"A comprehensive survey at Rutgers University on the state of marriage at the millennium painted a forbidding picture of wedlock. Although an underlying desire for matrimony lurks in the background, especially among college-aged women, today's young singles often emerge from divorced homes into a long, pre-marriage "breakup culture" of dateless hooking up, of "no rings, no strings." It is a use-and-discard world of sexual barter with lots of partner dumping.

When women get past the "quarter life crisis" so many of today's youth experience, and reach the latter half of their twenties, they begin to acutely feel the pull of long-term, committed intimacy. The incubator of survival introduces itself; the womb calls out. Meanwhile, the men close to their age simply are not there. Nowhere near thinking about marriage, boys still want to have fun.

Today men well into their thirties, or later, often pay only lip service to the idea of a long-term commitment. Browbeaten from preadolescence to shun traditional "stereotypes," many young men regard women as more or less the same as they are, and, to their way of thinking, females want the same kind of encounters they do. They think, or choose to think, that women don't want special treatment. Therefore, none is offered. Demanding the right to work means women are now expected to work. Meanwhile, the regular appearance of women operating freely in all their domains, from sports to commerce, confirms male assumptions of gender sameness, opening a hole in masculine responsibility big enough to drive an army through.

In the brave new universe of sexual parity, there are few resources required of men, hardly any funky tests of character or personal resolve to disturb their day. Hell, they may not even have to pay for dinner. It often seems that these days the only thing a man has to bring to the party is testosterone. In this way, women's liberation has freed men. They can relinquish their primary responsibilities and still get what they want out of women.

Male ambivalence and fear of commitment may be irrelevant to an attractive woman enjoying her independent twenties. But as she approaches the mothering thirties, when the insistent pull of maternal instinct finally breaks through the flimsy retaining walls erected by the gender architects, the full range of gatherer instincts emerges from her subconscious into the waking mind of the modern woman. She starts to get serious. She starts to think like a parent with potential dependents.