our mothers and grandmothers were courting and acquiring the security of a husband when they were 20 to 25.
More recently, women decided their early 20s are strictly for fun, and now the Relationship Window opens at 28 and closes at 35.
This corresponds to my own observations. Back in the 1990s, there seemed to be an understanding amongst women that marriage was something to be postponed to some unspecified time in their 30s.
This trend can be at least partly explained, I think, by the influence of feminism on modern culture. If the aim is, as feminism claims, for women to seek autonomy, then it makes sense for women to stretch out a single girl lifestyle to the last possible moment.
This is not, though, a wise life strategy for women. It has the following problems:
1) As Anna Pasternak’s article suggests, putting things off for too long can lead women to marry in haste. A single woman of 33 who wants to start a family can be influenced by "screaming ovaries" in accepting a man. A woman of 23 isn’t under such duress when she chooses. Nor does a 23-year-old woman have to worry that she will scare partners away with her desperation for a baby.
2) Women are more likely to experience fertility problems in their 30s. There are countless women now gambling that they will have the children they want in their last few fertile years. As in the nature of any gamble, a lot will miss out.
3) If a whole cohort of women leave marriage and motherhood to their 30s, there will inevitably be an effect on men. There will be men who will spend longer “drifting” in their 20s (staying home, studying rather than working). There will be men who will habituate themselves to a bachelor lifestyle. There will be men who will resent their treatment by women within a culture of casual relationships.
By the time women in their 30s finally decide to seek out a life partner, they are more likely to be left wondering where all the good men have gone.
4) If women leave partnering to a narrow “relationships window” they are more likely to misjudge and leave things too late.
Anna Pasternak quotes the director of a dating agency, Mairead Molloy, who describes the women who typically miss out on the “relationships window” as being:
those who wanted the flat, the job and their own money, and suddenly, they lift up their heads at 37 and think: “Right, where’s the man?”
The women Mairead Molloy is describing have things around the wrong way. Love, marriage and family are what really matter and deserve our first attention. It’s denatured to place them low down on a lifestyle checklist.
The “leave it till last” women sometimes end up in difficult circumstances. According to Mairead Molloy, a woman in her mid-40s is left with few choices. She is no longer fertile, and no longer attractive to men in her own age group. In Molloy’s words:
A 45-year-old woman wants a maximum 47-year-old man, or a good-looking 50-year-old, but a 47-year-old man wants to find a 40-year-old woman.
The problem is that the 45-year-old woman doesn’t want to date the 60-something man who wants to go out with her, and yet she’s terrified of facing 50 alone – and projects that.
How different it would be for that same woman to be seeking a husband when in her mid-20s. She would be at the height of her appeal to men, with nature having arranged things very much in her favour.
On marrying, she would be well-placed to fulfil her “reproductive choice”, in being able to have children and create a family without the anxieties and difficulties of trying to do so late in life.
She would give the gift of her youthful beauty and romantic passion to the man she ultimately commits to, rather than to other men she will have no enduring connection to.
She will share her primary memories of love and affection with the man she has married, rather than with other men.
It might seem more modern for a woman to leave marriage and motherhood to her 30s, but I can’t help but think that this is a mistake and that it’s more sensible for women (and men) to aim to marry in their 20s.