Just in time for Valentine's Day, the world has found its anti-Cupid. Her name is Lori Gottlieb, and she's a pretty, 42-year-old single mom who will be on the Today Show tomorrow. So why is the blogosphere calling for her head!?
She just wrote a book called "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough
," advising you to, among other things, give the online date with bad breath a second chance, and not ix-nay a guy over his unfortunate taste in denim.
In a word, she's urging you to settle, so as not to wind up alone like she did. And when I finished the book, I turned to my brand-new husband (I got married in September) and said: This is the smartest relationship book I've read in years.
I know, I know -- I can hear you going, "But, but, BUT!" I can hear my friend, who went on so many online dates she actually created a spreadsheet to keep track of them all, telling me at brunch on Sunday, "I don't like the word settle. I couldn't will myself to go out with someone again if there was no chemistry."
And she's right. The thing is, the most unsettling part of the book for me was the word "settle," because, despite the title, that's not exactly what Gottlieb's espousing. She's simply suggesting you not walk in the shoes of her younger self: A very particular girl who wrote guys off indiscriminately, for all the wrong reasons, for too long. And, when you are ready to settle down, look for someone who's going to be a good partner, rather than, say, a master sexter with bedroom eyes.
Though those are nice qualities in a guy too, and you needn't trade him in tomorrow.
That's the thing about this book: I think it's got a lot of truth to impart if you're nearing 30, and know that you want the whole enchilada -- marriage, kids, dirty diapers -- but consistently don't date the type of guy who's likely to change them with you.
I also think the message is timely: We're a generation that's been weaned on six seasons of "Sex and the City" and too many romantic comedies. I mean, I'm all for cute sundresses and brunch, but along with that dose of girl power, we've been fed some seriously messed up relationship messages. How long has Big been stringing Carrie along now? And breathless fans take this as proof that it's true love.
Truth is, it's far more acceptable to waltz around town swilling Cosmos in your tu-tu at 22 than 42, and if they're going to, the "Sex and the City" characters should have come with warning labels:
"In real life, Carrie is married with three kids."
Which brings us back to Gottlieb, who's been skewered on blog after blog for the book's following passage:
"It's kind of like the graphic anti-drunk driving public service announcements that show people crashing into poles and getting killed. If they just told you, 'Don't drink and drive,' you might think, 'Yeah, I know, but I can have a couple martinis, right?' It's not until you see people ending up brain-dead, lying in a coma in the hospital and surrounded by beeping monitors, that the message has an impact.
"In the same way, if you don't see how easily people can end up alone by making the dating mistakes I did, you won't be dissuaded from making the same mistakes yourself. I had to show the reality of being single at my age because I used to be like a teenager who thinks he's invulnerable to drunk driving accidents -- it's all in the abstract, something that happens to other people, but would never happen to me. It never occurred to me that I would become another dating casualty. I had to show, in grim detail, the accident that my dating life became so that you could make choices you wouldn't look back on later and regret."
How could she, bloggers spluttered. As one wrote, acidly: "Yes, she just compared being single to being brain-dead after a drunk-driving accident."
No. The comparison Gottlieb made -- using as much hyperbole as possible, so people would (ahem) get the message -- is this: If you're not careful, you could wind up like me.
She isn't saying there's anything wrong with being single for the rest of your days, unless that's not how you want to spend them. What she is saying is that she wanted to get married, and have biological kids with a husband, but that's not how her life -- which is still okay, thank you very much -- panned out. And she's writing her book in the hopes that that won't happen to you.
In her twenties, Gottlieb was -- though she doesn't say this outright -- a catch, sure her Mr. Right was around the next corner. She spent the next two decades trying to find him, while, like the rest of us, juggling a career. Then, at 37, she decided to take a break, and instead of signing up for another online dating site, registered to find a sperm donor and have a baby while she still could. Now she has a young son she loves "ecstatically," she writes, but still no man she feels that way about.
What she realizes, too late, is that dating doesn't get easier as you get older. Think speed-dating is the devil
now? Try it at 41, when, even if they try to police the age groups by decade, the only dudes who show up to date you are fresh off registering at the AARP. It's not a pretty picture. And that part of the book can be bleak. But I applaud her for telling the truth, and throwing herself under the bus for the rest of us.
Fact: It sounds like Gottlieb was pretty picky in her youth. Nobody's saying you can't blackball a guy for a lot of perfectly good reasons
. Though those women with checklists are out there, too: I personally plan to loan my copy of "Marry Him" to my friend who refuses to date anyone with "recessive genes" -- by that she means blonds, redheads and any guy under 6'0.
Mind you, she's 35, and 5' 3."
But if you're 22 or 26, get back on the bar and keep dancing. I, too, dated in a big city for a decade, and there's a time when a guy should be judged by nothing more than his potential to make an excellent post-mortem brunch story.
Maybe, like eye cream, this book will be lost on you until the day you actually need it. And here's hoping you never will.
Until then, just keep this in mind. My friend from brunch, the one with the spreadsheet? She, like me, finally got engaged. At the time, we were both 33.
In my case, I'd finally kicked my twentysomething habit of falling hard for foreign accents and took up with a good guy who only speaks one tongue: English. But he also boasts a wicked sense of humor and the sort of devotion that doesn't need conjugating.
My friend, a film buff with a taste for subtitles and charismatic gay pseudo-boyfriends fell head-over-heels for an Arby's-loving sports nut who happens to think she's the best thing since powdered roast beef. Huh?
"I wouldn't have looked at him in my twenties," she laughed when we were out last Sunday. "I thought I wanted someone who was into foreign films."
I don't think either one of us thinks we've settled. It's more that we grew up. And I think all Gottlieb's urging you to do is use your perch on the bar to scan the room for nice guys you might otherwise overlook -- because you might find they grow on you when the time comes not to settle, but to settle down.
Agree? Disagree? Hate me and Lori Gottlieb, too? That's fine. Tell us why you would or wouldn't "settle."
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