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From one smart female columnist to another ...

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is 53, unmarried and childless, and it's the fault of men. You know, "men"? That undifferentiated mass of easy generalizations?

I have the impression that someone wrote her new book, Are Men Necessary?, before. In fact, I think someone has written it every few years since the feminist movement took off. Because of "men," every successful, job-focused woman who wakes up one morning in her 40 and thinks, "Ooops, I forgot to get married and have a baby" is entitled to be angry about it--as if she hadn't made choices in life, as we all do. If the woman is famous, there must be a book in her bitter experience.

This pattern of complaint is also tiresomely familiar from women's magazines, where abridged versions of the female-celebrity-in-midlife saga are a staple. If there is anything to be said in favor of sex- and ageism in Hollywood, it's that Meg Ryan finally seems to have gone away.

Dowd claims to be facing old age alone for the usual alpha-female reason--she's outspoken and smart and successful, and men find that intimidating. I'm sorry. Having played "smart" as my strong suit since birth, I find that part of the thesis hard to swallow. Although I got straight A's and cannot watch a commercial or pick up a magazine without developing an opinion and expressing it at length, I've pretty much been married since I turned 18--and to three different men, which just strengthens my argument. I simply do not believe that men, in general, don't like intelligent, opinionated, analytical women. (As to their feelings about rich and successful ones, I have no testimony to offer. I am not convinced, though, that failure is all that attractive.)

It may certainly be true that men do not wish to marry brittle, kittenish narcissists once they start showing their age. A guy who's willing to put up with a defensive, self-absorbed woman might as well get to enjoy the fun, young body that usually goes with the personality.

(Dowd, by the way, has emphasized in interviews that she dates all the time, and that she dates brand-name guys. Don't think she's not just about the most popular girl in school.)

I am also willing to believe that few men would want to put their emotional lives in the hands of a woman whose idea of insightful critique is to refer to people by playground diminutives like "Rummy" and "the Bushies." Kicking the boys in the knees at recess is something most girls grow out of. The boys get tired of it, too.

But let's get down to the real reason I dislike Maureen Dowd--and I do, perhaps as intensely as Dowd dislikes Judith Miller and Hillary Clinton. It's not because she's famous and rich and inexplicably won a Pulitzer Prize for her vicious coverage of the Clinton scandals, although those are pretty good reasons. And it's not that I envy her for her position as a (much) better-paid and (much) better-known female columnist, because I adore Molly Ivins and still miss The Washington Post's late, great Mary McGrory.

I hate Dowd because she's gets up in the big lights and acts like such a girl.

She was on Real Time With Bill Maher last spring as the token female panelist and was awful. Maher introduced her as "the smartest girl in the class, and also the prettiest." (The man has verbal perfect pitch.) She had nothing to say in a discussion about the church and homosexuality--no one has ever accused Dowd of having opinions except about personalities--but took the occasion to tell a little story about herself in parochial school. Maureen in her darling little plaid skirt and braids! Later, she got interrupted and seemed to go into a snit and just sat there, looking peeved. Everybody gets interrupted on that show--it's a free-for-all--and she gets her feelings hurt because she's not treated like a little lady?

God it was embarrassing. Fortunately, the next time I caught the show, Maher had on women who can talk about things besides themselves and play with the boys--Arianna Huffington and ABC's goddess-like Michel McQueen Martin. Martin had interesting things to say about how we talk about race in this country, and she made herself heard over Tucker Carlson and Spike Lee and Maher himself. And I bet she doesn't blame a single thing on men.

People get married, or they don't. Marriages work out, or they don't. Some people die unless they can cleave unto somebody, while others are temperamentally unsuited to being half of a couple, and that's that. We don't even use the term "old maid" any more, Maureen. Get over it.

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