All the Single Men

Mike Dunn calls for the equality of gender and expectation as adaptation to today’s progressive dating landscape.

Upon finishing The Atlantic’s November cover story “All the Single Ladies,” I found myself focusing on the words “deadbeat,” “player,” and “good man.” I don’t disagree with Bolick about what women are facing in the changing landscape of relationships between men and women. After five consecutive years in low-sex-ratio-societies (two in the Peace Corps and over three in Washington, D.C., what I think may count as extreme examples) I am more than familiar with the players and deadbeats that women are confronted with, and agree with her completely.

It did bother me to think that women arrive later in life

at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start [their] lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.

As a result I found myself thinking a lot about the “good man” in her article. Was it really possible that all the good men are taken early on and so don’t count in the longer discussion of coupling in later years?

It is easy to grasp Bolick’s definition of players and deadbeats. She devotes a paragraph each to describe her own personal experience with players (four examples given) and deadbeats (two examples, though she states they were the majority). These personal anecdotes move her discussion forward:

If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace—and of course it is—today we’re contending with a new “dating gap,” where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players. For evidence, we don’t need to look to the past, or abroad—we have two examples right in front of us: the African American community, and the college campus.

These two examples of descriptors account for approximately a quarter of her article. Yet, I don’t think this a new phenomenon for men. I think there have always been players and deadbeats. Greater gender parity and moving away, slowly, from a patriarchal perspective are putting these men under greater scrutiny. Today’s women, rightly so, are less forgiving and accepting of the players and deadbeats as the dynamics of interpersonal relationships change.


If there are players and deadbeats then there has to be a flip side to the coin of equal significance and impact worth exploring. I would accept the argument that good men are rarer than their counterparts, but they are out there. Or so I hope. If not, then Bolick is right when she jokingly states that “[all] capitalist men are pigs!” It is, however, difficult to assess from Bolick’s article who or what the “good man” is or what he represents. She mentions the words “good man” twice and “good men” once, and between these short examples she seems to construct two very different definitions for the same thing.

The first example she gives of a good man is a traditional definition. Good men are the “shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be ‘marriageable’ men—those who are better educated and earn more than [women] do.” The perception in this definition is that men are the “bread winners” and, as a result, women “marry-up” in their relationships. But, these traditional perceptions are quickly becoming outdated. They already are, really.

There is an obvious shift in relationship dynamics between men and women, but it is not one easily accepted as a result of tradition or ideology. Bolick herself addresses this dynamic shift elegantly when she asks, “Now that [women] can pursue [their] own status and security, and are therefore liberated from needing men the way [they] once did, [they] are free to like them more, or at least more idiosyncratically, which is how love ought to be, isn’t it?”

Which leads me to the second definition of the good man. My personal perception: a good man is someone who is honest, caring, and loyal. If he has a wife, he’s a dutiful husband; if he has children, he’s a sacrificing father. In the second instance where she uses the words “good man,” Bolick’s definition is essentially her description of Allan. She describes him early on as “an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind.”

The article is littered with personal anecdotes about players and deadbeats, but really only one about a good man: Allan. It’s easy to dismiss the good man in Bolick’s account because the only example has a perceived happy ending. Allan doesn’t need to cope with being single in a changing world. He doesn’t need to look for some kind of peace, perspective, or place where being single is OK as marriageable hours tick away. But that is Allan’s story. It is not the story of good men, many of who are struggling with the same issues as Bolick herself. Good men navigating a dating scene of women players and women deadbeats. Good men who feel similar, traditional pressures as women to marry and settle down. Good men who try to cope with being single later and later into their adult lives. The severity or stress of these pressures may not equal that placed on women, but that doesn’t make them any less real or any less poignant.


Bolick has “too many ex-boyfriends to count.” Naturally, the reader infers that she has played the field, so to speak, and come across multiple different types of men. Should Bolick then be considered “a player,” especially considering that most of “the deadbeats” she describes seem commitment-minded? It’s difficult to assume, of course. The assumption’s either fair or unfair. Certainly a lot depends on how she communicated her own intentions to those men. Ultimately, it may not matter—whether the subject is a woman or a man.

