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29-Sep-2017 10:19

I spent many a golden afternoon at my small New England liberal-arts college debating with friends the merits of leg-shaving and whether or not we’d take our husband’s surname.(Even then, our concerns struck me as retro; hadn’t the women’s libbers tackled all this stuff already?

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.

Learning to be alone would make me a better person, and eventually a better partner. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. And the elevation of independence over coupling (“I wasn’t ready to settle down”) is a second-wave feminist idea I’d acquired from my mother, who had embraced it, in part, I suspect, to correct for her own choices.

I was her first and only recruit, marching off to third grade in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: , and bellowing along to Gloria Steinem & Co.’s feminist-minded children’s album, Free to Be …

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?Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognized, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks.