July 24, 2005

"David Souter is not your standard hunka hunka burning love."

Believe it or not, that line appeared in the Washington Post back when he was awaiting confirmation in 1990. A commenter on my "lutte greco-romaine" post asks how the Souter nomination played in the press back then. Were there insinuations that he was gay? I turned up the Washington Post article, which is written by Roxanne Roberts. Here's a taste:
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?"

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.
On August 6, 1990, The San Francisco Chronicle had "Heading for 50 And Still Single Isn't That Odd" by Ruthe Stein:
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.


Bruce Hayden said...

I have found this interesting, that it is assumed that we all wil get married, and if you don't, then there is something wrong with you.

In my family, half of the four surviving boys have been married. But I am divorced, and the other one who married has never had children.

I think that we still look at those who never married a little askance. But historically, that is probably not right.

I read a book years ago, I think titled "Pig in a Python" describing the Baby Boom and its causes. The big one turns out to be that right after WWII, there was a concerted push to get women out of the workforce so that the returning men could have jobs. And a big part of this was advertising by the MSM (Life, etc.) and the government. The result was that an unprecedented proportion of the marriagable aged population got married and had kids. But, interestingly, the actual family sizes did not go up - just the proportion who married.

The author points out that in the previous generation, the one born around the turn of the century, a large percentage did not marry, or married late and didn't have kids. This fits my family - three of my four grandparents were of families of about four kids, but on average, half got married and had kids. Almost unheard of 25 years later in our (at least Ann's and my) parents' generation.

So, if Souter had been nominated in the 1940s, his single status would probably not have caused a stir.

Bruce Hayden said...

Being divorced (once), I look at the marriage status of women very carefully. By now, if they haven't been married, they are invariably way too set in their ways to accomodate themselves to me in a marriage. But if they have been divorced twice, I start questioning why. Widowed is ok, as long as it is not too recent, as I don't want to be competing with a saint. Divorced once is ok. And in the current quasi-girlfriend, I have both, widowed at 24, remarried at 28, divorced at 38, and now 48.

The problem that we seem to have run into is that we have both been divorced a little over ten years, and are getting set in our ways and used to being alone.

Oh, I also prefer mothers. Women who have never had kids seem to be a lot more selfish or something. Last one, an atty. in Austin, seemed to get insanely jeleous over my daughter. Someone with kids of their own tends to understand this a lot better.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

On Souter:

At the time I was quite glad Souter was picked as a justice, overlooking his judicial approach to focus on the fact that he was single, older, and alone like me, yet comfortable with himself. He had an elfin and bemused "I am that I am" expression on his face at all times that I found admirable.

It was reassuring to see that there was someone like me who had gone through life (or so it seemed) without deep attachments or having found love. Of course I romanticized Souter's background a bit. I imagined him hoping that at any moment this woman, or that one, might fall out the sky into the lap, and that he cried at night about it, or sat around writing stories about the pain of love.

"I am unlucky in love, like Souter," I told myself, happy that two were now in my club, and that aside from intellect, career, skin color, hair, manner, geographic location, and upbringing, he and I were exactly, EXACTLY, alike (the lack of, and desire for, women being a unifying trait that superceded all slight differences).

Alas, I was disappointed: Souter did not want to have a wedding that replicated the Errol Flynn Robin Hood feast in the forest scene like I do. Souter did not seem to desire (as far as we know) some true love or loyal woman. And to add infamy to horror, Souter turned out to be politically my opposite. "You are not me at all," I pouted, when reading about him in the news. If he was my Yoda, his example led me nowhwere.


OR.... maybe Bruce actually knows the woman he was dating and she was, as he suggested, jealous of the time he gave his daughter. It's interesting how you would jump to the assumption that Bruce would date a wack job. I take it you have no kids, and Bruce did not sufficiently hedge and qualify his comments to avoid stepping on your sensibilities. (Of course, if you have kids, then, "Oh shush").

Ann Althouse said...

Tom: I've deleted you message because it repeats the name that I deliberately deleted! You say:

I dug into Lexis to find out who "[name deleted]" is, and I'm perplexed. Have you sworn off mentioning ...? Or did you just want to avoid jokes about how...

Well, obviously I had my reasons, so what's the deal with printing the name in the comments? Basically, this is a person who does not like being called gay (and actually sues people). The swipe at him was just gratuitous and had nothing to do with what I was posting about.