Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Point: All the Single Ladies (of a certain age)—Time to Settle Up!

[We'll be doing this point-counterpoint style, so check back for another perspective soon!]

I’m gonna say it—Lori Gottlieb is a new member of my personal heroes club. You may have heard of her “controversial” book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Now, I have not read the book…yet, but I recently enjoyed this excerpt printed in the Atlantic in March ’08. And I have to say that I agree 100% with her observations and personal recommendations to single women, especially those over age 30, to forgo the fireworks and “settle” for the good family man that you get along with so as not to have to go it alone.

Just a brief on Lori Gottlieb—she is an award-winning, best-selling author and single 40-something who is raising her son alone because once she hit that certain age, she decided she no longer wanted to wait for The One to come along to start a family the traditional way (tick, tock, biological clock), but would dive in and do it alone (with the help of donor sperm) and plug Mr. Right into the equation further down the road.
It’s not that Lori regrets her decision, but it’s that she realized, like so many women do, that it would be nice to have a partner, companion, friend to co-parent and have a life with. And if she’d made a few compromises and “settled” for Mr. Good Enough in her early 30’s, instead of holding out all Carrie Bradshaw-like for the “za za zsu”, she might have a great partnership and family life, even sans butterflies.

Read the article, and her defense of her argument.

In summary, her main points are:

1. A woman at 30 has better prospects and is more likely to find a mate of higher eligibility than once she hits 40

2 . Older men would rather date younger women, especially if they want to father children.

3. Most straight American women want to marry and have children.

4. At a certain age, she says mid-30s, if The One hasn't come along, it’s a fine and good idea to settle for the guy who is “nice and smart and interesting, and would be a good husband and father and a person you’d enjoy eating dinner with every night, even if he doesn’t make your stomach get all jittery with butterflies whenever you see him, because the zing isn’t the thing most long-married couples talk about anyway when asked about what makes their marriages work."

5. Marrying Mr. Good Enough in your 30s ensures you won’t end up feeling like you’re “selling your soul” out of desperation for a relationship in your 30s+

She’s right, the za za zsu is overated. Now I realize I’m a youngin’ of 26 years, but keep in mind that in the Deep South, 26 and single is equivalent to East Coast 32 and single. My prep school friends are already married stay-at-home mothers of multiple children. I’ve come close to being in that club. My mom is worried that I’ve moved up “North” and become a “career woman” (no doubt, a dirty word in Bama) and she might not get anymore cookie-grubbing grandchildren. Well, I had the za za zsu and the butterflies and the Soul Mate who was The One. He had me at “hello”, there were fireworks, and on paper he was perfect. But, when I was honest about what a future would look like, I couldn’t help but consider that this ambitious, goal and dollar driven man would not be the guy with whom I’d want to have a family. I had glimpses of a beautiful home, luxury cars, and basically being a single parent, but with a douchebag husband. I resented everything about these glimpses of our life together. Luckily, our passion wore down (though not completely out) over the years and illuminated our differing values. We haven’t spoken in 2 years.

Because marriage comes up so early in the Bible belt, I feel the weight of preparing for marriage. This is a bit of an overstatement, but generally, Southern girls spend their lives preparing for marriage and being prepared for marriage. Everything from cotillion to grandmother’s and mother’s cooking workshops. All of this is done with the express purpose of preparing a girl to catch a man and be a wife. A good wife.

And I don’t make the rules down South, but since they are so much a part of who I am, and since by them I am an East Coast 32, I have discovered the value of Lori Gottlieb’s message and I don’t at all find it offensive. It is true. At some point during my whirlwind romance that was quickly approaching forever, I started to wonder if I’d rather have a guy who shared my values. A guy who wanted to be my partner…someone I could see being a good father to our children and who I could see putting family first, which is very important to me. I agree with Lori that the best relationships could be “more about whom you want to run a household with than whom you want to go on vacation with.”

So, yes, ladies (especially those of a “certain age”), settle! Or call it making a compromise. Call it being realistic—the man of your dreams only exists in your dreamland. Call it being practical about how relationships and families, if that’s what you want, work. Don’t be overly picky or manipulative. If you have any serious criteria that a man possesses both a library card and a passport to date you, then get over yourself. I haven’t had a library card since grammar school. You women with height requirements are also missing out. My man is 5’7’’ but he’s become my best friend, we share core values and collaborate and communicate well, and from his interactions with random neighborhood kids, I know he’d be a kick-ass dad. So if I have to settle, I will.

[Note: My fellow contributors will be making a counterpoint to my support of Gottlieb’s argument, so stay tuned, and please comment. We’d love to hear other opinions on the notion of “settling”. At Femonomics, we ladies all have different starting points and definitions of feminism, I in fact, probably would never describe myself as a “feminist” (another dirty word in the South), but share some insight into yours.]


  1. A lot of women have gotten really upset about this book, but I think taken in context it's not that provocative. After all, Gottlieb is addressing women who really want to be married, not women who are happy to be single.

    It's like saying "If you're someone who really needs a car to survive, don't go without anything because you can't afford a Duesenberg." I happen to be someone who does not need a car (metaphorically speaking). Of course, that doesn't mean I won't occasionally test drive a Mercedes or completely rethink my position if an Aston Martin rolls around ;-)

  2. Oh, no worries gals. Settling is only one of the unintended consequences of forcing humanity into monogamy...

  3. i think it sounds insulting to many woman because it comes across as if any woman in a good relationship has 'settled'. but then i read an interview with the author in some magazine and i realized that her definition of settling, is my definition of compromising. All relationships take compromise, and women who want their relationships to be all about them and their needs, end up in trouble. i think it's good that this author decided to just say it in words that these kinds of women can understand. And by kinds of women i mean the type who seem to date alot in search for a husband, but always finds something small that they'd rather not deal with about the guy they're seeing. Also men have just as hard a time finding someone they're compatible with why aren't there self-help books for them?

  4. Vanny, its because fewer men are asking for help getting married. If anything, men would be asking for help to somehow stay single, but still get the tax benefits.

  5. Vanny, I am totally all about compromise. However, I think what Gottlieb overlooks is that these days a lot of men think they can get away with treating women like they are worthless and disposable. Vanny, your situation may be completely different but I have seen many jaw dropping behaviors that I will not tolerate. I'd rather never get married than settle for a situation where I was being treated poorly. I don't reward bad behavior.

    But I'll compromise all you want if you will show me the respect I deserve. :)


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