• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Something big is going on here. Shut up! I’ll do the talking.

The Time magazine cover this week is “Who Needs A Husband? More
women are saying no to marriage and embracing the single life. Are they
happy?” The title ends with a question. But, do I know the answer?

So I’ll skip along to another magazine brought to us by the same
publisher: “People. Special Report: Searching for the perfect body.
How do women really feel about their shapes? And whose bodies do they
admire most and least? A surprising People poll.”

Now I’m all confused. If women don’t want men any more, why are they
so concerned about their shapes? To appeal to other women? So they can
hold their heads high, out of concern for the opinion of society in
general?

Baloney. They’ve been trying that one on me since I was 12 and now I
have the ammunition to gun them down. The entire cover of the “perfect
body” issue of People is devoted to the comparative weights of certain
female stars from the entertainment world. You will be fascinated to
hear that 21 percent of the readers of People say Cindy Crawford has
“the world’s best body.” Thirty-one percent believe Drew Barrymore’s
weight is “just great.” But, watch out! Forty percent think
Jennifer Aniston is too thin!

But, best body for what? I have been reading through a
newsstand full of women’s magazines and find they aren’t only interested
in sex, they’re obsessed with sex. Glamour, Mademoiselle, Redbook,
Cosmopolitan, Jane, Marie-Claire. (I was once an editor of
Cosmopolitan, so you are forewarned.)

So as to spare you the fevered swamp within, I leap to the cover of
Cosmopolitan. But take only Cosmopolitan’s cover for the coming month
(September): “Cosmo’s Kama Sutra 3.” Articles: “You begged for more.
Our new batch (13!) Soooo intense and tantalizing, he’ll want to tattoo
your name on his chest!” Next, “The morning after: How to squash his
post-nooky paranoia.” And, “Make him your love slave: Spray your
perfume HERE and other tricks that guarantee he’ll be gaga for good.”
“Is he really the one? Nine weird ways to tell.” And I could give you
half a dozen more.

Now you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see what these girls are
interested in (according to these magazines). But Time magazine in its
special issue on the subject has announced that “the single woman has
come into her own and that men are no longer a necessity. “Not too long
ago,” the magazine continues, “the single woman would have lived a
temporary existence: a rented apartment shared with a girlfriend or two
and a job she could easily ditch. Adult life — a house, a car, travel,
children — only came with a husband. Well, gone are the days.
Forty-three million women are currently single — more than 40 percent
of all adult females — up from about 30 percent in 1960. (The ranks of
single men have grown at about the same rate.)”

If you separate the women of the most “marriageable” age, the numbers
are even more dazzling. In 1963, 83 percent of women 25 to 35 were
married; by 1997, that figure had dropped to 65 percent (an 18 percent
to 20 percent point change). And there are other important trends. An
estimated 4 million of these unmarried women are cohabiting with what
they call these days a “partner,” and a growing number of these partners
are of the same sex. A Young and Rubicam study released this summer
labeled single women the yuppies of this decade. “The blockbuster
consumer group whose tastes will matter most to retailers and dictate
our trends.” The report found that nearly 60 percent of women own their
own home, buying homes faster than single men. Unmarried women are also
sparking the travel industry, making up fully half the “adventure”
travelers and perhaps 40 percent of the business travelers.

But just what kind of “adventure” are the female adventure travelers
seeking? Not too long ago, I was stuck in Africa (one revolution or
another) and the only way of getting out was to wheedle some time out of
the Club Mediterrane and find a spare seat on a plane flying from
Marrakesh, in Morocco, on the edge of the Sahara. I’d had enough exotic
adventure for a while and was hurrying back to Paris. But in my
battalion of holiday-makers were lots of comely girls whose behavior
gave me the impression that, if I’d asked them, at least one out 10
would have married me. What can I say?

In a Yankelovich poll, 80 percent of women as well as men thought
they’d eventually find the perfect mate. But what if they never found
Mr. Perfect? How about someone else? After several days of talking
with these Marrakesh girls, I decided sadly that for every single one of
them I was Mr. Someone Else. So much for polling as a guide.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.