What Chance Have You to Marry?
What Over 34 Thousand Marriages Tell: By Fred C. Kelly
Ladies Home Journal, Nov, 1919
[text graphics]They have been figuring on the real Who's Who and What's What in Massachusetts, where for a year they have "kept tab" on 34, 386 marriages. This number is large enough to give the law of averages a chance to operate, and such figures as the United States Census Bureau has would show that these Massachusetts figures are reasonably typical of the whole country. These figures show, for instance, that a trifle more than 85 out of every 100 of these 34, 386 marriages were between previously unmarried persons, and two out of every five of these married between the ages of 20 and 25. Twenty-two percent of the marriages were of persons both between 20 and 25 years. Sixteen out of every 100 of the men were between 25 and 29, with the girls between 20 and 24. One-sixth of all the brides were under 20.
Nearly 67 out of every 100 of the brides - not including widows-were under 25 years of age. In other words, most girls marry early in life - that is, while their character and tastes and notions about one thing and another are still in the formative period. A man in his early twenties often has barely completed his education. And a young woman of twenty-one or twenty-two - even one of twenty-four - still has many things to learn. Their tastes have never had time to set. If two people start out with tastes in common, and they continue to develop and change along similar lines, it is fine, but it is exceptional. The trouble is that in the formative process they may diverge into diametrically opposite directions.
That it is desirable for people to marry young is self-evident, but the attractions that lead to marriage in early life are very likely to be superficial rather than genuinely sound. Many a man in his early twenties, say, who thinks he has been captivated by a young woman's attractions, has really been won merely by some physical charm or some captivating femininity that will not endure through life. Does this fact help to account for the fact, provided by the government census bureau, that one marriage out of every nine in the United States ends in divorce?
Why Some Men Marry
The serious part of the preponderance of early marriage is the fact that youth is frequently in love with love rather than with any one individual. A man at twenty-one likes the idea of being in love with a woman, and having a woman in love with him. There is no doubt of that, and I say this as a man. Almost any attractive woman may answer the purpose, provided he is thrown in her company until her society becomes a fond habit with him. That there is just one woman for every man in the world, if the match is to be ideal, has been said, but with the world thickly populated as it is, the chance of those exact two persons ever getting acquainted are pretty slim.
The list of marriage licenses shows how largely marriage is a matter of chance and propinquity. In the vast majority of instances, the couples have lived not only in the same town, but in the same part of town; moved in the same clique; often in the same house. A man, let us to say, asks for the salt at the boardinghouse table, and the young woman in the neat, trim, shirt waist passes it to him with such an air of comradeship and affability that he instantly thinks he has found Romance. Another frequent cause that makes a man fall in love with a woman is her readiness to listen to his talk and laugh at his jokes. This so inflates his sense of personal vanity that he thinks he has found the girl who understands him.
At What Age a Man Generally Marries
Here is another interesting fact: that the time between the ages of 20 and 25 is the most susceptible period, since two out of every five who marry do so between 20 and 25. If a man between 20 and 25 finds himself thrown constantly into the society of a woman of that age period, he is either in danger or in luck. But as he gets a trifle older the chance is not quite so great. Only 34 out of every 100 of the 30, 893 bachelors among the men we are talking about married at from 25 to 29 years of age, but 41 out of every 100 married between 20 and 25. Of course there are not so many bachelors from 25 to 29 years old, as there are from 20 to 25, so that the chances of getting married in the later age period may really be just about as great as ever.
It is Different With Girls After 29
From 29 years on a man's or a woman's chances of marriage become noticeably less. But now comes the interesting fact that if a girl is not married in the 20 to 24 age period, she has only about one-half the chance to be married in the next five-year period from 25 to 29. But a man's chances when he passes from the one period to the other are diminished by only about 15. In the next age period, from 30 to 34 years, the rate of decreased chances for a woman is greater than for men. In most of the other periods increased age seems to work a greater matrimonial handicap on women than on men. The transition from one five-year age period to the next seems to cut a woman's chances exactly in two.
[text graphic]More Widowers Marry Than Widows
Now, as to widows and widowers, the figures contain also surprises. Marriages between widowers and maids comprised 6 out of every 100; marriages between bachelors and widows 4 out of every 100; and between widowers and widows, also 4. It appears, therefore, that, contrary to popular belief, widowers are more in demand than widows. Of course there are always more widows than widowers. This was true even before the war. But all over the civilized world there are more male children born than females. Then the mortality of males is higher than females, from the first year of life on, so that in most localities the women outnumber the men. Men's occupations are more hazardous than those of women, and so there are almost invariably more widow in any community than widowers.
Yet in 34, 386 marriages there were 11 more widowers than widows.
Why is this?
In the first place, a widower, having tasted of the pleasures of a home of his own, does not like to return to the life of a bachelor. If he has children it is all the more necessary for him to have a wife, who shall be mother for his children. Furthermore, all other items being equal, a widower is more desirable than a bachelor, because he probably is already established in a financial and domestic way. He is less likely than a bachelor to be selfish and difficult to get along with.
Then, of course, a widower belongs to a sex less skilled at courting than the other one. If a woman determines to marry a given widower, it is altogether probable that she will do so. But a widow whom somebody desires to marry is less readily caught. Many a widow, after the first shock of being alone has worn off, comes to feel like a bird released from a cage and has no desire to rush too impetuously into more matrimony.