Over at The New Ledger, Ben Domenech takes on Conor over whether the rising generation has the right stuff when it comes to getting on with adulthood. Specifically, we’re given to ask, what’s with delaying marriage? Is it the product of capitalism gone wild? Is it simple procrastination? Narcissism? All of the above?
These are interesting questions, but I can’t help but think that their whole analytical frame is somewhat suspect. In the paradigm cases, the marriage delays we’re talking about mean staying single through all of one’s twenties and getting married somewhere in one’s thirties. Anecdotal evidence, as far as I can tell, suggests that marriage delays really wind up meaning a late-twenties ceremony and not an early-twenties one. There is, of course, a significant long tail of women delaying marriage deep into their thirties or even forties, but Sex in the City , as we all know, is so ’90s relative to the Apatow Era, even adjusting for gender differences.
So I ask you: Is our hand-wringing over marriage delays and cultural adulthood retardant really the product of a silly pop decade analysis that views one’s teens and one’s twenties and one’s thirties as the same kind of developmental stages that started to emerge with the Boomers? Political decade analysis we owe to the Boomers, too — and why, if not the uncoincidental way in which the decades of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have tracked with the sequential stages of growing up Boomer? To be sure, a broad cultural shift toward delaying marriage twenty years would mean real changes — and not for the better, for some basic biological reasons I could go on about later. But I think those kinds of extreme delays are rare and getting rarer. For Boomers, marriage pejoratively meant arresting your personal development at an early age; for our present-day hipsters, yupsters, grups, etc., marriage aspirationally means something more like achieving full maturity before you’re too old to enjoy it. It’s hard for me to see how a shift in the marriage mean from early to late twenties or early thirties raises ominous questions or worrisome implications. Actually, stabilizing the timing of marriage somewhere in that zone would actually make for a real success in the fight against the relativist proposition that there’s no common-sense judgment we can generally agree on about when it’s good to start a family.