The Spectacle Blog

The Merry Single

By on 7.21.06 | 5:10PM

At first glance, most conservative grouches should have nodded approvingly at Katie Couric's nurturing decision to eschew reporting live from the Mideast when she hosts CBS Evening News:

"I think the situation there is so dangerous, and as a single parent with two children, that's something I won't be doing," Katie said.

On second thought -- and discounting the fact we of the 99.9% of the population less attractive than she seem to unduly enjoy always tweaking her -- there is something bothersome here that should be aired.

As the iconic New Century Woman, Katie does neither marriage, nor men, nor women any favors by referring to herself as a "single parent." By doing so, she telegraphs how deeply society has internalized the "new" (meaning "non") marriage paradigm.

Like most bad ideas, it started with good intentions. In the seventies, "single mother" was the replacement term used to avoid having a divorced woman feel shame -- a shame she may well have deserved not one scintilla. Inevitably, the term migrated to describe women with children who had never been married. For them, "single parent" dodged a potentially even greater shame.

So, now we have widows, who share a familial flow chart with the above women, but come from an entirely different emotional, historical, and moral place.

To describe a widow as a "single parent" (a) posits no distinction between the mother and father units and (b) sends the departed dad down the memory hole. "Widow" is the very essence of the kind of word that implies "incomplete, not altogether whole." And these days, when "wholeness" is considered a right that is totally in our control to harvest, widowhood is simply an inoperative concept.

The Cleveland Browns running back (and not a known feminist) Jim Brown used to make a point of always arising from a tackle at an equally slow rate. That way, he says, no one would know if that last hit had hurt him. With the "one term fits all" approach to womanhood, we allow every woman to come out of every of of life's tackles "the same." By homogenizing moral choice, we have devalued all men, and stripped history -- and, yes, judgment -- from all women.

(Brainstorm: While they're colorizing Fred and Ginger in The Gay Divorcee, why stop there? Go ahead and replace the no-longer-oxymoronic title with a socially relevent reduncancy: "The Gay Single." Oops, you can't use "gay" either. Never mind.)

For the record, every widow is entitled to call herself whatever she wants and our exclusive and immutable social obligation is to increase her comfort. Nevertheless, score this one as a victory for moral chaos.

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