Background: Newsweek magazine writer Lorraine Ali briefly quotes from my co-authored column Rise in Out-of-Wedlock Births Is Bad News for America”s Kids (Washington Times, 12/4/06) in her new piece Knocking Yourself Up–Some women laugh about turkey basters replacing Mr. Right. The ongoing debate over going it alone (Newsweek, 11/5/07). The piece centers around Louise Sloan, author of the new guidebook Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom. Sloan now has a fatherless 16-month-old son. The piece favors women who decide to have fatherless children. To learn more, click here.
In the article, Ali writes “Sloan found herself single at 41, though she’d always considered herself ‘definitely the marrying kind.'” A few comments:
1) This is a common claim made by single mothers by choice but I don’t buy it. Sloan didn’t “find herself single at 41”–she chose to be single at 41. If she wants to be single, fine, that’s her choice, but it’s a choice, not an accident.
The choice probably stems from the excessive pickiness which afflicts some women–they’re always so good at finding reasons why this guy and that guy and all guys somehow aren’t right for them or aren’t good enough. I wrote about this in some detail in my co-authored column Men Blamed for Marriage Decline but Women’s Relationship Wounds Often Self-Inflicted (Chicago Tribune, 1/21/07). Feminist bloggers Catherine Price of Salon.com/Broadsheet and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon called the column “Hateful” and “Virulent” but sorry, I think it was neither and I stick by it. I wrote:
“The current trend away from marriage and towards divorce and/or remaining single has more to do with overcritical women and their excessive expectations than it does with unsuitable men…
“Nobody would dispute that, in selecting a mate, women are more discerning than men. This is an evolutionary necessity–a woman must carefully evaluate who is likely to remain loyal to her and protect and provide for her and her children. If a man and a woman go on a blind date and don’t hit it off, the man will shrug and say ‘it went OK.’ The woman will give five reasons why he’s not right for her.
“A woman’s discerning, critical nature doesn’t disappear on her wedding day. Most marital problems and marriage counseling sessions revolve around why the wife is unhappy with her husband, even though they could just as easily be about why the husband is unhappy with the wife. In this common pre-divorce scenario there are only two possibilities-either she’s a great wife and he’s a lousy husband, or she’s far more critical of him than he is of her. Usually it’s the latter.
“Despite this week’s media homilies, it’s doubtful that many men or women are truly happy alone. Much of women’s cheerful ‘I don’t need a man/I love my cats’ reaction has a hollow ring to it, and sounds a lot more like whistling in the dark than a celebration.
“Yes, there are some men who make poor mates, but not nearly enough to account for the divorce epidemic and the decline of marriage. While it’s easy and popular to blame men, many of the wounds women bear from failed relationships and loneliness are self-inflicted.”
2) The degree to which women are (or claim to be) in denial about how they “find themselves single” as they approach or pass 40 has surprised me on numerous occasions. One example was during my debate on the Roman v. Roman Texas frozen embryo case on Fox’s nationally-syndicated Morning Show with Mike and Juliet in June. In the case, the couple had tried for several years to have a child (and had one miscarriage) before undergoing infertility treatments. The day before the embryos were to be implanted, Randy Roman told his then-wife Augusta that he was troubled by certain aspects of their relationship and wanted to wait to implant the embryos until they had resolved their problems. They went to counseling for six months and later divorced. Augusta, 47, still wants to have the children, and Randy has refused.
On the show I debated the issue with Augusta Roman and her attorney Becky Reitz. The co-hosts, Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy, were sympathetic to Augusta, and Juliet at one point got annoyed over my suggestion that Augusta could adopt a child instead of having one herself. I also questioned Augusta’s decision to blame the fact that she never had a child on Randy, pointing out that she’s 47 years-old and had had many opportunities.
Huddy got very angry at me, saying that what I said could apply to her (at age 37) and that it wasn’t her (Juliet’s) decision to not have had a kid yet. I didn’t want to push the issue too far because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and it wasn’t central to what we were debating, but we sparred briefly over it and I found it hard to believe that Juliet could claim that she hadn’t exercised a choice in the matter. To watch the video of the odd exchange, click here.