He's a bookworm who looks like Pat Paulsen. His idea of excitement is a long hike in the woods. He does impressions, for God's sake. He wears extremely bad ties.
David Souter is not your standard hunka hunka burning love. News that the 51-year-old judge had never married set off a flurry of speculation that the Supreme Court might be getting its first gay justice. When reporters unearthed three former girlfriends, it appeared instead that he is simply a scholarly workaholic too busy for romance.
Okay, so he's no [name deleted]. No matter. He's a bachelor; more important, now he's a confirmed one. That makes him a hot ticket, the catch of the day, a Power Date. In short, Washington's idea of Extremely Eligible.
"His position will make him handsome to a lot of people," says Washington hostess Buffy Cafritz. "I can hear the footsteps marching already."
"David Souter better fasten his seat belt because this ain't New Hampshire -- and it ain't like living with Mama," whooped Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas, one of the Hill's legendary ladies' men. "They're going to burn his door down. I can't think of anyone -- except a single president -- who would be more of a prize."
Judge Souter's sudden appeal has nothing to do with the trappings typically associated with eligibility. It's not about looks, money or sex. Once you cross the Beltway, it's about power, influence and the ability to look presentable in a tuxedo.
"The trappings of their power are seductive to anyone," says tennis coach Kathy Kemper, who recently married an investment banker after years of dating high-profile bachelors. "It's very heady to be at a party with the person that everybody wants to talk to. You can get very spoiled if you're dating one of these guys."
On August 7, 1990, The Orlando Sentinel had "It May Be Unjust, but Men Are Judged By Marital Status," by Susan M. Barbieri:
He lives in a New Hampshire cabin with only flannel shirts and firewood for company. He wields substantial power as a judge, and may get the promotion of a lifetime. But what intrigues many Americans about U.S. Supreme Court nominee David Souter is the fact that he is a 50-year-old bachelor. We wonder, "What's wrong with him? How does he feel about women? Is he anti-social, homosexual, mysogynistic, immature or just plain dweeby?"On August 6, 1990, The San Francisco Chronicle had "Heading for 50 And Still Single Isn't That Odd" by Ruthe Stein:
He is an enigma. He is Spinster Man.
For the average, never-married, middle-aged man, perennial bachelorhood should not be an issue. Yet it is. It is hard to say which sex has it worse when it comes to stereotyping. Never-married women are assumed to be unattractive or otherwise undesirable. Never-married men are thought to be either womanizers (which carries a positive connotation), hermits or homosexuals.
I caught myself mid sentence. I was about to ask a 47-year-old friend who has never married if he thought it was weird that the new Supreme Court nominee has reached 50 without marrying.
My near faux pas illustrates what David Souter is up against: a stigma so pervasive it has clouded the thinking of those of us who should know better.
Some of my best friends are ''confirmed'' singles like Souter. They are perfectly normal, upstanding individuals whose opinions I count on and respect.
So why is it that on some level I still believe there is something wrong with a person who has arrived at a certain age and not acquired at least one spouse? Deep down, I'm convinced he or she has got to be an oddball.
Oddly enough, my friends who have never married also subscribe to the oddball theory. Not that they think they're odd. Each of them has a good reason why he or she hasn't marched down the aisle.
It doesn't seem to occur to them that other singles might also have their reasons -- such as not having met the right person or preferring to be alone -- and that they are not necessarily emotional basket cases.
My friend Debby won't go out with anyone over 45 who hasn't been married, overlooking the fact that she is only a few years shy of that category herself. She says such a man obviously isn't marriage material so why should she waste her time.
Yet Debby has no compunction about dating guys who have been divorced two or three times. Tattered goods though they be, in her mind at least they have what it takes to make a commitment to a woman.
From all accounts, David Souter has led a pretty rarefied life. Holed up with his law books, he may not have been stigmatized the way my friends have -- that is until the press began digging into his past.
An ex-fiancee has been unearthed. She has only nice things to say about her former suitor. Her assurances that he really is OK seemed to imply that was in doubt.