Kate Bolick On ‘The New Husband Shortage’


Kate Bolick, 39, says the pool of marriageable men has shrunk

The bride’s bouquet is flying overhead and Kate Bolick doesn’t so much as blink. That’s the striking photo accompanying The Atlantic’s must-read November cover story “All The Single Ladies.”

In it, Bolick writes: “Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a ‘good enough’ mate.”

She reflects on the motherhood that may be eluding her:

“Of course, between the diminishing external pressure to have children and the common misperception that our biology is ours to control, some of us don’t deal with the matter in a timely fashion. Like me, for instance. Do I want children? My answer is: I don’t know. But somewhere along the way, I decided to not let my biology dictate my romantic life. If I find someone I really like being with, and if he and I decide we want a child together, and it’s too late for me to conceive naturally, I’ll consider whatever technological aid is currently available, or adopt (and if he’s not open to adoption, he’s not the kind of man I want to be with).

Do I realize that this further narrows my pool of prospects? Yes. 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. But what can I possibly do about that? Sure, my stance here could be read as a feint, or even self-deception. By blithely deeming biology a nonissue, I’m conveniently removing myself from arguably the most significant decision a woman has to make. But that’s only if you regard motherhood as the defining feature of womanhood—and I happen not to.”

Bolick goes on to explore the economic forces affecting the singles market and the growing number of laid-off men, writing that “our shrinking pool of traditionally ‘marriageable’ men is dramatically changing our social landscape, and producing startling dynamics in the marriage market, in ways that aren’t immediately apparent.”

So far, the Atlantic article has elicited 904 online comments, among them:

“On the other hand, some of us women making good livings couldn’t care less, but find that the men they date have had it beaten into them that they shouldn’t be with women more successful than themselves…”

“Just as some women who date down might feel threatened (they may, among other things, fear hearing “Can’t you do better?”), so do some men who date up.”

“Seems like the impulse to judge a mate in financial terms has been revealed for its shortcomings.”

It’s a question we’ve explored on CatholicMatch. In August Jessica Zimanske cited a study claiming that 75 percent of polled women would not marry a jobless boyfriend. Fourteen members offered insightful comments. Here’s a sample:

“No, I would not marry someone who is unemployed nor would I think of marrying if I was unemployed. Marriage has many stressors already and many break-up due to financial strain so, I would not start my marriage off with this sort of strain.”  -Mary-487190

“I would like to think that I would be open minded enough to give that person the benefit of the doubt. As long as I had known this person for a while and knew that they weren’t taking advantage of me and were prepared to do anything they could to keep themselves occupied that would be fine with me.”  -Noreen-104377

“How successful a man is and how attractive a woman is are only a very small part of the picture. As they say, amor vincit omnia. Love conquers all. Society, in my opinion, has got its priorities wrong.”  -Benjamin-148488

What do you think? 






13 Comments

  1. Marilyn-776601 October 17, 2011 Reply

    Interesting story. I like Benjamin’s comment best, though.

  2. Ramona-652361 October 18, 2011 Reply

    Try being black and Catholic. Forty-five percent of black women in America have never been married, compared with 23 percent of white women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2006. And I don’t have the numbers to report here, but more black women have obtained a college degree and have higher paying jobs. (and the unemployment rate is high right now, although men are making a come back) So, for many black Catholic women over 40, our two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single and alone or stay single with two cats. I’m still hoping, still keeping faith & just said a prayer for all of us across the board on & off this site. Good luck ladies!

    • Laura-775703 October 21, 2011 Reply

      Great article!

    • Meesch-691047 October 23, 2011 Reply

      @ Benjamin- well said!
      @ Ramona- good luck to you to :highfive:
      @kate Bolick- keep on keepin on and do what works for you

  3. Michael-462705 October 19, 2011 Reply

    This is a rather interesting story. It does appear, however, that some women place far greater importance on what their peer group will say about their choice in men in spite of how they might personally feel themselves. Once you move past your 30′s, there is little doubt the available pool of potential marriage partners shrinks dramatically. If you are so blessed by God to have another person enter your life who respects you, is loyal, is considerate, is faithful, loves the Lord and loves you as no ever has before, what other people may think should make no difference. Too many people profess and claim to “trust” God *until* He actually does call on you to trust Him for whom He may place into your life.

    • Kwaku-654846 October 19, 2011 Reply

      “It does appear, however, that some women place far greater importance on what their peer group will say about their choice in men in spite of how they might personally feel themselves.”
      From my experience, men are just as guilty, perhaps more so. That’s why wealthy men tend to have “trophy wives”….

      Otherwise, Michael, I agree with everything you’ve said here.

      • Benjamin-148488 October 22, 2011 Reply

        Kwaku, if you read the original post of mine in the other thread, you would see that it was not saying that attraction, in general, is a very small part, but that the single-minded fixation of women to men with money and men to women with physically flawless looks is what the standard of attraction boils down to for many in society. Of course, a spouse should be attractive to a spouse! It is robbery to think otherwise! God blessed man and woman with attraction for one another!

  4. Kwaku-654846 October 19, 2011 Reply

    I like Noreen’s comment. While Benjamin is right about society’s priorities, attraction in a spouse is not a “very small part”. I’m yet to meet a happily married couple who didn’t find each other physically attractive. (Success of a man is ultimately a measure of attraction too.)

  5. Kwaku-654846 October 19, 2011 Reply

    Bolick has the right attitude. While a happy marriage and family are the best gifts a person can have on Earth, they are not the be all, end all. It is not a good idea to settle because of teh biological clock.

  6. Ramona-738757 October 21, 2011 Reply

    Thank goodness Kate Bolick doesn’t represent all single women. Before I posted to this blog I read the aforementioned article. And I had saw her interview on the “Today Show.” Here is my opinion. I encourage all to read the article in its full format.

    Miss Bolick’s lifestyle and thought process are like so many successful, single women of a certain age.They measure their success by adapting or adhering to the stereotypical male prototype behavior. The same behavior that has made women feel oppressed and insignificant for centries. The only true liberation I see is her ability to do it and get away with it with very little condemnation.

    Ms Bolick try being a Catholic,minority looking for a spouse.No matter how successful you are there are persons who still wouldn’t wish to be me.

  7. Jules-758617 October 22, 2011 Reply

    Well, where i live there’s definitely a shortage of available men! That’s why i joined CM. As for Kate Bolick, obviously she has unrealistic expectations which will lead to disappointments, naturally. Has she meet Jesus yet? i wonder if she will consider him in her long list of expectations. Mmmmmm.

  8. Peter-44842 December 4, 2011 Reply

    Her [Bolick] mistake is to look for a situational excuse to an attitudinal problem.

    If you are waiting for Superman or Darcy.., expect to grow old doing it.

  9. Mark M. July 22, 2013 Reply

    This culture has redefined itself in many ways. I’m not here to pass judgement on whether its good or bad, but we all have been influenced to varying degrees by the modern secular consumer based culture. I see the problem as there not being many marriage ready men and women. Both genders want fun or sex or ??? But when considering the lost notion that they are screening a mate for life? Not so much. Consequently, we are seeking something. The problem is that the something people seek vary from individual to individual. No longer is family the goal. The goal is unique, which makes finding that person tough. It also makes the outcomes of a marriage just as variable. So good luck.

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