Like a lot of women my age, I have a lot of gorgeous, amazing, intelligent single female friends who continually struggle with dating. I see it all the time, and it’s abundantly portrayed in the media: women are waiting for something special. And that’s just great. But I think there is something that women need to keep in mind as they navigate this minefield.
That something is this: The ONLY population right now that puts any kinds of expectations on single men ages 20-40 are single women ages 20-40. And as the last vestiges of any kinds of goals or ambitions we impose on the male population fade into history, women’s expectations of these guys only continue to go up.
There is a fundamental disconnect here. Somehow Sex and the Cityand Katherine Heigl movies have convinced a generation of women that Prince Eric and Beast haven’t gone away… they’re just out there, to be found at a coffeeshop scribbling in a moleskin notebook and wearing a peacoat. Meanwhile, an entire generation of men has been raised in a society where they are expected to do little else than buoy the video game and adult entertainment industries. For every single 30-something professional woman out there who is working herself into a Zanax presription with a full-time job, higher education, insane expectations for female aesthetics, a ticking biological clock and a match.com profile, there is a 30-something man (maybe two of them!) with a medical marijuana card, an unemployment check and eight straight hours of Halo spread out before him: a vast mindless horizon of pixelated death and dismemberment. Ladies, it is important to remember this: a huge contingent of single men in their 20s and 30s are essentially Tom Hanks in “Big.” They are a boy in a man suit. The internal dialogue of an 11 year old boy and a 28 year old man are only distinguished by experience and frequency of swear words.
Yes, there are exceptions, and no, you shouldn’t settle. The exceptions, however, are a vanishingly small population. I work for the city, and I see them occasionally: well-dressed, ambitious young urban planners, lawyers, financial professionals. But the thing is, a guy possessed of ambition, drive and career goals like that is basically the supermodel of the man world. They are, almost without fail, married (or gay) or have had girlfriends their entire adult lives. Or, and perhaps this is even more common, they are not that interested in getting into a long-term relationship of any kind because they are married to their jobs or aren’t emotionally mature enough to think in those terms. In this world, that guy in the peacoat with more appointments on his smartphone than games AND a desire for a long-term committed relationship is Heidi Klum. It’s OK to dream big, girls, but it’s also important to understand that this is the reality of our situation. It’s time to reevaluate The Keeper. If you find a guy with a job, no drug addictions, and a reasonably tentacle-free porn collection, you are ahead of the game. And maybe it’s time for all of us to look past the antiquated ideas of the man making more money, the man having more education, or the man needing to be the provider and see that this guy has a lot more to offer than a 401k or a spot on the board of his HOA. These guys aren’t bad, they’re just… constructs of our society.
It’s not the guy’s fault that our nation has basically made adulthood the responsibility of women and people in other countries. Think about it: women are taking on more management roles, women are frequently the heads of households in the absence of a man, and the jobs that used to employ men with limited educations or skill sets are no longer available in this country. The American Man has outsourced adulthood to the Chinese labor force and women in management. Nothing left to do than sit back and smoke a bowl and play Fallout 3.
I am married. I am not married like Zoey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard were married. We don’t play ukelele songs and draw pictures of unicorns and wear fake handlebar mustaches and go for rides on our tandem bicycle (this is basically what I imagine their marriage to be like, and all the while Zoey is singing in that weird June Carter Cash/Morrissey voice of hers about baking cupcakes).
I am married like we pay the bills and have to make decisions about health insurance and I am past the point where I try to look cute when I’m getting ready for bed and I try not to care when promises go unkept and things go unsaid. I am married because I found someone who loves me and who is a genuinely good person. I am married because I can take care of myself and don’t need someone to do that, but I like coming home to someone who cares about me. I decided to be married and I opted not to hold out for a guy who has a genetic mutation that keeps him from farting or growing back hair. It’s far from perfect. But it’s real. And it’s here, now.