When I was 16, I memorized the sheet music to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and gave my crush a Valentine’s Day concert. At 23, I baked heart-shaped brownies for my man of the moment—which he enjoyed, but asked why they were shaped funny.
Otherwise, I’ve spent most Feb. 14s by myself. It doesn’t feel terrific. And I know on that score, I am not alone.
But those of you who are moping around this Valentine’s Day, jealously eyeing happy couples, should relax. The sappy pink-and-red hearts in all the drug store windows may make you lose hope that you’ll ever find a partner, but the facts tell a different story: Cupid is still alive and well, no matter where you live.
Buy the Numbers
Yes, national census data tells us that some 32% of men and 24% of women ages 30 to 34 have yet to marry—nearly a four-fold increase since 1970. But we’re not staying single forever; we’re just marrying later. Nine out of ten of Americans tie the knot. That’s pretty good odds.
And while we may think our city is the worst climate for finding a partner, the odds of getting married are just as high in big cities and small towns nationwide. But since people stay single longer in big cities, the chances you’ll meet your match later in life is much higher in a population-dense area like Chicago, New York or Dallas than in a small town.
Why are we marrying later? Because, in general, we invest in our careers and education in our 20s instead of organizing a concentrated search for a life partner. Among 30 to 34 year olds, 59% have now completed at least some college, and nearly one-third have completed a bachelor’s degree or more.
So if you talk to men and women in their early 20s, chances are they are single or in a less-than-serious relationship. But fast-forward two decades, and the odds of marriage shoot up: 85% of women and 77% of men have married by age 40. More education increases those odds. So twentysomethings spending tonight solo might want to pick up a college course catalogue.
What are Your Odds?
Want to find out your personal odds of being married? Go to http://www.whysmartmenmarrysmartwomen.com/odds.htm and enter in some basic information, and based on U.S. Census data, you’ll find out what percentage of people like you have married.
If you’re spending tonight with a partner, I guess that makes you a lucky one. Lucky because you’ll get a card—180 million cards will be exchanged today. Lucky because you’ll go on a nice date—44% of Americans will do that tonight. Or lucky because you’ll get something that glitters, whether or not it’s gold. Jewelry stores nationwide sold more merchandise in February 2005 than in any other month of the year.
And if you’re not, just have a little patience. The odds are good that next Valentine’s Day you’ll get your very own Whitman’s Sampler. And in the meantime, don’t let Hallmark get you down. Clinical research suggests chocolate is an antidepressant. Buy lots. And take heart: St. Patrick’s Day decorations will go up before you know it.
A version of this piece also ran in the New York Daily News on February 14, 2007