In 2001, when I was 28, I broke up with my boyfriend. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track relationships, were bewildered. I was bewildered. To account for my behavior, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down.
The period that followed was awful. I barely ate for sobbing all the time. (A friend who suffered my company a lot that summer sent me a birthday text this past July: “A decade ago you and I were reuniting, and you were crying a lot.”) I missed Allan desperately—his calm, sure voice; the sweetly fastidious way he folded his shirts. On good days, I felt secure that I’d done the right thing. Learning to be alone would make me a better person, and eventually a better partner. On bad days, I feared I would be alone forever. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life?
Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question. Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.
– “All the Single Ladies”, By Kate Bolick, The Atlantic Monthly
Dear Atlantic Editors,
You could have saved a lot of money had you hired me to edit Kate’s piece. Here’s what I would have submitted: “Me, me, me, ego, ego, ego, I, I, I. Some left-wing scholars think we don’t need traditional two-parent families, or something like that. Did I tell you about me?”
Seriously, this may be the single worst cover article you have ever run (plus, while Kate is attractive, does she ever crack a smile, ever?) There is so much to ridicule and mock I could spend all night, or many blog posts doing so, but I have to get back to that tedious Lofgren piece that I haven’t finished fisking yet. However, let me leave you with two items to consider from Kate’s solipsistic mess of prose:
1) “Even more momentously, we no longer need husbands to have children, nor do we have to have children if we don’t want to. For those who want their own biological child, and haven’t found the right man, now is a good time to be alive. Biological parenthood in a nuclear family need not be the be-all and end-all of womanhood—and in fact it increasingly is not. Today 40 percent of children are born to single mothers.”
Who the heck is “we” in that sentence? I know she means her and her goofy friends, but did she ever consider whether or not all these kids born to single mothers is good for a different we, as in you and me — the American people? Actually she did, as later in the piece, in one of the only places I laughed out loud, we find this:
“Nor am I arguing that we should discourage marriage—it’s a tried-and-true model for raising successful children in a modern economy. (Evidence suggests that American children who grow up amidst the disorder that is common to single-parent homes tend to struggle.)”
“Tend to struggle” is the phrase that set off hysterical fits of laughter — has she cracked open any of the literature on the subject?
2) The above sentence leads me to my next item:
“But as we talked, I couldn’t help thinking about the women in Wilkinsburg—an inadvertent all-female coalition—and how in spite of it all, they derived so much happiness from each other’s company…I am curious to know what could happen if these de facto female support systems of the sort I saw in Wilkinsburg were recognized as an adaptive response, even an evolutionary stage, that women could be proud to build and maintain.”
Earlier in the piece we get this description of Wilkinsburg:
In August I traveled to Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, a small, predominantly African American borough on the eastern edge of Pittsburgh. A half-century ago, it was known as “The Holy City” for its preponderance of churches. Today, the cobblestoned streets are lined with defeated clapboard houses that look as if the spirit’s been sucked right out of them.
I was there to spend the afternoon with Denean, a 34-year-old nurse who was living in one such house with three of her four children (the eldest is 19 and lived across town) and, these days, a teenage niece. Denean is pretty and slender, with a wry, deadpan humor. For 10 years she worked for a health-care company, but she was laid off in January. She is twice divorced; no two of her children share a father. In February, when she learned (on Facebook) that her second child, 15-year-old Ronicka, was pregnant, Denean slumped down on her enormous slate-gray sofa and didn’t get up for 10 hours.
“I had done everything I could to make sure she didn’t end up like me, and now this,” she told me.
It was a clear, warm day, and we were clustered on the front porch—Denean, Ronicka, and I, along with Denean’s niece, Keira, 18, and Denean’s friend Chantal, 28, a single mother whose daughter goes to day care with Denean’s youngest. The affection between these four high-spirited women was light and infectious, and they spoke knowingly about the stigmas they’re up against. “That’s right,” Denean laughed, “we’re your standard bunch of single black moms!”
Need I say anything more?