Once again I read an article about how the prime baby-having years are between age 20 and 35 and how "career women" should stop putting off having children because they will be sorry.
My usual response to such articles is to click away or to write a snappy little comment about how the problem might not be "career women" as much as it is "lazy, commitment-hating men"--although, of course I know that that is not always the problem, either.
When I was 23, I had three suitors, each of whom would have married me, which I don't mind telling you for this startling situation has never been repeated. I didn't much like it, either, for I wasn't in love with any of them. Possibly I was a lazy commitment-hating woman. Possibly I had the emotional age of 12. And, anyway, God's plan was that I would marry B.A. at the actual age of 38, not that I knew that. I eventually caved, decided I was in love with one of the three, married him and was divorced by age 27. Yay, annulment tribunal!
At any rate, I always try to balance remarks about the strange social circumstances the Sexual Revolution has thrown us all into with thoughts about God's Plan. Many aspects of the Sexual Revolution fly in the face of God's commandments, but He allowed the Sexual Revolution to happen. It's a mystery.
What I think I can safely say is that men and women both waste a lot of time, energy and money on people who do not want to marry them. American-style dating, once a means to an end, has become an end in itself. Women sleep with their boyfriends, which in France would be known as "taking a lover," and this does not always translate into marriage and babies, although babies certainly happen and, if allowed to be born, usually stick around longer than their fathers.
Someone commented under the article I described above saying that infertility was women's fault because women drop their knickers too soon and too often, and this makes men immature and spoiled and unlikely to make commitments. I found this statement rather ahistorical because men have always managed to find women to have sex with them, even if only for pay. What is new, though, absolutely new, is the idea that any and every woman could and should have sex before marriage. This is absolutely unprecedented in the West. Even before Christianity, the Germanic tribes who roiled and boiled across Europe were very strict about female chastity.
The marvellous thing about female chastity--you might not think this is marvellous, but try to see it objectively--is that it often separates the sex tourists from men who just want to marry a "nice girl" and settle down. I don't want to get too romantic about this: there are lots of nice non-Catholic girls whose idea of chastity means not sleeping with their suitor for a solid six months after meeting him. (I always think it's a bad idea to ignore the fact that lots of premarital sex-having women marry their boyfriends and live happily ever after.) But sex touristy- type men do not hang around waiting for six months, let alone for wedding prep classes, unless they have a stubborn, sociopathic need to conquer, and these men—thank God—are rare.
But alongside physical chastity there is something called emotional chastity. Emotional chastity means not hankering after people who do not love you. Almost everything we have been taught to find romantic--unrequited love, going into a decline for love, writing impassioned love-letters, standing outside our ex-girlfriend's window holding up a ghetto blaster playing "In Your Eyes"--is actually irrational and extremely stupid. The early 19th century has a lot to answer for. I reserve special blame for Goethe.
This is why I do not think anyone should date a person for more than a year without discussion of marriage. Male psychology being what it is, I don't think the person to mention marriage should be the woman. And if the man doesn't as much as mention marriage within that year, I think the woman should dump him.
Now that I have more male readers, I expect a flurry of comments saying "How can you know within a YEAR?" And my answer is that if you are an adult, and out of university, you should know within a year. If you don't, stop wasting your girlfriend's time. Meanwhile, women should take the incredibly painful revelation that their boyfriends, whom they might very well and unwisely love very much, don't want to marry them on the chin. If he doesn't want to marry you, he is Mister Wrong, and continuing to date him or even to sleep with him or let him move in with you, is not going to change that. Get out while you're young.
If there's anything I can't stand and that I certainly hope to undermine, it is the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. I don't think people (especial women) should make informal years-long emotional/sexual commitments to people who don't know if they want to marry them or not. I think people should make dozens of friends and acquaintances, and that women treat regard the men who court them as old-fashioned suitors--with kindness but with a certain reserve. "Can I call you my girlfriend?" is no substitute for "Would you marry me?", although these days, of course, the second question usually follows the first, if it is asked at all.