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Gentlemen Prefer Maids Brains: Maureen-Dowd-Go-Call-John-Tierney Edition

This week's AM New York column: Gentlemen Prefer Brains, focuses on studies conducted for a new book called, "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women."

The gist of the book, and my article, comes down to this:  Shut UP with the "It'd be so much easier to get married if I were stupid and unsuccessful."  No, not really.  Then you'd just be single, stupid and unsuccessful.  As long as we're dumping adjectives on there, probably fat, too.

Column continues after the jump.

OCTOBER 23, 2006

“Being a maid would have enhanced my chances with men … Guys want to be in relationships with women they don’t have to talk to.”
– Maureen Dowd, Are Men Necessary? (2005)

“The rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child.”
– Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Creating a Life (2002)

“Whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.”
– Michael Noer, Forbes magazine (2006)

Maureen?  Sylvia?  You’re wrong.  Michael?  You’re an idiot.

So says Christine Whelan, PhD, author of the new book “Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women,” which takes to task the myth surrounding high-achieving women and marriage: namely, that being personally and professionally satisfied is – statistically speaking – mutually exclusive.

It’s not, claims Whelan.  She wants all of the career-oriented women out there, whom she’s dubbed “SWANS” (Strong Women Achievers – No Spouse), to know two things:

1)    You WILL get married.  Just later.
2)    Men do NOT want to marry the maid.

With degrees from Princeton and Oxford and a wedding in the works, Whelan knows whereof she speaks.  And with U.S. census data and a nationally representative Harris study specially commissioned for the book, she has the data to back it up.

Forget Newsweek’s infamous claim that single women over forty are “more likely to get killed by a terrorist” than hitched.  Printed in 1986 and repeated ad nausea for the last twenty years, the magazine retracted it in June of this year.

Like Whelan, they found that the statistics were flawed.  The study had incorrectly predicted the matrimonial patterns of future generations based upon the past behaviors of previous generations.  In other words, what was true for our mothers is no longer true for us.

“In 1970, only 6 percent of American women between the ages of 30 and 34 had never married,” writes Whelan, citing U.S. Census data.  “Now it’s 24 percent.”

Why?  Two influences dramatically shifted the culture and timing of modern marriage: the exponential rise in women’s educational achievement, and the proliferation of working mothers.

Thirty-five years ago, only 68 women had a college degree for every 100 men.  In 2005, that number had skyrocketed, to 133 women for every 100 men.  The number of females obtaining graduate degrees had risen dramatically, as well.  The result?

While women focus on their schooling, they tend to put off finding a husband.  Thus, the average age of first marriage for women with a graduate degree is almost 5 years later than the national norm (25 years).

The second influence on today’s marriages is the proliferation of working mothers in the last three decades.  According to Whelan’s study, 72% of high-achieving men grew up with a mom who worked outside of the house.  Because of this, guys who were raised in the 70s and 80s “have no idea of femininity that excludes a high-achieving woman.”

So stop worrying that you won’t get married just because you haven’t tied the knot by 27. “High achieving women marry at the same rates as all other women,” explains Whelan. They’re just a bit older.

And DEFINITELY stop insisting that men are “intimidated” by your brains and earning power.  They aren’t.

According to Whelan’s study, 92% of high-achieving men say they are more attracted to women who are successful in their careers, while almost 90% reported that they wanted to marry a woman who was “as intelligent as they are, or more.”  Take that, Michael Noer!

“Men who perceive themselves as smart and successful are attracted to women they perceive to be smart and successful,” writes Whelan.  And yet, more than half the women surveyed still insidiously – and falsely – believed that men wanted to marry down.

Like the Sex & the City episode where Miranda pretends to be a flight attendant to disguise her true, ostensibly more emasculating profession (an attorney, of course!) – women think they must lie or understate their achievements to ensure a happy relationship.

Completely untrue, insists Whelan. “When these able women buy into gender-based stereotypes of what a man is looking for in a woman, they not only insult the men they are trying to attract, but also give off negative vibes about their own self-confidence.”

Those vibes – stemming from needless panic and a false sense of I’ll-Never-Get-Married-Doom – may translate as desperation, anger, cynicism and bitterness, which we all know men just love.

Of course, “he can’t handle my smarts” is a hell of a lot nicer than “he thinks I’m an ugly, demanding bore.”

Men actually do want intelligence, self-confidence, and ambition.  “Success is sexy,” says Whelan. In fact, “more income and education may increase a woman’s chances of marriage.”

So whip out your black Amex, drop the H-Bomb with aplomb (uh, that would be Hahvard, dahling), and casually mention your enormous graduate student loans.  You’ll be married by next June.

And Ms. Dowd?  Quit complaining.  Being a maid wouldn't have helped anything except your kitchen floors.

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