The XX Factor

The Scary, Scary Marriage Timetable

The only timetable that inspires more cultural anxiety than the one to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan is the one to pull women out of their doomed matrimonial waiting game. File under: totally heteronormative stressors. Despite the fact the  latest report from Pew shows that the percentage of twentysomething marrieds has decreased from 68 oercent in 1960 to just 26 percent in 2008, the value placed on marriage, especially for women, never seems to decline. The perfect example, which Hannah Seligson draws out today on The Daily Beast , is the media treatment of now princess-to-be Kate Middleton. Seligson writes:

“Finally, after close to a decade, those snarky British tabloids will stop calling her “Waity Katie.” But why did Kate get all the scrutiny? Why wasn’t it “Waffling Will?” Maybe the waiting was hard for her. “Will he ever pop the question? When do I get my tiara?” Or maybe she was the one saying, “Will, darling, I want some time on my own before I take on a suffocating number of royal duties, give up my privacy entirely, and become the new spokesmodel for the monarchy.”

Of course, the truth is that women know just as well as men the stakes and risks that marriage involves, and that younger marriages suffer from more divorce, but still, the assumption is that the coupled-but-unmarried female is the one being strung along, played, or otherwise duped. Even Beyonce took part in the cultural assumption with  her crazy-popular hit “Single Ladies,” a song wherein she commodifies herself (if you liked it you shoulda put a ring on it), and then plays it off as a bizarro form of girl power. 

Never mind that in reality matrimonial expectations are hardly ever that cleanly divided along gender lines. For every twentysomething boyfriend I know harboring anxiety about long-term commitment, there’s a girlfriend with similar issues. Or that an unmarried life is becoming an increasingly desired option.

Photograph of Kate Middleton by Ben Stansall/Getty Images.