mercredi 16 septembre 2009

Breaking the mold; meeting your match

I read an article today in the NY Times Generation B series called In Her 50's, Looking for Love.

Not surprisingly, it profiled a 50-something woman who decided to exercise the option of being single again and who, after having done all the things that women generally do post-long term marriage, was slimmed down, looking for love and finding the pickings exceedingly slim.

The remarriage gap for this age group was mentioned, as it inevitably is in articles on this subject. I was reminded of an article I read years and years ago, which debunked the then popular urban myth that a divorced woman over 40 was more likely to be blown up by a terrorist than she was to find a suitable spouse. 50 is the new 40, though, in more ways than one. The more educated a person is, the more likely he or she is to postpone the age of marriage these days. One of my sisters, who is 40 and has been married for less than five years, attended the wedding of a friend on Saturday who, at the age of 42, was getting married for the first time.

Back to the article about terrorism and marriagability. If it were written today, it would be about women over 50. In the original article, a host of women were interviewed and surveyed, and it turned out that the main reason women over 40 didn't remarry was that they simply didn't want to. Finding themselves single and free after years of being mothers and caregivers, they relished their freedom. I remember one woman talking about the joys of having popcorn for dinner and of not having to cook for anyone else.

That article was revealing and insightful because it demonstrated that the reality behind the stereotype (or the general assumption that women don't remarry because they can't find anyone or there is a shortage of men) is far more complex and nuanced.

In the article linked to in the title above, one paragraph caught my eye. It said: “Studies show men tend to marry down — someone slightly younger, less educated, making less money,” Dr. Adler-Baeder said. “Women in their 50s literally don’t have a visible pool of eligible men around them.”

Thinking about anecdotal evidence from my own life, I might as well start with what I have on hand: my husband (second marriage for both of us, though I also have a very long-term partnership on my record) is my age, give or take 13 months. He was held back in kindergarten, so we actually graduated from high school the same year. I am more educated than he is and, income-wise, we are about even. So our case does not confirm the study findings.

I know both single and married 50 somethings who are happy, and both single and married ones who are unhappy. I don't think love can make anyone happy, but it sure can make some folks miserable. Lacan came up with perhaps the most intriguing, funny, sad and true definition of love. Translated, it goes something like this: Love means wanting to give something you don't have to someone who doesn't want it. This is an amazing statement, provided you take the time to understand it.