Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Confirmed Bachelor Syndrome:" My Take

I'm married, and have been for about three decades. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm also going to be 60 this year: which means I'm one of those men who didn't get married until his late 20s.

That's not uncommon in America these days. Folks are getting married later than they were when I was in my teens - and the average age of marriage was on its way up then.

Confirmed Bachelors: an Op-Ed

I'll get back to why I got married when I did after, after sharing what I found on the CNA (Catholic News Agency) website:
I think Mr. Buono made some good points - and may have been a bit optimistic about what folks can experience. I'll get back to that, too. He's not an 'armchair expert,' though: he's married, has seven children and is, among other things, the founder and president of That's the website where my second-oldest daughter found her husband. He'd been married before - he and his first wife met on Those two would be married today, except she got cancer and died.

Like I said, it's possible to be a bit optimistic about what folks can experience.

Now, the reasons Mr. Buono gave for guys not marrying, with a short quote from each section:
  1. Lost with no direction
    • "...The confirmed bachelor is an excuse maker, waiting for God to speak directly to him in words of direction. He knows these won't come, but it sure helps him justify his indecision...."
  2. Why buy the cow when I can get the milk for free?
    • "...The confirmed bachelor is only unmarried, in my view, specifically because he is able to have sex without the marriage commitment. If men couldn't get sex, they would get married...."
  3. Taking your sweet time
    • "...Men have time. Women do not. Men can get married at whatever age and still have children. Women have precious little fertility time, which typically ends sometime in their 40's...."
  4. Blame the finances
    • "...A confirmed bachelor is not too anxious to take on the responsibility of being the head of the household and breadwinner. He feels it is an old-fashioned notion for men to provide in a single income family...."
  5. Hot or Not: looking for love in all the wrong places
    • "...A confirmed bachelor is one who will never make the commitment to marriage because he just doesn't need to. He can satisfy every selfish need without having to live an unselfish life of sacrifice for another or others...."

Confirmed Bachelors and the Rest of Us

I think it's important to note the Mr. Buono identified the list as his "top 5 symptoms of confirmed bachelor syndrome." He also used the phrase "confirmed bachelor" in points #1, 2, 4, and 5. He's probably aware that there's a difference between a man who hasn't gotten married because he doesn't want to - and a man who's been unsuccessful in finding a woman to marry.

I recommend reading the column, and generally agree with what Mr. Buono said. But I've also got a word or twenty about each of the five points.

#1 - Lost with no direction

I'm not entirely clear on how a confirmed bachelor is supposed to know that God won't "speak directly to him in words of direction." I'll grant that the odds are very, very low: but certain knowledge? Never mind.

I was pretty close to being in this class. Not that I was waiting for a sort of 'burning bush' experience.

I wanted to be married, but by the time I hit my teens, I'd been used in a medical experiment, and was dealing with undiagnosed major depression plus ADD-inattentive (or Aspergers, or something else)1 That made dealing with other people a little more interesting than it is, I gather, for most men. Then, in my twenties, a woman I cared for very much killed herself.

One thing about my life: boring, it's not.

Back to Mr. Buono's column.

Remember, Mr. Buono emphasized that he was discussing the "confirmed bachelor." He almost certainly realizes that all men who are not married, and not a priest or monk, are "confirmed bachelors." This sentence seems to confirm that assumption:
"...All men should pursue marriage until they get a call to serve God and His people as a celibate priest, religious or single man...."
(Anthony Buono)
One thing that Mr. Buono may not have had in mind when identifying a man's options as being married, a priest, a monk, or a celibate single, is that a remarkable number of men in America aren't Catholic.

I wasn't, until after I'd married. No, I didn't join the Church to keep peace in the house. I've discussed my conversion before.

#2 - Why Buy the Cow...

I didn't think in these terms - but I had a hard time sorting out reality from assumptions I found in America's culture, in the benign but incomplete values I learned in the nice mainstream Protestant church my parents attended, and in the weird assertions of Bible-thumpers.

