But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind.
We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.
For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community.
(Even then, our concerns struck me as retro; hadn’t the women’s libbers tackled all this stuff already?As he and I toured through Manhattan’s men’s-wear ateliers, we enjoyed explaining to the confused tailors and salesclerks that no, no, we weren’t getting married. I retell that moment as an aside, as if it’s a tangent to the larger story, but in a way, it is the story.In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing.But my future was to be one of limitless possibilities, where getting married was something I’d do when I was ready, to a man who was in every way my equal, and she didn’t want me to get tied down just yet.This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place.