The Washington Post publishes a Texas statistician's pleas for women to stop marrying after age 23.
Just when we thought it was fine for a woman to marry at any age she damn-well pleased, some guy in Texas has come along to correct us.
And sadly, the guy is not just any guy, but a sociologist who teaches at a legitimate university (University of Texas-Austin) and publishes books that are considered academic (the latest is titled Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers).
His name is Mark Regnerus. And in a new piece for the Washington Post, he says that — while he sees no issue with the fact that men are marrying later these days (28 years old for the first marriage now, as opposed to 23 years old in 1970) — he is disheartened to learn that women are now also choosing to marry later as well — around the spinsterly age 26.
And what's so bad about this? Mainly, it's the fact that — by the time they finally mosey down the aisle — they've grown into shriveled, useless carriers of dried-up eggs (men, as it so happens, just get better with age). As he puts it:
Marriage will be there for men when they're ready. And most do get there. Eventually. But according to social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs, women's "market value" declines as they age, while men's tend to rise in step with their growing resources (that is, money and maturation). Countless studies — and endless antecdotes — reinforce their opinion. Meanwhile, women's fertility is more or less fixed, yet they largely suppress it during their 20s — their most fertile years — only to beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.
He sees several factors behind this disasterous social trend, including: 1) Women who want to marry young — including a 19 year old he knows — are being told by their parents and friends to "complete their education" first. 2) Women keep getting exposed to statistics that show early marriage to be the number one predictor of divorce. And while, yes, it's true that young marriages don't have a great track record, it's only sort of bad for people who are 20, 21, and 22, as opposed to really bad for teenagers.
Well, then, what should we as a society do to reverse this trend? Perhaps we could tell our girls that learning is less important than procreating. Or maybe we can burn all the statistics.
Regnerus suggests something more radical: remind young women that marrying in their youth will make them rich (as married couples tend to pool more resources than single people). Also, we can encourage them to think about the environment (as single-person households tend to use more energy per head than married ones).
Finally (and most powerfully), we can tap into their greatest insecurities, reminding them that — while they're busy criticizing girls for marrying at 21 — they are, in fact, just setting themselves up to be lonely bridesmaids for the rest of their lives. And let's face it, no one wants to be a lonely old bridesmaid in an ugly fuscia frock when the real dream is to be a resplendant bride.
This is what Regnerus tells us. And yes, this is why — as Mark Twain taught us* — we don't trust statisticians.
* "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." —Mark Twain