The liberation of that the 1960s wrought in America is now going global. While it used to be a man’s world, it may not be for long. At least that’s what Kay Hymnowitz thinks.
Hymnowitz argues that the “single young female” (SYF)–think Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City–is no longer simply a relational state that a young lady finds herself in.
Combine these trends—delayed marriage, expanded higher education and labor-force participation, urbanization—add a global media and some disposable income, and voilà: an international lifestyle is born. One of its defining characteristics is long hours of office work, often in quasi-creative fields like media, fashion, communications, and design—areas in which the number of careers has exploded in the global economy over the past few decades. The lifestyle also means whole new realms of leisure and consumption, often enjoyed with a group of close girlfriends: trendy cafés and bars serving sweetish coffee concoctions and cocktails; fancy boutiques, malls, and emporiums hawking cosmetics, handbags, shoes, and $100-plus buttock-hugging jeans; gyms for toning and male-watching; ski resorts and beach hotels; and, everywhere, the frustrating hunt for a boyfriend and, though it’s an ever more vexing subject, a husband.
Hymnowitz handily discards the notion that this phenomenon is limited only to America, citing examples from Japan, China, India and Europe. And she mentions the both the benefits of the trend and the requisite concern: a reduced labor force resulting from lower birth levels and the associated negative economic impact.
What strikes me, however, about the piece is the elevation of singleness to a lifestyle. The phrase itself is off-putting to me. The notion that we can style our lives according to our own fancies is but a softer, more gentler version of the rejection of the bounded goodness of nature so common in the unholy alliance of science and technology. Only in this case, that rejection wears make-up and designer jeans.
Doubtlessly young single men–and the married folk!–are equally guilty of adopting “lifestyles” that fit our own interests. One wonders, however, whether our perpetual stylizing endangers our direct and simple enjoyment of life.