SINGLES: The New Americans by Jacqueline & David Carroll Simenauer
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SINGLES: The New Americans

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two successful previous studies (Beyond the Male Myth, 1978; Husbands and Wives, 1979), co-authored with Dr. Anthony Pietropinto, have made Jacqueline Simenauer something of a household word; and this is every bit as golden as its predecessors. To get a handle on what it means to be among the 50 million or so singles in the US today, Simenauer and Carroll surveyed 3000 respondents across 36 states, ages 20 to 55. They fed the statistical results into a computer to isolate such factors as socioeconomic class and previous marriages; then, chose the most salient essay responses to underpin or counterbalance computer findings; and, finally, conducted interviews with prominent psychologists, and other experts, to explain the (often paradoxical) survey results. The end product is an overwhelming mass of data demonstrating, among other things, that ""swinger"" is not a synonym for single (half the women and more than a third of the men rated living together as inferior to the commitment of marriage); and that in some ways today's singles are curiously old-fashioned (the most important attraction of a potential date is, ""by a long shot,"" emotional values such as sensitivity, kindness, integrity, etc.). Lest any of this appear too pat, there are seeming contradictions that mirror the confusions of our times: men still tend to appreciate the role of sexual aggressor, while women feel most comfortable with (and are most appreciated for) the ""subtlety"" of sending out body signals without actually (as one man put it) ""carrying me into the bedroom."" The most unanimous response? Whether or not women and men can sustain a non-romantic friendship: 93 percent of women and 91 percent of men said, emphatically yes. The questions and responses are categorized along such lines as dating; sex; meeting (almost 40 percent of men and women make ""initial contact"" at a singles bar or singles function); living alone; living together; being a single parent (children do not frighten potential dates off); and the future of the single lifestyle. An appendix offers the results of a separate survey into the first year after divorce--demonstrating, among other things, that the newly single tend to drink more, smoke more, but also be happier and healthier than in the previous year (so much for Holmes and Rare). There are some intrinsic problems: e.g., though the authors seem to enjoy demolishing sexual stereotypes, they nonetheless word many of the men's questions so differently from the women's that the truly non-stereotyped answer often doesn't get a chance. Thus, women are asked about men ""on the make"" or those who show no serious interest or involvement; men are asked, in corresponding slots, about women who are interested in men's money, fame, or power, or women who press ""too quickly"" for intimacy and involvement. Still, a superior effort, interesting for its own sake and valuable to singles themselves. (How much money is a man or woman at a singles bar likely to have? Are computer dating services all they're cracked up to be? And so forth.) They'll be lining up for this one.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster