Friday, September 21, 2018

The Biological Clock Is Still Ticking

You wonder why this is news. We’ve known about the biological clock for decades now. We’ve known that women who postpone procreation run the real risk of not being able to have children. We certainly know that women who postpone husband hunting until their careers are fully established find that they have written themselves out of the game.

We all know this. We have known it for decades. Women rarely admit it in public, but they are far more aware of the issue than men are.

And yet, how to explain this plaintive column to Guardian advice columnist Mariella Frostrup. (For the record, I did notice that Frostrup is a wonderful proper name, the kind that only the British could get away with. It should be the name of a character in Henry James) (Via David Thompson and Maggie’s Farm)

But, I digress.

Examine this letter, quoted in its entirely:

The dilemma Like me, most of my friends are in their 30s, some turning 40. Those with partners and children have disappeared, other than posting their idyllic family life.

We’ve tried all of the dating things, found no one and biological clocks are ticking. One friend said her life is not worth living because she hasn’t got a partner or a child. In the past I’d give advice and encouragement – suggest things might turn out all right in the end. There’s still time!

But now there’s actually not time. I can’t encourage, because life isn’t going how we thought it would. We’re being left behind and without the financial ability (or housing) to freeze eggs or go it alone, or adopt.

I get harassed by some friends, almost bullying me into going on dating apps because it worked for them. But I hated it – men were rude, unkind and I felt physically threatened. I found myself despising all men.

The idea that single people in their 30s are all having fun is a lie. We are the have-nots and we are sad. What now?

Did you notice that she now despises all men? I trust that you understand that she is not alone in having such feelings. But, do you think that this will make her more or less likely to find a husband? Duh.

Someone sold these women a pack of lies. You cannot conclude otherwise. Someone told them that if they became independent and autonomous, not needy and dependent, then men would be flocking to their doors. Don’t you know, sexual attraction and fertility are mere social constructs.

What went wrong? How did such a well-educated cohort of young women get it so grievously wrong? How did they manage to ignore the past experience of the women who came before them?

Of course, Frostrup holds out hope. It isn’t quite as bleak as the letter writer makes it sound. Some women conceived their children later in life. Some found perfectly wonderful husbands when it seemed impossible to do so.

It’s hopefully cheering for you to know that for many of my generation, despite our fears, it actually worked out. I’m not just referring to those who found last-minute fathers for late children but also those who are now, for the most part, enjoying exciting, fulfilled 50s unfettered by parental responsibility. For women for whom children are a priority, you’d be amazed how much can be achieved in the few short years before you hit 40. The amplified ticking of our biological clocks seems to focus minds and energy on the single issue of motherhood in a way that often produces results. So many of my friends found partners and had children, as I did, around the age of 40. As a result, my kids have grown up seeing me not as a freak of late motherhood, but a member of a small and steadily increasing minority of older mums.

Of course, this is true. Of course, a responsible advice-giver will bring it up… because seeing the glass half empty is not very positive or constructive.

The real reason that women fail to learn from past experience, and the reason why they ignore biology until it smacks them in the face, is that they have been seduced by an ideology. They are living an illusion or a fiction and they imagine that the world will eventually catch up, to the point that it will accommodate their decisions.

Frostrup explains:

Your letter confirms what I’ve long suspected – that the seismic changes needed to make the world more bearable for our sex aren’t happening fast enough or with enough focus. Women are still penalised for pregnancy, bear the main burden of domestic life (so often now combined with full-time work) and, despite increasing lifespans, have the same short window in which society deems them to be fully contributing members. I’m sorry you are sad and I’m angry, too.

The best sign of zealotry is the ability to shift the blame. Women who bought into the ideology refuse to believe that they were duped into believing something that is contradicts reality. When things do not work out as planned, they end up blaming reality… or men… depending on the day.

She concludes that the letter writer should go out and change the world. That would man, instituting more government programs to solve these problems. But, by the way, will these programs oblige men to marry women who are closing in on forty? Or will they extend procreation into a woman’s fifties, thanks to frozen eggs or donated eggs. And, is childcare really the issue here?

Then again, the solution to the problem is blindingly obvious. It will not come as a consolation to the current letter writer, but for the younger generation the solution is: to marry young.

Yes, indeed, marry young, have children young, when infertility will not be a problem. This will mean that women will be working less when they are young but will have more time to devote to their careers when they reach age 40 and their children do not need as much attention.

Better yet, a woman who re-enters the workf0rce as a married mother will be less likely to suffer the indignity of being harassed by her bosses. It’s worth thinking about.


Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, Stuart, why dig up Mariella Frostrup? Never mind her name, which is Norwegian. Her qualifications as an advice columnist are below zero on any scale. She once advised a lonely ex-Muslim to join a mosque. And like Polly almost always fills the column by babbling about herself. If you are in need of solid advice from the Guardian, write to Annalisa Barbieri.

Sam L. said...

"Someone sold these women a pack of lies." That someone was a Feminist (or a pack of feminists). (Have I mentioned that Feminists hate women? It surely seems to be so.)

My brother was born when our mother was a month away from her 41st birthday.

"Better yet, a woman who re-enters the workforce as a married mother will be less likely to suffer the indignity of being harassed by her bosses. It’s worth thinking about." Stuart, I am ASHAMED of you for saying such a sexist thing!!!!!11111!!!!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I don't choose advice columns on the basis of the qualifications of the columnist. I choose them for the issues they raise. I was not saying that I thought she offered great advice. I didn't know that her name was Norwegian, but I still like it.

Anonymous said...

What's not to like about Mariella Frostrup? she was once voted the sexiest female voice on television in the Not So Great Britain. The issues presented to Dear Mariella are very simple, namely what happens in Real Life when you follow the Guardian Beliefs. Readers who live under Guardian Rule are often female and run into trouble. They then write to Mariella Frostrup for advice and Mariella repeats the same rules and beliefs that distressed writers are getting served daily by their Guardian anyway. I still cannot comprehend why anyone would write to Mariella when they have even the slightest of problems, but if they are seeking conformation of their Guardian Beliefs, they have come to the right place, so perhaps that's what is going on here. Belief Recycling. A simple and slick business model.

Anonymous said...

Once again, subscribing external ideology for one's own thoughts instead of following natural inclination leads to damaging and irresolvable internal conflict. Future historians may derive this as the lesson of our age.

Kw said...

I offer a perspective on the subject that I have not yet seen. When I was born, my Mother was 40 and my Father was 53.
Everyone assumed they were my Grandparents. The generation gap was huge.
Lesson learned. I was married with children while in my 20's. No regrets

Anonymous said...


That is basically what my wife and I did. She stayed home and took care of the children. It meant that I had to work three jobs to make ends meet. One as a member of the AF, Two as a musician playing club dates and three as a bartender in an AF Officer Club. At times I would deliver cars for Budget.
I am extremely lucky in the fact that my wife is an extremely strong woman for she was the one who dealt with most of the things that needed to be done because I spent a lot of time TDY. It got even worse when I went to Southeast Asia.
Needless to say that when the children reached an age to basically take care of themselves I told her that it was time for her to go out and develop her skills and abilities. She has done really well for herself. We have been a team for 55 plus years and I am extremely proud of her.
I sometimes wonder if the supposed strong women of today could hold a candle to a truly strong woman.