...of love and marriage: some months ago I read and bookmarked a piece in City Journal called Love in the Time of Darwinism, intending to write about it later. That happens a lot, of course, as there are far more interesting things to write about than there is time to write. But in this case it was not so much lack of time as the depressing nature of what the author says that made me put it off. I warn you, it is really depressing, and also in places quite crude. It’s a true picture of our times, though, so we might as well face it. It’s about the state of relations between the sexes among the young, meaning those under thirty or thirty-five. The question in my mind is whether the people described in it are very typical. I certainly hope not. But reading this made me very glad I’m not young. And if they are typical, then we are in deep and probably hopeless trouble as a culture—hopeless in the sense that I don’t think it happens very often that a cultural decline of this sort is reversed.
I must say, not with any sense of triumph at all, that I saw this coming a long time ago, or at least certain aspects of it. This is a sort of background aspect of the piece, but one thing the author mentions is the tendency for young men to drop out of the whole education and career struggle. A generation ago, women set out to conquer the world of male occupations. I thought that if they succeeded, men would tend to just say to hell with the whole thing, because they didn’t really want to do most of it anyway. Many of them—us—were only doing it because we had to, because we wanted to support our families, because it was what a man was supposed to do and we wanted to feel like men. Most men have never had careers, with all the engagement and energy that implies; most have just had jobs.
I speak with some personal vehemence here. I’ve been making my living in information technology since the late ‘70s, and am grateful that I’ve been able to do so. But I never cared much about the work for its own sake; it was never a chosen vocation. I have never had any material ambition. I could have been perfectly happy living my entire life earning no more money than I needed to rent a room and eat two or three times a day, as long as I had time to read and write and listen to music (maybe play a bit, too).
I went to school to learn this trade for one reason only: because I was ashamed of not being able to support a family. It’s always irritated me greatly to be cast in the role of the oppressive male hogging a good job that a woman could do just as well or better and was perhaps entitled to, because she was oppressed. If I’d been single I would have long ago said...well, I’m not going to write what I would have said, because I like to keep this blog reasonably free of vulgarity. But it boils down to Fine, you can have it. There are indications that a certain number of young men are in essence doing this.
You can have it all was a feminist slogan of the ‘70s. But of course you can’t, and one kind of can’t is that you can’t elbow men out of the way as you climb the academic and career ladder, and then, when you’re thirty or thirty-five, expect to have a husband who earns enough money for you to stop working for a decade or two and have a family.
Anyway, brace yourself for an unpleasant experience and read the piece (the link is back in the first paragraph).