Should You Marry Mr. Wrong? (CAN You?): 3 Objections


Hello there! I've got a bit of a head cold today, so I apologize ahead of time if I'm slightly incoherent. (And actually, please let me know if I am so I can attempt to revise accordingly.) Also, I'll try not to sneeze on you.

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The topic of the day: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, a new book by Lori Gottlieb, based on this hotly debated article which she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly in May 2008.

Let me say, before I go any farther, that I read the article, but not the book. I couldn't quite get through it, in part because the premise annoyed me too much, and in part because I simply thought there were better ways I could exercise my mind. That said, I'm a blogger--and isn't the definition of blogger "a person with license to comment on things she hasn't read"? (Ha!)

In the book, Gottlieb says she wishes she'd married any of the "perfectly acceptable but uninspiring" men she knew in her twenties, instead of rejecting them in her search for someone more awesome. Gottlieb--now an unmarried mother in her forties--urges women to settle early on, while they still have the chance, like she wishes she had. (Yes, she uses the word settle.) She argues that women should "do it young, when settling involves constructing a family environment with a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger."

Her advice seems to be aimed mainly at women interested in having children, because parenting is a lot easier when there are two people around to roll up their sleeves. As she says, "Marriage isn't a passionfest [but] a partnershipformed to run a small, mundane and often boring non-profit business."

But she also indicates that all women, really, should settle, because they're going to have a much easier time of finding anyone (even someone not so great) in their thirties; in their forties, it will be much harder to find anyone. As she states in some press materials: "A woman at 30 is more appealing and has a more appealing dating pool to choose from than that same woman will five or ten years later." (Ouch.) In other words, it'd be wise for all of us females to settle before we get too geriatric.

In a recent interview Gottlieb did with a Marie Claire editor (which provoked a big response), the author noted: "As I say in the beginning of the book, settling in our culture has this very negative connotation like you're picking the schlubby guy who
repulses you. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm saying is we consider picking someone who doesn't meet everything on our checklist. ... If he is 5'7" don't not go on a first date because of that."

My initial response to the article--and to the book, when I started looking through the advance copy I got--was OUTRAGE.

Here's why:

1) If settling is was so easy--possible, even--I imagine Gottlieb would've managed to do it. The reality is: IT'S NOT THAT EASY TO GO ON MORE THAN THREE DATES WITH SOMEONE YOU'RE JUST NOT THAT INTO--LET ALONE DECIDE TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE LIVING WITH HIM!

So bottom-line, I think her overall message is kind of stupid and condescending. Sure, it has a nice ring to it--she'll probably sell lots of books--but is there any real-life utility?

2) I think Gottlieb should have written a book about how incredibly hard it is to be a single mother. She decided, at age 37, to get pregnant with some help from a sperm donor. Her plan was "to have a baby first, find 'true love' later."

I have to say, I'm alarmed when women--some of my friends, even--talk about having a baby on their own if they haven't found a husband by a certain age. Because raising kid is an incredibly hard thing to do--even just in terms of finances--and all that much harder when you're dong it on your own.

I think it's also worth noting that the friends of mine I'm talking have gone on dates with men they were somewhat sketpical about.They're quite attractive, smart, successful and hard-working. And yet ... it's not like they've been declining offers of marriage every other month.

3) Which brings me to another problem I have with the whole concept of settling for "Mr. Good Enough." It implies that there are all sorts of sweet, willing, perfectly acceptable men who are just waiting in the wings, thinking "Please, choose me! Choose me!" It implies there are nicely dressed men who are lining the auditorium at the Single People Conference,just hoping some chick will say, "All right, fine; you'll do." (Here in NYC at least, men certainly aren't like that; and I know at least one reader, Kristian with a K, will back me up on that.)

So Gottlieb's book not only condescends to women--by telling them what they're doing wrong, and how their lives could be so much better if they only followed (her rather difficult-to-follow) advice; she also condescends to men.

I don't know ... what do you guys think? I'm really curious to hear. Have you guys read the article? The book doesn't come out till Feb. 4.

(BWT: The book has also been covered in the UK version of Marie Claire.)



dear commenters:

-remy: thanks for your note. i'm really glad you like the blog. and thanks too for assuring me i'm not an undateable leper. ha! i liked that.

-DC: i didn't tell this guy about the blog ... and some guys I've been out with don't know about it all. but i think your reminder to keep it on the D-L till i get to know someone a bit better.

-Staci: I totally agree that everyone could use a little therapy. ... And Hot Band Guy! Ha! I'd almost forgotten about him.

-Camera Shy: What do you mean "if" you were mentioned in my blog? I'm mentioning you right now, again!

-Fancy! Hullo, luv. I amazed that you do things like replacing electric plugs. Thank you for the eHow know-how. Come back soon!

-Kell: you're a reader of my blog--that's who you are, to give advice! I'll take it.

-Lemon + Edwinna + Jack: Thank you for reminding that there are dudes who will think my blog is very groovy. Like Arlo Pumpernickel did. And like one commenter ... who might go by the name of RtotheK.