In the Cold War period of the 1950s and early 1960s, an era in which married life was often idealized as essential for personal happiness and success, non-conformance became a social problem in need of study and explanation. Experts in social science fields of psychology and sociology, and commentators in the popular press conducted research and published findings that sought to account for the relatively large numbers of men and women who remained unmarried despite societal pressures to wed. In this sequel to an earlier article on unmarried women, Look magazine writer Eleanor Harris, in response to suggestions of readers, addressed the topic of bachelorhood by presenting testimonies of selected men on the reasons they remained unmarried and conclusions of authorities regarding these explanations. The divergent ways that the two articles presented their subjects revealed some gender biases of the period. Unmarried women were depicted as “depressed” or “frantic,” while single men were typed as “fixated on a mother figure,” inclined to “antiresponsibility,” or “latent homosexuals.” Men often failed to find the “perfect” woman; women frequently could not find even an “eligible” man. Ultimately, the articles portrayed the unwed female’s predicament far more portentously than the male’s: women were “likely to get stranded” if they waited too long to get married, but it was “never too late” for men.
Men Without Women
By ELEANOR HARRIS
More than 18,000,000 American men are single, divorced or widowed. Here is a report on their lonely lives—and the reasons they do not marry.
The publication of Women Without Men, by Eleanor Harris, in the July 5 issue of LOOK brought an unusually heavy response from readers. Many of the letters reflected the baffled loneliness of men and women who said they wished to marry, but found it difficult to meet potential husbands or wives. A number of readers suggested this sequel—a report on America’s unmarried men.
Today in the United States, there are 18,022,000 men without women. Of the total, 14,768,000 are bachelors, 2,161,000 are widowers, and 1,093,000 are divorced.
Why do these men—more than one fourth of the males in the United States—choose to live alone? (It is not a matter of a woman shortage, since unmarried women outnumber unmarried men by 3,412,000.) Psychologists, sociologists and other authorities who have studied this phenomenon have reached these major conclusions about the American bachelor:
1. If a man is still single when he reaches the age of 35, he will probably never marry.
2. Although he may talk constantly of the desire to get married, there is a strong chance that he unconsciously rejects the idea. Most men who really want to get married find a wife by their late-20’s.
3. In some cases, even though the desire is genuine, the bachelor may still be single as a result of the increasing mobility of our population. Uprooted by military service or his job, a young man may find it difficult to meet a prospective wife in a strange town or city.
4. The single man’s interest in sex is often as intense as that of his married brother—and a revolution in sexual standards has made this less of a problem for the bachelor than it would have been in the early years of this century.
5. Although many bachelors find their lives less carefree than pictured, a substantial number have worked out a pattern of existence that they find thoroughly satisfactory.
Happy, well-adjusted bachelors are, however, a minority among America’s unmarried men. Most of them—whether single, widowed or divorced—spend a good portion of their leisure time in a search for a mate. But they conduct the hunt in a manner that is far different from that of the average marriage-minded female. A woman who is looking for a husband usually runs headlong toward her goal. The single man inches slowly in the general direction of marriage. What man has ever changed jobs because there were no eligible girls at his place of work? Yet hundreds of thousands of unwed girls quit their jobs each year with the frank statement to personnel directors: “All the men here are already married.”
An unmarried man makes a trip to a ski resort to ski, and if he meets an attractive woman on a ski slope, he regards that as an unexpected bonus. He attends a party—or turns down the invitation—after deciding whether or not he will have a good time, and considers the possibility of meeting a girl he wants to marry as incidental. And if a man attends church regularly, this is usually the result of family tradition or personal conviction—not because he knows that many men have met the women who became their wives at church or church socials.
In this, single men differ dramatically from unmarried women. Women without men head for ski resorts, parties—and often church—with one primary objective: to meet eligible men. . . .
Even in the 1960’s, an unmarried man has one special advantage over a single woman. He has no hesitation about sallying forth from his lonely room to a neighborhood bar for a few sociable drinks, or to seek other entertainment, without worrying about the comments of his family or friends. Even strangers assume that a man who goes to a movie or a prize fight alone does so through choice. They do not make this assumption about women.
THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH
Sometimes, in desperation, the lonely man will put a notice in the “personal” columns of newspapers. Mixed in with the frankly erotic notices in such columns are a vast number of apparently sincere marital offers: “Lonely—I am a widower, I need a widow. I’m in the best of health, 57, 140, no dependents. I have steady job and like my work. Am a Jersey man, American, Catholic, not rich, but happy, white.” Or: “Marriage only—Lonely bachelor, 26, college educated, good-looking, wishes to hear from well-educated young lady. Child accepted. Snapshot.” Or: “Master sergeant, gentleman, has retired and needs gal to help civilian him. He’s fat, 50, widower, now in Massachusetts.”
Some unmarried men long for a scientific approach to mate selection. A man in Missouri writes: “Having been indoctrinated in college with the ideal of the scientific method of solving problems, I found that method was applicable in almost every area of life, except in choosing a wife. Why isn’t there some centralized social agency that could at least place men in correspondence with women of reasonably comparable backgrounds? Why isn’t there such an agency for fulfilling this obvious need in our society? . . . ”
Three years ago, just such an agency was started. Named the Scientific Marriage Foundation, it has headquarters in the Hopkins Building, Mellott, Ind. Originated by Dr. George W. Crane, a consulting psychologist who also writes a syndicated column, The Worry Clinic, it has as advisers such religious leaders as the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, Rabbi George Fox and Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy. Thus far, it has arranged for over 5,000 marriages.
Applicants fill out forms, supply character references and attach a photograph. Then they visit a local foundation counselor (usually a minister), who records his own impression of the would-be bride or groom. All of this material is forwarded to the foundation headquarters in Indiana, where the initial “mating” of couples is done by means of an IBM sorting machine. Thus men and women are paired off as to age, race, religion, education and so on. Nearly all of Dr. Crane’s customers have been between the ages of 30 and 60.
The increasing mobility of millions of men and women has made such an agency especially desirable. Ours has become a country of the rootless. A young man who does not marry during the years when the opportunity for a “spontaneous” meeting with a girl at school or at work is greatest often moves on to other cities—away from the familiar surroundings in which he grew up. Hunting for a wife then becomes a much more complex problem. . . .
The increasing number of businesses with widely scattered offices and factories is another factor. Over 3,500,000 men moved in a single recent year to other places of work. The unattached men must start from scratch to meet girls in the new setting. Altogether, some 35 million Americans change their places of residence yearly, as a matter of course. It is small wonder that the unattached male is at a loss how to put down roots in new territory. More than one husband has confided: “If I hadn’t married during my school days, I’d never have had the chance. How could I find time now to court a woman? And how would I meet one to court?”
While searching for wives, what do unattached men do about sex? Apparently, they do what they can.
In his pursuit of sex, the single American male has been aided by the revolution in the sexual behavior of American women—who, in tremendous numbers, suddenly lost their reluctance to indulge in premarital relations. Why did they do so?
The late Dr. Alfred Kinsey told a 1955 conference sponsored by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America that the changing sex code was “the chief product of the concerted attack on prostitution.” As prostitution disappeared, men began successfully persuading women to enjoy sexual relations with them outside of marriage. The widespread use of contraceptives reduced the fear of having unwanted babies, and new drugs provided some reassurance against the danger of venereal disease. . . .
Many men complain that they search in vain for a woman who lives up to their exacting specifications. Says a 53-year-old Catholic bachelor from a large Eastern city, “I’d have to have a wife who was a Catholic too. She’d have to be acceptable to my family as well as to myself. Because I’m short, I’d want her to be short. I’d want her to be as good-looking as my sister, who’s a real beauty. She ought to be a logical thinker, and she should be pleasant to be in bed with. Also, I’d like someone to have five children in three years; that would mean a couple of sets of twins, but, after all, I’m not a spring chicken any more. Oh, yes, and she should be distinguished-looking rather than pretty—so she’d still be handsome at the age of 80.”
