Are Women Too Picky? Marry Him Already!
By Lauren Iannotti
Photo Credit: Kutay Tanir/iStock
LI: You have a great moment where you say we look at romantic comedies like theyre documentaries.
Lori: Yeah, and that woman who said, I broke up with my boyfriend because I was expecting a romantic-comedy response. And thats when she was 27 and was in love with him and she thought, Well if he cant give me that romantic-comedy response he must not really love me. Now shes single, approaching 40, and thinking of having a baby on her own. Well, you know she regrets that decision.
LI: So you talk in the book about how women dont admit that they want marriage because they think it sounds weak. Which may explain why I tore the cover off your book before I took it on the subway. And sharpied over Marry Him on the title page.
Lori: (Laughing) Ill tell you a funny story about that. I had to pick up a manuscript with corrections from my editor, and I had to go to a movie screening on the same night. So I just brought it along to the theater. But I literally put something over the cover. Of my own book! I didnt want people to know I was reading a book that said Marry Him. I felt like, Could I be more desperate? So I totally relate to that. And I think we should have thought about that when we did the title because nobody is going to want to be seen with this book!
LI: People are going to read it. But theyll have to hide...
Lori: Its like porn!
LI: Heres a million-dollar idea you should sell a little book cover right next to it, that says something else.
Lori: Im Fine by Myself!
LI: Or maybe Remembrances of Times Past?
Lori: The German title of my book is Take Him!
LI: Oh my god, thats so funny! And they usually have such good words for things.
Lori: No, it says: Take Him! The subtitle is: You Are Not Going to Find Someone Better. So concrete.
LI: I remember when the movie Airheads came out, which is like where three idiots take over a radio station and they called it in Germany: Three Idiots Take Over a Radio Station! Anyway, why do we have to hide this desire? Why do we think it sounds weak?
Lori: I think feminism is great and Im all for it, but we take the ideas of being self-sufficient and not depending on anybody and we apply them to our romantic lives. But its antithetical to the whole idea of being in a relationship, which is about interdependence, its about being with someone, its about vulnerability, its about all of these things that feminism is not. Still, a lot of us applied these feminist ideas to dating, but feminism never said apply this to your dating life it wasnt about that. Feminism said: You should have equal opportunity in the workplace; you should have these opportunities that were previously closed off to you. But it never said: If you want to be with a guy, thats really needy and dependent. Feminism never said theres anything wrong with wanting a man! But people...
LI: Um, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle?
Lori: Well, I think our generation, the third wave, never said theres anything wrong with wanting a man. In fact many, many stay-at-home moms I know consider themselves feminists. Theres all different ways to live your life, and then there are feminists who have very high-powered careers and are married and have kids all at the same time. So I just think the problem is, when this Atlantic article came out, people said, If I have a daughter who grows up like you and wants a man half as bad as you...
LI: ...I would have failed.
Lori: Yes. And its like, what is wrong with wanting to be with somebody?! I think we put men off in a lot of ways. We have these attitudes that are very off-putting when youre trying to get to know somebody in a romantic context. And the whole: Are you good enough for me? Think too thats added to the I dont need you and I dont think youre good enough for me. And its really hard to meet a man like that.
LI: You actually ask this question and I wonder if you have any thoughts on it: Wheres the line between too picky and not picky enough? I mean fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, so there are many people who werent picky enough the first time round. We dont want to be that either. Thats no more fun: Being a 40-year-old divorcée is no more fun than being 40-year-old never-married.
