1. About that piece-- first, read Phoebe Malz, Amanda Marcotte, and this interview with Edith Zimmerman.
2. I really do think that this is a story that makes perfect sense to what is in context a tiny sliver of people, and would seem totally inscrutable to a lot of other people. That's just my intuition. I think if you are among a certain social strata and you live in a particular kind of urban enclave with particular dating dynamics and particular assumptions about gender roles and a particular type of educated, socially liberal, and ambitious participants, this all sounds like the world around you. I think for most Americans, let alone most of the world, this kind of article causes people to say "...what?" The most glaring problem with American media is that it is written by people who genuinely believe that their neighborhood is the world. And most of them live in the same half-dozen neighborhoods.
3. Marcotte's point needs to be repeated and extended. Writers of all stripes enjoy engaging in the most cynical readings of human behavior because they think it makes them appear hyper-rational. But in fact here is a perfect example of how trying to achieve that makes you irrational. Human emotion is real. It is an observable phenomenon. It observably influences behavior. Therefore to fail to account for it when discussing coupling and relationships is the opposite of cold rationality; it is in fact a failure of empiricism. Speaking as a social scientist (in training), for someone to write about human romantic and sexual relationships without reference to the reality of human emotions-- that is, that people feel love, affection, desire, lust, and other imprecise but physiologically observable phenomena-- is a profound mistake when trying to fully interpret the world of relationships. You don't get credit for a showy cynicism when that cynicism results in poor ethnography.
4. My least favorite aspect of contemporary long-form journalism: "as I am, so must be the world." I don't understand why an intelligent and educated woman like Bolick is so resistant of saying "this is the choice that I've made; others will and should make different choices themselves." Reference to evolutionary psychology is the last refuge of a lazy writer. I celebrate the fact that Bolick feels that she doesn't need to get married. I wish she had the confidence necessary to express that idea without having to make it seem as though it is the only valid choice, and one that is insisted on by evolution. Real confidence stems from the recognition that others make different choices than you do and remaining secure in your own choice; fake confidence insists that others cannot make choices different than the ones you've made, or that they are fooling themselves, or living a lie, or whatever else.
That's the persistent and sad subtext of Bolick's piece. She insists that she is comfortable with her choice, and yet she feels the need to justify her choice in ways that undermine that insistence. Saying "evolution makes me do it" is exactly the opposite of expressing confidence in a choice. It instead is denying that a choice was made at all. I celebrate that more and more women are choosing to stay single if that's what they want, and I hope that the cultural assumption that an unmarried woman is an unhappy woman continues to erode. But the fact that it requires a 4,000 word essay in the Atlantic tells us that this is still not a fully accepted phenomenon yet. I'll recognize victory when a woman as accomplished as Bolick doesn't need to spend so much time justifying her choice.
5. Here's why I think she's on the cover of the issue of the Atlantic in which her recent story appears: I think she is on the cover, and in pictures inside the story, because she is writing about her superior desirability to the men whom she might potentially partner with. And I think that in order to make that possible, she and the Atlantic need to show that she's attractive. And she is. If there were no pictures of her, that would be the question on most people's minds: what does she look like?
That, in and of itself, tells you a lot. Bolick can convey socially-relevant information about the relative desirability of the men she's talking about in the article, with words. She can write about education and ambition and drive and money and whatever else, and that says enough to make the point. But Bolick's desirability can't be meaningfully conveyed without showing what she looks like. For all the talk of the declining fortunes of men relative to women, and how women are gaining the upper hand in the romantic and sexual marketplace, women's desirability continues to be largely determined by their physical appearance. I wish Bolick's accomplishments were enough to convey her desirability, but the cold calculus her editors performed in putting her on the cover says otherwise.
As with Hannah Rosin's "The End of Men," this strikes me as an article that superficially details victory for women while the context in which it emerges reminds us of how far we still have to go.