NYT: The privileged Americans are marrying which helps them stay privileged

About 41 percent of births in the United States occur outside marriage, up sharply from 17 percent three decades ago.

But equally sharp are the educational divides, according to an analysis by Child Trends, a Washington research group. Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent.

Long concentrated among minorities, motherhood outside marriage now varies by class about as much as it does by race. It is growing fastest in the lower reaches of the white middle class — among women like Ms. Schairer who have some postsecondary schooling but no four-year degree. – Two Classes in America, Divided By ‘I Do.’

I’ve been thinking  about the concept that Stanford professor Ralph Richard Banks describes in his book Is Marriage for White People?  as “white follows black.” He talks about the fact that what happens to black women who may not be following the marital patterns of their predecessors and who face all sorts of social barriers based on their single status, are actually also setting the stage for how life will start to be for white women.

The article above shows that theory might be correct, as flawed as it is. (Side note: I dislike the New York Times’ reductive take on single people, generally, and this piece is no exception).  I have such an odd relationship to privilege, and yet, given my upbringing, it makes total sense. I want enough to do the work that I am passionate about in the world, but I hate privilege because it excludes people who have very little. In fact, I hate most things that exclude people, but that’s the rant of an outsider, and I’ll get to that later.

The article includes some not-great news about single parenthood. Never say never, but I am highly unlikely to be a parent, so I never write about the topic. Also, given the unpredictable nature of marriage and the fact that I have essentially spent my entire life trying to avoid becoming a single parent, it sounds like it might not the path for me. I do find it interesting that the Times notes that single parenthood has gone from being an anomaly to being pretty popular. That also falls in line with Ralph Richard Banks’ ‘white follows black’ theory. I love that single mothers had to be validated by the fact that the last three American presidents were raised by single mothers. Children of single mothers, you, too, can be great!

Bella DePaulo, an expert on singles and cultural bias against singles writes more about the piece at Psychology Today, which she calls deplorable:

Also missing from the Times story is any awareness that stigmatizing stories such as this one are contributing to the disparity in the experiences of single-parent families and married-parent families that DeParle believes he is merely documenting. Go ahead, keep telling the single-parent families how bad they have it because there is no “6-foot-8-inch man named Kevin” and how superior the married families are because they do have their Kev. That sort of mythologizing and moralizing probably nudged Jessica into finding “a new boyfriend, who she thought would help with the children and the bills,” but who had to be tossed out by the police six months later.

Really, “just get married” isn’t the answer to the economic challenges of single parenting any more than “just say no” is the answer to drug addiction.

Wait, so you want me to love on you AND clean all the things?

Whenever I think about love, I think about partnership and I envision what it would be like to be married.

Recently, I had a great conversation with a working writer and activist who is also a married mother. “I know how to be single and happy,” she said. “What I’m working on is learning how to be happy with another person.”

She still very much identifies with the struggles of singles who are considered infantile until they are partnered. And I had a lot of compassion for her and some of my other friends who are searching for models of partnered love that do not oppress women who also enjoy little luxuries like freedom and leisure. So, of course, reading things like this are pretty sobering:

Women are a growing part of the American workforce. In the last 25 years, the number of working women has grown by 44.2 percent, while 59.4 percent of working-age women are currently in the labor force. Sixty percent of women are the primary or co-bread winner for their household.

But despite those historic numbers, most women are still left doing the majority of the house work.

A new report out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics details how both men and women spend their days, and it comes as no surprise that women do a larger portion of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other chores:

On an average day, 19 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or doing laundry–compared with 48 percent of women. Forty percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 66 percent of women.

The numbers can be in part explained by the women who don’t work or who have part-time jobs. But the disproportionate burden of housework on women shows that a “second shift” still exists for those who work. While women have earned more rights in the office place (though they still aren’t fairly paid for their work), there is still the burden for them to be the primary housekeepers and caretakers.

There are a dozen reasons why this is no bueno. The glorious benefit to being single, of course, is that I can leave the dishes dirty until it requires a power cleaner to get the hard spaghetti sauce off the plate from my intentional neglect. Underthings can hang from the ceiling fans if I want. No one will see it for days but me.

But the other thing that makes this a rough situation is that I want to take care of my partner, but I also don’t like to do free work. I don’t want the house to smell like the inside of a hamper, but that’s what Glade plug-ins are for. Relationships, I hear, are work. So is marriage. Maybe I’m too tired from the heat to see how this ends up being a good deal for women. Am I missing something?