Lori: Yeah, I dont think it wasnt that the people who got divorced were not picky enough the first time; it was that they picked the wrong qualities. The majority of people go into marriage thinking that its going to work out. They dont go in there saying, Yeah Ill take him, okay; well see if it doesnt work out so well. Most people go in and say, I think this is going to work! They go into their marriage and they see what marriage is really about. Thats a big point in the book: When were dating we dont look for the qualities that are going to be important later so were picking people in our dating lives based on criteria that arent going to be that relevant in marriage. And so, those people who got divorced, I spoke to a lot of people whose experience was the guy did look like the one. So it wasnt that they werent being picky enough; it was that they got into their marriage and it turned out that there were these lifestyle issues and personality issues in terms of how they related to each other in a household, how they related to each other in daily life, that were much more important than whether he looked like the guy they imagined themselves to be with. Others married the guy they didnt imagine themselves with, but they get along much better with in daily life, and they are much happier with day-to-day. He doesnt look like Mr. Right but he is Mr. Right.
LI: And you think most women dont recognize him?
Lori: I think there are so many women who are falling through the marital cracks that never expected to, myself included. And they cant figure out why. And they say, Oh, there are just no good men out there, or whatever it is. And I think that a lot of people think that its totally out of their control, that its fate or destiny that will bring this guy when its right. But then its just not happening, and then they wonder whats going on. And they try all these crazy things like I dont know, whatever people do when they get desperate. And it never works. So Im kinda saying to people who are younger: You know there are things that you can do in terms of your perspective and your approach to dating that might help you find someone that youre really happy with, and it might save you a lot of years of picking the wrong people who you might end up getting married to but they might not end up being the right person. So look for these kind of things that are going to be important because you cant imagine yet whats gonna be important because you dont think about that. Our culture tells us to look for certain things in dating that have little or no relevance to whats going to be important in marriage.
LI: But you make dating after 40 sound so miserable. You compare it to being in a drunk-driving accident!
Lori: Do you know anyone who likes it?
LI: I dont really know a lot of people that are doing it. But you talk about sitting with your girlfriends, and everyones looking over each others shoulders to see if Mr. Rights walking in the door, rather than listening to each other talk. And you talk about e-mail after e-mail and obsessing over some guy for a few weeks and then hes gone and then going on to the next one. I know its hyperbole and I know that you said that...
Lori: But its not! Thats not hyperbole. Whens the last time you dated?
LI: Im 35 and maybe I havent hit the threshold yet but I think datings fun.
Lori: Yeah, but youre still 35. Imagine yourself five years from now. Imagine your social circle 90 percent of your friends will be married and you will be by yourself, and it may seem okay now but would you want that for the rest of your life? And think about the kind of men...whos gonna be available. There are so few men who would date a 40-plus woman who is even in their age range. And those guys are taken. Theyre taken or theyre dating younger women. Thats reality that a lot of people think is disempowering or offensive to say, or anti-feminist.
LI: Or just depressing!
Lori: It is depressing, but it happens to be reality. What Im saying is that I just always thought: Im cute, Im really cute and talented and fun and interesting and Im smart of course Im going to find someone. And its like, Yeah but there are five million other women just like me. You must know lots of 35-year-olds who arent married in New York.
Lori: How happy are they about being single? And see in five years how happy they are about being single. They may put on a brave face, they may go out on lots of dates, and blah blah blah blah, but on some level I would conjecture that they are not going to be happy five years later in that same situation.
LI: I think though that they see a lot of their friends who are married not unhappily but have a not so different happiness to contentedness to not-so-happy to miserable ratio, as they do. I feel like I look at my friends who have kids and are married...
Lori: Because its hard having little kids! This is the time of most marital dissatisfaction. Its sort of ironic: Once you get married theres the honeymoon period or whatever and then you have the little kids and this is when people, statistically, are most unhappy: Theyre sleep-deprived, theyre cranky, theyre overwhelmed, theyre having fights with their spouses about child care. And youre comparing, you single people, are comparing yourselves to these people who are at the most challenging part of their marriage. And their marriage is gonna get better and better and better over the years because the kids grow up And you guys are comparing yourselves to this really tough phase. But you know what? Ask them if they would be single. Put them in that situation; they wouldnt rather be single and childless.
Plus: Women discuss our Q&A with Lori Gottlieb at jezebel.com. Read Marie Claire's response here.