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?
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.
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