Phoebe Maltz Bovy, writing in The Atlantic’s new “Sexes” category, perfectly describes the 1-pixel-wide boundary between “too young to marry” and “spinster”:
A young woman hears from friends and family that she needs to focus on her career or education, not some guy. She is warned of certain dangers: unsolicited male attention; unintended pregnancy, as if intended pregnancy were also a thing; and the desire hardwired into all straight men to turn their girlfriends into 1950s housewives. To entertain the possibility of it being difficult to find a husband, to even utter the expression “find a husband,” is to regress to another era. And this advice is incredibly appealing, a rejection of the quaint notion that female heterosexuality is the desire not for men, but for a white picket fence.
And then, suddenly, the message shifts. A not-quite-as-young woman will learn that rather than having all the time in the world to start a family, her biological clock is about to strike midnight. That even if she doesn’t want children, she is now on the cusp of being too old to find a husband.
It’s hard not to read this and think the solution is pretty simple: stop telling women how to live and let them make their own choices.