Suzanne Fields

Politics and the street fight between Hillary and Barack Obama aren't the only games in town. A bachelor acquaintance of mine, a prosperous man in his 40s, was new in town and wanted to meet the love of his life, to marry, and become a father and citizen (and voter). So, I organized a small cocktail party and invited several attractive women in their late 30s who are still looking for Mr. Right (and might be willing to settle for Mr. Good Enough). They're women with professional careers but want marriage and family, too.

They feel a mild panic that motherhood might pass them by. The single men they meet seem determined to remain bachelors. The men are having too much fun to give up their freedom. This is the dilemma of millions of young women, an "issue" more important to them at the present moment than what to do about health care, tinpots in Tehran or Pyongyang, or the reform of NAFTA. You might hear them mumbling, "No, we can't."

As it turned out, my party was cordial, even mellow, and maybe two or three telephone numbers were exchanged, but it failed. The gentleman didn't meet anyone he wanted to call the next day. Because he had chosen badly in the past he was cautious. "Picky," my grandmother would have called him. Several of the women found him interesting enough, but were not about to make the first move. Some things haven't changed.

My party was ground zero of the phenomenon that worries the demographers (and the more astute polls). Several young women tell me they at first liked the trend toward marrying late, but they never thought it would mean never marrying at all. Now, melancholy has replaced the prospect of marriage and they're terrified they're at the point of no return. A husband and children are still possible for women, even in their 40s, but the fear of fear itself is the more likely prospect. Parents no longer tease them about waiting impatiently for grandchildren. The generations feel the other's pain with the not-so-silent lament: "We're not getting any younger."

Having put careers first while seeking the passionate Mr. Perfect, they've overlooked Mr. Good Enough. This sensibility was captured in a brief encounter on the television show "Sex and the City. " The oh-so-hip Carrie Bradshaw runs into a man she had dumped for the exciting Mr. Perfect, who had subsequently dumped her. The jilted suitor carries his infant son, and the picture is worth a thousand words about the what-ifs.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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