SEX AND THE MIDDLE-AGED SINGLE
As aging singles count the years that pass, the sentimental pining goes from “I am looking for someone to spend my life with,” to “I am looking for someone to grow old with.” Next comes, “I am looking for someone to take care of me when I am old,” to, finally, “I am looking for someone to take care of my estate when I’m gone.”
The paradigm of spouse-hunting has shifted and middle-aged singles are caught in a vortex of mixed messages and cultural maladies that beset the most natural of human inclinations; to find a sweetheart and settle down. The statistics are not favorable. Yes, there are a lot of singles, but among them:
Crunching the numbers, for me, is complicated by my traditional and morally-strict faith, my alpha-female aspirations, and my intolerance for freaks. But I will give it a whirl. Given the above statistics with the high incidence of mental illness and sexually transmitted disease, along with my celibate status, the chances of me finding a suitable mate are … ZERO to NONE.
So, this all begs the question, “are there any suitable people at all left to date?” This dilemma becomes a pounding conundrum once you reach middle age, since potential partners that are available have had decades to finely hone their pathologies. And, what ever defects lead to their singleness, have only been magnified with practice and time.
Women of my generation are often a mix of the traditional and the “liberated,” having spent their children’s early years at home, making a home and nurturing the wee ones and then, because of divorce, need, drive or inspiration, take on the mantle of a career, continuing education and independence. This sets up a bizarre dynamic in which the men of appropriate age, single of course, who are available to date are on the downward slide of their career curve. Educations and careers for them were determined early-on, and so they are preparing for retirement, travel, hobbies, and the cave. The energy differential is embarrassing sometimes. As I, and many like me, blossom and spread our proverbial wings in middle-age, our male counterparts are getting quite cozy back in the nest. If I did not find the flirtations of younger men so profoundly uncomfortable, I could be a “cougar”. My drive, interest and aspirations more equally match those of a man in the upward climb of his career, not the grandpa with titanium knees.
I like to use the analogy: Singles who fail to find the right mate are like rocks in a tumbler. They bounce off the inside of the tumbler, and each other, and in the process become refined, polished, and desirable. Nice analogy this may be, but I’m not sure these complexities were designed by God in His blueprint for happiness, especially for those whose windows of opportunity are creaking slowly shut. In the process of polishing and refinement, there is an awful lot of time spent nursing confused minds and broken hearts, where, in the ideal, that time would be spent building a foundation of lasting memories, a legacy of love and a marital history as a familial frame of reference for the coming generations.
The myriad social forces that have weakened the incentives for marriage and have disparaged the personal qualities that bolster healthy families have taken their toll. My generation will never again see an America where wholesome families and lasting marriages are the norm. The “natalists”: Mormons, red-state Evangelicals, and other family-centered congregations will maintain the traditional model and it will be restored to the larger population at some future time. But Boomer singles have to accept that a century ago we would have never lived to see 50. Nature and civilization are not equipped to oblige the post-procreative and aging with an ideal vehicle for romance and companionship.
The over 40 singles are embarking on an experimental voyage, going where “no man (or woman) has gone before.” There is no necessity for us to marry and have children. Many of us have raised our families. 21st Century Western culture provides financial buffers to women who don’t have a spouse. Independence and some level of material fulfillment are possible outside of marriage because the opportunities for education, service, and self-actualization are available to older people. But it is important that we ask the question, “is it healthy for a society to have a large population of adults who live their lives estranged from marriage, the bedrock feature of human existence?” We can only hope that the toxifying secular influences that make it so easy to be alone, and so difficult to stay married, will be overcome by the emerging generations.