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LOVE LETTERS

Too many Mr. Wrongs in the sea

Beneficiaries of the women’s movement find it difficult to find suitable mates

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / March 19, 2011

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Q. I am your typical 20-something post-college grad living in the city. I have had my share of hilarious-to-horrible dating stories and am currently seeing a really great guy who is very different from a lot of men my age I have met. Specifically, he is well-educated, career-driven, and knows how to be chivalrous and treat me with respect.

So why am I writing? I want to hear your input on a disturbing trend that has recently been in the news. Over the past several months I have read countless articles on the “male crisis’’ that is happening to 20-something guys. Men today are less likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college, and pursue employment after graduation. They are more likely to be living at home and are less interested in reaching “traditional’’ adult landmarks such as settling down, getting married, and having children.

As a result, there are more women successfully educated and employed than ever before. Although this is a great achievement in gender equality, it is creating a major disadvantage for single women looking to pursue monogamous heterosexual relationships. With successful, well-rounded, educated men becoming an increasingly rare commodity, they now hold the power in the dating world. This leads many women to compromise their standards a great deal just to secure a male partner who will most likely not meet them intellectually, professionally, and emotionally.

I have been through this cycle personally and watch many of my friends continue to be let down or treated poorly all in the name of young men thinking they can do better without having to try hard. What is your advice for women of our generation who are wishing to find someone to date but do not wish to buy into the male sexual power-plays that dominate the dating world?

ALL THE SINGLE LADIES, Boston

A. Even if these studies and stories accurately represent what’s going on in the world, I’m not convinced that women are at any more of a disadvantage than they used to be. Keep in mind that, before this trend of female empowerment, single women had to partner up to ensure that they were supported financially — or because they believed they had to find a spouse before they lost their market value at 30.

I’m not sure I can make a generalization about dating that applies to an entire 20-something gender without paying attention to other factors like race, geography, income, and education. But I will say this: Women have always had a tough time finding good men. That’s why there are sitcoms and punch lines about it.

Still, this world we live in — the one that supposedly emasculates heterosexual men until they’re unwilling to grow up — is preferable (at least to me) than the one that deems me a spinster at 28 or makes it difficult for me to have a job and live by myself.

While I do know many smart, attractive, mature women in their 20s who tell me they can’t find a guy worthy of their attention, I also know (in my immediate circle) of a 36-year-old woman happily dating a 26-year-old man who’s sometimes more mature than she is, two 30-somethings who have been together for almost a decade, and a 32-year-old woman who started dating someone nice after buying her own condo and installing sweet kitchen tile herself. Then there’s yours truly, a 33-year-old unmarried advice colum nist and former women’s studies student who gets to be validated every day by thousands of readers, many of whom are ridiculously smart, cute, and witty men in their 20s.

We’re all supposed to be looking for partners who respect us and share some of our life goals. I’m not sure that’s any more or less difficult for women than it used to be. Finding a good match is a challenge for anyone — male or female, gay or straight, 20s or 30s, independent or codependent, emasculated or . . . masculated (you know what I mean). We’re all in the same boat.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

I’m not in the dating scene anymore — I’m 39, happily married with two children — but I think men and women have not changed that much in the past 20 years. Perhaps the recent studies might have more to do with the economy and not related in any way to male ethos. MALLOOW

I don’t think this gives men the power — this gives women the power! We get to be picky about who we date, and if that means we don’t date anyone because they aren’t as fabulous as they need to be, so be it. Women are less reliant on men, and that’s great! So what if there may be less great men out there? A man will only add to your awesome life. A female doesn’t need a man. And that is a wonderful position to be in. BOSTONGAL109

I studied this a little in a sociology class. It is extremely hard for men and women to become full adults in today’s world. In order to get there you need some sort of degree, but then even with a job you’re stuck at home trying to pay for your degree and find a decent job. This is why my generation is marrying later in life. Trust me, I’m one of those people — 23-year-old post-grad woman, with a job, paying my bills, but stuck in limbo because I can’t afford to go anywhere. I have a wonderful boyfriend of two years who is a man in my book, and a good one, but by societal standards neither of us are there yet. CAT322

Does anyone else think that perhaps women’s standards and expectations have reached stratospheric levels based on what is fed them in pop culture? In the past I think women were looking for someone they loved, of course, but were much more practical in their expectations. I found a fabulous guy but not until I was 34, and we are very happy together. However, if I had met him at 24, when I was looking for a lot of superficial qualities in my dates, he wouldn’t exactly have seemed like Prince Charming to me. NOTINGROFF

Me is man. Hear me beat my chest. This entire column is a bunch of sexist drivel. It makes me laugh. Do most women really think like this?

WRONGESTWAY

Hey, Ma! Can we get some meatloaf?! MCBOSTONROB

“Male Crisis’’ would make a good name for a death metal band. DANNYGBERG

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.