It’s Not Just Me

I bought a friend a copy of Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Not because I believe in settling, but because I knew that she wanted to. She kept going out with all these guys who were perfect except… for one fatal flaw. And she’d wonder if she should stop caring about these things because she’s twenty-seven and is three children behind her classmates, and all she wants is to be married.

So yes, she’s definitely the target audience. I bought her the book.

“Guess what,” Gottlieb says. “There is no perfect man. Kind of how you’re not a perfect woman, so ditch that mile-long shopping list of pointless minutiae and find someone good enough. Then deal with it. Because at least you’ll be married.”

Well, Friend loved it. She kept reading passages aloud about how picky women are, their ridiculous demands, and how few things are really important in a marriage.

“You should read this when I’m done!” she enthused.

“Not a chance,” I replied. “You know I don’t want to settle.” You see, the premise of Lori’s book is that most of all, every woman wants to get married. It’s only a false sense of entitlement that prevents us from picking out the first non-psychotic y-x chromosome pair that strolls past.

And there are certainly many women, like Friend, who feel this way. Their goal is to Get Married. They just need to find someone suitable to do it with. Then they can relax into marital bliss and babies with an easy sigh, knowing they have secured the most important accessory of the rest of the their life.

There are even married people who agree with this. “I’m so glad I married young,” they smile blissfully. “I could not have handled being single this long.”

I usually gape at them in astonishment. Is this the well-adjusted, multi-interested, adventurous person I knew in high school who never had a bored moment in her life? Saying she couldn’t have handled being single? Then I decide that it must be like me saying I couldn’t have handled being married that young. We’re all happy with what life has handed us because we have no idea what the alternative is really like. That’s not a bad thing.

Still, it bugs me.

Because I’ve never felt that way.

I can see the appeal of a committed relationship and the joys of offspring (at least between years 1 and 12), but the tug of the institution of marriage itself has never been a desperate need that overrides my desire for independence or self-sufficiency. I’ve always felt rather alone in this way.

But the nice thing about Gottlieb’s book is the overwhelming negative reaction it’s gotten from lots of women. Some just don’t like being told that they’re picky. But some don’t like the idea of settling. Like me, they do not fear a future in which kindly relatives give them cats for their birthdays. At least, they don’t fear it more than they fear being institutionalize with someone they discover they have trouble respecting.

Now, I happen to agree with Gottlieb that disrespecting someone because they haven’t read Kafka or “aren’t romantic enough” is kind of dumb. But I would also like to point out that there are many happy marriages based on equally dumb points of attraction. A teacher in seminary bragged to us about a match she made between a rich, trophy-wife hunting man and a beautiful, gold-digging woman. “Maybe it seems shallow,” she laughed at her horrified, idealistic, not-yet-dating class. “But it works for them. So what does it matter?”

To which I say, exactly. And if you’d rather stay single than spend the rest of your life with someone who is ugly, or poor, unromantic, or disinterested in existential literature, well, that’s a deeply personal thing, and certainly your priority to make.

Just make sure that you are okay with that. Because otherwise you should probably settle.

Not me, though. I don’t believe in settling.

Be Someone’s Second Best

Don’t you love studies? I adore them. People can find studies to support just about any thesis. But when they write them up in an article they’re so convincing that you usually assume they’re legit. Especially when they confirm what you already think, or what you wish you knew.

This link is in the latter category. It’s a very cheering article about how men are so desperate to settle down that they’ll marry even someone who is second best and learn to love her later. (Kind like the lab tech I mentioned a while back who claims he married his wife for her money.)

Thought Question: If You Could, Would You?

Yesterday, someone linked to this Atlantic article by a single woman with an IVF baby. These women have their kid, but… something is missing. Indeed, they kinda miss having a guy around the house.

Just goes to show – some people are never satisfied.

But seriously. The message of the article is “Don’t be like us!” (Because, you know, ever since we first started playing with our Barbies we threw out the Ken as unnecessary and played ‘single mom with IVF baby’) “Settle for Mr. Not-so-perfect!”

Which I find kinda offensive. Because she’s insinuating that most women have guys lined up and proposing every night but we turn them away for offenses like wearing pale yellow button downs or enjoying football. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been at risk for a single proposal. Ever. Not like those heroines in romances like North and South who get a proposal every chapter and you’re supposed to weep for their isolation and loneliness. As far as I know, there isn’t a single guy in the universe at this moment who wants to marry me (I know, I know, who can blame ‘em?). I bet most of you can say that too.

But following this article, by the time women are willing to settle nobody wants to marry them. She doesn’t address guys, but I imagine it’s similar, except that if the guy is old enough and rich enough, some bimbo will be willing to take the dive.

So here’s the question: At what age would you consider yourself beyond hope? And, if you reached that age, would you be willing to ‘settle’ for many of the things you’re hanging out for right now? If, at that age, you met someone else who was willing to settle and who basically fits this description from the article:

I would say even if he’s not the love of your life, make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category (which they all eventually become anyway).

would you be willing to enter an amicable but dispassionate marriage with them?