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This held true for all classes. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life? The Great Recession accelerated this imbalance. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. Rates of illegitimacy and divorce are low. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. Compare that withwhen more than half of those ages 18 to 29 had already tied the knot. But what can I possibly do about that? Inthe median age of first marriage in the U.

Today, a smaller proportion of American women in their early 30s are married than at any other point since the s, if not earlier. On bad days, I feared I would be alone forever.

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Could she have even envisioned herself on a shopping excursion with an ex-lover, never mind one who was getting married while she remained alone? Do I realize that this further narrows my pool of prospects?

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When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down. This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place. Inwhen my year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. Inthe sociologists Scott J. South and Katherine Trent set out to test the Guttentag-Secord theory by analyzing data from countries.

For starters, we keep putting marriage off. Just as I am fully aware that with each passing year, I become less attractive to the men in my peer group, who have plenty of younger, more fertile women to pick from.

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In other words—capitalist men are pigs. I n their book, Too Many Women? So women are now contending with what we might call the new scarcity. But while the rise of women has been good for everyone, the decline of males has obviously been bad news for men—and bad news for marriage. As of last year, women held No one has been hurt more by the arrival of the post-industrial economy than the stubbornly large pool of men without higher education. My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track relationships, were bewildered. An article published last year in The Journal of Southern History reported that inthere were marriageable white men for every white women; inthat dropped to Will I marry a man much older, or much younger?

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Most aspects of the theory tested out. Biological parenthood in a nuclear family need not be the be-all and end-all of womanhood—and in fact it increasingly is not. Like me, for instance. And yet, as a woman who spent her early 30s actively putting off marriage, I have had ample time to investigate, if you will, the prevailing attitudes of the high-status American urban male.

less single woman of a certain age is no longer automatically perceived as a barren spinster. She decided to write a book discrediting the notion and proving that the ways in which we think about and construct the legal union between a man and a woman have always been in flux. Diaries and letters from the period reveal a populace fraught with insecurity.

Not until the post-war gains of the s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner. I was bewildered. What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices.

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As casualties mounted, expectations dropped, and women reed themselves to lives without husbands, or simply lowered their standards. What does this portend for the future of the American family? The implications are extraordinary. I barely ate for sobbing all the time.

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Nearly three-quarters of the 7. South and Trent also found that the Guttentag-Secord dynamics were more pronounced in developed rather than developing countries. According to the Pew Research Center, a full 44 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen Xers think that marriage is becoming obsolete. In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriageshe surveys 5, years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible.

Take the years after the Civil War, when America reeled from the loss of close tomen, the majority of them from the South. I nwhen I was 28, I broke up with my boyfriend. Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question. Will I remain alone, a spinster? I n the s, Stephanie Coontz, a social historian at Evergreen State College in Washington, noticed an uptick in questions from reporters and audiences asking if the institution of marriage was falling apart.

My friend B. Then there are those women who choose to forgo men altogether.

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That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. The anxious climate, however, as well as the extremely high levels of widowhood—nearly one-third of Southern white women over the age of 40 were widows in —persisted. By the time she was in her mids, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. Sincethe percentage of women in their early 40s who have not given birth has nearly doubled. I kid! In order to replenish the population, the state instituted an aggressive pro-natalist policy to support single mothers.

Two-income families were the norm. How this plays out, however, varies drastically between genders. All dating in Atlantic expats this was intriguing, for sure—but even more surprising to Coontz was the realization that those alarmed reporters and audiences might be onto something. Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female. But as labor became separated, so did our spheres of experience—the marketplace versus the home—one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort.

Last summer I called Coontz to talk to her about this revolution. The period that followed was awful. In each country, more men meant more married women, less divorce, and fewer women in the workforce. For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community.

He was and remains an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. Allan and I had met when we worked together at a magazine in Boston full disclosure: this onewhere I was an assistant and he an editor; two years later, he quit his job to follow me to New York so that I could go to graduate school and he could focus on his writing. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.

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Sure, my stance here could be read as a feint, or even self-deception. Not until the 18th century did labor begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women.

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How could we not? But somewhere along the way, I decided to not let my biology dictate my romantic life.

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Do I want children? Today 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates—an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends.

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Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment. In societies with too many women, the theory holds, fewer people marry, and those who do marry do so later in life. An analysis by Michael Greenstone, an economist at MIT, reveals that, after ing for inflation, male median wages have fallen by 32 percent since their peak inonce you for the men who have stopped working altogether.

This family pattern was felt for decades after the war.

Your data. your experience.

B y themselves, the cultural and technological advances that have made my stance on childbearing plausible would be enough to reshape our understanding of the modern family—but, unfortunately, they happen to be dovetailing with another set of developments that can be summed up as: the deterioration of the male condition. A study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men. These s reflect major attitudinal shifts. One might hope that in low-sex-ratio societies—where women out men—women would have the social and sexual advantage.

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Learning to be alone would make me a better person, and eventually a better partner. My spotty anecdotal findings have revealed that, yes, in many cases, the more successful a man is or thinks he isthe less interested he is in commitment.

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Even as single motherhood is no longer a disgrace, motherhood itself is no longer compulsory. Mie Nakachi, a historian at Hokkaido University, in Japan, has outlined its components: mothers were given generous subsidies and often put up in special sanatoria during pregnancy and childbirth; the state day-care system expanded to cover most children from infancy; and penalties were brandished for anyone who perpetuated the stigma against conceiving out of wedlock.