It’s early in the morning, and the nation’s worker bees have started their daily treks to their desks and cubicles. Somewhere deep in the depths of an underground tunnel in one of America’s urban cores, a well-manicured young woman is shuffling through a subway system. Another day, another long journey to the office. She makes eye contact with a suited young male commuter across the aisle. She awakens a little. Wow, a handsome man on the train! She wonders if he is single and holds her gaze. He doesn’t return the glance and looks down to read his newspaper. She thinks to herself, Why don’t I have a boyfriend? What am I doing wrong? Where are all of the good men?
She isn’t alone in wondering where all of the “good men have gone.” You do not have to look hard to find women at brunches, bars, parks, concerts and boutique shops griping about their perpetual state of singledom. From Los Angeles to D.C. to Miami, packs of lonely women are constantly talking about the dismal mating options available in today’s dating market. The complaints are usually the same: If a man is hard-working, tall and attractive, then he is a player who only wants sex; if he is kind and loving, he is tragically underemployed.
For the nation’s burgeoning power women, good men are hard to find, while Peter Pans are ubiquitous. (And to be fair, men are complaining about the dating market too, just in different ways. While women complain about opportunities to meet and date quality guys, men complain about the lack femininity and shallowness of the women that they do meet (see exhibits MGTOW and Red Pill)).
Let’s examine this dating phenomenon. Why does it seem as though good men are hard to find? It can’t be that there is a national shortage of men. In 2013, there are 105 million unmarried people in America who are 18 and older, and 47 percent of those U.S. residents were men (53 percent were women). So, single men are out there, though not all of them prefer to date women. Still, single men are not as rare as many female urbanites tend to believe. There are even a few major cities where single men outnumber women. So what gives? Why are women so frustrated with the dating market?
The short answer: Tremendous changes in family and work environments have created a world where marriage is delayed for years, avoided altogether, or sometimes replaced by cheaper substitutes, such as cohabitation. That’s the argument that writer Barbara Dafoe Whitehead makes in her illuminating book “Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman.” In her book, Dafoe writes:
Finding lasting love is never easy, but it seems to be especially hard for women today. Evidence of their romantic frustration is everywhere: in popular television shows like Will & Grace and Sex and the City; in the gargantuan appetite for self-help dating and relationships books; in the endless talkfests about men’s frailties and failings; in the hit movies and bestselling novels about 30-something single women’s search for Mr. Right; in a crop of articles and books on how to get over being dumped; in the explosion of Internet sites devoted to the search for love. Youth used to be the season of romantic love. Seemingly, it is now becoming the season of romantic discontent.
She argues that there are few public spots that women can go to meet men (when they are ready to do so). For previous generations, finding a suitable spouse was as simple as going to church, community functions or college. Families once entertained guests at private house parties. Now, thanks to busy work schedules, home entertaining is all but gone. Public bars have become de facto hook up spots. As a result, men and women are finding it difficult to meet quality partners.
Additionally, Dafoe argues that the dating and mating timetable for women has changed drastically in the last few decades thanks in part to the women’s movement. As women dedicate several of their early childrearing years to pursuing their education and careers, the time window for the pursuit of love has shrunken in size.
“For today’s young college-educated women, however, the sequence has been reversed: first comes satisfying work and then the search for a suitable life partner,” writes Dafoe.
Dafoe reminds readers that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for single women. She encourages women to remember three points while navigating the dating market:
- Try to find a mate through online dating. Contrary to the notions glamourized in romantic movies, the odds are that you are not going to run into your future life partner in a cafe or bookstore. And definitely not at a bar. In fact, very few people meet their spouses in random public places. In the past, you would have met a spouse at a respectable house party or social gathering. Since private social events are rare these days, it is a good strategy to meet other singles online. Search for men who indicate that they are looking for a spouse in their profile. Avoid hookup sites and apps, such as Tinder and OK Cupid, and instead try eHarmony, Match, and POF.
- Stop living with a spouse before marriage―it is wasted time and energy. Cohabitation is a much bigger time commitment than many people realize, especially if the relationship goes sour. There are better ways to get to know your spouse than to dedicate years of your life to a partner you are not fully committed to. We have explored the topic of cohabitation on multiple occasions, so read refreshers here and here.
- Try speed dating. Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process of dating system whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people. Get out there and head to as many single events as you can.