Sixty-two days and counting…

...until I am officially unmarriageable. Or, at least, happily marriageable. According to a study conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative, getting married after the age of 27 reduces your odds of being happy in your marriage. The reasons they posit are hilarious: "Some people may be just too picky or too choosy or not extremely desirable."

And you know who they mean by "some people" don’t you? (Hint: it’s not confirmed bachelor George Clooney). Studies like these exist for one reason and one reason only: to remind women that our biological clocks are a-ticking, and if we don’t just suck it up and marry the first decent guy that asks us, our lives will be over. That means that if you, like me, aren’t married at the age of 27 (with only 62 days before my 28th birthday), you must be too picky—as if that is a quality that hinders happiness. You know what, I am picky. I’m really picky. And I think that I should be—after all, this is the person that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, you’d think a little discrimination would be a good thing! But it’s just that I’m picky, it’s that I’m picky when I don’t have the right to be. I’m not extremely desirable, according to the study, so I guess I should just take what I can get, right?

Remember that "study" done in the 80s suggesting that a woman had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married after thirty? Well, this new study is the same kind of panic-inducing, sensationalist tripe. How did the National Fatherhood Initiative (more on them in a bit, I promise!) determine that those married between the ages of 23 and 27 have the happiest marriages? Well, they asked a bunch of people* questions like: "How old were you when you got married?" and "Would you say that your marriage is happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Needless to say, the overwhelming majority (68.5%) responded that their marriages are very happy. Interesting, considering that the national divorce rate hovers around 50%. That means that at least 18.5% of those respondents are lying. Either that or their partners would give a much different answer to that same question. The problem is that the survey asks people to self-define their marriage as happy or not, and while certainly it is their opinion, along with their partner's, that matters most, it's just simply not a good way to determine if a marriage is truly happy. How many times have we seen celebrity couples publicly affirm their love on the red carpet, only to file for divorce three weeks later? People don’t like to admit to strangers that their relationships are troubled. You can hardly expect them to open up during a 15-minute telephone survey, particularly when their dear spouse might be listening in the other room.

The best indicator of marriage stability has nothing to do with age, and surprisingly little to do with shared faith or beliefs (another contention of the NFI study). According to Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History:

Most of the emotional expectations and the kinds of tasks that people brought to marriage involved women shouldering the physical work and emotional work that makes life goes on. So it is women that have an interest in changing the traditional terms of marriage. They are the ones most likely to ask for change. And people who actually study marital dynamics report that it is one of the best predictors that a marriage will last and be happy is when a women asks for change and the man responds positively. So I think that the difference in divorce rates is that if the woman is more egalitarian than the man, she's more likely to not get the changes she wants. But if the man is equally or more egalitarian, she is likely to get the change she wants and that marriage is going to work better, for the man as well as the woman.
[emphasis mine]

It is the ability to evolve and meet the needs of one's partner (particularly the one that is responsible for most of the work that keeps that marriage going) that will determine if your marriage will be happy and successful. Seems like a good reason to be picky to me.

So, why am I spending all this time on what would normally be a mildly interesting fluff piece about marriage trends? Is it because I am feeling insecure and unloved in my unmarried state as I rapidly approach D-Day**? Nah, I don't even want to be married! No, the thing that so intrigued me about this study was its author: The National Fatherhood Initiative. Their website states that "NFI's mission is to improve the well being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers." Sounds great, right?

NFI Marriage Initiative Billboard

Except when they use racist tactics and their ties to very, very far Right organizations to bully women into marriage. Check out who the NFI gets in bed with:
To further this objective, Bradley supports the organizations and individuals that promote the deregulation of business, the rollback of virtually all social welfare programs, and the privitization of government services. As a result, the list of Bradley grant recipients reads like a Who's Who of the U.S. Right. Bradley money supports such major right-wing groups as the Heritage Foundation, source of policy papers on budget cuts, supply-side economics and the Star Wars military plan for the Reagan administration; the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, which provides funding for right-wing research and a network of conservative student newspapers; and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, literary home for such racist authors as Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) and Dinesh D'Souza (The End of Racism), former conservative officeholders Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jack Kemp and William Bennett, and arch-conservative jurists Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia.

I wouldn't invite any of those people to my wedding, let alone let them tell me how to conduct my marriage.

Updated to ask if this is the logical end result of marriage initiatives...

*A bunch of white, middle-class Christian men from the South to be more precise. Here's the actual survey and results, the demographics are mind-boggling!
**January 24th for anyone that wants to buy me a "Congratulations! Your Marriage Prospects Have Severely Dwindled You Old Spinster Hag!" gift.

annamaria at 9:23 AM

1 spoke


at Thursday, November 24, 2005 8:26:00 AM Blogger Leslie said...

Consider this a cordial invitation to join our club, The Future Spinsters of America. :)

Awesome title, awesome blog. Thank you so much, ladies!


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