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Jewish World Review August 28, 2000 / 27 Menachem-Av, 5760

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports

TIME celebrates single women -- TIME, which must give up the pretense of being a news magazine, had a cover story last week ("Who Needs a Husband?") celebrating single women. The feminists at Time are gratified to see that a trend they and their media sisters have nurtured for decades is bearing fruit pleasing to their palates.

The story is illustrated with a picture of those thirtysomething babes from the HBO series "Sex and the City" -- as if this show is any more representative of single women than HBO's "The Sopranos" is an accurate portrait of Italian-Americans.

To give it a journalistic air, the article is seeded with statistics. In 1997, 65 percent of women ages 25 to 55 were married, compared to 83 percent in 1963. Today, two out of five business travelers are women. Last year, unmarried women accounted for 20 percent of home sales, nearly double the figure of 15 years ago.

More to the point, single women feel no drive to marry, Time tells us. In one survey, only 34 percent said that if "Mr. Perfect" didn't come along they'd settle for Mr. Human.

This reminds me of a parable my grandmother used to tell of a woman who wandered the world looking for the ideal man. When at last she found him, he was searching for the ideal woman.

"Single by choice -- it's an empowering statement for many women," the magazine exalted. Single women are sassy, spunky, livin' life and lovin' it. They have high-powered careers, exotic vacations, financial security, and a live-in lover or a fling here and there. Who could ask for anything more? The ladies Time presents to illustrate its point are a all career women (no toll-booth attendants, sales clerks or overworked waitresses here). One is the a director of a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., with "a gorgeous Capitol Hill townhouse, trips all over the world and a silver blue BMW roadster."

To be sure, and the typical single man looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ, summers on Martha's Vineyard and races sports cars when he isn't dating super models.

For the past 30 years, feminists in academia have instructed young women in the virtues of independence and folly of subjugation to men. Feminists in prime-time television filled their heads with visions of the solo good life. Whenever commentators mentioned Donna Reed, it was with a sneer. ("You don't have to be the appendage of a man. You're a person, da-n it!")

Feminists in the news media reported on how women were getting along without Him very well. It was total cultural immersion, which created an overwhelming impression in impressionable young women: Men are unreliable.

Women don't need marriage for fulfillment. In fact, traditional marriage is suffocating.

Given this cultural conditioning, it isn't surprising that fewer and fewer women, and men, are marrying. Is that good for them? More importantly, is it good for society?

There was a time when people felt an obligation to wed. Marriage signified membership in the club of grown-ups. Adults are responsible for others -- spouses and children. Yuppie singles-by-choice are big kids with expensive toys.

Marriage was seen as a commitment to the future -- an acknowledgment that the world will go on after us and we have a role to play in assuring its continuation.

Time had a long and laudatory companion piece on solo parenting ("Mom on Her Own"). But eight years after "Murphy Brown," and after a wealth of data on the risks we run in raising children without fathers, does anyone outside the media still believe that this is a salutary trend?

The Bible admonishes a man to leave his parents and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Marriage is more than a partnership and more than companionship, though both are important.

Marriage is a land that singles can only glimpse, like passengers on a ship within sight of, but still far from, shore. It's a kiss in the morning and a hug on coming home in the evening. It's knowing that someone knows you as well as any other person can. It's going through life joined at the heart.

The alternative is a pre-packaged, single-serving life. Perhaps HBO will favor us with a more realistic spin-off of the Sarah Jessica Parker series -- "Sex and the City at Age 50 -- or, Let Me Tell You About My Cat."

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate