By Daniel McGinn
June 5, 2006 issue - When Laurie Aronson was 29, she had little patience for people who inquired why she still wasn’t married. “I’m not a little spinster who sits home Friday night and cries,” she’d say. As she passed 35, however, and one relationship after another failed to lead to the altar, she began to worry. “Things were looking pretty bleak,” she says. But then a close friend’s brother—a man she’d known for years—divorced. Slowly their friendship blossomed into romance. At 39, Aronson married him, becoming Laurie Aronson Starr and the stepmom to his three kids. Then, after five years of infertility treatment, she became pregnant with a son who’ll be 4 in July. “My parents are thrilled—it’s a relief for everyone,” says Starr, now 49. “I wish I could have found the right person earlier and had more children. But I’m ecstatic.”
As happy endings go, hers has a particularly delicious irony. Twenty years ago this week, Aronson was one of more than a dozen single women featured in a NEWSWEEK cover story. In “The Marriage Crunch,” the magazine reported on new demographic research predicting that white, college-educated women who failed to marry in their 20s faced abysmal odds of ever tying the knot. According to the research, a woman who remained single at 30 had only a 20 percent chance of ever marrying. By 35, the probability dropped to 5 percent. In the story’s most infamous line, NEWSWEEK reported that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than to ever marry. That comparison wasn’t in the study, and even in those pre-9/11 days, it struck many people as an offensive analogy. Nonetheless, it quickly became entrenched in pop culture and is still routinely cited in TV shows and news stories.