If this were 1921 instead of 2021, this would be an extremely short column. It would read, “Find yourself a good, responsible man that you can get along with and who can support you and your kids. Next, marry him early and enjoy being a homemaker along with raising your kids.” Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, the column’s done, lil’ sis!
Of course, the world has changed a lot since then and in many respects, it has changed more for women than for men (Who are also going to get a column like this. Maybe Friday if this one does well. If you were to subscribe and spread this column around, that would help make that happen).
The issue for both genders, but particularly for women, is that we’ve gone from a relatively simple, straightforward path to “success” in life to what seems to be such a wide, broad array of options that it feels like one of those choose your own adventure books with way too many possible endings.
* Do you marry your high school sweetheart or some great guy you meet at college and become a stay-at-home mom?
* Do you spend your twenties having sex with every bad boy you can find and settle down in your early thirties?
* Do you create an OnlyFans account, show your body to the world, and hope it all just works out?
* Maybe you’ll just have some kids out of wedlock, cross your fingers that the child support will come through, and go that way.
* Maybe you could even focus on marrying a rich guy and having some kids, with the idea in the back of your mind that you can always divorce him and get “half?”
* Do you focus on building a career until that ticking clock forces you to desperately start looking around in your mid-thirties?
* Do you just forget about the mid-thirties relationship entirely and look for work to give meaning to your life?
* Do you just keep playing the field forever, Samantha from Sex in the City style?
* Do you forget about kids and focus on finding a man to travel the world with in your later years?
* Do you forget all of this and become content with a little house and a dozen cats you call your “fur babies?”
There are a lot of options there, right? It’s not so easy to choose between all of those possibilities and it’s even tougher because we live in a society focused on selling people what they want to hear, not the sometimes harder to hear truth. In our society, women are sold on a “you can have it all” fantasy by feminists, the mainstream media, and Hollywood. Some women do manage to “have it all,” but they are the exceptions to the rule because our biology places limits on all of us that can give us a very compressed window to get what we want out of life. We’re dazzled by fame, entertainment, money, and all the possibilities of the modern era, but in a real sense, we still come back to the same kind of things we’ve been doing all throughout history. We want to pair up, have a brood and have a good life.
On that note, it’s worth saying that if they can manage it, I think most people, men or women, are better off in a healthy, happy long-term relationship where they have and raise children.
Think about it like this; if you go all the way back, long before civilization, to the beginnings of our species, there have been roughly 7,500 generations of human beings. In other words, every 25 years or so, a man and a woman had kids and the cycle repeated all the way to you. Do you think you’re going to be the one to break that cycle and be happier for it? Really? When I was in Miami on vacation not so long ago, I had a good, long conversation with a roughly sixty-year-old cab driver who was telling me how much he loved his son, but he was also complaining about being locked down to one woman and how much time and money the kid had cost him through the years. After hearing that, I was like, “What, are you going to be partying every night and chasing tail when you’re seventy years old? The kid and hopefully your grandkids will give your life more meaning and purpose as you get older. The grass wouldn’t have been greener on the other side of the fence.” The same goes for women. If it’s not too late, chances are you’re going to be happier if you have kids – especially as you get older.
That brings us to one of the most difficult choices women have in today’s world. When do you get serious about finding a man and having kids? First of all, gird your loins (yes, women can do that, too) because this is a harsh, unpleasant truth that you will seldom hear. Are you ready? Are you sure? Okay, I did warn you…
FOR MOST WOMEN, the peak of your value to men is going to be at about 21 years of age. Want some proof? Well, here’s a rather notorious chart showing what age men from 20-50 on the dating service OkCUPID find women to be the most attractive.
Some of you may be thinking, “Wow, do men really care about looks that much?” The honest answer is, “Yes, it does have an awful lot to do with things.” However, there’s much more to it than that.
As someone who has dated a woman less than half his age in his forties and has dipped his toe into online dating in recent years, there are some awful big differences between most women that are say 21, and most women that are say 35. For example, think about two women from a man’s perspective. All you know about them is that one of them is 21 and the other is 35 years old.
Which one of them is more likely to have slept with a large number of partners? To have been divorced? To have kids from a previous relationship? Which one is probably more fertile? Which one has more baggage? Which one probably has a higher libido? Which one is probably going to be more happy-go-lucky, and which one may have a long list of demands for a man because “I know what I want now?” Of course, everyone’s situation is different and yes, there are some absolutely terrific women over 35. I know that for a fact because I have dated some of them. HOWEVER, that being said, if you are a woman, the odds are that you will be at the pinnacle of your power when it comes to attracting a man when you’re in that 20-24 range.
So, if one of your most important goals is to get married to the best man you can get, you should probably be thinking sooner, rather than later. The same goes for having kids. There is A LOT of controversy about when the woman’s fertility rate starts to drop off. This seems like as good of an estimate as any:
Regarding the fertile stage of women, from 21 up to 30 years, the monthly probability of conception is around 25%. From this stage, the odds go down to reach 35 years where it begins to decline markedly reaching on average a 15% chance of monthly pregnancy. Although there are possibilities of being able to be parents at age 40, once this age range is crossed, the risk of gestational diabetes and complications in childbirth increases.
It's also worth noting that the man is part of this equation. Women, unlike men, tend to be most attracted to partners that are 3-4 years older than they are and although men are fertile much longer than women, their potency tends to drop off as they age. So, let’s say the typical 29-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman are going to be much more likely to have children than a 40-year-old man and a 35-year-old-woman. In other words, if your priority is a serious relationship that produces children, later could and still does work for many women, but EARLIER IS DEFINITELY BETTER.
However, what if your priority is a career, not a family? If that’s the direction you want to go in, the only suggestion I’d make would be to make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your timelines. What do I mean by that?
Think about the demands and timelines of your profession. Let’s say you finally get that promotion to VP that you’ve spent the last decade of your life working for at 33. How much luck do you think you’ll have finding a man if you’re putting in seventy-hour weeks? Even if you still somehow have time to date, where are you going to meet these men? Business conferences? Along similar lines, how big is your pool of men going to be if you’re a vice-president who wants to “date up?” Be careful about getting yourself caught between a ticking biological clock and your career goals because in that case, something is going to have to give.
Beyond that? It’s worth noting that you’re probably never going to regret being feminine, being fit, being pretty, developing some hobbies, being financially responsible, being a good person, and only sleeping with guys you really believe you’ll be with long-term. Yes, I’m really going to shoehorn all that stuff in as part of a single sentence at the end. Know why? Because we’re already north of 1,500 words and half the women reading this are going to want to scalp me because what I’m saying doesn’t gibe with the happier “you’ve got all the time in the world to do anything you want” fantasy our culture sells to all of us, but particularly women. In actuality, our time is fleeting and unless the Buddhists somehow unexpectedly turn out to be right about reincarnation, we only have one life to live. Make sure you keep that in mind and live your best life.
I've been reading your articles lately, and I particularly like this one. I have five granddaughters in the age range 5-15 who will get a chance to read it, too. Keep writing good stuff. Thanks!
Good advice, John. Thank you from all the young women who read it before they choose an ending to their story that won't be a happy one.