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July/August 2018


I have long been impressed by the aphorism — or is it a paradox? — that runs: “Married, single — neither is a solution.” A solution, of course, assumes a problem, and I’m not sure just what the problem here is. Is the problem finding companionship of a kind only the deep intimacy of a good marriage can, but so seldom does, provide? Or is the problem instead one of marriage being the only sensible institution under which to raise children and thereby give one a stake in the future, though here one has to note how often the family, as Freud thought, is the seedbed of neurosis for these children? Single, that perhaps utopian companionship remains unavailable; single, without children, one lives life exclusively in and for oneself, which can seem a not merely insignificant but trivial way to spend one’s brief span on earth. So there it is: married, single, like the man says, neither is a solution.

As a bachelor of fifty-three, I not long ago read a reference to a study by two sociologists from Wayne State University that I am in the group that includes the least marriagable of men: bachelors over fifty who have never married. Our group is thought to be too critical, too flaw-finding, too wary, altogether too difficult to become not so much successful but merely husbands at all. A lot to it, I’m afraid.

I sometimes wonder if there isn’t something called nature’s bachelors — men meant by their nature never to marry. These are guys who probably wouldn’t be much good as husbands or as fathers. I’m not talking about celibates here, or men with a vocation for the priesthood, but otherwise normal heterosexual men who by temperament have no vocation for marriage. One doesn’t have to be misogynist or gynophobic to be one of nature’s true bachelors. Many such bachelors love women. They find the conversation of women agreeable, their points of view interesting. If the complications aren’t too great, they don’t in the least mind sleeping with them. They just don’t want to take permanent responsibility for them. I know what I’m talking about here. I believe I’m one of them. 

I’ve been to a great number of weddings of contemporaries with whom I went to school in Chicago and who were absolutely nutty with happiness at the prospect of marriage that lay before them, only to see — in five, ten, sometimes as long as twenty or more years — the marriages end in acrimony, financial punishment, sullen divorce. A week or so ago I ran into a woman with whom I went to high school, Anne Goldin, now Levy, who, when I asked about her children, told me about her twenty-six-year-old daughter Leslie whose wedding plans got as far as sending out invitations, when things broke down completely at the pre-nup negotiations, and the wedding was called off. At the pre-nup, that supposed clarification of rights and privileges, Leslie and her fiancé apparently each revealed to the other such impressive selfishness that both backed out of the wedding, much relieved.
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