Archive for April 28, 2010

Book Review: Marry Him

When this book showed up on my doorstep, I wanted to hate it. Every romantic and feminist and idealistic bone in my body screamed that this was going to be the most painful 315 pages that I read. I mean, the subtitle of the book is: “The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough.” That in itself should mean it is going to be a sham of a book teaching women to desperately hitch their star to whatever wagon might go by, regardless of whether they actually love or respect their mate. As the author writes on page 278 “…a person doesn’t need a fairy tale marriage to achieve this happiness boost effect. Only a good enough one.”

I know, my sisters, you are snorting with the same derision that I originally felt at this book. How disgusting to marry someone because…meh…they were good enough. And even more depressing, can you imagine being the dude that finds out his wife chose him because she thought he was as good as she would ever get. The statement in and of itself implies that she knew she could do better, but she threw up her hands and settled because she was desperate to be a Mrs. and he’d “do.”

Unfortunately, this appears to be Lori Gottlieb’s strongest literary tool. Masking what could be good advice and realistic outlooks with outrageous and sensational statements to shock her audience and (I’m guessing) get more publicity for her work. She’s like the Howard Stern of relationship self-help writing.

She made waves in 2008 when her essay “Marry Him” hit The Atlantic. The article urged young women to save themselves from the fate that she had created for herself. Apparently at one time, Ms. Gottlieb was quite a hot ticket. The boys were pounding down her door. But she was too picky, too set in her ways, too committed to the image of her perfect mate to realize that she let a great guy slip through her fingers. Somehow missing out on this one guy in her early 30’s caused a vicious spiral similar to that of a crack addict gatewaying to heroin gatewaying to meth. Eventually she ended up artificially inseminated because her biological clock was piercing her eardrums.

Now, I don’t know Lori Gottlieb personally, in researching her life I didn’t find any evidence that the above statements are much of an incorrect depiction. The saddest thing I found while reading this book is that I think she actually has convinced herself that her situation is dictated by all these outside factors that led her to the point she was at today. Through her words she urges young women to carefully consider the pain and suffering they are going to endure if they do not land themselves a man. As she states on page 311
“The older you get, the more complicated dating becomes, and no amount of attitude adjustment can turn back the clock and change those realities.”

It might be the “feminist way of doing things” as Ms. Gottlieb calls it on page 43, but I do not understand why there is an entire sub-culture of intelligent, attractive and strong women being “taught” how to land themselves a man. Where is the book “Marry Her – The Guide To Get Both The Milk And The Cow For Free”? Why are women constantly told to compromise themselves and just hope someone might like them enough to put a ring on it and “fix them.” Is she so sad with her own circumstances that she has decided the only person that can make her feel better about herself is someone else?

Marry Him: The Art of Settling For Mr. Good Enough

When you peel back the completely biased and purposefully blunt language of Ms. Gottlieb’s manifesto(s) you will get at the pure cause of great guys slipping through a woman’s fingers. She even points it out on page 155 – “It’s about finding someone who is enough as opposed to someone who is everything.” We are all fed the fantasy of romance from Disney and Hollywood and episodes of Friends. These orchestrated and impossible scenes with leading characters that are beautifully flawed and yet idealistically perfect. We drink the Kool-Aid and try to apply make-believe to reality.

“It’s not about lowering your standards – it’s about maturing and having reasonable expectations.” See, Ms. Gottlieb has nuggets like this one on page 80 that make me believe that deep down she DOES understand what the real problem is. Because as much as society and movies and our peers influence our dating decisions and future dreams it is up to us to realize that perfection in those terms will never exist.

As Ms. Gottlieb articulates on page 225 “”Love” isn’t independent of practical things, and if we want to have a happy relationship with have to learn how to take those practical things into consideration.” Well, actually it is one of the women she interviewed, but she included it in the book as a piece of wisdom she valued. SEE! See how I thought I was going to loathe every stinking word of this book but there IS worthwhile content if you can weed through the rest it.

In the end love isn’t about some complicated and inaccessible game. It’s about finding someone who may not give you butterflies on your first date…or even your first ten. Someone who may not be the exact height/weight/hair color that you imagined when you paper doll created your dream wedding at the age of 12. Someone who helps you to be the best version of yourself when you are with them and will love you unconditionally when you are sick in bed or screaming about the trash or looking like a million bucks in a little black dress.

But I implore you to not settle into a marriage because it is “good enough.”

I would instead encourage you to love someone because they are perfect…for you.

Am I living a dream? What do you think of settling for someone so that you can be married?

The Empress’ New Clothes

The last dress I bought was for a wedding last summer.

Before that I think it was my fathers college graduation in 2007…or maybe the black knit dress for a fundraiser last May.

