When I was a senior in college in 1986, Newsweek published a cover story proclaiming that college-educated women who failed to marry in their 20s faced abysmal odds of marrying at all. At the time, I had two reactions: 1) That’s unfair and ridiculous and 2) That won’t happen to me. The article also claimed that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than find a mate. I couldn’t believe it. However, as the years flew by, the phrase reverberated in my head.
I’m now 51 and still single. At this point, I would say I’m ambivalent about marriage. I’ve had some close calls. And when I see couples who get along well, I feel twinges of envy. I would love that companionship and intimacy. Yes. But I’ve also witnessed the misery that ensues when partners feel like hostages. And—probably most importantly—I really like my life the way it is. I love my work, I have a great network of friends, and I have the freedom to do whatever I choose with my free time.
So I picked up Rebecca Traister’s ALL THE SINGLE LADIES (subtitled Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation) with curiosity. And I found it highly affirming. Things that I’ve felt guilty about—mainly, not “getting with the program” and “settling” down with someone—are apparently things other women have struggled with, too. I mean, I suspected that, but I hadn’t given much thought to the history of women, how they have been treated in America, and how much organizing and protesting they’ve had to do to try to level the playing field. I am also embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know that birth control was illegal for married couples until 1965 and for unmarried people until 1972. Although I knew about the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, I did not know that it took another full year for Congress to pass the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which made it easier for women to secure credit cards, bank loans, and mortgages. What???
This book is eye-opening. And it makes me so grateful for all of the women who marched before me.