Lauren, I agree with your take on the New York Observer ‘s trend piece about New York women seeking, as you put it, “natural commitment-phile” European men. The women who were profiled were indeed young. Like you, my friends who are paired off but not married are not waiting for the guy to pop the question. It’s an annoying article.
I want to emphasize something about the difference between the state of affairs for women in America and in the rest of the civilized world. The competitiveness people bring to “dating” and “closing the deal” here is underpinned by intense economic competition and the desire-increasingly, the necessity-for basic social and physical security. There is a secret amongst the Canadian and European women living in the Big Apple. I know this because I am Canadian and my closest girlfriend is French, and when we resident aliens get together we really tear up this country and how it treats its women. (Our dating lives are fine and always have been.) When we talk about dating or the possibility of having family, with a man or on our own or with-gasp!-a coven of like-minded women (why not?), the conversation is framed entirely by the fact that we can count on our native countries to look after us should we-for whatever reason-not be able to make ends meet stateside. Now, we should be able to secure decent futures for ourselves, with or without male partners: We have Ivy League degrees, speak multiple languages, are savvy and entrepreneurial. We are also a lot more calm about dating and mating than the American women we know, who seem plagued by contradictory forces.
The New York Observer article briefly mentions the benefits of social democracies:
But what makes the European hunks so commitment-happy-a phase that typically takes many New York men until their 40s to reach? … Maybe it’s the surplus of E.U. benefits-free day care, health care, and tax benefits even for unmarried couples-that makes the possibility of contented ménage a more realistic proposition at an earlier age.
I’m always baffled that women here don’t demand the same benefits on which we Canadian and European women rely. It would make dating and mating a lot easier, that’s for certain. American family values? Where are they?
The calculus of long-term committment is just different when your country guarantees the basic necessities of an advanced civilization. When your government provides you, as they do in Canada and in Europe, with health care that is unlinked to a job or “productivity,” subsidized prescription drugs, child care, free education through graduate school, and, finally, old-age pensions with visiting nurses if you need them to retain your health and a modicum of dignity. Marriage, ultimately, is about family, however you shape it. I sometimes don’t blame men here for being lame or commitment-phobic. They’re probably terrified of failing as providers or co-providers.
Photograph of Halle Berry and French husband Gabriel Aubrey by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.