Regardless, it’s sufficient to say that dresses are not my go-to wardrobe selection of choice.  Mostly it’s tough to curl up on the couch with a book or a beer and watch the game when you have to make sure to be careful and not flash the room full of guy…friends.  They laugh a lot.  Then you have to punch them in the arm.  Then they punch back.  And you bruise cause you are a delicate flower and they are big oafs who punch each other in the arm all the time.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Which is why I was extremely surprised this past weekend visiting one of my best friends in San Francisco to not buy one or even two but THREE new dresses as we spent almost all day Saturday shopping.

Are you all with me so far?  Not only did I buy three dresses, but I went shopping for clothes for more than 35 minutes.

Young woman in dress on the beach
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Marcus Luconi

There’s something about being in a different place that bring out a different side of youself.  Not moving to a new place, but traveling and visiting.  It’s like you have an open persmission to do things you would never do before and try things you’ve never tried.

For example, two of the dresses were purchased at a magical place called A Miner Miracle.  On top of being a fantastic non-profit organization that helps low income men, women & young professionals with their careers and futures, it is also a beautiful store that sells samples of name brand designers like Anne Taylor, Calvin Klein & Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit.  And they sell the samples for a ridiculously (seriously…RIDICULOUSLY!) reasonable price.  It is almost worth a $300 trip to San Fran to avoid The Maine Mall markup on these garments!

But I digress.  With my arms loaded with clothes to try on with Jenny we walked back to the dressing rooms.

Dressing rooms is probably not the best way to describe it though.  Dressing ROOM might be more appropriate.  Big empty studio with a couple racks in the center, full length $10 mirrors leaning against the wall and heat lamps is best.  I stared at Jenny.  There was no way she expected me to strip down to my boy shorts and bra and try on stuff.

But that’s what you do at A Miner Miracle.

Even for a girl who spent her teen years in theatre/music/dance/perfomance backstage dressing rooms where it was weird for girls to be fully clothed, this was a daunting task to say the least!  So I tried on a couple shirts with my jeans.  I can do this I kept saying again and again in my head.  I can spend seconds with a flash of skin trying on tops.  Then I got to the dresses.  And I tried a couple on over jeans.  Eventually the jeans came off.

Then it was time to change out of one dress and into another.  I was stuck.  The gloves…er…dress…had to come off.  And it did.  And the woman on the other side of the racks glanced over.  And I gulped as I slipped the new brown, teal & lime sundress over my head.  Turning to look in the mirror I spun a little to see the full dress effect.

“That’s cute, you should definitely get that one,” she said.  Jenny jumped up and down squealing.  Another woman smiled.

Stepping outside our comfort zones, being in those awkward places and getting a little girl-ified in the process…a necessary event for anyone in the dating scene.  Really, it’s necessary for all of us.

But especially for us single people.

If You Just Smile

You show me one person who likes having their picture taken and I will find you twenty who run in fear.

I would be one of those 20.

I’m not one of those people that runs and hides and squeals and whines and is general a pain in the ass about having it taken.  I’ll look forward, grin and bear it with the best of ’em.  I’ve even perfected the girl head squish where you all jutt your neck towards each other, purse your lips and look super “sexy.”  See…I can be a girl…sometimes…

So when I finally came to grips with the fact that I needed to update my headshots and photos (the current ones were from the Fall of 2006 and the Spring of 2007) I agonized over what to do.  Should I wait til I lost another 20 pounds (I heard once you lose weight first from your extremities and my face/head is an extremity, right?!)  Should I wait until spring so I can have them taken outside?

Most importantly was finding a photographer I trusted and wouldn’t get so nervous about working with that I thew up for hours leading to the shoot (did I mention I was FREAKING OUT about this idea?!)  Someone who would take my photo and make me all pretty and not squinty eyed and crooked smiled (two of the features of most pictures that I dislike the most about myself.)

Enter Melissa Mullen Photography.  Not only was she having a promotional event for young professionals looking to do headshots/portraits (deal on the sitting fee? Yes please!) but she was kind and fun and easy to talk to so I figured that would probably translate to a laidback and enjoyable photo shoot session.

Plus I absolutely love her work.

No crooked smile and the only times my eyes were at all squinty were when I was laughing, showing off the beautiful smile lines I’ve spent 30 years cultivating in the creases. The rest were so clear and shining I realized that I have greenish eyes…I always thought they were brown!  Plus, she let me bring my best friend/roomie/sister and we had a little fun ourselves.

How can you not have fun and be at ease when you get to do things like this at Millcreek Park in South Portland (yes, I am totally balancing on Amy’s back!)

Copyright Melissa Mullen<br /><br /><br />

There are many lessons to learn here.  Things like finding a photographer that you work well with and can trust.  Or don’t throw up before a photo shoot session because that just isn’t fun.

