Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

Many media reports note that the Sex and the City paradigm - more young, single urban women than men - is a myth. In fact, there are substantially more such men than women. Yet my personal circle includes a substantially larger number of attractive, unmarried, educated, pretty successful, single women who want to get married (or say they do) than such men. And most of my friends and acquaintances of whom I have asked the question seem to have the same observation.

It's perplexing - until one excludes from the equation people of both sexes who say they want to be married but who have obviously structured their lives and mate-parameters to make marriage a ridiculously low probability. Then things seem to make more sense.

For example, a common Southern California male species is the man who does not so much want to be married as divorced with children, regardless of whether he has ever been married. Or at least the kind of man who has structured his mind and life to admit almost no other possibility. Of course, the most common form of this species is the actual divorced father - whose wife is given primary custody (either de jure or de facto) of the children, thereby reducing the father/child relationship to a kind of glorified uberuncle/niece-nephew pairing that seems to fit many such fathers just fine. They have children (once in a while), which is nice even though the cost in financial and emotional terms (ex-spouse, resentful, angry kids) is pretty high. Apparently, the cost is worth it for many such fathers. On the plus side, there are the new girl friends who are often chosen to have an educational and social level (even ethnicity) unacceptable to the father's family and circle of friends - thereby minimizing the inevitable pressure on the father to remarry.

If a man can establish a close relationship with actual nieces and nephews, he might even avoid the costs almost entirely. In that case he has to settle for children with a diluted genetic content, which evolution may deplore and which may be less satisfying emotionally than having his own emotionally attenuated offspring. But, then, there are sociobiologists who posit that this is exactly what bachelor uncles have always been for from an evolutionary standpoint.

From a personal perspective, much of the reason for such lifestyle parameters among men is often to expand the circle of women with which one may have sex. The more educated and financially successful and unfettered a man is, the broader his sexual horizons of womankind. Indeed, many hyper-educated, hyper-talented, rich men are more than pleased to dally with women of much less education, success, talent and money. Such marriages are not unusual. Indeed, the phenomenon of physically attractive but worthless heirs is a traditional common consequence of such male proclivities.

But if men view their education and success as opening for them ever broader vistas of sexual opportunities, the exact opposite seems to be the case for women, at least to the extent women were represented by participants in a colloquium at which the paper "The Growing Gender Gaps in College Enrollment and Degree Attainment in the U.S. and Their Potential Economic and Social Consequences" was presented, according to Wendy McElroy:

[T]he concern of the colloquium participants was a growing trend of women marrying men who were less educated and earned less money than they did. Minority women expressed the greatest concern Â? and with reason. According to the Sum study, Â?in 1999-2000, for every 100 degrees awarded to Black men, Black women were awarded 188 associate degrees, 192 bachelor degrees, and 221 masterÂ?s degrees.Â? Hispanic women earned nearly 130 degrees for every 100 awarded to Hispanic men. Sum concluded that highly educated women would have to consider "marrying down." He labeled the prospect as "a serious economic and cultural problem."

Ms. McElroy's observations are consistent with a personal anecdote. Recently, over dinner, a slender, beautiful, young, intelligent. educated, securities sales woman employed by one of the big New York investment banks shared with me her concerns following the break-up of her long-term relationship with a wealthy young Southern California male. After reviewing with her the various criteria she had established for a future replacement main squeeze, we together did some quick probabilistic calculations of the type those in or close to the securities business are prone to perform during their more intimate moments. The calculations took into account, for example, the fact that there was absolutely no chance that she would be interested in even the best looking, most congenial fireman one could imagine. Nor was she interested in "poaching" on the already-married or near-equivalent. Gay was no-go, of course. Etc. After some fast work on a note pad and calculator thoughtfully provided by the restaurant (whose napkins were of the expensive damask variety not suitable for scribbling except for the most aggressive) we determined that there are, perhaps, eight men now located in the United States who would make suitable mates.

My charming dinner companion passed on dessert.

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