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”—which was more than 3,000 words long, and named six different reporters in its byline—is available today, best I can tell, only in spectral form: You can find it online not through Newsweek’s site, but through a Lexis-Nexis search (and the hackily copy-pasted results thereof). On one level, the piece is very much a product, and a reflection, of its time—a time when Americans were navigating the consequences of the baby boom and the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution and the advent of the birth-control pill and economic recession and economic prosperity and the many, many other events that made the ’70s and ’80s times of simmering cultural anxieties.But what’s perhaps most striking about the story, 30 years later, is how oddly fresh it still feels, how urgent its anxieties still seem.
story, to be sure, was framed as an attempt to quell—or at least to put anecdotes and data behind—anxieties about marriage and biological-clock-ism that had long run rampant in the culture.So did the story itself, as it delved into the details that formed the meat of the article: considerations of the consequences of women putting careers before family, insinuations of women waiting too long for their Misters Right, blunt declarations that “super-achieving women set impossibly high standards.” It framed “white, college-educated women born in the mid-’50s” as Single Women, a nebulous monolith.It came up with the “better chances of getting killed by a terrorist” line, which had not appeared in the original study. ” was ultimately a proof of Betteridge’s law: It presented a single and unpublished statistical analysis under the guise of demographic determinism.“Now.” The traumatic news came buried in an arid demographic study titled, innocently enough, “Marriage Patterns in the United States.” But the dire statistics confirmed what everybody suspected all along: that many women who seem to have it all—good looks and good jobs, advanced degrees and high salaries—will never have mates.According to the report, white, college-educated women born in the mid-’50s who are still single at 30 have only a 20 percent chance of marrying. Forty-year-olds are more likely to be killed by a terrorist: They have a minuscule 2.6 percent probability of tying the knot.