Over at the Daily Beast (Tina Brown's site), Meghan McCain recently blogged about her post-election dating experiences. Meghan is John McCain's 24-year old daughter and a Columbia University graduate. The post was one long whine.
Dating Democrats is dreary for Meghan because they get all defensive and apologetic about voting for Obama. Or, they are members of the Facebook group, "I have more foreign-policy experience than Sarah Palin." The ones who voted for her father can be even worse. There are the cringe-y ones, such as the dinner-date who described her selection from the menu as a "maverick choice." Then there are the creepy ones, such as the guy who declared that Meghan could be his Cindy.
Meghan McCain's point is that her father's Presidential candidacy "killed [her] personal life" (as if coupledom were the sum total of a personal life, but never mind). Personally, I don't care about her dating horror stories. But I am still shaking my head over two of the statements in her post.
First, after telling her first few tales of dating woes, she asks, "So where does that leave me?" Here's her answer: "Let's just say I'm spending a lot of time writing and even more time with my girlfriends." Think about what's wrong with that while I tell you about the second regressive statement.
That second one is the conclusion to her self-pitying post, a word of advice: "So to all the fathers out there: If you want your daughters to be single in her 20s, I can say this - run for president."
Let's go back to Sorry Statement #1. What does it say about Meghan's McCain's rank ordering of the important people in her life? Well, among her peers, all the potential dates come first. Then, when they all turn out to be losers, Meghan is left spending "even more time with [her] girlfriends." The dorks are the priority, and the friends - many of whom, perhaps, have been in her life for years - are the consolation prizes.
Among the story themes I hear repeatedly from other singles is that when their friends become seriously coupled or married, then they (the singles) get thrown under the bus. (Here I will acknowledge that married commenters to this blog sometimes claim that the ditching is not just a one-way thing.) When I hear Meghan McCain moaning about spending lots of time with friends after her dates go bust, I get a sick feeling about the kind of coupled person she is likely to be. She's already telegraphing it.
Have you been mulling over Sorry Statement #2? That's her advice to fathers to run for president if they want their daughters to be single in their 20s. Meghan is sad to be all of 24 years old and still single, and assumes that you would be, too. Now THAT'S sad. It is also breathtakingly ill-informed.
Being 20-something years old and single is not extraordinary; it's typical. In the United States, a 25.6-year old woman who has always been single shares that status with half of all other women her age. Men stay single even longer; those who reach the age of 27.4 without ever marrying have that in common with 50% of all men their age.
Even when the 20-something years are long past, people who have always been single can find plenty of others like them. For example, more than 12% of American women get all the way through their 40s without ever marrying. As I discussed in a previous post, this is not a uniquely American phenomenon; rather, staying single longer has gone global.
The Census Bureau has records of the median age at first marriage dating back to 1890. (The data are here; see Table MS-2 under Historical Times Series.) During all that time, getting married before your 20s has NEVER been typical. For the year when Americans married the youngest, 1956, the median age at first marriage was 22.5 for men and 20.1 for women. That means that even for the women, in that most marriage-crazed year, more than half were over the age of 20.0 when they first married.
So don't blame your dad, Meghan. Regardless of whether your father ran for president or for city council, whether he was in politics or in the arts, whether he was a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker, or whether he wasn't even in the picture, you'd probably be single in your 20s. The only thing bad about that is your attitude.
[Note to readers: Since some of you have asked me to let you know about relevant events, I thought I'd mention a singles discussion that will be offered as a free teleseminar on Tuesday April 14, 8 pm Eastern. Karen Gail Lewis, author of With or Without A Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives, organized the discussion and is one of the participants. I'm also participating, as are Sherri Langburt, founder of SingleEdition, and Wendy Wasson, a psychologist whose Q & A posts to this Living Single blog (here, here, and here) have been viewed many times and with much appreciation. To read more about the teleseminar or to register for it, click here and scroll down to the last event. And now an apology to the single men: I wish there were a comparable teleseminar for you. If anyone would like to put one together, let me know when it is ready and I'll post an announcement, just like this one.]