A far younger Protestant in Nevada sets up similar specifications: “I would like someone who has looks, a high IQ, money in the family, is Protestant, tall and slim, likes the out-of-doors, can cook, would be willing to live in a small community. To complicate things further, she should have the right blood type, be in the age group 25–35, have an even temperament, not smoke, drink or swear, care about her make-up and not have a history of inherited disease. . . .”
Psychologists agree that such a long list of requirements would condemn the writer to a lifetime alone. They explain that, while men who draw up such specifications may sincerely believe they want a wife, they have unconsciously created a barrier against marrying any real woman.
Some of these men recognize their problem. From 50,000 to 75,000 men get psychiatric help each year. This group includes a portion of the substantial number of unmarried men who are suffering from emotional disturbances and distorted conceptions carried over from childhood.
Psychologists say that men having the most common difficulties fall into four groups:
A large number of those who reject marriage are fixated on a mother figure. These men live at home with their mothers until the death of the parent “releases” them—and then find it difficult to carve out a different kind of life.
A second—and familiar—type is the man who is not so much antiwoman as antiresponsibility. Panicked at the thought of heading a household, he spends a lifetime evading marriage while believing he is seeking it.
Some of the unmarried men in this category carry heavy psychological burdens. Raised with admonitions to “be a man—be independent,” some adult males become confused over the conflict between their determination to be truly self-reliant and the need to lean on a woman for love and comfort. . . .
A third troubled group consists of latent homosexuals. These fall into two classes—the “neuter” who practices no sexual activity of any kind, who is often found working in boys‘ schools and boys’ organizations, and the Don Juan, who is so threatened by his fears of his unacknowledged homosexuality that he engages in affairs with women to prove his masculinity.
The fourth group consists of the nation’s confirmed homosexuals. A recent estimate fixed their number at five per cent of our total population. They have always tended to gravitate to large cities—a tendency accelerated by World War II. Today, an estimated 100,000 male homosexual prostitutes live in New York City. Yet Dr. George W. Henry, who has done special psychiatric research with sex variants for the past two decades and who has written several medical volumes on the subject, maintains that the number of American homosexuals has not increased in the past 25 years.
“I think the subject has simply become more fashionable to talk about and to write about,” he says. “What is more, I believe that male homosexuals get far more publicity than female ones, simply because they are not permitted to do in public what women can do without criticism. Women can kiss each other in public, hold hands, register in hotels, even wear male clothing—but if men wear female clothing, they’re arrested.”
While emotional problems are common among single men, a number of unwed men adjust completely to life without women and find a thoroughly satisfying existence alone. Some of these seem to have found fulfillment in their working life exclusively. Examples can be found in every field. Other men find a sense of completion by rounding out their business lives with an engrossing hobby, often in the sports field. . . .
However well he may adjust to his lonely life, the single man suffers disabilities that seem to be traceable directly to his bachelorhood. Unwed men are much less healthy than their married brothers. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company studies show that more than four times as many unattached men as married men (ages 20–74) die of tuberculosis. At ages 20–44, five to six times as many unmarried men as husbands die of influenza and pneumonia. Prior to mid-life, nine divorced men are victims of cirrhosis of the liver to each married man killed by that disease.
Of all the men without women, the divorced are in the worst physical condition, these studies indicate. Widowers rank second in physical suffering, and bachelors, third.
Away from the sickbed, the lives of the unwed are still hazardous. Widowers and divorced men (20–44) are four times as likely to be killed in automobile accidents as husbands. Five divorced men commit suicide to each married man. In homicide, the picture is even blacker. Out of every 100,000 men (20–74) in this country, 24 divorced men are murdered, as are 17 widowers and eight bachelors—while only four married men die at the hands of a killer.
Two Yale researchers wrote: “Of all interpersonal relationships in our society, marriage is at the same time the most rewarding and the most demanding.” Unmarried men who believe that should be encouraged by the one point almost all authorities agree on: If you really want to get married, it is never too late.
Source: Eleanor Harris, “Men Without Women,” Look, November 22, 1960, 124–30.