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By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. Could she have even envisioned herself on a shopping excursion with an ex-lover, never mind one who was getting married while she remained alone?And the ex-lover’s fiancée being so generous and open-minded as to suggest the shopping trip to begin with?He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. (A friend who suffered my company a lot that summer sent me a birthday text this past July: “A decade ago you and I were reuniting, and you were crying a lot.”) I missed Allan desperately—his calm, sure voice; the sweetly fastidious way he folded his shirts. A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way—and its vast cultural consequences. It comes near to being a disgrace not to be married at all." Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question.

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But my future was to be one of limitless possibilities, where getting married was something I’d do when I was ready, to a man who was in every way my equal, and she didn’t want me to get tied down just yet.

This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place.

Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the “romantic market” in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing). Right Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, the author of Why There Are No Good Men Left, on the challenges facing today's single women Let's Call the Whole Thing Off The author is ending her marriage. By Sandra Tsing Loh The Wifely Duty Marriage used to provide access to sex. By Caitlin Flanagan Sex and the College Girl "This is clearly a mess and not one that is going to clear up with magic speed on the wedding night." By Nora Johnson A Successful Bachelor (June 1898) "More interest should be taken in bachelors.

But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. Their need is greater, and their condition really deplorable.

As he and I toured through Manhattan’s men’s-wear ateliers, we enjoyed explaining to the confused tailors and salesclerks that no, no, we weren’t getting married. I retell that moment as an aside, as if it’s a tangent to the larger story, but in a way, it is the story.

In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing.

Allan and I had met when we worked together at a magazine in Boston (full disclosure: this one), where I was an assistant and he an editor; two years later, he quit his job to follow me to New York so that I could go to graduate school and he could focus on his writing.

After the worst of our breakup, we eventually found our way to a friendship so deep and sustaining that several years ago, when he got engaged, his fiancée suggested that I help him buy his wedding suit.

Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates—an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends.

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