a time to build their careers. They may not want to marry before 25 — younger than that, couples are at a higher risk of divorce — but that doesn’t mean it’s party time. Take your dating life as seriously as your career.
For men, I’d say: You now have the time and freedom to figure out how to live a meaningful life. Get busy. Your twenties are a terrible thing to waste.