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Jewish World Review August 31, 2000/ 30 Menachem-Av, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Dudettes that don't --
THERE ARE WORSE things than being alone. Being married to the wrong person, for instance, which is why increasing numbers of women -- and consequently, men -- are taking a pass on matrimony. Why, given today's plethora of lifestyle options, would anyone marry?

Good question, according to women like Debra DeLee, 52, who's featured in Time magazine as a prototypical single-by-choice woman. There she is, resplendent in her BMW convertible, smiling with the D.C. skyline in the background. She's got a great job, a boyfriend in another town, her own home, her own space.

For what, exactly, does this woman need marriage? A house full of leaky kids, dirty laundry and a man who hasn't mastered the concept of wet-towel/towel bar?

No thanks, say a growing number of American women, more than 40 percent of whom are single, according to the Census Bureau. Thanks to career opportunities, shifts in societal attitudes toward women as workers and consumers, and fewer sidewise glances when a woman says, "I don't," women don't have to say "I do" unless they really, really want to.

Increasingly, they don't. Instead, women in today's mating marketplace can afford to be choosy. ...

(But) they're the little detail(s) that keeps creeping onto the edge of the screen, messing up this otherwise breezy image of the beemer-chardonnay-open-road life.

For though many unmarried women don't want an imperfect man, they do want a perfect family. Increasingly, single women are opting for single motherhood, much to the confusion of women who have actually been single mothers. Sperm banks, technology and generous male friends make impregnation easier than ever, if not nearly as much fun.

At last count, as many as 32 percent of births are to unmarried women, most often, and dramatically, to college-educated career women rather than to oops-teenagers. Such pregnancies, once considered scandalous, today rarely raise an eyebrow.

Maybe we can live without the scandal, but can children really live without fathers? The answer is, "yes, we can, and no, they shouldn't."

The reasons are too lengthy to itemize here, and too obvious to need listing. Ask a father, if you must, but don't ask a fatherless child. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, he -- like the mother who bred him -- doesn't know any better.

Interview a 12-year-old who has never had a father, as Time did, and he may say there's no difference whatsoever, and we remain unenlightened. What do we expect? If you've never tasted pizza, it's easy not to miss it. We might, however, want to avoid creating family attitudes on the precocious testimonials of children.

If we believe, and we seem to, that human beings are composed of two parts -- male and female -- in varying degrees, then we might assume that the influences of both are necessary to the nurturance and development of a complete adult. Meanwhile, the family unit, for all its flaws and dysfunctions, is still the foundation upon which societies rise or fall.

Curiously, mothers seem never to doubt their own importance to their child's development, yet easily ignore the value of a father's contribution. In a more natural world -- absent technology, sperm banks and generous male friends -- children would have dads, even though their moms might wind up with imperfect husbands.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
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11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
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10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
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09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
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09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
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07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
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06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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