If you're reading the title of this post out loud in your head, say the jesus part like 'for fuck's sake', not like you're asking jesus why he isn't hitched yet. The other night I was in bed with the boy (yes, we sometimes spend the night together. Don't worry, we don't touch or anything - I haven't gotten my cooties shot yet) and I had this incredibly long drawn out dream about getting married. To my college boyfriend. We are talking a SEVERE level of detail - we got ready in a synagogue, married outside in the sunshine in a bandstand somewhere in the mountains, I wore a dress that looked like this:
etc. Then, right after the ceremony, my real-life-boy said to me 'well you know you have to get a divorce now, right?' And my college-boyfriend-dream-husband's mother (who always hated me in real life) told everyone at the reception that I was divorcing her son and that I was evil, and then there was a long long time when I was outside in a snowy muddy field in my dress.
This dream is all Lori Gottlieb's fault.
If you don't travel in the circles of He's Just Not That into You (the book) and The Rules, you may not have heard of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. And if you haven't heard of it, man oh man are you missing out on a big 'ol throwdown on the Internets.
The general consensus among my beloved feminist blogger Jezzies, Double-Xers, and Shakers is that good old Lori is spouting more of the same. Women need men, and if we hold out for too much we'll end up alone, unhappy, and with too many cats (or dogs, in my case). It's far better to temper our expectations, realize that being alone is far more painful than being with someone who doesn't fulfill us, and just marry anyone we're lucky enough to convince to walk us to the altar.
Without actually bothering to read the book, I was going to write a 'sing-it-sisters' type post - embracing the fact that being a woman does not mean needing a man, and pointing out the recent statistics that show that for professional women (Gottlieb's primary subjects), married women are actually more likely to suffer from depression than single women. You've heard it from me before, no doubt, and I do believe it - women, particularly once they get to be my age and older, are surrounded by young families and well meaning friends who can't get through a conversation without either asking if your current boy is 'the one' or if you're interested in meeting this nice guy who works down the hall from their husbands. It's difficult to separate that from what we actually want and need, and books like Gottlieb's can make us feel like the Jeopardy song is playing somewhere in the background while we try to figure it out.
Then I read an interview that Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and one of my top ten favorite internets people, did with Gottlieb. Some of what she says in the interview is blah-blah get married now or you'll die of spinstery sadness disease, as expected.
"If you look at surveys, most single women very much want to get married and have a family eventually, yet they find themselves going from relationship to relationship, or from blind date to blind date, or surfing Match.com, and they're miserable riding this exhausting rollercoaster."
"It wasn't until I found myself 40 and unhappily single, that I started to look at my friends' happy marriages to men who were outstanding husbands and fathers, but who might not knock your socks off if you met them out in the dating world. And suddenly, I realized that I could have had that kind of happy marriage, had I not repeatedly overlooked potential mates for all kinds of silly reasons."
However, some of it is not.
"He makes her tea. She goes to the doctor’s appointment with him. They listen to each other’s daily trivia. They put up with each other’s quirks. They’re there for each other. That's happiness. I didn't realize that happiness was so simple." Note: my only objection to this statement is in the first sentence, which I left off, and which defined this daily interaction as marriage. You can, in fact, have all of this without actually having a marriage certificate. Just ask gay couples all over the world.
"Turns out the people who are happiest in life are happy with “good enough” and don’t compare their significant others to other men they meet out in the world."
Maybe I judged Gottlieb too quickly - not that I ever do that (shut UP). It sounds like what she's trying to get us to acknowledge, albeit clumsily, is that happiness is very much about loving what you have, rather than defining what you think you're going to love and then rejecting everything else. I've always both believed that and struggled with it - very few weeks go by when I don't say 'ok, boy/mom/tiniest sprinter/Shovonda, I'm not going to bitch about work anymore. I actually LIKE my job when I don't spend all my time whining about how I'd rather be baking/personal shopping/a lottery winner.'
I just wish that she'd found a way to get the message across without couching it as dear-god-you-may-have-already-missed-your-chance-for-marriage-and-therefore-happiness.
If I'd married my college boyfriend, who was certainly Mr. Good Enough, I do believe that we would either be divorced or close to it. I wouldn't have met the boy, who I think is my Mr. Right. He and I may never get married, but that doesn't mean that I wish I'd stuck with Mr. Good Enough. Lori, take notes and stay the hell out of my dreams (or at least find me a prettier dress next time).