MARRIAGE VERSUS DEATH...

MARRIAGE VERSUS DEATH BY TERROR. The airwaves and newsstands are full of Newsweek magazine�s retraction of its 1986 prediction that a mature single woman�s chances of getting married were the same as her being killed by a terrorist. Relax, girls, Newsweek is �Rethinking the Marriage Crunch,� and that worst of all fates, single female life, can mostly be avoided. Even if you had the temerity to acquire a college degree. In a real effort at analysis, Newsweek solicited an essay from Stephanie Coontz, the nostalgia debunking family scholar, which alerts us that women are marrying down, staying at work, and making egalitarian bargains.

But Newsweek�s marriage articles always carry a sting, don�t they? The scary thing about the new article is that the women Newsweek chose to profile gave up their careers and separate identities after they won the prize. One unexpected bride quit her job to tend the kids and moved from New York to Vermont; the article highlights a second one, formerly a hotel executive, describing her �traditional lifestyle as a mom� as �blessed�; even the widow testified that �she now realizes that work, not family, is a person�s real legacy.� (The writer apparently didn�t ask bride Catherine Casey, still a pediatrician, what she thinks about her life�s work tending sick children being excluded from her legacy or, for that matter, God�s grace.)

So I am wondering to myself, was this the price they had to pay to land a husband after 1986? The old article did include a warning from one bachelor, Rick Kurson, a Boston stockbroker, that �equality was okay, but when he came home from work, he wanted dinner on the table.� (For future purposes, I will refer to such female dinner providers as �Caitlins,� v.t., �to Caitlin.�) Although Kurson�s was clearly the most obnoxious interview in that article and still the subject of commentary twenty years later, nobody at Newsweek or elsewhere apparently thought to see how Kurson�s quest for the perfect Caitlin turned out. So I called him up.

�Are you the Rick Kurson who was quoted in Newsweek magazine�s article about marriage in 1986?�

�I am.�

�I see from your telephone listing that you have a wife. Does she make you dinner every night?�

�No, she works.�

[pause]

�And she drives the kids around and all that. So sometimes she makes dinner, sometimes I barbecue, sometimes we get carry out or go out.�

Hirshman: �But you told Newsweek magazine in 1986 . . .�

Kurson: �That was one line out of a four-hour interview. It didn�t represent what I meant even then.�

Turns out, after he appeared in Newsweek, Kurson left his job as a stockbroker, went back to school, got a master�s degree in social work, and became a therapist. At 39, he married his wife, they have two children. Like many of the women I described in �Homeward Bound,� she does not work full-time. But between her part-time work at a vintage store and her robust little business designing and selling jewelry made from vintage elements, she�s carrying a pretty full load. And he has the luxury, as a therapist, to control his hours so he can spend time playing golf, playing with their kids, and being with her.

When I asked him whether he would have married her if she had told him she always intended to work full-time, he said of course. �We fit together well, that was what was important. I immediately felt very comfortable, we sort of clicked. I was never married before, but we were engaged within six months and married within a year.�

�Although that quotation in Newsweek didn�t represent what I thought even then,� he continued, �I�m glad I waited until I grew and I grew up before I married.�

Now that Newsweek has retracted its prediction that college-educated women at thirty can not marry at all, it�s probably going to be only another decade or two before they recant the latest destructive suggestion: that they can marry but only if they accept a godly traditional lifestyle. They just have to follow the third Hirshman Rule: Never marry a jerk. Rick Kurson turned out not to be one, and I bet there are a few others out there, too.

--Linda Hirshman

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