At the conclusion of her remarks on accepting the 2003 Golden Globe award for best supporting actress in a television series, Kim Cattrall repeated today's ubiquitous feminist mantra, "Remember, women: Men come and go, but girlfriends last forever." The cynicism of the Sex and the City actress reflects the outlook of many single professional women who have casually experimented with a series of disposable lovers.

And their numbers are growing: The proportion of women between 15 and 44 who are married has declined from 73 percent in 1960 to only 55 percent in 2000—reflecting both the decline in marriage rates and more than a million divorces annually. The number of cohabiting women has grown from only 439,000 in 1960 to over 4.7 million in 2000, and 35 percent of these women have children. The declining willingness to make a marriage commitment increasingly strains the family, the linchpin that holds modern society together.

The Census Bureau has to reckon with a new category. It uses the term "unrelated individual" to designate someone who does not live in a "family group." Sadly, we've seen the percentage of persons living as "unrelated individuals" almost triple, increasing from 6 to 16 percent of all people during the last 40 years.

Many single women have given up on the idea of lasting love, turning instead to impersonal sex for their physical needs, and believe that Cattrall is right: "sisterhood" best meets their emotional needs. But even in the sowing-your-wild-oats scripts popularized by Sex and the City, Friends, and other arbiters of cultural chic, the freedom of casual sex frequently looks more like loneliness and alienation. Indeed, in the eyes of some, the shows reflect the drive for intimacy more than the desire for independence.

Watch MTV and odds are you will see Christina Aguilera's new Grammy-nominated video, "Dirrty." Aguilera says her new album, Stripped, represents the "real her," stripped of all pretense. (Not to mention her clothes.)

With a studied air of blasé indifference, Aguilera says she wrote Stripped after having found, and lost, her first love. In one song, "Get Mine, Get Yours," she sings: "We have a physical thing. We'll make love, but don't fall in love." This is the siren song for today's new "hookup" culture. Dating and romance for many today has been replaced by casual, serial hookups. According to one federally funded study, one-third of 11th graders who had engaged in sexual intercourse said their sexual partner was merely "a friend."

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In the midst of this ostensibly cavalier coupling is a strange outbreak of "reality" television shows that are obsessed with, well, courtship and marriage. Commentators were stymied by the popularity of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Joe Millionaire. Feminists claimed the programs degraded women. The problem is that they don't remember the story of Cinderella—these programs, however crass, are all about fairy tales and the haunting echoes of romance.

And they haven't listened carefully to what participants said. Anticipating her "prize"—a single date, rather than a group date, with the bachelor—one woman said, "This is a magical moment." Another dreamily sighed, "I see the house, the white picket fence."

Kim Cattrall and other single women today are not finding an adequate substitute for a diamond and a wedding date—not from supposedly forever-loyal girlfriends or from hip, witty, gay male pals with exquisite taste in shoes. Tellingly, many of those women are searching for a soul mate with the intensity of the newly converted. The Washington Post recently reported that the latest "meet" market for upwardly mobile singles is the personal ad section of Harvard University's alumni magazine. Some women are paying up to $125 per hour for a professional writer to craft their personal description, hoping to catch the attention of Mr. Right.

Today's Cinderella, lured by "get mine, get yours" slogans, keeps waking up beside yet another fake prince, only to find she hasn't become a princess. She wonders about her "freedom" and what it is exactly that she gained, and at what cost. She feels merely dirty, with a distinct taste of ashes in her mouth, her dreams a swirl of soot under her feet.

They may be listening to Aguilera sing her songs of sorrow. They may come up with crude new slang to mask their pain and emptiness. But, driven by the imprint God placed in our nature, they still hear in their hearts the age-old Song of Songs: My beloved is mine, and I am his.

Janice Shaw Crouse is an author, speaker, and senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute in Washington, D.C.

Opinions expressed in Speaking Out do not necessarily reflect the views of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere

The Washington Post's article on the Harvard's personal ads says, "women of every red-blooded man's dreams were advertising their availability."

In February, a panel of Christian singles discussed the proliferation of reality dating shows like The Bachelor and Joe Millionaire and their turn from seeking one-night stands to seeking spouses.

Article continues below's singles area has articles from many Christianity Today sister publications of interest to unmarried Christians, including Camerin Courtney's "Single Minded" column.

re:generation quarterly has had articles on singleness and the church, especially in its Fall 1997 issue, which contained Paige Benton's "Singled Out By God for Good" and Andy Crouch's "Extended Family Values."

Christian Single magazine, published by the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway Resources, isn't just about being unmarried.

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Christian single life includes:

Solitary Refinement  | The church is doing better than ever at ministering to single people. But some evangelical assumptions still need rethinking. (June 4, 2001)
A Singular Mission Field | There are more single people in America than ever—and they need the church as much as ever. (June 4, 2001)
Sex and the Single Christian | What about the unmarried in their postcollege years? (July 7, 2000))
Women Churchgoers 'Face Growing Difficulty in Finding Partner | British magazine says church is out of single men, especially older ones. (June 7, 2000)

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