Bolick herself states much later that the problem with Allan was that she wanted two conflicting states of being: autonomy and intimacy. That is a definition of a “player,” who “plays the field” finding intimacy where he or she can while remaining autonomous, strictly non-monogamous, in the process. The men she describes as players—what were their perspectives of her? In my mind, Bolick, in her own article, is at times player, deadbeat, and good woman.

My own story is no different. It’s actually incredibly similar. I was with a woman for the better part of four years, and will only ever say the greatest things about her. She was and is a phenomenal woman. But, I decided that I wasn’t ready to settle, that something was missing, that I was conflicted between wanting intimacy and autonomy. I can similarly say that I have too many ex-girlfriends to count. There were times when I was simply looking for that intimacy and staying fiercely autonomous and was certainly a player. Some of those women were good women, really good women. But it wasn’t the right time. I was selfish, and wanted to be. Some of those women were also deadbeats. Some of them were players themselves. And who was I in their eyes? A heartless player? A good catch who wasn’t interested? A deadbeat getting played? Honestly, like Bolick, I was—I am—all the above.

I think all men and women in today’s dating dynamic have the capability to be in varying degrees the good man, the good woman, the player, and the deadbeat. Times change, as do perspectives, needs, and wants. All of these are constantly in flux. Someone who is a player one year might be a deadbeat the next year. Someone who is ready to settle down one year may find him- or herself in a completely different state of mind the next. Meeting the right person at the right time is no easy feat, after all. According to Bolick, it may not even be possible.

Which brings me back to my original question: is it really possible that all good men are taken early on, that none are left by the time when get to Bolick’s age? I don’t think the answer is as simple as to be about good men or good women. Overall, I think Bolick is mostly correct in her observations. I found her points on the changing gender dynamic to be astute, and her exploration of being single (particularly later in adult life) in the changing landscape of relationships was incredibly thoughtful. I only diverge with her on one thing: who is available for a relationship later in one’s life. Not all the men are deadbeats. They’re not all players. And, absolutely, they’re not all good. But the same is true of the women. When a man tries to settle down in his later years, he may play the field and, like Bolick, be disappointed with the selection.


It makes sense that the dating scene is at odds with itself because more and more of the working population are attacking their lives individualistically. They’re developing their professional life prior to taking a compromising approach with a partner. Furthermore, social spheres tend to dwindle as people age—friends from college, graduate school, clubs, even happy hours lose touch, contacts and networks drop off. And, as gender parity takes more hold, and while we haven’t fully let go of outdated traditional perspectives, it makes sense that men and women are at odds about whom they want and when they want them. We all just need to adapt to the changing landscape. We need to know that, as we grow older and have less social spheres to peruse, we may just find the “right” partner in a bar; we may have to redefine marriage, and its necessity, through a cultural lens; we have to know that anyone we may meet and give a chance may be a good man or good woman, and that they’re not may be because the timing wasn’t right.

Simply, it’s not about there being no good men or good women left when older singles are ready to settle down. Depending on when people meet one another, what they’re priorities are at that time, what perspectives or definitions they’re holding then—everything has to do with who we view as a good, marriageable partner. We can all be players and deadbeats, and we can all be “good.” But the nurse practitioner, the investment banker, the book publisher, the Navy SEAL—whoever it is, whatever he or she does, sadly, but most likely, it’s just not the right one at the right time.

Most likely, these changes will all be for the better in the long run. Currently, we are in the middle of growing pains. And it’s frustrating. Frustrating to think that there are good women out there saying there are no good men left, that there are good men saying the same thing about women. So what do we do? “Find a room of one’s own, for each of us. A place where single [people] can live and thrive as themselves.” I place a strong emphasis in my life on being comfortable in my own skin and on my own … I just hate to think that I may never get to share that room with someone special, where we can live and thrive together.

—Photo bp6316/Flickr

About Mike Dunn

Mike Dunn is non-profit professional based in the Northeast (most of the time). He focuses his energies on being a loving son and friend to everyone, development work and volunteerism, and being an active participant towards positive change. Sometimes he tweets interesting things @doneanddunn.


