Monday, April 24. 2006
It's been years since we discussed such things, but my mom used to advise me that women wanting to marry should find a husband before they turn 30. After 30, she used to say, you lose your looks. Well, I haven't reached 30 yet so I can't judge the accuracy of that prediction on my own situation, but I've started noticing other things I think make it harder to pair up as you get older (for both males and females).
I feel people who find their life partner during their childhood, high school, or college to be fortunate. During your upbringing, or even at university, you are within a community where many of the people hold somewhat similar values, attitudes, or backgrounds to your own. Differences of opinion in appropriate behaviour during courtship, marriage, family relations, child rearing, or your general lifestyle will be less frequent or less large as a result of this common ground. Meanwhile, those that don't pair up until they reach the working world may find themselves wading through a morass of people very different or incompatible to themselves. (Think I'm wrong with this needle-in-a-haystack position? Try finding someone compatible and like-minded with yourself through internet dating. Enough said. )
As you get older, you make choices regarding what you want and you establish a life for yourself. You become more set in your ways. Whereas high school sweethearts straight from graduation can build a life together from scratch, many people my age and older already have the lives that we want and would like to find someone that fits into that life. For the choices I've made, men who don't like dogs or men who don't want to live in a large city or men who want to have children very soon need not apply. When I was 18 none of these restrictions existed for me, but as life has gone on I've made choices about what I want and like, and any partner of mine will have to be compatible with these choices. The choices you make and the preferences you develop as you get older become an integral part of who you are. And as you get older and see more of what life has to offer, there's a greater abundance of choices you can make (and things that your life partner will have to be compatible with.)
Experience also narrows the field of eligibility as you get older. Having dated one or two (or a half-dozen) rather dodgy guys, I've got some firm criteria in place now for who I'm willing to try dating. Whereas when I was younger I was open to just about anyone, now, if a guy has problems standing up to his parents or is afraid of commitment or is "selectively honest" I'm automatically out of there. After having been around the block a few times, you develop a list of "warning signs" that you know will likely lead to problems, and out of simple practicality you don't even bother giving people with these problems a chance. (I don't think there's anything wrong with saying, "I've been there, done that, and don't want to go back.") The list of dealbreakers gets longer as you get older, simply because you experience or see more things you don't want to be involved with, and you yourself have had more time to sort through your issues and expect your counterpart to have done so, as well. (To paraphrase a gay friend, "when I was 18 and living with my parents and in the closet it was fine to date someone else who was also 18 and living with their parents and still in the closet. Now that I'm almost 30, on my own, and out to my parents, I don't want to date someone who hasn't resolved his own issues and is also almost 30, but still living with his parents and is not out to them.")
So is it automatic doom-and-gloom if you've hit your mid-20s, your 30s, or your 40s and haven't paired off? I don't think so. Just because it gets harder doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I honestly think the things that make it harder to find a compatible partner as you get older are mostly good things; you've got time to become your own person and discover the life you really want to live, and you learn to screen out issues and characteristics that would have become problems anyway, down the line. While I think pairings become more scarce, I feel the quality of the matches made will improve. Selectiveness isn't a bad thing so long as a higher proportion of the end results are happy ones.
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I think it's right that everybody gets more picky with age, and that this is only a disadvantage for women. Men get more choice as they get older, because one of the primary attraction factors for women is feeling that the man chose them.
Yes, the older a person gets the harder it is to find a mate. I would say the reason is that as a person gets older there is definetly a smaller pool of people to choice from. I guess I was way too picky and shy when I was younger and I also have parents from a much older generation then most. I am 43 and all I find now are married men. Many are happily married but do not wear rings so I feel that I waste my time talking to them. That happened last week. I met a guy with no ring on and talked to him for 35 minutes in church. After talking to him he said you should get lunch with us. I thought what does he mean us? Maybe a friend or two. Then a few minutes later, out walks his wife and child. Wow, what a disappointment to say the least. Then I find out that men who are divorced have children and I dont want children nor do I want to take care of other peoples problems. When asked advice by younger women I suggest that they get married before they are 35, not to be so picky. By that age the person is already established in their career, on their own etc. If a woman wants a child then she would still be able to with a good chance. Thankfully, I never wanted children. So my advice is to get married by the time you are 35. Good luck
to jill, you are so right. meeting a good woman for me is very hard again. i was married twice at one time, and i was a very caring and loving husband at the time. but they did cheat on me, and i never cheated on them. you probably read my story already. at the time when i use to live in new york, i went out a lot. i hated the bar scene, from the very beginning. i always had hoped back then that i would meet the right woman and have a family, but as you can see it did not happen for me. i have to say, it is extremely hard meeting the right woman for me, the way it is very hard for you to meet the right man. as a straight man, i go out every night just to get out of the house. i have no reason to stay home, since i have no one to stay home too. men are the much weaker sex, when it comes to staying alone. and the women are usually the much stronger sex, when it comes to staying alone. women could deal with it more than us men can. i just hope to meet the right woman for me again, since i made two bad choices already. good luck to you too.
