This was it, and it was her life; it was everything.
Wendy left her marriage at age forty, surprising everyone - -including Ben, her shut-down, emotion-avoidant Drama King. She is now happily single, running the trust and estates division of the bank at which she's worked for twenty years. She is closer, now, to her two grown children. She says, as if to reassure me, that it's possible she would consider sharing her home with someone again but that she's in no hurry because she's happier than she's ever been.
I'd spent years hearing stories about the transformation of women into wives, and now I was hearing about the transformation of wives into women. And their stepping stones? Drama Kings.
I watch this sea change in awe. We've gone from the time when women placed relationships, no matter how bad, first above all else, to a time when they express surprise and joy at odd-shaped, unscripted lives in which they feel complete even without an overweening love interest. That women today are on another beat, led by a drummer from a wild new rhythm section that's quite different from the one that used to move them, is borne out by research. Girls have powered ahead startlingly. Girls are surpassing boys at every level in undergraduate and graduate schools. Women, who became the majority of American college students more than twenty years ago, now make up fifty-seven percent of college students. According to Newsweek, they also get more out of college: They're more likely to study abroad, join in activities like community service, and seek counseling for problems. They are less likely to transfer, drop out, or even commit suicide than their male college classmates. As recently as the 1970s, men tended to "marry down" educationally; today, with women who receive bachelor's and master's degrees surpassing the number of men who do -- a trend presumed to continue, according to the National Center for Education Statistics -- wives may soon routinely be more highly educated than their mates. This trend, according to Elaina Rose, PhD, associate professor of economics at the University of Washington in Seattle, also reverses what's called hypergamy, in which the most highly educated women were left most often without husbands. Today, according to Dr. Rose, "the rate at which men marry up is about equal to the rate at which women marry up."
There are now twice as many women ages twenty to thirty-four in the work force as there were in 1970, and their financial assets are expected to rise dramatically in the coming years. Surveys vary as to how many men now have women partners who are the sole breadwinners, but some say as many as one in five. Although women still make seventy-six cents to men's dollar, a huge percentage of wealth is in women's hands: Forty-three percent of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are women. The annual income in households headed by women grew twenty-nine percent from 1993 to 2000 -- the biggest jump among all households. The Securities Industry Association estimates that 220,000 women head households with incomes of more than $100,000, a number expected to double by 2010, when they'll control more than $1 trillion in assets.