By REG HENRY
I am requesting that women skip my column today because I have something to discuss with men, and it is best said confidentially.
(I promise to return next week with a more inclusive column that may feature a recipe to win back the affection of the ladies, perhaps Dead Things in a Sauce, always a popular dish in the colder weather.)
Men, there is bad news concerning the social fabric of the nation as it affects our guyhood: For the first time, according to a recent analysis in The New York Times of available census data, more American gals are living without a husband than with one — 51 percent last year. That’s a lot of furry slippers not being placed at the ends of beds.
As the Times story explained, it seems that the younger women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods of time.
Older women are living longer as widows and, as the Times said in words to chill the male heart, “after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage — sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.”
Newfound freedom? As the poet might have said (if his wife had let him), what rough feminist beast, her hour come round at last, slouches toward her yoga class to be born?
This growing distaste for men in general and husbands in particular — and after all we have done for those gals! — reflects the attitudes expressed by women in a recent Woman’s Day/AOL.com poll.
This found that 36 percent of wives wouldn’t marry their husbands again if they had it to do all over again. Another 20 percent said they weren’t sure whether they would or not. (No word on whether they would marry other people’s husbands.)
Clearly, husbands are not as appreciated as they once were. Back in 1950, for example, only 35 percent of women were living without a spouse and they felt very miserable while those who were married were so happy that bluebirds made nests in their hats — a testament to the wonderful manly men of that period and the sedative effect of martinis on the female constitution.
It would be tempting to blame gay marriage for our current depressing state of affairs — tempting, that is, if you happen to be a conservative religious nut. The rest of us can only look in the shaving mirror and blame the guy staring back at us for not continuing to be a stud muffin and keeping marriage popular.
But what can we do about this? How can we preserve the traditional rights and prerogatives of the married man — i.e., hot dinners — when single women increasingly prefer small furry animals to large hairy husbands?
Must we married men, the few pathetic specimens left, meet in forlorn little groups to bemoan the decline of marriage while eating pizza, drinking beer and watching ball games on TV? Not a bad plan, I grant you, but the desperate situation cries out for a more aggressive approach if we are not to become social relics.
If I may humbly suggest, guys, we need to proceed in a businesslike way. We have a very good product to sell — adorable, cute-as-buttons men — and all we need to do is to market our gender more successfully. It’s no good just indulging in a spiteful show of flatulence and snorting noises while wondering how in the world women would not find men irresistible.
I foresee a series of public service ads to promote marriage. The copy almost writes itself …
“Linda felt lonely in her life but then she met Michael, who thoughtfully tugs her nightie every Saturday night after she’s fallen fast asleep to remind her that a man is in the house!
“Becky was afraid of burglars but she found Nat, who is good at snoring. Now she isn’t afraid of a home invasion because she knows that burglars won’t break into a house that reminds them of a cave full of bears!”
Gals just need to know that men come in a wide assortment of models (check availability in your area), some young, some old, but all adorable and a wonderful addition to an empty sofa. For just the smallest compliment, a newly recruited helpmate might even be persuaded to cook a low-fat dinner (Dead Things in a Sauce). Oh, the bliss these single women are missing.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail him at rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)