A lot is being written lately about our “hook-up culture” and how great it is for women. In summary, women today are just as free as men to have casual sex, and — turns out — this is good for women because it means we get some booty while delaying marriage and children, which is good for our careers and Fidelity portfolios. Hana Rosin wrote an article in The Atlantic on this phenomenon, “Boys on the Side,” (excerpted from her new book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women), where she writes: “To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture.”
I find this reporting fascinating and relevant, and in general, give all my sisters a big high-five (except that this argument ignores that fact that our hookup culture also leads to women crying into their pillows and taking out second mortgages to finance IVF treatments because all that delaying means THEY CAN’T GET PREGNANT at age 47. Or that it opened the door for all all of us to be single moms, for that matter. All of which is fodder for a future post. Or Ken Burns series.).
I recently split from my boyfriend of one year, and it can feel sad and lonely to be truly partnerless. And when I read about all this hooking up, I’ll admit it’s tempting. Just sayin’. The other day my brother said, “Why don’t you just go out on some casual dates?” Even if that were my style, the reality is: I can’t afford it.
Sure, I could get together the cash to pay a sitter, wax my junk and buy whatever the kids are wearing these days. My kids won’t die if I go out once a week. But the emotional, time, energy –and yes, financial — investment that is required to sip some Portland microbrew I’m supposed to be familiar with next to some dude who I’m 100 percent sure I never want to see again (despite brags of hedge fund earnings) is just too steep.
Now, partly, this is just me. Some people find it thrilling to chat up strangers — even have sex with them — and they may be better women than I am. Even when I was totally single in my 20s, I just couldn’t get excited by casual dating — for me it’s all or nothing. Either we totally hit it off at the party and I CANNOT wait to see you again (and I’m pretty certain you feel the same), or, honestly, we can participate in a Twitter follow 69 and call it a day. Likewise, your OKCupid profile better have me envisioning you ripping my clothes off with your teeth and playing Candy Land with my kids (not at the same time, duh!), or honestly, don’t even try to IM me. Because even innocuous digital blather costs me precious time and energy I could spend hanging out with my kids or making money or just reading — an actual book. In other words, the connection has to be close to fireworks if it is worth missing tucking my kids in that evening.
While Rosin goes into detail about how most women (and men) outgrow hooking up as they seek serious relationships, the paradigm seems to be exaggerated for single moms — women whose time, emotional and often financial resources are especially precious. The reality is that most single moms work more hours outside of the home to make up for their now-lower income. As a result of this, plus any shared custody or visitations with the ex, she sees her kids less than if she were married to said ex. And while this lesser time may sit just fine with some moms (again- better women than me!), that is not usually the case. If you are like me, you feel guilty that your kids have less time with one or both parents, and by default, feel guilty for casually dating.
Even if the occasional hookup is totally fun. Just sayin’.
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