But the most important thing I learned was that spending two hours posing and moving and photo-ing with a professional make you just feel good about yourself.  I left there with a perma-grin, knowing that I would have some great photos in the mix.  There’s a quiet confidence that the process inspires that just makes you happy.

Like the song says, “You’ll find that life is so worthwhile if you just smile.”

If I could reccommend one thing to any singles out there trying to find the confidence to put themselves out there for dating and mixing and mingling, it would be to spend 3 hours taking amazing photos (preferably with a professional that is trained in showing you at your best.)

The feeling you have when you get to view those photos for the first time, staring at the screen amazed and awestruck that you could look like that will far surpass any butterflies a potential date can give you.

Because really, what is more attractive than someone who loves themselves?

Have you ever done professional photos of yourself? Would you?

A Simpler Time

As much as I disliked parts of high school, there were other parts that were great.  One of those parts being the adorable puppy love relationships that sprang from studying together or dancing together at the Homecoming dance.

There is something appealing to a life where dating was easier.  Or simpler.

To a life where the greatest gesture a boy could make was spending hours on a dual tape-decked boom box making you a mix tape to show you that he would love you forever.  Bonus points if it involved any song from a boy band of the 90’s.

Young couple listening to a mix tape
Photo Credit: Getty Images – Dimitri Vervitsiotis

It’s like you were penned up with a sea of available dates and raging hormones for 30 hours a week and relationships were bound to grow and prosper.  Sure, when they failed you still had to sit next to each other in sophomore English (seriously, who decided that you should keep assigned seats for an ENTIRE semester when most high school loves only lasted about 3.5 weeks?!) but otherwise it was a blissful state of existence.

Dating now seems so much harder.  First you have to FIND people to date.  The only place you spend 30+ hours consistently is work, and that’s not always the best place to foster relationships.  Once you finally do find someone, you have to figure out what to do to hang out and get to know each other better.  If you go out to dinner/movies/mini-golfing (hey, it’s one of my favorite first dates…don’t judge!) then you have to do that special dance over who is going to pay.  There’s figuring out the perfect time to introduce them to your friends, who are their own special breed of…special…but the closest people to your heart besides the cast of Beverly Hills 90210.

The easiest part of dating in high school is that you actually did become friends with your boyfriend, usually before you even began dating.  That doesn’t happen so easily now.  At least for me.  I’m that girl who spends so much time hanging with the boys that I’ve learned to live in the friend zone.  Which totallydoes not translate to dating or any sort of relationship.

All I ask for is a boy who will carry my books to homeroom and buy me a chocolate milk at lunch.  Is that so much to ask for?

What do you miss about high school love?  Was it easier?  More difficult?

The Book For You Date No Good

Sometimes it is something simple like the infamous dance of the toilet seat lid.

Other times it’s something bigger, like smoking or tattoos.

And occasionally it is something completely crazy unjustified, like the fact that not only do you want them to do the dishes but you also want THEM to want to do the dishes.

Regardless, each of us has spent time seeking out our soulmate, only to find that they have some (in our mind) fatal flaw that makes them completely undateable specimens.

We create these impossible dealbreakers.

Deal Breaker: Fry-Walrus
Photo Credit: Getty Images – ImageSource

I was looking recently at pictures of a college friend’s wedding on Facebook.  Tall, blonde, beautiful, skinny, she could have landed any guy on campus.  Mutual friends would comment that she was one of those annoying people who somehow managed to look gorgeous even hungover with makeup stains under her eyes at Hannaford.

As is the nature of Facebook, I hadn’t spoken to her in close to 10 years (well, since I was actually IN college) so I had no idea who her husband was.  As I opened the photo album expecting to find the perfect Ken doll to her Barbie existence, I was shocked to find a short, chubby, balding guy with dark sunken eyes and a crooked-toothed smile.

I emailed her congratulations, shaking my head in disbelief at the odd coupling I saw on the page and her response to me was:

Thanks!! He’s really amazing!! Makes me laugh, I can talk to him for hours, he takes care of me, loves me and is a good man.  I know, I know.  He’s nothing like the pretty boys I dated in school.  I almost dumped him after our first date together!!  But something told me to give it a try.  I’m so happy I did!! =)

It was as if happiness and love in the dating world might be based more on who the person is than whether they are too short, too tall, too chubby, too sarcastic, too shy, too agressive, too…too…too.  It’s like any adjective that you have to preface with the disclaimer of “too” is already going to be a dealbreaker that is making you miss out on a great person and fabulous opportunity.

What are your dealbreakers? Have you had that gut-check realization far too late that you ruled out someone amazing because of a silly reason?