Suzanne Fields

Men are marrying up. Increasing numbers of husbands are marrying women with more education and a bigger paycheck than they have. Women had best forget looking for a knight on a white horse. They may not like it -- and many don't -- but the knight errant is probably trying to run away on a gray mule.

That might be a wee overstatement, but the Pew Research Center reports that the number of wives with greater incomes than their husbands rose from 4 percent in 1970 to 22 percent in 2007. Almost a third of marriages in 2007 reveal marriages with a wife with more education than her husband, up from 20 percent to 28 percent. The number of years of formal education doesn't mean smarter or wiser, but it does indicate the likelihood of a better job for the wives, who then tend to be the primary breadwinners.

The stories beyond the statistics are dramatic and sad. For a long time, feminists complained about fairy tales peopled with Prince Charming. They imagined that such stories prevented little girls from asserting themselves. The new Walt Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog" turns on its head the ancient tale of the little girl who kisses a frog and turns it into a prince -- she kisses the frog and turns into a frog herself, at least temporarily.

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The next version will probably keep the little boy a frog forever. That's hardly something to croak about, satisfying only the girl frogs who long ago resigned themselves to taking an ugly green guy, warts and all.

Not all women are buying the new scenario, and sad corollaries abound. I've met women who wanted good fathers for their children but spurned less "qualified" prospects for a date with a laboratory sperm just out of the deep freeze. Over the past three decades, more women with college educations are choosing to have children without husbands. According to the Pew survey, their less educated sisters are only half as likely to make this choice.

Anecdotal evidence is sadder still. I once gave a party for an eligible college-educated bachelor and invited several attractive, successful single women in their late 30s to meet him. All the women said they had expected to have children with a husband already. My attempt at playing Cupid failed, too. The bachelor saw his possibilities as endless, and the women, all self-sufficient, were by this time unwilling to "settle." Picky, picky.


Suzanne Fields

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

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