Not just women are worried about being spinster cat ladies. Some men also wonder if they'll be 50 and living only with their kitty pal. / Christina Dicken, (Springfield, Mo.) News-Leader
PHOENIX - When Larissa Faw interviews young women for stories on Forbes.com, she mostly focuses on their lives in the workplace.
She writes about how women in the millennial generation are devoted to their careers, working 12-hour days, giving up serious relationships and even pets in exchange for the freedom "to hustle and make money and be independent and strong and do it for themselves."
But in the next breath, there's this:
"We're headed for a whole bunch of spinster cat ladies out there. We're all moving to Sun City, and it will be The Golden Girls all over again," said Faw, who works in New York City.
She's only half joking: She counts herself among the group of hard workers and future singletons.
But it's not just women who talk this way.
Charles Goffnett, 31, starts his day at 6:30 a.m., and even when he's back at home here by 10 p.m., he has his laptop out, working on his custom T-shirt business, Brand X. That's what he plans to do today, even though it's Valentine's Day.
"But I don't want to be that guy who blinks and is suddenly 50 and lives alone and has a cat," Goffnett said. "I don't want to settle, and I do want to be with someone, so I do have to date. And I have to be out there looking for someone."
Raised to be goal oriented, conspicuously busy and accustomed to instant gratification, some in the millennial generation are trading traditional dating for career advancement.
They're not necessarily sure they're doing the right thing. They just don't know what else would be more ... productive.
That's their language of love - a vocabulary more boardroom than bedroom: maximizing benefits, minimizing compromise, establishing efficiencies and building value.
Of the generation of Americans born from 1982 to 2003, roughly 46 million are now working age, 18 or older. And especially among the third of those who are in or have gone to college, "the hookup" - not traditional dating - has long been the dominant form of romance.
The hookup can encompass everything from a make-out session to sex, with little to no planning.
For this generation, the hookup continues after college gives way to a career. Men and women now marry older than ever; men at 28.7 on average, women at 26.5, according to a 2012 study from IHS Global Insight.
Millennials are marrying at half the rate of their parent's generation, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center report. Just 21% have exchanged vows.
That prolonged lack of commitment fits the millennial mind-set, according to Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, a 2012 book on female ascendency.
"They want relationships, and ones that are satisfying emotionally and sexually and probably fun," Rosin said in an email interview. "But not ones that are on a path to marriage and might restrict their options."
Raised to study to the test, to volunteer with one eye on college applications and to play the sport with the most scholarship opportunities, Millennials carry that competitive mind-set into the workforce, said Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University in Boston.
"They feel like they need to take advantage of every opportunity they have for advancement," Levine said. "You're not going to get tied down to someone you just sort of happen to know at this point in your life. It feels like a risk, and there's a cost for that."
So, hookups start to seem like an "efficient way" to fit sex into a busy life, said Donna Freitas, author of The End of Sex that comes out April 2.
"Young people are learning to overschedule their lives," said Freitas, an assistant professor of religion at Boston University. "The hookup fits into the go-go-go, do-do-do mentality, and technology exacerbates this."
Barbara Teszler, 27, works in public relations and compares it to her interactions with men.
She generalizes that everyone is trying to get ahead - asking what the other person can deliver, what can be gained by investing in him.
"I believe you can't have it all at once. So, I have to make choices," said Teszler, who owns a firm in Santa Monica, Calif.
'Cutting your losses'
Those choices mean that, for now, marriage and children are not a priority, and she doesn't necessarily see either in her future.
Still, she wants a relationship with a man - just one that isn't time-consuming.
"I'm not looking for something that concrete, like a sure thing," she said. "But I'm not going to date someone who says there's no future at all."
So, she'll hang out with a guy twice before she decides to see him again, evaluating the things that matter to her: education, career prospects, ties to family.
Then, if she doesn't see it going anywhere, she moves on.
"I believe in cutting your losses," she said. She even unfriends old boyfriends on Facebook, citing emotional "efficiency."
Regardless of how hard millennials say they're working, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans are working only a few minutes longer on any given day than they did in 2003. Instead, experts say, the all-work perception has to do with young people's mind-set.
"These people are passionate about work. It's part of who they are," said Todd Mitchem of Denver, who specializes in workplace-culture transitions for Fortune 500 companies with the firm Eagle's Flight.
"They're comfortable sending emails at 10, 11 o'clock at night. They don't think about a work-life balance. It's all the same thing."
Instead of committing herself to one person, Manhattan's Jessica Massa said women in her generation need to look for "ambiguous sparks."
"You now have all these other connections, all these types of people who fill other roles in your life," said Massa, 29, who wrote the book The Gaggle that details how to spot potential chemistry and recommends seeing a hookup as a possible way to get into a committed relationship.
"I think that the more people are looking around, friendships with a little bit of gray area can turn into relationships, but just a little slower than they used to," she said.
When she was 31, Andrea Lavinthal was shocked to find herself hooking up after a breakup. The style director at People.com had written The Hookup Handbook years earlier but thought she had outgrown the habit.
Instead, Lavinthal had seen a man in her building's laundry room and, after learning from the doorman that he was single, straight and employed, left him a note with her number, even as she was casually seeing other men.
"When he did call me, for the first six months, it was a hookup relationship," said Lavinthal, now 33. "We never went anywhere, we just hung out at home. I mean, we lived in the same building.
"And ... the minute it felt like it wasn't working, I was direct and up-front and told him what I wanted." They now share not just a building, but an apartment.
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Read the original story: Experts: Young people prioritizing careers over romance