``The Bennett-Bloom study in 1987 said that a single college-educated woman over 40 had a 1 percent chance of getting married,' said Barbara Lovenheim, writer of a new book on marriage. ``I was so stunned that I decided to research the subject myself.
``I was in that category, and so were many of my friends. We might not have been desperate to marry, but we certainly expected it was a good possibility. The report seemed to be a rebuttal of feminist goals, a warning that women who succeeded in a man's world would no longer be loved.'Research led to an article in New York magazine and then to the book, ``Beating the Marriage Odds: When You Are Smart, Single and Over 35.'
Lovenheim includes not only enlightening stories about older women who are happily married, but also a great deal about people in general.
The issues include many women's refusals to outgrow fantasies of knights in armor and their reluctance to take charge of their lives, as well as men's need for development.
A main point she makes is that women will have to redefine what they are looking for in a man, that they should consider younger and less-glamorous men.
Women should also realize that people who give care are going out of style, she says, and they should develop rich social lives that incidentally include eligible partners.
Her object in writing the book was to give a general picture of how women older than 35 live with and without men, and it subtly works in advice on making that life more fulfilling.
Statistically it may be more difficult for older women to marry, Lovenheim found, but not to the extent reported by the Bennett-Bloom study.
Lovenheim tells of the career women who fear marriage will end their independence and those who have become thoroughly cynical after unhappy affairs.
Lovenheim relates how one woman's husband ran off with her best friend, left her to follow a guru, sold narcotics in India, gave their children drugs, and generally made her life hellish.
However, the woman was not defeated, Lovenheim said, and became stronger and stronger. She met another man for whom she cared, and she had the patience and balance to help him through his difficult divorce.
After finishing her studies, Lovenheim founded a social club for Columbia University graduates, because, she said, there were few places to mix with contemporaries at that time.
Starting with a rented room, a band and 200 people, the club grew to 2,000 members in eight years.
The members dined and danced together and were offered lecture series featuring Dr. Margaret Mead, Joseph Papp and John V. Lindsay.
Since her first years in New York, Lovenheim has rented houses in the Hamptons, finding the area good for business contacts and friendships.
Many of her friends, she said, found spouses on their visits there, which she feels illustrates her contention that a single person should circulate and be around people if the person wants to marry.
The objective in writing the book, she said, was to provoke thoughts about marriage and older women.
``Some ideas just die hard,' she said. ``Society still somewhat stigmatizes unmarried women, therefore promoting a sense of failure in those who are. Then they bring pressure on the men who interest them. Men frequently said that women pressure too soon, bring out their checklists of what they want and don't want. Most men like being around strong women, but not those who are depressed or needy.'