Kay Hymowitz' new book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, argues that young men and women are delaying marriage so much these days because they see it as something you do when you are already an adult. Now, young people who plan ahead try to get all their education done and their careers started before they marry and have children. For many women, this means they wait too long for kids. Men do not have the same timeline, so the mismatch between the sexes creates the problem Hymowitz is writing about. There is, she argues, no certain script for adulthood, which leaves "emergent adults" emerging (or floundering) for a long time.
I think this is true - which raises an important question about the past.
Prior generations found marriage to be a formative institution of maturity. You got married, then you figured out together how to be adults, especially when the first child came along. The script of adulthood often began with early marriage, with or without pregnancy, with growing maturity to follow.
The question I put to her at a recent seminar was this: did past generations understand marriage to be something that forms you into an adult, or did they just get married as part of the script, and then find out how formative marriage is through experience?
Hymowitz didn't know, and neither do I. I put this question to you, blog friends, for your thoughts.