Gentlemen, gentlemen, cool your engines.
The statistic that 51 percent of American women are living without a spouse does not attack your manhood.
After all, sex and marriage has become so 20th century. People magazine sizzles with unwed beddings.
But something about my column last week saying marriage is becoming optional for women 50-plus rattled the male egos around here.
I received blasting e-mails and calls from seven guys.
Now, that doesn't compare with the "right on, gal!" responses from more than two dozen women, of course. These women are not against marriage. Most have been there, done that. They just don't want to do it again.
They like the freedom, the independence of unattached midlife. Culturally, they don't feel they need a man on the arm to go into a nice restaurant or even to a mixed-group party.
As one woman told me, "I have a man friend I travel with, and I certainly enjoy his company. But I don't want to get remarried."
Still, the depth of the male whiplash demands response.
First, they argue that the statistic of 51 percent is not accurate because the New York Times journalists who made the report counted singles 15 and older. Well, so does the census. That's the benchmark.
V.B. of Dana Point also says "included among that lonely group are happily married women whose husbands happen to be elsewhere at any given time, for example military wives (etc.)." He wants a retraction.
I believe the report said "married but temporarily alone" was included, sir.
And I take exception to your assumption that they are all in "that lonely group."
As Carole of Foothill Ranch wrote, "I would rather be alone than be married to a mini-Hitler like my first husband. … I could NOT imagine EVER having a man boss me, nitpick me, cheat, etc."
Victor called to rail at me about the data, told me to get an unbiased report from Focus on the Family, which he assumes has no agenda, demanded I call him back to explain my conclusions and gave me a number to call. Turns out the number is a cell phone Victor gave up three years ago. Just want you to know I tried, Victor.
Ah, but the e-mail from "Me" screams to be included.
"Me" says women went into the workforce because it took TWO incomes to maintain the standard of living and coincidentally, the kids suffered and we reached a new level of materialism in our society.
He notes women lose female hormones and gain male hormones after menopause, but adds, "They STILL have only the female life's experiences and skills to draw from." Huh? Well males lose male hormones and gain female hormones at midlife but they STILL only have the male life's experiences and skills to draw from.
Oh, "Me" has much more to say. He says men don't live as long as women because of all the abuse they have taken (from women, I guess).
Older women hang out with older women, he notes. So "they commiserate and preach to the choir." I guess men hang out with younger women so they can take Viagra and do what?
And I love this: Women can hire a plumber but a man will answer the call, "Me" says. Men design and engineer airplanes, he says. Men run the boardrooms of major corporations. "You can drive across the Golden Gate, but it was men who conceived it, financed it, and built it." Yeah, but women packed the lunches.
Then he adds biology plays a cruel trick on both sexes. Women "just have to have those 'babies' regardless of the overpopulation, environmental and economic consequences. The men lose their wife."
"Me" encourages me to put my "1970s armband in the trash" because damage from the women's movement has been massive to almost every segment of society.
Well, "Me," the ladies don't agree with you.
Wrote female attorney "JJ": "In the past 10 years I have noticed a large increase in my practice of women over 50 getting out of their marriage. They are ready to give up the economic benefits and face the disapproval of their grown children and family to reap the benefits of living alone in their own much smaller space and doing what they truly want to do at this point in their lives."
Maybe if more men viewed marriage more as a partnership, the statistic would change.
Maybe more women over 50 would consider remarriage.
But if one unnamed female caller was right, there are 179 single women in an Orange County mobile home park and only 17 men. "And those men are single," she says, "because they either want a nurse or a purse. And we're smart enough to see that today."
Finally, "I am wondering what the impact will be on the institution of marriage," wrote Bob Simpson, a marriage and family counselor. "(And) the men who haven't done the work necessary to sustain a marriage and the re-marriage (or recidivism) rate for men."
Fellas, you gotta stop taking this personally. Unless, of course, you should take this personally.
Jane Glenn Haas