Do I Have Issues? An Interview with the Author of American Therapy

I talk to a psych expert to find out if there's something fundamentally wrong with me since I haven't found love yet — and learn that maybe the problem is societal.

I left off yesterday with the question: Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? Is that why I'm nearly 35 and have yet to find true love?

I have to say that, after a lifetime of instinctual self-denigration, I've finally come around to the idea that maybe I'm not so terrible. While I'm no Angelina Jolie, I'm of at least average attractiveness. I'm at least reasonably successful. (I'm writing for Marie Claire magazine, am I not?!) And I have at least half a brain, maybe even three-quarters of one. Also, to borrow a cliche from the realms of the Internet personals, I'm the kind of chick whom parents, children, and even pets tend to like. Much as I would like to believe there's some obvious reason that I'm still single — because then I might be able to change it! — I've come to accept that I'm not flawed in any glaring or obvious way. (Oh, except for: Did I mention that I am hunchback and my knuckles drag on the floor? Nah. Only kidding.)

Yet I still worry that there's something I'm doing wrong.

In the interest of trying to figure it out, I decided to call a guy named Jonathan Engel, Ph.D., who recently wrote American Therapy: The Rise of Psychotherapy in the United States.

ME: So, you've never met me, and don't know much about me, but any conjectures as to why a woman like me might still be single?

HIM: If you are 150 pounds overweight or on the brink of bankruptcy, it's obvious. No one wants to be with people who are out of control, weight-wise or financially or in any other way.

Nope. I weigh less than 150, all told. And I've got a little money saved.

It's also important to be physically attractive. By that, I don't mean you should look like you just stepped out of Sports Illustrated. Men aren't looking for models — and if they met one, most of them would be too freaked out to speak to her. But what they want is someone who has a decent haircut, takes an interest in her appearance, dresses nicely, is in good shape, and has a little style. Kindness and a sense of humor are also huge.

So, it'd be great if I was a stand-up comedian?

No, no. I didn't mean you should be good at cracking jokes — just that you should be good-humored. You should be able to smile at life. Frankly, most people don't want to be married to a stand-up comic.

All right, well, I think I actually have all the basic qualities, more or less. But do you think I have serious subconscious issues?

If you have a career, you're socially appropriate, and you take care of yourself, then maybe you don't have a life partner because you're not thinking realistically about how to get your goals. Or else your goals are unrealistic. We in the west have this idea of the soul mate — someone who can be everything for us. But no one can. And historically, most cultures have known that. But we don't.