While I respect your viewpoint, Karen, I disagree with this article in several critical ways.
First, I disagree that college is where you'll find people most like yourself. When I was in college, 80% of people considered going to a bar or someone's house and getting so trashed they couldn't remember where they were last night fun. I did not, so I had a lot of trouble finding people who wanted to do something else than that. Now that I'm working, I'm around people who have much more in common (our profession, for example), and can select from a much wider range of people to hang around with. And these people are much more grounded in reality and aren't stuck with their heads in the clouds.
Second, I've always gotten along better with people who are older. I spend my time at work talking with the people who are 30 and 40, not the 20-year-olds. I simply have little in common with the latter. Why? Most people who are 20 see their work as a distraction from life, hate their parents, and party early and often. I enjoy my work, have few issues with my parents, and prefer tamer activities (like racquetball instead of beer pong). Income differences are perhaps the biggest issue. With two exceptions (and they live 200 miles away), I make twice as much as every other 22-year-old I know, and that becomes an issue when deciding what to do on Friday nights.
Third, I don't think we define "age" the same way. I don't consider 25 or 30 or even 40 as "old." My grandparents were born when the average life expectancy was 47. They are now 88 and 87, and with the exception of poor eyesight, are in excellent health. Technology is an exponential curve - and that curve states that comparing 2006 to 2056 is the same as comparing around the year 806 to 2006. I've already stated my suspicion on this blog last year that currently young people will live longer than we can imagine right now, on the order of hundreds of years. And even in the case that there are no future medical advances whatsoever and I only live to the current average of 75, why rush to spend 18 or 22 or even 25 years single and more than 50 married?
The most telling argument of all is that I've never, EVER, had anyone advise me to get married soon. On the other hand, parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, and even co-workers tell me time and time again that they wish they had waited, or even never been married at all. My grandmother says 29 was too early for her to be married, and others who have been divorced say they would never consider marriage again.
If the advice is unanimous despite differing circumstances, there must be some truth to it.
Steve, I'm with you on finding people that are like yourself later: Friends tend to work as a filter that finds people that are similar to yourself, at least for those of us that meet lots of people and pick from them.
As for marriage: There's some cultural differences that show up, I think. We generally do not marry until we've cohabited for a year or three. Marrying before 25 or so is considered young - or at least I consider it young, I think that's a community value, and everybody extrapolates community values from their own values - or at least I do. Apart from the implied warning that most people aren't mature enough to marry earlier than that, I don't hear people complain about marrying, and I've heard people generally say good things about their marriages...
Maybe because it's so much more a choice?
I think you've proven my point, Steve. If "most" people in college are into the drinking and partying you aren't interested in, then those other people will have no trouble meeting other like-minded people at college. You're special in that you don't fit into the majority, but just because you don't fit into the general rule doesn't mean it doesn't broadly apply.
I find meeting a partner at work impractical for two reasons: 1) workplace romances can really bugger up your professional life if things go awry, and 2) most of the people in the workforce aren't young-to-middle 20s. They are older, and often have spouses and children already. You are likely to be working among a lot of co-workers like those.
I'm curious to know, of your relatives who have advised you not to get married or regret their own marriages, how many of them have actually repented of their choice beyond complaining about it (i.e. sought divorce)? You can tell how people really feel not by the advice they give others, but by the way they have chosen to live their own life. You can change lots of things in your life if you really want to.
1. Interesting point. Is drinking enough of a "common interest" for friendships and romance? Apparently it is. I've known people who do nothing else together, and come from different walks of life, and are different in every way except that they hit bars together on Fridays.
2. I think this issue of workplace romances is often overrated. If you're dating your subordinate, that may be an issue. But two people who are on the same level of authority?
