Men are starting to think it’s sexy for women to outearn them. How this seemingly small change may rewrite the rules of marriage
Like Angell, many other women living the new gender economics always expected to be financially independent or even dominant. When Rebecca Saletan, a 52-year-old New York publishing executive, met her husband, now a high school English teacher, he was a freelance writer-editor, actor and musician. Saletan has outearned her mate from day one, and it was he who stayed at home with their twin daughters when they were small. “I’ve always been attached to my career,” she says. “That’s how I’m wired. I had my first job when I was 15, and I was used to paying my own way; for me that was the path to freedom. I made more money than anyone I ever dated.”
Saletan acknowledges her luck in being able to trade a little less money for a much better quality of life. “I’m painfully aware that we’re in the upper point-whatever percent of the economy,” she says. But with all the basics taken care of, having her kids looked after by their adoring father and coming home to a fabulous meal at the end of her workday were better than having a lot more money in the bank.
Thanks to the options offered by -remarriage, even some women raised in the old gender economics are now experiencing the pleasures of the new. Mandy Aftel, 64, remembers being told as a girl that “you absolutely needed to get married—and to a breadwinner. If you didn’t, you failed.” It was only in her thirties, after she divorced a wealthy doctor, that Aftel focused more on her own work as a psychotherapist; eventually she became the founder of a natural--fragrance company in Berkeley, California. Independence was heady. “I liked knowing I could take care of myself,” she says. “I wanted the creative, independent and involved life, not so much the money that went with the life.”
Three years ago, she married a man 12 years her junior. When he lost his job (as a geophysicist) in the crash of 2008, Aftel hired him as head of operations. It wasn’t a decision that either made lightly. “He’s a techie, he’s thorough, he’s smart at dealing with people, and he’s a mensch,” she says. “But it’s my business, and I run the show here. He jokes that he’s Prince Albert to my Victoria, and he’s fine with that.”