Maggie Gallagher
Amazing what counts as news these days: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist, social democrat and pro-family feminist, made screaming headlines with her new book, "Creating a Life," in which she pointed out that as women age, our ability to have children decreases. Fertility begins to decline at age 28 and drops markedly after age 35. After 40, your chances of taking home a baby are less than 5 percent.

Intense interest, anxiety and finally (on the cover of New York magazine) full-blown Baby Panic ensued. "The decline chart of viable eggs is totally freaking me out," complains Dina Wise, a 29-year-old Manhattan single. "I don't like to hear the word can't. None of us do in New York -- this city is all about can do and will do. You say I can't have a baby whenever I want, well, I'll do it anyway, to spite you! But then ... the eggs," she says, her face falling. "You can't really get around that."

"My patients are definitely panicking," adds Audrey Buxbaum, an OB/GYN.

So pervasive has the interest generated by "Creating a Life" been that its failure to make the best-seller list actually became a front-page New York Times story this week. "Why would anyone go pay money for something that's going to make them feel worse?" asks bookbuyer Leslie Graham.

What is interesting, of course, is that 40 years after Friedan, the idea of not getting married and having babies still makes many women feel bad. "What freaks me out is that we're making choices right now that we didn't even know we were making," says business-strategy consultant Claire Hughes, 29.

Here is my question: How could we mothers have raised a generation of smart, competent women, the most educated in human history, so ignorant about sex they do not even know the biological basics? How could we have raised our daughters to be so ashamed of the female body that this news provokes panic, anxiety, outrage at the unfairness of it all?


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.