I am a happy Single American: An excerpt from the book

I have been telling you a little about the book I’ve been writing, and wanted to offer you some excerpts of it while I slowly edit so you don’t have to wait forever for a finished product.

The year I turned 34, I had finished three full and seven half marathons and I’d been teaching journalism at the University of Texas as a lecturer for four semesters. I’d dreamed of being a writer for over twenty years, and persevered for long enough that I worked full-time as a newspaper reporter in some of America’s most scenic cities: San Francisco, Seattle and Houston (well, OK, now I live in Austin, which is much prettier than Houston.)

I owned a home – a huge feat for a girl who had once frequented New York City homeless shelters as a child — a beautiful dog the size of a mini-pony, a reliable car some jerk dented with one of those metal carts at Home Depot and a spectacular bill of health from doctors. After years of therapy for having financial issues, control issues, addiction issues and general issues, by the time I reached my mid-thirties, when my therapist said I was the most mentally healthy person she knew, I finally believed her. I had a rich network of friends around the world who respected my work and writing and emailed me dispatches from Mexico, Barcelona and Egypt.

I believe that we are each defined by the people in our lives. They are mirrors for us. I am probably unnaturally devoted to my friends because so many of them have acted as surrogates for family over the years.

I am also a single American.

“Why are you still single?”

This question has always grated on my nerves, but it’s only gotten worse as the years have gone by. It is what I like to call a back-handed compliment. A guy I met recently called it a slap kiss. It is meant to flatter you as in, “Why are you still single when crazy-as-a-fun house Becky got engaged six months ago?”

Before I did any research, before I realized that the problem was a cultural and social one and before I knew there were over 60 million other single Americans who probably shared my pain, I simply answered this question with the truth: “I don’t know.”

Sometimes the answer was different. “I don’t want to be in a relationship.”

The truth, more often, was a bit more nuanced, as any single person can attest. Dating, as I will write about here, is like everything else in the world that the Internet screwed up – incredibly rich with potential, totally, incredibly time-consuming and randomly ludicrous. I could not believe no one had written a first-person account of dating as a single woman in the 21st Century and how to cope with all the shenanigans that come with the package – no matter how brilliant, sexy, big-boobed, erudite or compliant with societal norms a woman is or is not, it is really rough out there for single people.

Not just a little bit rough, honey. It is incredibly hard to find like-minded people with good credit, self-awareness or goals that are scheduled beyond a calendar date in the next couple of weeks. There are books on weight-loss, getting your money right, how to be more devoted to God, and of course, how to get a man. What I really needed for a good decade, though, was a book on how to be happily single.

Wall Street Journal: Wait, you don’t have all this free time as a single person?

One thing that troubles me more than any other about the single life is the assumption that you just have all the free time in the world to do whatever you want. It’s supposed to be a kind way of saying, “I have to leave the office right this second because I have a family waiting on me, but since you don’t have a real life, I’ll just leave this work here for you to handle.”

I was happy to see this Wall Street Journal story about how much more time it seems to take being single than being in a committed partnership:

Much of the research on work-life conflict focuses on harried working mothers trying to juggle everything, desperate for more time, with lots of reasons to leave work early. But an even higher proportion of single women yearn for more free time; 68% of childless women say they would prefer having more time over more money, compared with 62% of women with children, according to a 2011 More magazine survey of 500 college-educated professional women over 34.
“People talk about, how do working mothers do it? But how do singles do it?” says Sherri Langburt, founder of SingleEditionMedia.com, a New York agency that advises brands on marketing to singles and runs a network for bloggers on singles topics.

Without a partner to help, singles must “get the laundry done, get to the gym, buy groceries and get to the job,” plus plan social activities or volunteer work and sometimes care for aging relatives, too.
“No one is focusing attention on those women or men, who are achieving such great levels in their careers, all alone,” Ms. Langburt says.

Many employers have added “work-life benefits,” such as flexible scheduling and personal time off, in an effort to keep all kinds of employees happy, with and without kids and spouses.
But the benefits only go so far. Heavy workloads keep many employees from using them. And for men and women alike, some managers still assume singles don’t have anything to do but work and pile on extra duties and projects, according to research by Wendy Casper, an associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington.

