- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

The alarm first went out in 1986: Newsweek magazine said single women age 40 and older were more apt to be killed by a terrorist than to get married. . Seventeen years later, the number of terrorists have vastly increased as have single women. Percentages of single women in all age categories have skyrocketed.
About one-third of the total adult population some 77 million Americans aged 20 and over are unmarried. Forty-seven million of them (26 million men and 21 million women) have never married.
Culture-trend watcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, best known for her April 1993 "Dan Quayle Was Right" article in the Atlantic Monthly on behalf of two-parent families, says women have to work harder.
"I found a lot of women didn't think about it until they were 28, 29 or 30, because they felt that when they were ready, the men would be ready, too," she says. "They didn't realize it would take some sort of focused effort to find men who are suitable."
Church and family the traditional institutions that once helped in finding a mate are now irrelevant, she says, because parents live too far apart from their unmarried offspring to be of much help.
As for churches, "They'd be great places if men ever flocked to them," but they don't. Other venues, such as the casual party, also often come up short.
"There's a lack of leisure time in our society where people had parties where people could be introduced to each other," she says. "The whole etiquette of socializing has declined, I think, which is a key part of meeting new people.
"Women are expected to take the romantic initiative these days. This was once a male responsibility, but now the men hang back and wait for the women to make the first overture. Although proposals of marriage can come from either the woman or the man, it should be the male prerogative to take the initiative."
Many people agree, such as the Rev. Brett Fuller, pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Herndon.
"I don't know what's wrong with men today," he said in a recent sermon. "Maybe I found the finest woman on the planet [to marry]. But I know there are other daughters of Eve who are worthy of marriage. I don't know what you single men are waiting for.
"You waiting for the perfect woman? The right one with the right skin complexion, the right height, the right voice intonation, the right job? When that person comes, God loves that person too much to give her to you.
"You better take what you can get," he said to laughter from the congregation. "You're getting too old. Listen: 45-, 50-, 60-year-old single men are strange human beings after a little bit. Yes they are, yes they are. You better hurry up and get on with it."
Romantic disappointment has emerged as a generational theme, says Mrs. Whitehead, whose latest book, "Why There Are No Good Men Left," was fueled by the difficulties her daughters, ages 33 and 34, have encountered in finding mates. In tandem with her research for the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, she found many men who didn't want to commit to marriage and many women who did.
"There are good men," she says, "but it's very difficult to find them when you don't have a courtship or mating system that fits the contemporary woman's timetable," which is to secure an undergraduate and graduate degree plus a earn her niche in the marketplace.
"With women my age, it was common to look for a husband among the college-age population, where you found a lot of never-married, similarly matched young men," says Mrs. Whitehead, 58. "College is still a select pool today, but it's not the time most of them feel it's the time to marry and settle down."
In the meantime, women settle for "relationships" that invariably mean living with men who may not want to marry them, much less help them conceive children. Instead, women need to insist on a new courtship system "that respects a woman's biological and time clocks," she says.
Mrs. Whitehead's book refrains from criticizing cohabitation; it is a lifestyle one-quarter of all single women ages 25 to 39 engage in. More than half of these unions eventually lead to marriage. But several surveys, including two from Yale University and the University of Wisconsin, have shown such marriages are 50 percent to 80 percent more likely to break up, compared to couples who did not live together before marriage.
"If you are a marriage-minded woman, you might want to think carefully about any cohabiting partnership you get into," she says.
"In my interviews with women who had cohabited, it amazed me how casually they went into it. They never asked the men where they wanted to go and whether they wanted marriage. The women assumed it would lead to marriage and they were terribly surprised and shocked to learn that was not his idea.
"Cohabitation is a notorious time-waster if your goal is marriage. And cohabiting men get the advantages of marriage without having to make the commitment."
Janice Shaw Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, a conservative Washington-based think tank, suggests that instead of a new courtship method, singles need to return to older methods that worked.
"There is a dearth of romance for women," she says. "Women are missing out on a very important part of young adulthood that you dress up to go out and be treated as something special.
"The popularity of the bachelorette shows on TV shows women want to be courted. They want to dress up and get flowers. Women want to be pursued. They want a man who's interested in them and wants him to show them he is."
But the culture has emasculated men, she says, to the point where would-be suitors don't know whether to become the sensitive male, like actor Alan Alda, or revert to behaving like Conan the Barbarian.
"We still do not have a set of men who are capable and comfortable with strong, accomplished women," she says. "There's a quote: 'If we are going to have a new kind of woman, we need a new kind of man.' And that's where the glitch is. We don't have that kind of man."
Others like author Danielle Crittenden, whose 1999 book, "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us," puts the onus on women for staying single into their 30s say it's up to the woman to make sure the knot gets tied early on. The movie "My Best Friend's Wedding," where the man dumps his old flame, Julia Roberts, 28, for a 20-year-old, played by Cameron Diaz, is an example of what can go wrong.
"If there's someone who you are dating at age 23 or 24 and you're interested in him and he in you that shouldn't be written off just because you haven't accomplished everything on your 'to-do' list," she says.
As for men, they need "to understand if they meet a good woman, they should marry her and have children with her."

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