This discussion thread reminds me that I didn’t get to Jason DeParle’s atypically weak NYT piece about marriage is a ticket out of poverty. One benefit of waiting is that I can outsource my commentary to Katha Pollitt, Lindsay Beyerstein, and E.J. Graff. The whole idea that anyone could have a stable marriage with a compatible, non-abusive partner who holds down a good job if only they really wanted one is hand-waving on a par with wondering why people who live on food stamps can’t save enough to replace a broken-down car. Pollitt:
Well, if only we could clone Kevin—or maybe put great big Good Guy and Bad Guy signs on young men so that naïve college girls could tell which slacker boys are exploitive louts and which ones just need a nudge to become prime husband material. (Kevin went through a layabout stage but reformed because he wanted to marry Chris. “Marriage, in other words, can help make men marriageable.”) DeParle seems to think getting married transforms people, and maybe sometimes it does—but the lightbulb has to want to change. If marriage turned men into Kevins, there wouldn’t be so much divorce. Let’s say Jessica had gotten her boyfriend to marry her as they originally discussed—and she stayed with him for seven years and three kids, so she clearly tried to make it happen (“I wanted him to love me,” she says—what a world of sadness in those words!)—he would still have been a nogoodnik who rarely worked, lived off Jessica and his mother, and had little to do with the kids even when they all lived together. She would be long divorced by now. Her only other serious boyfriend, whom she dated for a year before letting him move in to her kids’ great delight, had to be removed after six months by the police. I don’t mean to be discouraging here, but maybe there was never going to be a Kevin for Jessica. Maybe there aren’t enough Kevins to go around, because of a whole range of developments over several decades, from the decline of good union jobs to our penchant for putting staggering numbers of men in prison.
Related is the strange assumption made by many glibertarians that single mothers must be single by choice.