The Other McCain

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So, Monica Potts: When’s the Wedding?

Posted on | April 6, 2011 | 3 Comments

In the American Prospect, Monica Potts gets all sarcastic about Kay Hymowitz’s new book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys., describing Hymowitz’s thesis:

Hymowitz argues that a generation of parents who spent their time empowering girls has left men adrift and unable to understand their proper place in society. . . . Feminism, she says, has created a perpetual child-man unable to grow up, leaving scores of women partner-less. Apparently, Hymowitz believes, positive stereotypically male traits — courage, fortitude, stoicism — can only be enforced through traditional family structures. Left to their own devices, men fall into their natural irresponsible state, unable to commit because society has sent the message that they are unnecessary.
For this, she blames women!

Whether or not Miss Potts has accurately described Hymowitz’s argument, I’ll leave to others to decide. (I haven’t read the book, so I’m unprepared to defend it.) But I will note that Miss Potts provocatively headlines her article, “Why Aren’t You Married Yet?” — and never answers her own question.

This attitude is far from being atypical among young professional women who, like Miss Potts, are in their late 20s and make a great show of being indifferent to their marital prospects.

They have plenty of opportunities, such women would have you believe. Why, she can’t walk two blocks down the street without encountering some lovestruck man who, as soon as he sees her approach, falls to his knees and begs for her hand in marriage.

So . . . when’s the wedding, sweetheart?

My friends in Washington will laugh at that. Whenever I’m at a cocktail reception and encounter a young couple (who may or may not be dating) I inevitably ask, “When’s the wedding?”

This is asked in a half-joking manner, but only half-joking. Some social conservatives merely talk about traditional family values, but I feel compelled to actually try to do something to reverse America’s slow slide into moral decadence.

“When’s the wedding?” I ask the young couples. This typically provokes laughter — 20-something professionals in D.C. do not, as a rule, think much about their near-term marital prospects — but I persist as if in deadly earnest: “Seriously, there’s no waiting period in Virginia, you know. You two could go to the courthouse in Arlington tomorrow morning and be on your honeymoon before lunch. Time’s a-wasting!”

It’s interesting, the reactions inspired by offering such old-fashioned advice, because in 21st-century America there is no longer much of a culturally approved courtship script.

Everybody knows how to “hook up” — fornication! – and everybody knows how to have what is politely termed a “relationship” — shacking up! living in sin! – but the route to Holy Matrimony is very fuzzy for these 20-something urban professionals.

About 10 years ago, an attractive young single woman of my acquaintance made the mistake of mentioning that she had a boyfriend. “So, when’s the wedding?” I asked.

My young acquaintance laughed this off, and so I persisted in avuncular manner: “Well, it’s serious, right? He loves you, you love him — when’s the wedding?”

More laughter. But it seems that my half-joking question struck a spark, because over the next few weeks, I heard much chatter among the young lady’s friends about the romantic involvement between her and her beau. It seems that the young lady decided to bring up the question with this fellow of exactly where their “relationship” was heading. Her beau was apparently content to have matters just drift without any definite plan for the future (“stringing her along,” as folks used to say) and the young lady became increasingly perturbed by his non-committal attitude.

Just as I suspected, you see.

Having been a bachelor myself until I was 29, I know exactly how these young fellows play it: Get yourself a regular girlfriend, but keep your options open, just in case a better girl comes along. The girlfriend enjoys the “relationship,” which validates her sense of her own desirability: She’s got herself a man, and enjoys the social status of being part of a couple, rather than an unwanted reject, like her less-attractive friends.

While being in a steady “relationship” (Lord, how I hate that word) satisfies the young woman’s immediate appetite for couplehood, however, this status tends to be unstable in the long term. Because once the “relationship” extends past a few weeks and into a matter of months, the young man’s unwillingness to commit permanently — forever and ever, ’til death do us part — becomes rather obtrusive. If he’s not willing to commit now, exactly when will he be ready for such a commitment?

These were the issues that arose between my young acquaintance and her boyfriend a decade ago, after I asked the half-joking question: “So, when’s the wedding?”

She broke up with the boyfriend, as her friends told me. It was a fairly traumatic break-up, because the fellow was a real catch and the young lady had hoped that this guy was Mr. Happily Ever After. It hurt to discover he was actually just Mr. Waste a Few Months of My Life.

The young lady never mentioned any of this to me and, though I heard all about it from her friends, I was too tactful to bring it up in any of our subsequent conversations. But I congratulated her warmly when, about six months later, she became engaged to another guy. They got married in short order.

All of this I relate by way of prompting Monica Potts to answer her own question: “Why Aren’t You Married Yet?”

Does she have any prospects? Is there some non-committed boyfriend in the picture, happily drifting along in a “relationship” while keeping his options open?

If she’s content with such a situation, OK. But if not — if Miss Potts envisions a future that includes marriage, perhaps with a guy she’s already dating — she ought to think seriously about her prospects, and not just let things drift forever.

UPDATE: Turns out there’s a whole Memeorandum thread about the marital prospects of Our Miss Potts, with commentary from John Hawkins and Jazz Shaw, among others. While I have no idea what advice these gentlemen may offer, I hope she’ll heed them rather than listen to the increasingly bitter Amanda Marcotte.

UPDATE II: Thanks to commenter Mike for making this point:

The column does not make any arguments whatsoever! It’s pure snark, in the form of exaggerating the points you’re pretending to respond to in a tone that signals that you think they’re ridiculous – Can you believe she said that? LOL!

Indeed, and this is a common mode of liberal reaction to any argument made by social conservatives. Whether conservatives are attempting to explain How We Got Here (in this case, the decline of marriage and the rise of the irresponsible Boy-Man), or offering suggestions for How We Can Get There (i.e., reversing the observed trend), liberals just snark it up, as if it the arguments are self-evidently ridiculous.

This mode of non-argument relieves liberals of the burden of considering whether a 40% illegitimacy rate is even a problem at all, much less proposing any practical measures to reduce the rate — except perhaps encouraging more abortions.

Of course, the problems are complex and any solution will be challenging. If it were a simple phenomenon with an easy answer, surely it would have been “fixed” by now. However, the non-arguments of liberals suggest that they are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, and therefore will not lift a finger toward remedying the socio-cultural causes of so much misery.

UPDATE III: The ever-helpful Dan Collins offers several tips for ladies seeking to improve their romantic lives.

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