It was a relief to read this. I have never worked as hard in my life as I did when I worked for someone else, in offices where other people had a better excuse to leave their desk at 5 p.m. than, “I need a nap because if I’m going to work on the myth of work-life balance, I won’t be able to go have my ‘Sex in the City’ networking happy hour speed-dating love fest after this AND make a healthy dinner for myself that isn’t from a box in the freezer.”

I thought I was the only one who loved this song, but I found out when Donna Summer died last week at age 63 that it was the song of choice for so many. The Internet Movie Database called it “the abiding feminist anthem…(and) one of the most-played songs of all-time.”

Every now and then, when I’m tired and whiny and ready to complain about too much work, I hear the hook on this song.

What a life, Donna Summer. Rest in peace, darling.

Life and Business Advice for the New Graduate

Another guest post at Bitch Magazine:

I haven’t donned a cap and gown of my own for a little while, but as a self-help and business book nerd, all the great career advice dispensed around this year keeps my Instapaper account busy.

There’s business advice hidden in funny books like Tina Fey’s Bossypants (paraphrase: If there’s someone you dislike at your office and they don’t have the power to change your fate, ignore them and move on) or even in general life advice books like Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Couric: “I realized that whatever your path, whatever your calling, the most damaging thing you can do is let other voices define you and drown out your own. You’ve got to block them out and find that place deep inside you, shaken but still intact, and hold on to it.”

What’s the most useful career advice anyone ever gave you? Here’s my best shot at dispensing words of wisdom that I wish someone had told me when I entered the workforce but I didn’t know until later. Feel free to add some to the comments. I’m sure me and my imaginary boo, Ryan Gosling, are missing something.

I know. I had to add Ryan Gosling in there somewhere.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

6. Don’t date in the office. What? I know. Hot. Right there. Where you spend all your waking hours. Down GIRL! (And by date, I mean whatever it is you think I mean by date.) Certainly, there are all kinds of excuses you can make to say why this is wrongheaded. I know a lot of couples who met at the office. Don’t crap where you sleep. It rarely ends well.

7. Ask for what you want. Like my imaginary honey Ryan suggests above, asking for a raise or a promotion is something that you should totally do. Lois Frankel gives great advice about this, as does Austin-based career coach Ann Daly. It’s scary, but scared money don’t make none. In other words, the worst that could happen is that your boss will say no to whatever you’re asking for.

8. Try to forget ‘What I Thought I’d Be Doing’ and enjoy the ride. Aim to enjoy where you are. Everyone has to start somewhere.

9. Save Money. I used to have a really silly relationship with money, shaped by growing up without much. Interviewing wise people over the years has underscored for me the importance of having a stash saved in the event that I need to leave a toxic or untenable situation and regroup.

10. Win. I used to hate attention and I would unconsciously sabotage myself, thinking that if I won all the time, people would hate me for it. Specifically, “boys club” women and intimidated men. It turns out winning is sexy. It also makes you happy and confident, which gives your skin a healthy glow. Go for it.

If you have some, I’d love to hear it.

The new anti-man movement

Critiquing men and manhood is not declaring war, but since there are millions of single women — more than single men — in America, I have been turning this over in my head for a little while now.

Nicole Jonson wrote a few months ago at The Good Men Project that women should stop declaring war on men:

There is not a war between men and women. From my vantage point, there are not battles, bombings, or bloodshed between the sexes. Men and women are not plotting carnage against each other. Furthermore, men are too smart to declare war on women.
Most men understand they can not survive without women. Ladies, can you say the same about men? I hope so. The truth is we would die without each other.
If there is any type of “war” going on it’s the new anti-men movement. To the ladies waging this campaign against men, I’m begging you, please: drop your weapons. You are fighting a losing battle, and ultimately, you are harming yourself and the female gender. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you need men; you can’t live without men. Moreover, I believe a portion of your disdain for men stems from internal strife and discontent.
Labels are limiting and lugubrious. We label people as a way to contain them, as well as to create a consistent, pre-determined expectation. This is tremendously unfair…
Degrees of inequalities will always exist between the sexes. Ladies, stop fighting this truth. Concentrate on your strengths, and address the internal battle with yourself before declaring men the enemy.

Because there has been a lot of talk about the Republican War on Women, in Texas and elsewhere, I wondered what others thought about the idea that there is a new strain of anti-man writing in our society. I think that patriarchy as we have always known it is starting to flatten like other hierarchies (the economy, corporations, education) in part because of deindustrialization. As that has happened, the definition of manhood has shifted, so that it cannot solely depend on women, children and job status as a man’s sole indicator of how manly he is.

