Kate Bolick recalls her childhood and her mother’s emerging feminism:
I was her first and only recruit, marching off to third grade in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle, or: A Woman’s Place Is in the House—and the Senate, and bellowing along to Gloria Steinem & Co.’s feminist-minded children’s album, Free to Be … You and Me (released the same year Title IX was passed, also the year of my birth). Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda’s retelling of “Atalanta,” the ancient Greek myth about a fleet-footed princess who longs to travel the world before finding her prince, became the theme song of my life. Once, in high school, driving home from a family vacation, my mother turned to my boyfriend and me cuddling in the backseat and said, “Isn’t it time you two started seeing other people?” She adored Brian—he was invited on family vacations! But my future was to be one of limitless possibilities, where getting married was something I’d do when I was ready, to a man who was in every way my equal, and she didn’t want me to get tied down just yet.
Is it surprising that Bolick has found herself–at age 39–single among a shrinking pool of men? She speaks of this as a “brave new world,” one in which her ex-lover’s fiancée suggested Bolick tag along to help the ex-lover pick out his wedding suit. I’m just not that hip and with it, y’all.
In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. She’d never had sex with anyone but my father. Could she have even envisioned herself on a shopping excursion with an ex-lover, never mind one who was getting married while she remained alone? And the ex-lover’s fiancée being so generous and open-minded as to suggest the shopping trip to begin with?
What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.
Agency? Or misdirection? The trashing of marriage as an institution has cultural ramifications. None good. That’s why feminists and liberals pursued that line of thinking. Free sex is so much better than, um, monogamy or stability. Squares! Why should children be born in wedlock? 40 percent of children are born to single mothers now. All are more likely to be poor and to struggle in school. But who cares? Big brother will be there, always.
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