  1. Warnning! Bad joke comming…

    My Papy use ta say,  Son…

     “Being with a Career Women is like being accepted into a prestigious university

    Ya gotta lie to get in, 
    They’re expensive as all ta be dammed,
    & you’re always being threatened with expulsion fur not keeping up with everybody else…”

    Wait Dad if they’re so Bad Why Marry them….?

    Because Son, you’ll get to loose  WaAay Cooler Stuff in the divorce then you could’ve gotten on your own.

  2. While on the topic of honesty and fear in dating – more women have std’s than men.
    What about disclosure before hand? In many states this is felony. It should be in all.

    I would take an ugly girl over a dishonest one – for better chances of safety and she might appreciate the attention.

    • And why is that? who gives women the majority of STDs? strangely enough, it’s MEN.

      All of the women I know with STDs are married women who married as virgins and were given STDs by cheating promiscuous husbands.

      The jerks I know, remain STD free because they deliberately target women with little or no sexual experience. Men like my ex who “deflowered” at least a dozen women.

      I’m sorry John but it’s pretty offensive towards women to say you’d take an ugly girl because she might appreciate the attention. That’s pretty cruel. Truth is, an ugly girl probably won’t appreciate it – the majority will know you aren’t going for them for their looks and have been hurt so many times they’ll simply wonder why you’re going for them.

      Giving a woman a relationship/sex/anything out of pity for her being ugly is disrespectful. I will assume though by your previous posts that you’re simply trying to make a point rather than being actually serious with that comment.

      Oh, and I totally agree that it should be a felony. One thing I haven’t mentioned is, I’m in the early stages of cervical cancer from catching HPV from my cheating husband. Hopefully it’s treatable – I’m waiting for an appointment for the doctors to do the colposcopy to see how bad it is, but at this stage they think it’s not too bad, but it’s still cancer, it could still kill me – all because my ex is a cheating jerk. There is no chance I got it elsewhere – he’s the only man I ever had sex with. He deliberately had unprotected sex with dozens of women and men while we were married, while pretending to be a faithful husband.

      So yeah, it definitely should be a felony.

      Although it won’t stop some stupid people – the mistress he ended up marrying had been one of my closest “friends”. When I first found out about the cervical cancer, when I was naive enough not to know that it came from HPV, an STI, she was the third person I told. She knew he had at least one STI then, and yet still she kept screwing him. All the while trying to convince me that you can get cervical cancer some other way, that it couldn’t possibly be an STI because he’d “never” cheat on me.

      For all I know, he probably caught it from her since I know she’s a disease ridden skank anyway who has multiple STIs herself.

      • And yet you married this man. Now according to the theory of the ‘nice guy’, women can sense that a man is an asshole and thus avoid him. This is used to explain why some men never get any attention from women, and since you married this man he can’t be an asshole since you gave him attention. Had he been an asshole you would have sensed it and avoided him.

  3. Ok, the post monster got my post again. I’ll rewrite the short version:

    When I met my ex, he was unemployed and while we were dating, he could only get casual work at best. He was slightly below average looking. Looks and money didn’t matter to me. Nor did the fact that he’d use drugs briefly after his mum died but got out of that scene before we started dating.

    What DID matter, is he seemed like a nice, caring, loving, loyal, faithful partner.

    I had no idea he had a long history of abusing and cheating on women before me. I only found out about his history AFTER I split up with him, after a decade together. The whole time we were dating (18 months) he seemed to be loving and caring and gentle, with the only issue we had being his deadbeat loser druggie mates who he still hung out with. When we got married, he seemed to have a fantastic personality and good values which are the only things that matter to me.

    What I didn’t know was it was all an act. He knows he’ll never catch a woman with his looks, so he reels them in by pretending to be a wonderful caring, loving guy, and he only shows his real personality months or years later (two years in my case – 18 months of dating, then 6 months into our marriage), when he thinks he has a woman trapped.

