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August 28, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Otherwise easygoing SF, 29, in urban environment near excellent day school and gourmet supermarket with world-class cheese selection, seeks 31 to 36 year-old, Ivy League grad (except Penn), at least 5' 10", maximum 180 lbs., manageable hair, Fight Club physique (pec to waist ratio .33). Fiscal conservative/social liberal. Profession: law, medicine, banking, Internet (post-IPO); company must have groundbreaking paternity leave policy. Acceptable college majors: Economics, East Asian Studies, Pre-Med (no Theatre). Hobbies: eastern philosophies, pan-Asian cooking, puppies (yet still masculine). Conversational/business Japanese a must; also, two romance languages and ability to recite by heart prologue of Canterbury Tales (Ellesmere manuscript). SAT score at least 1550 (math-to-verbal ratio .66). No family history of medical problems (hypertension, osteoporosis, myopia, anemia, acne vulgaris, orthodonture, lazy eye, scoliosis; tennis elbow ok) or mass-market inclinations (angels, "Jekyll and Hyde," Nicholas Sparks, waving outside Today Show). Must be civil to (but not "friends" with) ex-girlfriends (maximum: 2). Informed, witty, self-starter: equally comfortable chatting at state dinners or changing a tire. Please send letter, photo, high school and college transcripts, 3 recommendations (1 academic, 1 professional, 1 non-threatening yet savvy friend-girl) plus two 750-word essays on the topics: (1) "What Foucault's Pendulum Means to Me" and (2) "Why I Always Share My Feelings." As I have no time to date, let's meet and break up over macchiatos.*

Singles: Are We Really that Picky?
A BG Investigation

Did you guys see Time magazine's cover story -- "Flying Solo" -- this week? [Direct link may be out of date by the time you read this.] ("More women are deciding that marriage is not inevitable, that they can lead a fulfilling life as a single. It's an empowering choice, but for many not an easy one.") Tamala Edwards reports that more than 40% of adult women -- up from about 30% 40 years ago -- are currently single; of course, that includes increasing numbers of women coming out (i.e. lesbians) and living in (i.e. sin). But still. Singles are adding up. And there's strength -- and culture -- and acceptance -- and hey! dollars! -- in numbers. This is good, mostly. (For BG's full rant on the remaining double stigmas of being single, click here.)

But here's what made me bristle: "'Marriage is not what it used to be, getting stability or economic help,' says the National Marriage Project's co-director Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. Marriage has become this spiritualized thing, with labels like 'best friend' and 'soul mate'.' Some sociologists say these lofty standards make sense at a time when the high divorce rate hisses in the background like Darth Vader. But others suggest the marriage pendulum has swung from the hollowly pragmatic to an unhealthy romantic ideal."

"Michael Broder, a Philadelphia psychotherapist and author of The Art of Living Single, decries what he calls the 'perfect-person problem,' in which women refuse to engage unless they're immediately taken with a man, failing to give a relationship a chance to develop. 'Few women can't tell you about someone they turned down, and I'm not talking about some grotesque monster,' he says. 'But there's the idea that there has to be this great degree of passion to get involved, which isn't always functional. So you have people saying things like, 'If I can't have my soul mate, I'd rather be alone.' And after that, I say, 'Well, you got your second choice'.' " Okay, ow.

And in a sidebar to the article writer Walter Kirn alleges that single women are walking around with ever-more specific shopping lists clutched in their ringless, age-spotted hands. "Now, it seems that what's wanted is a soul mate, a sort of buff Buddha who's terrific in bed, who's on top of his health, his finances and his emotions and can serve in a pinch as a spiritual adviser."

Well, duh.

But not really.

So what do we want?

* adapted from "Egg Donor Needed" by Lynn Harris and J.D. Heyman, New York Times, 4/10/99


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