The article in question is http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/27/kate-bolick-women-marriage-relationships. It's quite long, so I'll summarise it for you. The basic point (i.e. the title) is that "marriage is a declining option for women"; it is a little hard to establish from the article exactly why the author believes this to be the case, but her reasons seem to boil down to the following:
- Us 'post-boomers' "value emotional fulfilment above all else", rather than needing to get married so we'd have help with the lambing
- Men today are useless fecks who either don't earn enough to impress us, aren't smart enough to impress us, or are to geeky to tolerate; in any case, they don't like to commit and we no longer need them to pro-create, so why would anyone bother?
- Couples nowadays are way too couple-y (I'm not quite sure how this supports the actual argument, but it made for an interesting tangent)
First of all, let me say that I do not view marriage as a non-option; indeed, it is very much an option, and if only it were as simple as ticking a box on a survey, then married I would be. I speak, of course, as someone who is apparently chronically incapable of attracting anyone of the opposite sex, and from time to time I have given some thought as to why this might be.
The main reason (and one which is, I suspect, 99% of the problem) is that I am chronically incapable of flirting. I just cannot do it. Perhaps this stems from my utter lack of self-esteem which leads to me believing, at heart, that there is no conceivable reason why the other side would be flirting with me; whatever the reason, anyone who wishes to be considered as a marriage prospect would do considerably better to state the fact clearly and outright (perhaps in a letter, because face to face I might throw up) and to directly request my own opinion on the matter. If I am interested (and provided the letter is grammatically reasonable and the spelling is good), then off we shall go; if not, I shall politely decline and it will never be spoken of again. This seems to me a much better course of action than me pretending to be all 'damsel in distress' or him making corny comments about how my dad must be a thief because he stole all the stars from the sky and put them in my eyes. Seriously.
But there may be some truth in what Kate Bolick says (let's be nice to her; she has an unfortunate surname). I have, I suppose, no particular need to get married, in terms of my survival. I earn enough money to get by, I'm quite handy with a hammer, and frankly, I see no need to enhance my house by having someone playing an XBox in it.
On the other hand, I would very much like to have children; I like them, I think I might be an ok parent, and it would a change from spending most evenings watching re-runs of the X Factor. For this, I would need a man.
Fundamentally, however, I think she may be closest to the mark with the point about couples being too couple-y. I don't want a lot of what is often held up as the ideal of marriage - the nuclear family, mum, dad, 2 kids and a spaniel, living in a nice home in an area with good schools, hosting pleasant dinner parties and always having the latest TV.
I don't aspire to much of that - if it happens, it happens, but it doesn't represent the things I value. If I marry, I want it to make a difference not just to me, but to the people around me as well. I want to marry someone who makes me be a better person; who enhances who I am and who is a better person for having married me. I want him to value me, but I also want him to value the things that matter to me - my friends, my community, my interests - and I want to do the same for him. I want us to love each other for who we are, and to push each other to be the best we can be. It might sound ridiculous, but I want the part of the world I spend my time in to be a better place because I've married the man that I have. I don't want to be in a marriage which only looks inward, to how we can get more stuff or impress our friends; I want to be in a marriage which also looks outward to bless other people, and which ultimately looks upward to God.
But I like to think that that's something that I get, in some measure, from all my close relationships - my friends inspire me to see things differently, to be creative, to hang in there when things are tough, and to do lots of other day to day things that make my life better - and I hope I sometimes inspire them in similar ways. If I marry, I want my husband to become a part of my community, and I want to become a part of his - I don't want being in a couple to pull me away from people who matter to me.
I don't know whether this is in any way part of the wider issue raised in the article, that marriage (particularly marriage for life) is declining; maybe it is that women everywhere have rid themselves of the need for a man, and are getting along just fine, thank you very much.
After all, it is not unheard of for me to not think in exactly the same way as other people.