Single Hope
Is it even worth trying to get married after 30?


LOPEZ: Is Kate Bolick a case for arranged marriage? Of course, her feminist mother wouldn’t have been the best candidate for the arranger.

MARSHALL: There’s a lot of room between the situation today — an almost entirely autonomous search for a marriage partner — and arranged marriage. We live in a highly individualistic culture with confused notions of privacy. Sure, there’s a lot of disclosure on Facebook, Twitter, etc., but when it comes to some of the most intimate issues, where mentoring and wise counsel are most needed, they’re often walled off in a zone of individual privacy. It would do us good to take a few steps away from this atomized scenario and restore more family, congregational, and social support for helping young people discern the path to marriage. That takes a willingness to be in a community where we know others and are willing to be known — really known — by them.

LOPEZ: Kate Bolick writes: “A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.” Isn’t this part of the problem? At some point — decades ago — having “serious long-term boyfriends” became her routine. Does this have something to do with some serious cultural courtship problems?

MARSHALL: It’s the “naïveté” verdict that intrigues me. “You go” girls were told that life was a near-endless string of opportunity, so why wouldn’t that apply to relationships as well? It turns out that’s not entirely true, but it has helped shape the choices — relational and otherwise — of a generation of young women.

: In your response to Bolick, you write: “If you take ‘The Girl Project,’ add ‘The War Against Boys,’ and mix in some sexual revolution (‘Dan Quayle Was Right,’ after all, per The Atlantic’s April ’93 cover story), is it any surprise you’re left with ‘All the Single Ladies’?” What does Dan Quayle have to do with it?

MARSHALL: Dan Quayle was right — as scholar Barbara Dafoe Whitehead boldly proclaimed in that Atlantic cover story — to say it’s not good for society when sex and childbearing are separated from marriage. That’s especially true for children. But it’s true for single women as well. The availability of sex outside marriage takes away a major incentive for men to commit. The sexual revolution and the feminist movement are the big cultural shifts that have changed the romantic landscape considerably. (Incidentally, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was well ahead of the curve, as usual, on the implications for single women. In 2003, she wrote the book Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman.)

LOPEZ: This “War Against Boys“ point is an important one, isn’t it? What might a response to Bolick from a 39- or even a 29-year-old man say?

MARSHALL: The most recent single-male response I’ve received (after an op-ed I wrote in response to Bolick’s piece) said it seems that women are just trying to be men. This man sees women pursuing degrees and careers and says that while he doesn’t begrudge them those opportunities, “to hear them lament about there not being any ‘marriageable’ men makes me think ‘you got what you deserved.’”

That comes off a little harshly, but it’s an important indicator of how we can fall into seeing the opposite sex through a sort of fog of cultural stereotypes. We need to cut through that fog and see one another for the unique individuals we’re created to be. With all the changes of the last generation, there is some serious cultural recalibration that needs to take place. We should have grace for one another in the midst of that.

One more comment on the male side of this issue: I’m delighted to see my former boss Bill Bennett speaking to men about this issue since the publication of his new book, The Book of Man. The Rev. Kevin DeYoung also addressed men in a blog last week on the Gospel Coalition website. It’s critically important that male leaders like these engage men on this topic.


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