YOU ARE A YOUNGISH MODERN AMERICAN WOMAN.
You are great. You are fabulous. You are independent, smart, and respected.
You are single.
Five years down the line you are still single. Five years after that you are recuperating from a passionate albeit short-lived romance with a gorgeous businessman who just couldn’t commit. “Tick tock,” goes your biological clock. It’s raining, and drops splatter into your mouth as you shout into the sky,
“WHERE ARE ALL THE GOOD MEEEEEN???”
It’s likely they are at home with their girlfriends or wives. That, or, according to a new bestseller by Lori Gottlieb, they are licking their wounds and cursing your gender because you, or another woman just like you, dumped them.
Gottlieb’s book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, is a frank, funny, and mildly horrifying account of the American woman’s loneliest neurosis: pickiness. More and more woman are holding out for their ideal man and ending up alone or in unhappy relationships, Gottlieb included.
The book was born from an article she wrote for The Atlantic in 2008. Gottlieb was a 39-year-old single mother who conceived her son via a sperm donor because she hadn’t yet met “Mr. Right.” After bemoaning the dating scene with her editor, he encouraged her to explore the world of dating and marriage in print, and the resulting article got a lot of attention.
Gottlieb found that most women have unrealistic expectations for every aspect of their romantic relationships, from the first meeting to how love should feel at the three-year point. Many women really believe that their life will unfold like a season of Sex and the City, that an eye-locking instant connection will occur, that their future husband will be tall, handsome, rich, great in bed, love kids, dress well, and pour endless inspiration into their life. Gottlieb does not advocate for “settling” per se, but she encourages women to reevaluate their expectations, to get real, and to stop writing off great guys.
That handsome, witty TV producer might not turn out to be a thoughtful spouse and loving father, but maybe that slightly dorky, funny computer repairman will.
“I remember being surprised that my friend, a smart and attractive producer, was basically saying she should have settled,” Gottlieb writes in Marry Him‘s prologue, “The Husband Store.” “But she explained that I had it all wrong. She didn’t mean resigning herself to a life of quiet misery with a man she cared little about. She meant opening herself up to a fulfilling life with a great guy who might not have possessed every quality on her checklist.”
Okay, Carrie Bradshaw is not to blame. Bradshaw, her buddies and many females of the silver screen reflect our values as women, and that value seems to be…ourselves. Everywhere we look, we are ensured that we are worth it, that we are great. Our peers encourage us not to “settle,” that we owe it to ourselves to wait for a mate as equally fabulous as we are. We believe that we are somehow flawless, or that our flaws complement our magnificence. Fast forward to our fifties and we’re still waiting. Marry Him sheds a farce-bearing light on all the Lifetime movies, TV sitcoms, and sweeping romance novels: yes, there are bad men out there, but ladies, we are choosing to go out with them!
Gottlieb interviews women between the ages of 20 and 50, asking what they look for in a man, about dating in general, and about their past relationships. The younger women are more obstinate about finding that perfect guy, but as her interviewees get older, they express more and more regret about chances they should have taken and guys they should have stayed with. The reasons these women give for ending a relationship are exasperating at times:
“He was very loving but he wasn’t romantic enough. On Valentine’s Day he made a mix tape of my favorite music and gave me an hour-long massage, but all day at work, whenever I saw the flower guy going up the hall delivering flowers to my colleagues, I kept thinking, where are my flowers? I wanted a guy who sends flowers.”
The younger women are more obstinate about finding that perfect guy, but as Gottlieb’s interviewees get older, they express more and more regret about chances they should have taken and guys they should have stayed with.
Men pretty much get off scott-free in Marry Him. Gottlieb writes that while guys can be typecasted as commitment-phobes, they generally know what they want in a woman, and it’s not much – generally, they seek kindness, average attractiveness, and common family values. If he doesn’t commit, it may just be because you’re not what he’s looking for. She writes that both genders can be “maximizers,” ready to break off a good relationship if something possibly “better” comes along, but the majority of maximizers are women.
Women all too often cut off good guys at the pass due to some trivial “flaw” – too short, bald, bad dresser, wrong occupation, too young, too old, etc. etc. Gottlieb finds that women connect superficial characteristics to what they want in a husband, and in reality, there is little to no crossover. That handsome, witty TV producer might not turn out to be a thoughtful spouse and loving father, but maybe that slightly dorky, funny computer repairman will.
Love at first sight takes a beating here – Gottlieb asserts that instant chemistry is based on an attraction to objective qualities (handsome, witty, TV producer) and fireworks are not indicative of whether a relationship will be mutually satisfying. She advocates for women to go on multiple dates before deciding whether or not a relationship will work out, and to be reasonable in what they will get out of a relationship once it is established, i.e. not everything.
In Marry Him, Gottlieb forays into the dating world and tries to change her picky ways with the help of a few professional matchmakers. Chapter by chapter, she disassembles the soulmate-perfect-man fairy tale. It may be an uncomfortable read for some women, but its message has life-changing potential: get real, or stay lonely.
Yes ladies, we are great. But so are a lot of guys. Why not give them a chance?