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That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. One of the many ways in which our lives differed from our mothers’ was in the variety of our interactions with the opposite sex.Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates—an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends.I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.

In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.

Allan and I had met when we worked together at a magazine in Boston (full disclosure: this one), where I was an assistant and he an editor; two years later, he quit his job to follow me to New York so that I could go to graduate school and he could focus on his writing.

In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing.

By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. Could she have even envisioned herself on a shopping excursion with an ex-lover, never mind one who was getting married while she remained alone?

But this strange state of affairs also presents an opportunity: as the economy evolves, it’s time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of “traditional” marriage as society’s highest ideal. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. Their need is greater, and their condition really deplorable.

He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. (A friend who suffered my company a lot that summer sent me a birthday text this past July: “A decade ago you and I were reuniting, and you were crying a lot.”) I missed Allan desperately—his calm, sure voice; the sweetly fastidious way he folded his shirts. A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way—and its vast cultural consequences. It comes near to being a disgrace not to be married at all." Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question.

This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place.

I spent many a golden afternoon at my small New England liberal-arts college debating with friends the merits of leg-shaving and whether or not we’d take our husband’s surname.

(Even then, our concerns struck me as retro; hadn’t the women’s libbers tackled all this stuff already?

) We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track relationships, were bewildered. To account for my behavior, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down. On good days, I felt secure that I’d done the right thing. Also see: The End of Men Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U. By Hanna Rosin Delayed Childbearing Though career counselors and wishful thinkers may say otherwise, women who put off trying to have children until their mid-thirties risk losing out on motherhood altogether. Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently. The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfillment above all else.