Recently, I picked up an unrepentant chick-lit book called Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married. The basic premise is that a woman, Lucy, who isn't even dating anyone goes with her friends to a psychic who tells her she'll be married in a year. Her friends' fortunes come true, so Lucy starts believing that hers might as well. (Yes, it's silly.) I'm finding, that like "Cougartown", what I expect to be offensive about something is often not at all the thing that ends up offending me. While I expected to be offended about byzantine ideas of sex and romance, what bothered me more was that the vast majority of characters were gross stereotypes of every kind possible. However, I'm not done with the book (it's absurdly long), so there might be byzantine ideas of sex and romance still to come.
At any rate, I'm glad that no man will ever read this book, because between its pink covers is a manifestation of what I am told men fear most about women: That we view every man we meet as a potential husband. True, it's germane to the particular plot of this book. And true, it can't be said that all women do this, and I would wager that the number is lower among asexual women. However, this is one stereotype that I won't argue with...much. I still remember when I told a friend about a huge crush I had on a certain guy years ago. It hadn't even been established whether he reciprocated my feelings or not, but my friend said, "I've met his parents and they'd be great in-laws". Maybe we haven't taken it to that degree, but I think most women have had similar marriage-minded thoughts about men they barely know at some point or another. Following is my attempt at an explanation.
Like so many other strange things that women do, I think this phenomenon can largely be attributed to the double-standard that women are subjected to; the most well-known one being "He's a stud, she's a slut" for being promiscuous. As people, we're told to be goal-oriented. Go for what you want! Visualize success! But when we get off work and commence the romance mission, we're suddenly supposed to go with the flow. Take it as it comes! Don't scare the guys away! True, there are many books marketed to us that advise women to see finding a husband similarly to the way a detective stakes out a house. However, I would argue that this tactic might indeed scare the guys away and defeat your purpose.
From an early age, we've grown up with girls tittering about how their names would look attached to some boy's. Maybe for a few of us, this was a genuine interest. However, I believe that since this interest was a more socially condoned one than, say, science (and noooo, I don't have personal experience with this at allllll), the practice spread to most of us. And gossiping about your glorious future with boys can make science look like a lonely life compared to all the fun the other girls seem to be having, with their bonding, giggling and trying at being "mature". So maybe that's part of it-- a method of female bonding through peer pressure, where it hardly seems to matter what particular boys or men are involved.
I think these premature thoughts about marriage might also be a holdover from an earlier time, which does imply that we might not be doing it forever, unless our old motives have simply been replaced by new ones. I know that in Jane Austen books, women were supposed to be enthusiastic about unions with men they hardly knew. It's a relatively new thing, being able to spend a lot of time with a man who isn't a relation and who you might not end up marrying. But we have yet to start acting like times have really changed. How's that for a byzantine idea? No offense to anyone from Byzantium.