I was tired of being the single person at every party, not having someone to go to weddings with,” says Jane Harnick. “We’re not meant to go through life alone. And my friends said to me that people who want to get married get married.”
A 41-year-old manager of photography production for Ralph Lauren, Jane is sitting in her one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side, surrounded by her family: husband Adam Freifeld, with his shaved head, and 10-month-old daughter Roxie. Her mother, the actress Barbara Barrie, wanders in from the kitchen and sits down on the sofa, tucking her feet under Vinnie, Adam’s shepherd-Lab mix.
Less than three years ago, Jane was living in this apartment alone. There was no husband here, no baby, and definitely no dog—Jane hated dogs and considered them a deal-breaker for men she dated. But by the age of 37, Jane felt like she had become a walking “Cathy” cartoon: serially dumped by emotionally unavailable guys, about to age out of her own fertility, and becoming “tough,” says her mother. (“It was all the rejection,” responds Jane.)
So when Jane’s mother noodged her to attend a dating seminar, she went. And this time, she decided to treat her search for a family as a project. She even set a deadline: If she didn’t find the right guy by the time she was 38, she was going to have a child on her own.
“I said I’d help her,” says Barbara.
Every night, Jane sat at her computer, sometimes until three in the morning, e-mailing every remotely promising-looking guy on J Date. “I totally blitzed it,” she says. “I would say to myself, ‘One more page, one more page,’ until I got back to the beginning.”
She began going on two to three dates a week. Then she had a picnic with Adam, a 37-year-old PR director for ABC Sports. Four years out of a divorce, he was living alone with his dog in a studio in the East Nineties. “He brought the right kind of food,” Jane remembers. “Hummus, bread, and cheese. Mangoes and avocado salad. I was impressed. I asked him if he wanted to have kids. I didn’t want to beat around the bush.”
“Right after we met we stopped using birth control,” says Jane.
“After you met?” exclaims Barbara. She turns to Adam.
“But you hadn’t asked her to marry you yet!”
“We weren’t actively trying to get pregnant. We were, like, if it happens, it happens,” says Adam.
Seven months later, in November, Adam—and his dog—moved in to Jane’s place. By February, they were engaged. And in October 2005, Jane walked down the aisle eight months pregnant in a size 46 white stretch jersey dress. Roxie was born two months later.
“I was basically as single as can be,” says Adam. “Living in a classic dumpy bachelor pad, dating a lot, and really wanting to meet somebody. I was lonely. I wanted somebody in my life and I absolutely wanted to be a father. But I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted. And then I met Jane.”
“In a perfect world, I wish we had more time alone before she was born,” Jane says. “We’re so busy and tired, it’s hard to find time for each other.” But her days of feeling like a fifth wheel are over. “Now the baby goes down at seven, Adam and I have dinner, and we go to bed. I’m thrilled!”
SETTLING: A LOVE STORY
It’s a truism that everything moves faster in New York—everything, that is, except relationships, those one-step-forward-two-steps-back negotiations, eternally bumped down on our list of priorities. Now a subset of the generation that has put off marriage is changing the way they make families. Anxious not to miss out on domestic life, they are speeding into life’s next act in less than two years; sometimes in just a few months. It’s a defiantly pragmatic approach to a decision many people tiptoe into slowly. But those who take the leap say that they are not merely settling, that old-fashioned term for jumping at the first decent marital option. For them, a superfast courtship—and subsequent insta-family—just makes good sense. It’s an attitude a bit more akin to arranged marriage, except that the bride and the groom are the ones doing the arranging.
Of course, there’s nothing new about people getting marriage-minded as they age. Career-focused urbanites have long delayed settling down, and, despite advances in fertility technology, there’s a limit to how long women can delay childbearing. But we’re living in an unusually conflicted time, maritally speaking. On the one hand, this is a family-obsessed era: There’s been a spike in the number of women choosing to stay home with their kids rather than work; the reproductive habits of female celebrities are tracked obsessively by the paparazzi; and on television, shows like Bridezilla and The Bachelor revolve around the notion that a wedding ring is the ultimate prize, one that any woman would willingly humiliate herself to win.