It's not very hip to consider the plight of single women who yearn for something so old-fashioned as men, all male and very virile. The plight of homosexual men and women who can't get a marriage license will no doubt occupy us through next year's elections and beyond.
Frank Loesser's 1943 hit song, for the movie "Thank Your Lucky Stars," is hopelessly politically incorrect for our times:
They're either too young, or too old,
They're either too gray or too grassy green,
The pickings are poor and the crop is lean .
Back then, of course, all the good men were at war, and most of them were overseas. In the movie, Bette Davis walks into a nightclub looking for a real man and all she finds are unreasonable facsimiles. She's stuck dancing first with a codger who could be her grandfather and then with a boy with pimples and sweaty palms who could be her kid brother.
They're either too bald or too bold,
I'm down to the wheelchair and bassinet,
My heart just refuses to get upset.
I simply can't compel it to,
With no Marine to tell it to.
That was then, and now men and women are fighting wars together, and we're supposed to be satisfied with sameness rather than celebrate differences. But despite all the feminist huffing and puffing, some things haven't changed. Women of a certain age without mates decry as loud as ever the pickings as poor and sad, and most of them blame the iron law of unintended consequences, applied to women's liberation.
Women can have careers just like men and that's all to the good, so far as the good goes. But many women are finding that they've sacrificed their best years to the climb up the career ladder. They reveled in the youthful pleasures of the sexual revolution and now they're discovering to their pain that they don't have the same happy mate-hunting as men. Life, as John F. Kennedy famously observed, is unfair.
Bookshelves are crowded with "how to catch a man" guidelines, emphasizing feminine wiles of conduct. Some of them could have been written by our grannies. Personal ads leap from the pages of newspapers and magazines to Internet sites in search of the kindness of strangers.
No site captures the changing cultural problems for dating and mating more than one called friendsters.com, a vast network for men and women eager to check out the character and associations of the "dates" they "meet" on the Internet.
This site means to replace the maiden aunts of yore, who sat on their front porches gossiping about the good, the bad and the ugly in their neighborhoods. When I checked out the Web site (someone has to do the research), the first profile I encountered was an "eligible" bachelor who was a stunt man in Hollywood. Prospective dates should check out his medical insurance along with his moonlight stunts.
Reading "how to" books and cruising the Internet, however, takes hours out of a day, and many single women are turning their backs on the dating industry and reverting to the old-fashioned method of leaving love to chance.
"I realized I could be starting my own business in the time I was spending looking at these ads and crafting these responses," Sara Cambridge, a typical Internet cruiser, tells the New York Times. She turned off her computer and took a class in business administration.
When Rachel Greenwald discovered there were 28 million single women in America glutting the market for the 17 million men over 35, she decided a woman should regard herself as the valuable "commodity" she used to be. Women have shattered the glass ceiling and broke their glass slippers in the process. She calls them the "Lost Cinderella Generation."
In a book called "Find A Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School," Greenwald urges the single woman to see herself as a "product," and advertise and market a brand image. To protect the brand, for example, she should always wear a push-up bra to fight off the accelerating effects of gravity. And never wear the pants: "Men are usually more attracted to women in skirts than in pants ... literally as well as figuratively."
Sleeping beauty has become working beauty, who wakes up to the world of romance with cellulite and an extra chin, so "don't be so picky about your prince."
Bette Davis said all this six decades ago, and with more style:
I'm either their first breath of spring,
Or else, I'm their last little fling.
I either get a fossil or an adolescent pup,
I either have to hold him off,
Or have to hold him up.
The battle is on, but the fortress will hold,
They're either too young or too old.