Newsweek "spinster" speaks out

Not waiting for Prince Charming, never was.

Published May 24, 2006 8:05PM (EDT)

Broadsheet's earlier post about Newsweek's nostra culpa ("Actually, we meant that you're more likely to get married than to be killed by a terrorist!") has prompted a breaking "Apology Not Accepted" from one of the allegedly bereft single women featured in the infamous 1986 article.

In a letter in response to our post, Carol Owens writes, "the entire first paragraph of that [1986 Newsweek] 'story,' which unhappily features me, or some person who is supposed to be me, is a fabrication." Owens says she spoke to the reporter with the intention of discussing what she saw as "false assumptions" informing the demographic study in question. "However," she writes, "the knowledge ... that I was one of six 'unmarried' sisters proved too much for the fervid imaginings of the folks at Newsweek. Somehow, the answer to the question 'How did you first hear about the study?' ended up portraying my mother as a New Age Mrs. Bennett, in a positive lather to marry off all of her daughters now." Evidently, that image stuck. Owens and her sisters spent the next week fending off snickering neighbors, declining offers for makeovers (unmarried = must be u-g-l-y, see), even an invitation to appear in a local "bridal auction."

All of which would have been bad enough even if marriage actually had been a priority for her. "I felt as if I was living in some sort of Bizarro-World where my accomplishments, my intelligence -- my essential personhood -- had no validation unless certified by the societal stamp of marriage," Owens writes. "That notion was in direct opposition to the values that both of my parents had instilled in all of us who are lucky enough to be their daughters."

Fortunately, her real-life story has a happy ending. Owens describes herself as "successful and happy in my chosen field, with a large group of far-flung friends and scads of family to entertain in my home." And, gasp, single. "Then as now, I believe that my worth as a human being is determined by the things that I do, the manner in which I conduct myself, and the love that I give to my family and friends," Owens concludes. "If this is the 'spinsterhood' referred to in the Newsweek article that came out today, I'll just rock on with my spinstery self, thanks."

No, thank you.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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