Reader L.M. comments on the outrage at the latest feminist-pundit trend: Whining about the actresses and songstresses who are choosing to get married and pregnant when they’re in their early 20s (see the Mailbag for Aug. 19 and these columns by Carol E. Lee and Cheryl-Ann Millsap). Cases in point: pregnant Britney Spears, mother-of-two Reese Whitherspoon (married at age 23), and newly engaged Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton. The supposed problem: Age 23–or 20, 21, 22, 24, and 25–is way too young to have a baby, and the babe-bearing Hollywood babes are Setting a Bad Example.

L.M. writes:

“I can think of another reason for starting a family young: when your kids have grown up and moved out, you’ll still be fairly young, too.

“However, the very successful singers and actresses you mentioned are different from most of their young fans in one important way: They have a Plan B in case their marriages don’t work out. They have already built careers. They’ve lived independent lives for years. They did, I assume, enter their marriages with lots of cash and credit in their own names, which no husband has any claim to.”

True enough (and undoubtedly a good idea for Hollywood celebrities, whose marriages almost always go the Brad ‘n’ Jen route). And I’m not saying that women young or old ought not to try to make mature decisions about the men who will become the fathers of their children.

What I’m saying is: Why, after centuries in which people in their twenties were regarded as young adults perfectly capable of choosing suitable spouses and raising familes do we suddenly deem these people unready for adult responsibilities? Why are healthy and normal urges to mate and bring new life into the world suddenly regarded as sick and abnormal? Why do we now expect young adults to spend a decade or more after college drifting in perpetual adolescence and pointless “relationships” until at least some of them become too cynical to “commit” and some of the rest too old to conceive? I can’t speak for Britney Spears (and I wouldn’t want to), but it’s not surprising that some young women have decided to cut to the chase and get what they want sooner rather than later.