I don’t understand women like Lori Gottlieb. She’s the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.
Gottlieb’s book is a cautionary tale: She was picky about the men she dated, so picky that she realized she might no longer be fertile by the time she finally found Mr. Right. So she became pregnant through artificial insemination and had a baby by herself. In her mind, becoming a single mother enabled her to remove the deadline (of eventual infertility) from her hunt for a man to spend her life with. What she discovered, instead, is that at 41, she was exhausted by raising a child on her own, and her own value in the dating marketplace had plummeted.
Her book, based on an article she wrote in The Atlantic, describes her sundry efforts to stop harping on what’s wrong with all the men she meets and start focusing on what’s right with some of them. And, in the process, she hopes to expose her misguided history of chasing alluring but wrong men and rejecting ordinary but right ones so that other, younger, women can learn and make better choices.
Whether I was extremely lucky or extremely smart, I married my Mr. Right six years ago. Reading Gottlieb’s book I felt variously smug at my own coupled state and annoyed at the bad choices in men she and her cohort had made.
The women Gottlieb writes about (with pseudonyms, of course) seem to have gotten their dating advice from Sex and the City. (So that’s one thing I don’t understand, because I never really liked that show, though the Sex girls’ cocktails always looked delicious.) These single, urban women are presented as outrageously entitled. No matter how good a man they are dating, they imagine that not only is there a “better” man around the corner (someone more passionate, more ambitious, fitter, taller or richer), but that that man is likely to be available and eager to fall in love with them.
But when Gottlieb was ready to “settle,” her ideal man had already settled down.
I can’t argue with Gottlieb’s humble conclusion–that she had some silly requirements in her youth and is now paying the price. Her happy ending comes as she realizes that an attitude adjustment may, someday, allow her to find someone with whom she can live a contented life.
No, my main gripe is with the book’s title. I write headlines, so I understand the need to boil down a long piece into a few choice words that will grab the reader and compel her to pick up your magazine or book. But I resent the implication that I (and anyone else who married a man who doesn’t look like George Clooney and have a degree or two from Harvard) married Mr. “Good Enough” or that I “settled.”
Before I got married, I used to read a fair number of self-help books directed at single women. So I perused both The Rules and a book called The Surrendered Single: A Practical Guide to Attracting and Marrying the Man Who’s Right for You. And I made a list of 20 qualities I was looking for.
The top seven: compassionate/kind, tolerant, intelligent, curious, funny, ethical (decent), dependable/responsible. The remaining qualities were labeled “gravy” and went from “likes to go to and talk about movies” to “well-traveled.” No. 15 was “tall(er than me).” (My husband didn’t quite meet that one; he is a half-inch shorter than I am. But I am 5’11”, and the average American man is 5’9″, so I did pretty well, even on that superficial measure.)
I got all the rest. How can I express how lucky I was to meet him, or how astute I was to recognize that I had found Mr. Right?
On Saturday, we took our sons, ages 2 and 4, to the lot where we buy our Christmas trees every year. We looked the merchandise over and my husband hauled out a tree in the section for ones we could afford. The tree was so beautiful and so full, I couldn’t believe it was supposed to be in the “yellow” area. The tree guy told us he’d give it to us for $25 (a bargain) but that he’d already sold it–twice–the day before. Two families had taken it home and brought it back because it was too big for their houses. Clearly, that tree was trouble. My husband and I looked at each other, and I said, “Let’s live dangerously.” He smiled and replied, “That’s just what I was going to say.” We paid our money and took that scary behemoth home, and we kept it.
To the author of Marry Him, I want to say: I did marry him. But he wasn’t Mr. Good Enough–he was Mr. Right.
So, did you have a list of requirements for Mr. or Ms. Right? What was on it?