If You Can’t Marry Them, Become Them

Last month was a great month for news about the marriage prospects of America’s single women, if by great you mean completely disheartening.

We started with the news that America is now a majority-single nation. This should be good news for anyone looking for a partner, right? I mean, as Pew notes, 25 percent of “never-married young adults ages 25 to 34” are already living with a partner, and another chunk are probably dating a partner (or multiple partners, poly people exist too), but still… the odds should be in the single-but-looking woman’s favor!

Then we learned that men of all ages prefer women in their 20s. Well, maybe like Blanche DuBois, I can look like I’m in my 20s if I stand in the right light. (As The Toast well noted, A Streetcar Named Desire’s “aging widow” Blanche is only 30 years old, the same age as Jess from New Girl. We’re not supposed to think of 30 as “old” anymore, unless we’re a guy on OKCupid.)

And then we got some statistics from Pew that were theoretically about “values, economics, and gender patterns” but which were quickly analyzed to reveal an uncomfortable truth: there just aren’t enough marriageable men. If, by “marriageable,” you mean “employed.” (At first “marriageable” was defined as “never previously married” and “employed,” and then when they didn’t like that number they decided to throw in all the divorcés too and there still weren’t enough employed men for every “never married young woman.”)

This is where it starts to get really interesting, because what could be presented as, say, an employment problem gets flipped around into a marriage problem. And, perhaps, an “aren’t you being just a little bit classist?” problem. Anne Helen Petersen ran a Tinder experiment for Buzzfeed that indicated people want partners who appear educated and well-taken-care of — class cues predicted swipe patterns even more than race cues did (although we swipe based on race too).

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Tinder since my own long-term relationship ended this summer, and I’m quite sure I’ve exhibited some of the “little bit classist” behavior Petersen writes about. And I’ve stared into the profiles of a lot of men who look both angry and resigned simultaneously, as if this particular deal weren’t making them happy, either.

As Ask Polly writes almost every week, one solution is to become the person you want to marry. Tired of not finding that well-taken-care of, employed, attractive guy? Start taking care of yourself, building your own career, going after your big dreams, and making you attractive to you. This takes the marriage problem and turns it back into an employment problem — but for the women, in this case.

Meanwhile, the men are left completely out of this discussion (as is any serious conversation about non-heterosexual partnerships, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman is in want of a husband, after all.

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