So I’ve read a lot of news and opinion pieces over the last few years about how millennial women are struggling to find marriage-able men now that they are getting into their thirties. Especially in cities, where college-educated women far outnumber college-educated men, due to gender disparities in college enrollment (~60% of undergraduates are now female).
Which got me thinking about a woman I dated this past year, and a particular interaction I had with her. I’m a man right on the leading edge of the millennials (mid thirties), and this woman was in her early 30’s. She was smoking hot, at least was when she was younger. A typical Chicago River North girl, former Kappa Alpha Theta at a major Big Ten university. And she had definitely been living the “Sex and the City” lifestyle all through her twenties – drinking, partying, brunching, hooking up, with the occasional boyfriend dabbled in here or there.
Of course, now that she was 32, she wasn’t as hot as she was when she was younger (I saw pictures of her from back when she was mid 20s). And at one point, I forget how it came up, but we were in bed post-coitus and she was talking about her appearance, and I said “You look good for your age”. She asked what I meant, and I just laughed and told her I thought she was attractive but she didn’t look like she did when she was younger.
She seemed taken aback by this. Like no one ever mentioned it to her. But it was true. She had little wrinkles around her eyes, and her back and derriere were a little soft and perhaps not as taut as they could be. Of course, when she was 22 genetics took care of that. But at 32, it required a little more effort, and even with that effort it would never be quite the same.
But was really surprising to me was her reaction. Perhaps people don’t mention those things out loud any more. Or perhaps the Sex and the City and/or hookup generation never realized the party would eventually end.
Either way, she didn’t seem to realize she had given away her best years to other men … the prime years of her youth, looks, and fertility. More importantly, she seemed unaware that she was offering me a version of herself of reduced market value. The reality is that, for any woman I am seeking sexual union with, those things matter. And for something of reduced value, I am only willing to offer less in return.
Of course, some would say this has all happened before. A tale as old as time. Sodom and Gomorrah. And some would argue our best years belong to us, and for whatever selfish desires we may have. Time for other things can come later.
Or in other words: our best years are not about what value we give to the world, but what we can extract from the world in return.
Such a mindset may be right, or wrong … I am not here to debate that. And certainly, from a classical liberal perspective of rational self-interest, efficient societies and economic system can be built by harnessing that inherent human selfishness. But the rational part implies reasoning, that people have accurate information to reason with.
The problem, nowadays, comes from individuals not realizing they are in a marketplace, where the value of things rises and falls. Even the value of people – economically, sexually, etc. – fluctuates. And the value one has to capitalize on may not be the same value they have 5 or 10 years later. It is critical, in light of that, to maximize the long-term return.
And that is what we fail to teach our children anymore … we are not honest with them about the nature of the world. The problem isn’t selfishness per se, but the complete ignorance on the part of young people about their selves as depreciating assets. A time will come for all of us when we are no longer as needed. This is particularly harsh for women, who are still valued as reproductive mates mainly based on youth and fertility. Which, to be clear, makes sense, because if a lot of men were running around sleeping with infertile forty-something women then the human race would quickly go extinct.
We are apes, dressed in costumes, performing rituals and acts upon a stage. Pretending to be something we’re not. Forgetting who we are. There is a dishonesty to it. One in which we teach our children that their best years are ones to be irreverently consumed, rather than leveraged for future gain.