You can control your own behavior. If a breakup occurs, you just refuse to talk about it to anyone and do your job as you always have. If you have to work with the other person, treat him or her with respect as you would anyone else. The other person only makes herself or himself look bad by constantly railing on you if you refuse to say anything about it. And while sexual harassment receives a lot of press when a big judgement comes down, most often these cases are dismissed without merit (as long as you don't keep pushing when she says "no.")
3. At least one of those people has had a divorce. But I'm not convinced that this is a "walk the talk" issue. The problem with divorce is that it's not as simple as walking away from all the problems and starting a new life. From what I've seen, those who get divorced end up with more issues than they started with.
One of the people who complains has been married sixty years, and has amassed a great deal of wealth. He would lose almost everything he ever owned if he chose to get divorced. He would have to rely on his children to help him move out, and so on. Logistically, it would be a nightmare. In many cases, without a prenuptial agreement, divorce is a non-option.
This seems like an issue that would be more effectively debated by people with more experience than you or I: by someone who has been married for decades of adult life, discussing with someone who has been unmarried for decades of adult life. Both of us are only speculating; it would be more powerful to hear from those actually in the trenches (so to speak) about how life seems to turn out for those that don't marry and about how life seems to turn out for those that do marry (and have children - especially for older generations, marriage seems to be a prerequisite for children born and raised in their parents' household.) Without firsthand, personal experience behind our arguments, neither of our positions really hold much weight, especially for such a complex issue.
1. Unless what people talk about is primarily Whisky and Beer etc, the common interest isn't drinking, it's talking about while under the influence of alcohol.
2. Well, workplace sex at least can work. I'm not sure about workplace romances that blow up - there can be a LOT of emotion involved after a breakup. Think of your feelings about the neighbourhood bully when you were a kid, then amplify by 10 (at least). And it's a mix of hate and love, amplifying each other. Just saying "Deal with it" is a solution for some of us - I don't think I've been in a situation where I couldn't have done that - yet we also know that these are the kinds of feelings people kill over.
From my experience, what people talk about under the influence is women, 95% of the time.
So then we're left with the idea that what these people have in common is their attraction to women. That's an interesting idea. But it doesn't fly when it comes to life outside of college, because most men continue to be interested in women then as well. Perhaps they also develop other interests and spend more time with these other interests then.
Then your experience is very, very different from mine, also in a college environment. My experiences cover computers, politics, TV-shows, movies, the music playing, the weather, books, solving random engineering challenges, different forms of alchol, vacations, personal problems, fashion, life stories (lots of these), cars, being in the military, new technology, who's moved where, how sucky the present assignment is, which movies will we be making next, what's the coolest computer games, should we go on a trip to Ireland this summer, what do you think of Robbie Williams suddenly turning into a decent Jazz artist, hey! Mess is playing here next week, they promised to come to my afterparty the next time they played here, let's go hit 'em up, ...
While girls are a topic of conversation, even when I've been out with only other people that are into pickup with the explict goal of talking about pickup and girls, it's been much less than 95%. Might it be that something about how you interact with people make them talk about this? I know that I do a bunch that tend to bring up other themes, yet turning it from 95% something to 2% something seems beyond even my abilities...
it sure does. as a straight man that was married twice and who is single again, meeting women has become very difficult for me now. once women's lib took over, they have changed for the worse. their attitude is very bad today as well. whatever happened to the good women years ago, like our mother's were. many women today are very nasty, and it is very hard to start a conversation with them. i go out a lot, hoping that i will be at the right place at the right time to meet a real good one for me again. when i was married to them at the time, i was a very caring and loving husband that never cheated on them. they both did cheat on me, and i was very committed to them as well. they turned out to be filthy whores, just my luck. i hate going out because it is like trying to win a game that cannot be won. like i said before, being alone and single now sucks a lot. i am in my late fifties, and most of the men my age now are married with their own families today. i have to say god punishes certain people like me, that really wanted to have met the right woman years ago and have a family today too. i am no different than the other men that have it. i wonder why god made them so special? what about men like us that wanted it too?
you young people are tame dont' be afraind to make mistakes, try out a partner. So what if it doesn't work out, then take what you've learned from that and try again... it's all good. the sh ty stuff. it's worth the experience and learning about yourself... Trust youself and what you are learning.
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