It’s Not About Him, It’s About You (plural)

Lori Gottlieb wrote an outrageous article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled Marry Him! about how women over 30 should settle “Mr. Good Enough.” Here’s an excerpt that givs the gist:

My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.

I couldn’t disagree more with her advice, but there’s something interesting in what drove Gottlieb to offer such advice. Take the contrast of these these passages into consideration. Here’s how Gottlieb looks for love:

Back when I was still convinced I’d find my soul mate, I did, although I never articulated this, have certain requirements. I thought that the person I married would have to have a sense of wonderment about the world, would be both spontaneous and grounded, and would acknowledge that life is hard but also be able to navigate its ups and downs with humor. Many of the guys I dated possessed these qualities, but if one of them lacked a certain degree of kindness, another didn’t seem emotionally stable enough, and another’s values clashed with mine.

Take the date I went on last night. The guy was substantially older. He had a long history of major depression and said, in reference to the movies he was writing, “I’m fascinated by comas” and “I have a strong interest in terrorists.” He’d never been married. He was rude to the waiter. But he very much wanted a family, and he was successful, handsome, and smart. As I looked at him from across the table, I thought, Yeah, I’ll see him again. Maybe I can settle for that. But my very next thought was, Maybe I can settle for better. It’s like musical chairs—when do you take a seat, any seat, just so you’re not left standing alone?

And here’s Gottlieb talking about book on relationships:

The moral is supposed to be “Don’t be too picky” but many of the anecdotes quote women who seem to be trying to convince not just the reader, but themselves, that they haven’t settled. “I should be with some guy with a vast vocabulary who is very smart,” said Heather, a 30-year-old lawyer turned journalist. Instead, she’s dating an actor who didn’t finish college. “My boyfriend is fun, he’s smart, but he hasn’t gone through years of school. He wanted to pursue acting. And you can tell—he doesn’t have that background, and it never ever once bothered me. But for everyone else, [his lack of education] is what they see.”

Notice the way Gottlieb talks about potential suitors. It’s all about their attributes: older, handsome, successful, smart. These qualities and her 3 requirements for a man have nothing to do with how he might treat her, how she feels when around him, or how they interact but rather how he behaves independent of her. This is an incredibly superficial and immature approach to relationships. It’s as if it’s more important how this guy sounds in a description to her mom or her girlfriends than the experience of the relationship is. What about, does he stimulate you intellectually? Does he turn you on? Does he make you laugh? Does he treat you with respect? What about all of these things that actually affect the relationship? Does Gottlieb want a relationship with a man or a trophy? Even more telling is her condescending attitude towards the anecdote of the woman who married the actor. Maybe he doesn’t look so good on paper, maybe he doesn’t make the other hens at lunch ooohhh and aahhhh, but he might make his wife really happy, and I bet they get along great.

So it’s not about settling, Lori, it’s about reexamining your criteria. I wish someone had told you that sooner.

Sometimes the truth doesn’t match up with your idea of reality. In fact, this is true for most people, most of the time. One of the most exciting things about getting into a serious relationship is learning how someone can surprise you. Even though they didn’t go to an Ivy League school, they have new and interesting ways of thinking about things. Even though they’re taller than me, I find them beautiful. So how do you find the man of your dreams? You stop dreaming and open your mind to the man in front of you. Don’t settle for someone you don’t like, but don’t be so set in your fantasies so as to not let yourself be challenged and surprised. The person who challenges you is the one who will keep things exciting.


~ by jaredran on March 3, 2008.

2 Responses to “It’s Not About Him, It’s About You (plural)”

  1. move over dr. phil, make way for jaredran! well said, my friend.

  2. Lori Gottlieb also wrote the “The XY Files” for the Atlantic in 2005. In this piece she wrote about her making the decision to have a baby from the sperm bank. It’s interesting to hear the inter workings of her mind as she calculates which donor to chose.

    She thinks about the mistakes of her past: men that just didn’t seem to fit, guy’s that weren’t just right. She dumps a reasonable sounding man.

    In 2006 she wrote a piece called “How Do I Love Thee?” Her interests seem to have taken her to the on-line dating sites, trolling for a mate/husband/guy. She’s amazed at how interesting and unique she is. Of the 9 million, not one was right for her: no hit’s, zero.

    Lori listen, the reason dream guy didn’t get a hit is for that exact reason, you dreamed him up, he doesn’t exist. Remember this fact ladies, the greatest factor in falling in love is proximity.

    Gottlieb seriously needs to have a 3 year plan and use more common sense. It’s as if she muddles through her relationships and life in general. If I were a female I would not take advice from her, she’s a self admitted bubbler in life. Well at lest she’s got an easy job.


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