In this transition, it seems that men have become vulnerable to being categorized as good men and bad men in most media coverage, with little room for the average guy. Does it seem that way to you?

Mancession or He-Covery?

I really did intend to get to this sooner, but it’s the kind of news that doesn’t get old.

I wonder what other people make of the words we make up to describe economic trends: Mancession. The End of Men. He-Covery.

This Jezebel blog had me cracking up:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 2/3 of new hires by American companies were men. A total of 1.6 million dudes joined the workforce compared to just 600,000 women, re-widening the gap between men and women in the workforce, which means that everyone lamenting the death of the American man can just go right on ahead and shut up.
In October 2009, women comprised 49.99% of the workforce, a breath of a hair of an itty bitty thread away from being half of Americans in the workforce. Part of this illusory equality was brought on by the gendered nature of the industries overwhelmingly affected by the recession in the first place. As the recession plodded along, the jobs in traditionally male industries like construction didn’t return, and unemployment benefits started to run out. And we now appear to be moving away from gender parity once again; threatened with impending expiration of any form of aid or income, some men did the unthinkable— debase themselves enough to work women’s jobs like- gasp!- retail.

What I find fascinating about discussions around masculinity now, seriously, is that there are few stories focusing on older men and women — past well into their 40s and 50s, but not yet old enough to qualify for retirement benefits — who have to take any kind of job to make ends meet.

The way we’ve talked about the economy up to this point has been focused on the way work has become more feminine or woman-focused, despite the fact that men still make more money and hold more of the decision-making positions in society. I feel like that has to fuel some of the resentment that men have about single women. The only thing I really have to go on is the snowballing number of articles about women as breadwinners and men as stay-at-home dads or irritated jobless jerks.

I wonder if the War on Women here in Texas and across the country is related to women’s success during America’s economic downturn. Something about women being free to make decisions about their own bodies, whether they actually have money or not, tends to really piss off wealthy white dudes, I’ve noticed. “Those broads have too much independence, while the bros are struggling,” I can hear one of these guys muttering.

Reads for the Weekend: February’s over? Women at War & Queering Black Herstory

So, yeah, we got an extra day. But March still snuck up on me. February was crazy!

Lovely Guest Post from WomenWellLoved: You deserve your love & affection

Planned Parenthood Saved Me (aka, Kiss It, Komen.)

I loved Nippy, crack quotes and all. My love note to Whitney.

Speaking of fantastic women, Rest in peace, Marie Colvin. I read this 2002 Vanity Fair piece about war reporters who happen to be women and it did my heart good. “Boys get fascinated by toys about age two, and that never changes,” Colvin says. “That’s not what I think is important about covering a war. I think the story is the people.”

I haven’t written a lot about the LGBTQ community here yet, but I intend to get there. In the meantime, this was a great piece about whether or not it is a disservice to women in black history to require that they present according to popular standards of gender norms.

In black relationship dynamics, incarceration has been a huge, tragic and ongoing factor. Michelle Alexander, an expert and scholar on The New Jim Crow, writes about the myth of desegregation in America.

Reads for the weekend: Get your hustle on, Digital Sabbaths & Rihanna

1 in 7 new marriages are now interracial, reports GOOD Magazine. Every time I see one of these reports I keep thinking, “Black women still need to get on that, huh?”

Speaking of GOOD, I loved this piece by one of my favorite writers, Courtney Martin: Hustin’: How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy. She is such an incredible force in the world. I want to be like her.

I wrote a review of Baratunde Thurston’s new book, “How to be Black,”  in the San Francisco Chronicle. Good book. Really funny.

This doesn’t count as a read, but if you haven’t heard Meryl Streep talk about acting & cussing a little bit on Fresh Air, you should check this out.

Maybe it’s not the evil Internets that are keeping you from connecting to people. Rebecca Rosen on the myth of a Digital Sabbath as the savior of all relationships.

I thought I should say something about Rihanna and Chris Brown but two eloquent writers summed up my thoughts best. Ta-Nehisi Coates is always on point. This post at NewBlackMan is also great.

Finally, I’m working on a book about being happily single, and have been digging in the archives of my personal journals. Here’s a great quote from Galway Kinnell that touched me way back in 1997 and still resonates:

For everything flowers

from within

of self-blessing: though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing it’s loveliness

to put a hand on the brow of flower

and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely

until it flowers again from within

of self-blessing.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Theme: Customized Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.