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Slippery When Unwed

Several years ago, I lost every penny I had, along with my health. I eventually recovered my health and career, and, in the process, grew up. I’m now in my mid-30s. Previously, I had two three-year relationships, but I only started dating again recently. The last woman I dated had eight drinks (yes, eight) on our first date -- and sounded like no stranger to the bottle. She confessed to a recent affair with a married man (I’m still trying to figure out why an affair was cool, but she was “nervous” about dating again after her divorce). She also told me things about her friends and family that would make Caligula blush. Even so, the fact that I’d never married made her leery of me -- and other women I’ve met have also found it a bone of contention. I’m a good guy, have good relationships with my friends and family, and I’m moving up at work. How come my matrimony-free life seems to be a stain on my character?

--Single And Degenerate

Nothing makes a guy persona non grata with the ladies like neglecting to marry and divorce two or three of them and scatter kids all over the place like birdseed. Or, as I like to call them, “Future carjackers of America.”

What, exactly, were you doing that you couldn’t find your way to an acrimonious divorce by 30? Oh yeah, crawling back from death’s door, rebuilding your career from scratch, and getting your self together instead of inflicting it, unformed, on some unsuspecting woman. And this is a stain on your character? Consider the source: a woman who drinks the bar dry on date one, whose affair points to a view of marriage vows as mere suggestions, and who doesn’t just hang with a bad seed or two, but more of a bad crop.

You’re a victim of the dating version of racial profiling. Like the Navajo handing down the oral tradition, generations of women have passed down the notion that any man who hasn’t wifed up by 40 must be an irredeemable bachelor -- interminably selfish, set in his ways, terrified of commitment, a major player, or just too busy with his boyfriend. In 1950, when pretty much everybody married, and usually in their early 20s, this assumption wasn’t such a stretch. Back then, U.S. Census data put the “median age for first marriage” at 20 for women and 22 for men. By 2003, it had risen to 25 for women and 27 for men, with more and more people marrying for the first time in their 30s, 40s, or 50s -- if at all.

So, are you a man who won’t commit, or a man who won’t commit to just anything? A woman who tells you what you are instead of asking you about yourself and getting to know you is telling you a lot about herself. This isn’t to say one snap judgment necessarily deserves another, but there are certain women prone to such leaps: those holding a stopwatch to their ovaries; the type who’d say to a guy, “I’m nothing without you,” and really mean it; and women who take an abstinence-only approach to critical thinking.

Women who do think understand that it isn’t a huge accomplishment to get married; just get drunk and impulsive in Vegas. That’s your chance to learn what’s worse than waking up clueless as to the name of the aging stripper snoring into your chest hair. Not to worry, “Darling” is just as good a save when the mystery lady also happens to be your wife.

Posted by aalkon at February 7, 2007 2:20 AM


Comments on this entry are piling up here...


...on my blog.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 7, 2007 8:37 PM


Posted by: T at February 13, 2007 2:30 PM

Wow, Amy,

Here I am on only my second random drive-by, and once again you've managed to write something that sounds like it could have been written by me. Were we separated at birth?

This whole topic reminds me of the last time I saw Jay Leno in Vegas. First he goes off on this big spiel about all these notorious serial killers who have wives, like this guy Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker", who was convicted of raping and strangling 13 women (and those are just the ones they had enough evidence to convict him on).

And then he goes, "I have friends I have known for years who are nice guys, with good jobs, who work out a lot and take care of themselves, and they can't get a woman to give them the time of day! And the Night Stalker has a wife! What the heck is it with you women, do we suddenly become more attractive to you if we're on Death Row?"

Okay, s0 you want to hear something that will make Mr. Single and Degenerate sound like an amateur? Try this: I'm about to turn 50 and I've never been married. I spent my 20s getting stoned and being a musician, spent my 30s grinding through a day gig and earning my BA and MBA, and spent my 40s working my ass off to build my career. I finally finished paying off my student loans and I have a really solid job now, in fact I have a level of job security that most people in the IT industry would kill to have. Oh, and I'm 5'10", 150lbs, with a 32-inch waist, I work out 5 times a week and I enjoy mountaineering, but usually on peaks that are at least 10000 feet or higher. And I'm very well groomed and a pretty sharp dresser.

So now I'm thinking about dating again for the first time in about six years. Is that insane or what? Maybe it's because I've been out of the scene for so long, but there actually is a battle going on between the two halves of my brain.

The foolish optimist in me wants to believe that there should be a lot of women in their 40s who would be delighted to find a single man in their age range who is physically very fit, has a good solid job, hasn't fathered any illegitimate kids, hasn't been through one or two messy divorces, and isn't in hock up to his eyebrows in alimony and child support payments.

But then the cynical realist takes over and remembers that most women my age are actually disappointed when they find a guy who doesn't have any major debts and who hasn't been through any major train wrecks in his personal life.

In fact, what most women my age are probably looking for these days, is a guy who does have major train wrecks and major baggage in his personal life, but who also still has major assets anyway. And those are just the ones who actually read the memo that Prince Charming is gay.

And the foolish optimist wants to believe that there should be lots of women in their 40s who would be thrilled to have any man pay any sexual attention to them at all. But then, the cynical realist remembers reading about a marketing study, recently conducted by Unilever, which found that the average length of time that women between the ages of 18 and 50 would be willing to go without sex in exchange for a whole new wardrobe (not a house, or a retirement package, or anything like that, mind you, but a *wardrobe*), is *15 months*!

And it's not like I'm hard to please, either. All I'm looking for is a woman who has a solid job, isn't 20 or 30 pounds overweight, hasn't made a train wreck of her personal life, lets me finish a sentence once in a while, and actually wants to have hot nasty passionate sex. Silly me!

Well, if the only thing I end up finding out is that women in their 40s are just as addicted to drama and turmoil as they were in their 20s, except that now they've put on weight and have an even greater sense of entitlement, it'll just confirm that staying single really was the right decision all along.

Posted by: Fester Bestertester at February 16, 2007 11:23 AM

Fester, you sound cool. It sounds to me like you are doing just fine being single. But if you do meet someone wonderful, don't screw it up by getting married!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at February 19, 2007 8:38 AM

I agree with the Pirate, you sound pretty cool. I think you would be a lot happier if you paid attention to the Optimist half of your personality. Your fabulous smile will attract the kind of women you're looking for.

I'm 48, and I attract guys from all age groups, so if you're as hot as you seem, don't write off the emotionally mature 20 to 30 year old women. I've met lots of bitter guys in their 40s and 50s, as well as some happy ones. I'm currently seeing a very stable intelligent mature 26 year old. It makes me happy, and I'm still dating other guys. My ideal situation would be seeing a few guys, who each fulfilled a different aspect of my emotional needs.

Think outside the box though, and don't get married. Try for a happy enriching relationship instead!

Posted by: Chris at February 19, 2007 1:16 PM

Fester, another option is looking for women in their 50s or 60s that are in great shape like you are.

Posted by: Chris at February 19, 2007 3:40 PM

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