More men crave altar, while women turn away, poll says

August 04, 1993|By Ellen Warren | Ellen Warren,Chicago Tribune Flynn McRoberts of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this article.

Somewhere between a man's dirty socks and his habit of sitting around in his ratty underwear watching the ballgame, a lot of women are losing interest in getting married.

Gotta catch a man? Snag a guy? Get hitched? Take that stereotype and stuff it.

A new survey says that practically half the single women in America don't want to get married.

And there are men out there who say they can understand why.

"A lot of men are pigs. They don't care. You have to be, like, tender and stuff to women, and a lot of men don't want to spend the time," says Ted Tsoumas, 36, of Chicago, who is single and willing to spend the time.

Count him among the two-thirds of single American men who say they do want to wed, according to the survey.

That's right. The telephone poll by Ohio University and Scripps Howard News Service seems to turn conventional wisdom upside-down, saying that more men than women are yearning to tie the knot. However, the fine print shows those conclusions aren't so clear-cut.

Still, "Men are looking for someone to take care of them," reasons Marlena Lagina, 37, of Hobart, Ind., who speaks from experience. She is the divorced mother of 13-year-old twin boys, and she's raising them to be outstanding husbands. The lads already know how to cook and clean, she says.

Ms. Lagina's mother, Justine Towers, who has been married for 40 years, understands why men more often say they want to be married than women.

"They want to be babied," she says.

Arlene Saluter, an expert on marriage trends at the U.S. Census Bureau, says that, overall, fewer Americans are marrying, and that those who do are waiting longer to wed. But she's somewhat skeptical of the survey's results, which portrayed men as the ones crooning, "Goin' to the Chapel of Love."

"It takes two, right? So I don't see how you can say one [gender] will be less likely to marry than the other. . . . It could be true, but I don't have anything that would help support that," Ms. Saluter says.

But informal conversations with both sexes underscore a bubbling dissatisfaction with men and marriage, and provide some explanations why.

"Years ago, women were nothing without a man," says Diane Donow, 45, of Chicago, married with children. "Women are wising up."

"Men want women to take care of them, to be their mothers," says Stephanie Levine, an outspoken 42-year-old whose divorce will be official next week.

And the social stigma of singlehood has lifted, according to Ms. Levine, also of Chicago. "You would never look at a woman who hasn't been married and say, 'She's a spinster. She's an old maid.' "

Furthermore, she says, as women make inroads in the workplace, "it's not necessary, financially," for females to hook a man to feel secure.

"Marriage was the only route to economic security 25 years ago, and that's no longer true," says Guido H. Stempel III, a journalism professor at Ohio University.

In fact, men and women alike said one of the reasons men want to get married and women don't is because the guys are looking to sponge off their woman.

One older woman said her 36-year-old, college-educated daughter "can't find the type of man she's looking for."

And what type would that be?

"One with a job," the woman says.

Single man Mark Prudent, 25, knowingly commits gender treason as he declares, "Most of the women I know who are married are not doing as well as they did when they were single, because of his bills."

Indeed, when successful women get together to complain about men -- this is a very popular pastime -- they usually lament the lack of a males with the three S's: single, solvent and straight.

The survey released last week showed that only 51 percent of the single women overall answered yes to the question, "Do you ever want to get married?" compared with 66 percent of the men who said yes.

But these totals are somewhat misleading; when the answers are broken down by age group, 93 percent of the 18- to 24-year-old women want to marry, compared with 88 percent of the men in that highly marriageable age group.

Between 25 and 34, men still are eager to hit the altar, with 87 percent wanting to marry, while the percentage of women plunges more than 20 points to 70 percent.

Joe Madonia, who runs a health club, insisted that there's no surge to wed among his male contemporaries.

"The guys usually are the ones hesitating and stalling," says Mr. Madonia, 26, of Addison, Ill. After dating the same woman for six years, he said they plan to marry next year.

And speaking of wedded bliss, meet Tracy Marx, 30, who was engaged a scant two weeks ago.

"It's OK not to be married. I'm perfectly capable of functioning myself, but I'm much happier sharing it with someone else," Ms. Marx says. On the third finger of her left hand was a delicious diamond, picked out by fiance Jim Arnold, all by himself.

Says Ms. Marx, joyously: "On one knee, this man proposed."

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