Marriage. One of the biggest industries in the world, celebrated in a variety of cultures, faiths, promises, and rituals to symbolize your eternal (or momentary) commitment to the person who stands next to you at the time. Once upon a time, women were chained to this institution, her very status, self-worth, and prestige in her community being determined by her husband – which made sense I guess because at the time, her husband was considered to own her as property. In that line of reasoning, if you are an object and have no owner to define your use, then you are essentially useless. However today more and more unmarried older woman don’t raise many eyebrows or questions because of the new image of the empowered strong woman who has been through relationships and doesn’t need a man to tell her how to live her life.
On the other hand, the unmarried older man is now under scrutiny. The solitary man you call “Uncle” out of respect rather than actual blood is now subject to suspicion and speculation of his activities and motivations.
It may take a longer time – men enjoy the double standard of going into their forties before they might begin to feel even the slightest pressure to have children from their community. But the distinguished senior man in the community in his 50s or 60s who has walked through life without a wife is given doubting looks, his adventures (or lack of them) whispered about in social circles.
The most obvious example of this would be the highest office in the United States – President of the United States. NEVER has a President come into the Oval office without having a family he has been able to trot in front of the American stage, during the Democratic and Republican conventions this year the main “purpose” of Michelle Obama and Anne Romney was to give speeches convincing everyone how personable and relatable their husbands are. By the very virtue of marriage.
Just as a woman is perceived as advancing further in her career by staying “married to the job” and childless, a man is actually less likely to get a promotion in a corporation if he does not have a wife to parade around a country club.
In his best-selling book, So Why Have You Never Been Married?: 10 Insights Into Why He Hasn’t Wed the author, Carl Weisman, summarizes that there is usually something more than meets the eye when a man of marriageable age goes beyond his time. Although heteronormative in its discussion, this list of men can be applied to both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Weisman categorizes the type of men who are likely to end up as bachelors below:
The Ageing Playboy
This is the man who has always loved life on the fast lane and in fact LOVES women, so much so that he cannot choose just one! This man is often wealthy, or enjoys the appearance of being so. He views women and relationships as a game to master and dominate and leaves women in tears. Even in their 60s these men still go to the clubs and bars with people a third of their age and may end up dating their niece’s friend. When physical limitations with age mean they cannot maintain this life anymore, they can often become bitter, angry and lonely.
The Disappointed Man
One of the saddest categories, this is a man who gave his heart and soul (or at the very least, a significant amount of money) to women, and has been repaid with nothing but emotional abuse, cheating, and loss of property that he has sworn to avoid getting into a relationship and vowed never to fall into the marriage trap. This man is the hardest to recognize because men often hide their hurts and vulnerabilities and instead choose to don the mask of the “playboy”. He may not be very happy to be a senior bachelor but would rather solitary life than risk love upheavals once again. He is always on his guard with the few relationships he has and can often be quite controlling.
Financially Challenged Man:
Given the African cultural norm that the man who asks for someone’s hand in marriage must be financially stable and single-handedly support their family in comfort, some men are forced to remain bachelors because they don’t meet this requirement. They wait and work until such a time comes but it never arrives, banishing them to being confirmed bachelors.
The Man of Ill-Repute
This is the character who has a long, long history with many of the women in his town and even if a woman were to consider going out with him would quickly be drawn back from a thousand concerned aunts, cousins and sisters.
These are the men who spread sexual diseases, may have been violent towards women, or date minors. His unsavory nature and tastes means that his relationships will never last long or always end in disaster – and therefore he moves through a lot of women in many social circles in his life.
The man who faces the difficult and often embarrassing condition of impotence remains a bachelor often because they are forced to. The fear of being branded impotent is apparently so strong that many men would rather date but take off when it comes to getting intimate. The idea of sex being so tied to masculinity means that these men are afraid of ridicule or being seen as less of a man if they are ever “found out”.
Unknown Sexual Orientation
This group of men could be gay or bisexual and due to the pervasive anti-LGBTQ stance still in many African countries and black communities may not feel willing to expose their lifestyle, preferring privacy. The belief among many people, is that a modern, healthy, good-looking man who has it all going for him – a man who frequents all the posh clubs in town, but who does not want marriage way past his 45th birthday is probably gay or impotent. However even if this is not the case, women will often throw this theory of being gay or impotent at a successful man who spurns her advances for marriage.