    The woman who he was “engaged” to before he and I had even separated, thought he was a wonderful caring fantastic guy (other than being a cheat, but since her second husband had left her because of her affair with my now-ex, she didn’t have any problem with cheating, as long it wasn’t her being cheated on), but she found out the hard way – before he could even get a divorce from me, he started showing her abusive nature. The mistress he ended up marrying knows about his long violent history, because she pretended to be my close friend for years while screwing him, but because she’s a violent person herself (long history of violence against her exes), as long as he only hits other people, not her, she’s ok with it. He provides her with drugs, so the fact that he’s ugly, broke and a jerk, doesn’t matter to her.

    But for me… I had no idea of his history with women. He kept me believing for a long time that he had a wonderful personality and good values – I had no idea at all it was act that he used to lure women in.

    Some men you can tell are assholes right up, other guys you can’t. Other guys put on a huge act of being loving and caring to sucker women. Few are as skilled as my ex though. With most of the guys who are jerks but fake being nice, you can sense, but you do get a few really gifted ones like my ex who can scam anyone – and it’s not just relationships. He’ll scam anyone he can for anything he can. Money, relationships, sex…. he’ll find a way to con anyone for anything. Most people can’t sense someone who is so practiced at scamming.

    Most assholes I can pick up – far better than the average person, but he fooled me big time.

    I’ve learnt a few lessons from it – if you want to find out what sort of character a person has, look at those around them. You can’t judge a person by their friends, but it gives a fairly good indicator. My ex’s friends were mainly junkies who thought cheating and violence against women was a good thing, the brother-in-law my ex praised as being a good husband and loving father he knew was bashing his wife and kids and had cheated on his wife many times, his sister is ok with wifebashing as long as she’s not the victim and knew about his affairs and helped hide them, his mum was his dad’s mistress and his sister and half brother were born just two weeks apart, and his exgirlfriends were mostly skanks. But I didn’t know must about his family and exes until after we were married.

    This time around, I’ve had a relationship before marriage to make sure my fiancee isn’t hiding some character flaw, I’ve got to know his friends and family – actually, I’ve known his family and some of his friends even longer than I’ve known him, and I’ve interacted with them for over a decade, I know his family and friends are good upstanding citizens who go out of their way to be caring people, and so on.

    I mean sure, he could still turn out to be a jerk – you never know until you actually get married what a person is truly like – even when people live together for years, they still change at least a little after they actually get officially married.

    The reality is women CAN’T sense the biggest jerks. The reason they are such big jerks is they sucker women into thinking they are kind and caring and only when they feel they have the woman trapped, whether it be marriage or pregnancy, do they show their true colours.

    And it goes both ways. My ex has got his just desserts, trapped by a cheating abuser, because she deliberately got herself pregnant (after claiming she was infertile) and claims the baby is his. He’s already lost one child (two if you count the one he killed, bashing me while pregnant), knowing he’s not going to get another chance to be part of our daughter’s life because she hates him for blowing her off to spend time with his lovers during the weekends he was supposed to spend with her, he’s too ashamed to walk away from another child – not because he cares about the kid, but there is no way future victims of his attempts to get into their pants won’t believe that it’s all the women’s fault why he’s walked away from two kids. At the moment he can get away with lying and claiming I cut him off from our daughter – it’s not true, but it’s an easy lie to believe – but he doesn’t think women will believe the same thing happened a second time, if he walks away from this kid too.

    But not problem. I find it sad that he’s now has exactly what he deserves – stuck with a woman who is an even bigger violent, cheating asshole – I actually feel great pity for him. But sometimes karma catches up with people.

    But seriously…. most women cannot sense an asshole. If a guy pretends to be loving and caring, most women will take it at face value until he gives her a reason to believe otherwise – usually by which time, they feel trapped into the relationship. And it happens with men being suckered by female jerks – bad people are just extra good at hiding their true nature.

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  1. […] If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet I encourage you to check it out. It’s fairly long so takes a bit to get through, but is well worth the read. I’ve read it a few times already and it provoked new thoughts for me each time (there’s also a nice response by Mike Dunn on the Good Men Project titled “All the Single Men.” […]

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