Sunday, August 06, 2006


When the NY Times blasts the lid off a newly discovered (at least to them) societal trend, it is often regarding a fairly socially conservative concern, such as the a) prevalence of sex among teenagers, or b) women who decide to have careers instead of having kids. However, the article about middle-aged men without college degrees who have never been married left me puzzled about exactly what startling fact they had uncovered.

At first, it looks like the opposite of their typical b) type of piece mentioned above, that there are all these nice single lonely guys who may not have a college degree, but they're willing and able, ladies! And of course the Times Select version has their contact info so all the MoDo types can call them up (ok JUST KIDDING), the clear implication being that if these guys end their lives single they will be miserable ,depressed, financially strapped and a drain on society.

However, quite quickly it is apparent that not only are these guys doing pretty well (the lead photo kind of gives it away) but most of the ones interviewed don't really want to get married. In a rare nod to actual social science research, they cite data showing that marriage doesn't actually seem to confer any benefit on these guys in terms of contentedness, financial health or longevity.

Hmmm. Then they bring up the fact that a lot of gays are now more open and THEY are obviously not getting married (Note to the GOP: hey, if you want to bump the marriage rate up, there's a real fast way to do it). Then it seems, that, well, a lot of the straight guys had lived with women at some point, and in the olden days they probably would have gotten married, which means that their predicament, whatever it is, wouldn't have worried the authors of the article at all. I guess even if you got stuck once in a loveless, brief marriage, you're still better off than these guys.

Finally, in conclusion they say "All the men interviewed for this article looked younger than their age. All said they were happy with their lives.."

But really they're miserable, people!

Mr. Ryan, too, said he enjoyed being single. He stood talking in his kitchen on a Saturday when he had no plans other than a solo bike ride. It was a slow weekend day - his birthday, in fact - and though the phone never rang, he was free for dinner.

OK, it's August, a slow news time (except for, you know, a couple of wars in the Middle East), but I really can't see the point of this article. If it's not a trend that threatens to rend the fabric of society as we know it, what is it? A bunch of guys who, for various reasons, are single as they approach middle age. Some by choice, some not, some are happy about it, some not, and it's not really clear what the long term implications of it are. Whew!! Thank God the Times is around to alert us to things like this! I might have thought it was really not all that important. But of course, I'm an approaching-middle-age single guy (I do have an advanced degree, though) so I'm probably just being willfully ignorant.

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