I think Mr. Buono may assume that women who trade sex for dinner and a movie, or think they're obligated to perform for anyone who asks them, are somewhat better informed than they are.

It would, I think, take a remarkable individual to extract a coherent philosophy from the ethical vacuum many of us live in. And that's another topic.

#3 Taking your sweet time

Mr. Buono describes the impression left by a man over 40 who's looking for a woman under 30. In this case, ignorance may really be bliss.
"...Women much younger are creeped out by these much older men approaching them (there are exceptions, but they are just that....exceptions)...."
(Anthony Buono)
I can attest to that, by the way. My wife is about seven years younger than I am - and I could have easily passed for her father. I started going bald in my teens, and that's yet another topic.

#4 Blame the finances

Some men, even in America, probably do not have the financial resources to support a family. Really.

I might have been a bit more acid than Mr. Buono, with this point.

Having enough resources to provide your family with a roof, four walls, heat in the winter, a source of clean water, clothing, and food year-round: that's necessary.

Having enough resources for a sports car, a vacation home, skiing in Vail, and the occasional pleasure cruise? Nothing wrong with any of that - but it's not necessary. (Catechism, 2424, 2535-2540, for starters)

#5 Hot or Not: looking for love in all the wrong places

This is one of the five points that does not describe me. No bragging or false modesty. I was, and am, something of a nerd - and was interested in girls and women who used their heads for something besides a platform for hair and makeup.

Besides, the cost/benefit ratio was so far out of whack that I puzzled over why some men did bother with the high-end models.

And yes, I know what that phrase implies.

Men, Women, and Getting a Grip

Mr. Buono ends with advice for women, and for men. First, women:
"...this is a list of symptoms of Confirmed Bachelor Syndrome. Many men who do have the syndrome are curable. So no ladies, all men are NOT pigs, nor are they purposely trying to hurt you. They do not need your anger, bashing, or condemnation. They need your prayers, kindness, gentleness, and understanding. And they need you to do your part to not enable them...."
(Anthony Buono) [emphasis mine]
On the other hand, some men with "Confirmed Bachelor Syndrome" won't change. Or don't, at any rate. In my opinion. At some point, I suggest that a woman recognize that marriage won't solve the jerk's problems, cut her losses, and run.

Now, what Mr. Buono has to say to men:
"...hang in there. Be humble. Recognize these things, wake up, and realize the error of your ways. Ask for the grace of conversion...."
(Anthony Buono)
There's more, and I think he's right.

Somewhat-related posts:

Update (June 10, 2011)
I failed to include an important set of links to the Catechism's discussion of marriage, in 'Background,' below. Those links are now included.
Background, in Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1 See:


Brigid said...

This is just awkward: "Describing what a man over 40 who's looking for a woman under 30, Mr. Buono gives this reality check"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. So, ah, what's the difference between a confirmed bachelor and a celibate single? I've looked it up and aside from also being a euphemism for 'homosexual' it just means a man who never married and/or never showed interest in marrying. Doesn't that mean that someone can be both a confirmed bachelor and a celibate single?

Brian Gill said...


About that awkward sentence. Agreed. Also, changed.

Re. P.S. - For Mr. Buono, in this column, a "confirmed bachelor" is someone exhibiting "Confirmed Bachelor Syndrome."

Which, if I understand what he wrote correctly, is a cluster of attitudes and beliefs held by a man who never married or showed interest in marrying because he didn't want the responsibilities and commitments that go along with marriage - and did like the 'free lunch' approach to dealing with women.

There are men like that, sadly: with a quite normal interest in women, but - in my opinion - severe deficits in character.

Mr. Buono does list single persons living 'within the rules' as an acceptable vocation. Which is, as I understand it, in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I think he might have made the distinctions between a responsible single and someone with CBS clearer - but his column might then have been as long as one of my posts. ;)

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