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Mr. Good Enough
February 10, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

"Everyone laughs a little too hard for a little too long, not because we find these sentiments funny, but because we’re awkwardly acknowledging how unfunny they are. At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle? My advice is this: Settle!"

An interview with the author, Lori Gottlieb

Some reactions:
"What ticked me off was Gottlieb's, possibly unconscious, propagandizing on behalf of perpetually adolescent men and her advocation of marriage as an economical form of ensured quality day-care."

"Well that's a story in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly by a single mom who dares to advance the iconoclastic argument that Rachel would have been better if she'd just married the orthodontist."
posted by Horace Rumpole (146 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think I'm going to be bored enough today to read four pages of that, but her argument seems to be: Look over there, the grass, it is so GREEN...right? Or is there more to it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


That's the first thing I looked for in a mate - low standards.
posted by ssmith at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I saw this linked at the Volokh Conspiracy.

I don't think I have a huge ego, but after I read articles like this, I feel like a real catch.
posted by jayder at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who has always been the 'orthodontist' guy, I endorse this article wholeheartedly.
posted by farishta at 9:37 AM on February 10, 2008


"And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying."

The standard passive aggressive argument - if you disagree with me, you're wrong. I stopped reading at this point.
posted by benzo8 at 9:41 AM on February 10, 2008 [8 favorites]


Pathetic. Let's stop perpetuating this myth that men are some big prize. Women need to be their own prize. Good relationships are two whole people, not two halfs looking to form a single unit. Ugh.
posted by 45moore45 at 9:44 AM on February 10, 2008 [16 favorites]


Amanda at Pandagon provides a pretty thorough destruction
posted by hydropsyche at 9:45 AM on February 10, 2008


Insults everyone who doesn't agree with her really inflammatory, contentious argument. Check.

Says that a child is an extension of a husband. Er, no. It's not even a dealer-installed option. Check.

Reasons from anecdotal evidence - one afternoon at a park. Check.

Reasons from plotlines of TV shows. Check.

And that was all on page one.

This person is an idiot. Other idiots should enjoy reading and debating her article. People who are not idiots should avoid it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:45 AM on February 10, 2008 [13 favorites]


I read about a page and a half, possibly two. Reminded me of a classic blog post: say something ridiculous, and polarizing, just to increase readership. It's a bit odd that The Atlantic would stoop to such antics, but I guess not every article they publish can be a winner.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:49 AM on February 10, 2008


I dunno. Some of what she says resonates. Rachel wasn't 40 when she dated the orthodontist.
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2008


Well, unless you genetically engineer the perfect mate in your basement laboratory, you're going to be marrying a flawed human being with all kinds of faults and frailties and foibles (like a weakness for alliteration, for instance), so it goes without saying that on some level, you're settling, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:57 AM on February 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


Not a woman, so I can't judge. What resonates with you, Miko?
posted by localhuman at 9:58 AM on February 10, 2008


You Too Can Be a Divorce Statistic! Here's How!

Wow, just wow. Lori needs to hook up with this guy.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:01 AM on February 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


Here's a pragmatic viewpoint for you: part of the reason for the ancient institution of marriage is to make you, the woman, part of another family. How much do you think that other family is going to love and value you in the future if they think of you as the bitter, nagging, obviously dissatisfied woman that their son/brother/nephew threw himself away on? Settling hurts people.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:03 AM on February 10, 2008


To get even more readership and controversy, she should have recommended a Mac user marry a Windows user.
posted by The Deej at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's stop perpetuating this myth that men are some big prize.

Indeed. I'm actually a lousy copy of the home game, myself.
posted by jonmc at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Insults everyone who doesn't agree with her really inflammatory, contentious argument. Check...

This person is an idiot. Other idiots should enjoy reading and debating her article. People who are not idiots should avoid it."


Very well reasoned.
posted by 517 at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I read it, and cringed the whole way through.

Y' know, there's another possible option besides "settling" and "desperation". It's called being happy and fulfilled as a single -- and the ironic thing is that I found the love of my life only AFTER deciding to deal with my own feelings about my life rather than seeing a husband as a magic solution to loneliness or childlessness.

One thing I will say, though -- if she had framed this as having realistic expectations for a spouse as someone you share life's ups and downs with, rather than settling for a schlub, she might have had an article. The way she frames it in terms of the two extremes (Mr. Perfect vs Mr. Repulsive) totally makes this unpalatable reading.
posted by lleachie at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


So she decides to have a child on her own and is now shocked that she has trouble finding a husband?

This absolutely does not compute. What sort of woman decides, ex ante, that she wants to be a single mother?

I could understand if she was in a relationship, the pregnancy was unplanned, and she decided to carry the baby to term. I think potential husbands would understand that too.

But to think it's a great idea to have a child without some sort of partner (married or unmarried, same sex or opposite sex) as a backup really tells you some things about this woman's views of herself, children, and men. And none of those things are good.
posted by saslett at 10:10 AM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


What resonates with you, Miko?

I hesitate to get terribly personal, but I found some points of similarity with my own experience, and ask myself some of these questions. As a feminist, I've spent most of my life scoffing about the 'more-likely-to-get-hit-by-a-truck-than-get-married' threats about delaying marriage. I've lived my life with intense focus on career, friendships, and personal interests and assumed that a great mate would come along in time for a family.

But the biological clock is quite real. It's often minimized, but it's real. Fertility declines beginning in the late 30s, on average, and gets very challenging after 40. This author chose to have a child alone rather than wait for a partner; that's not a choice I'll be making, because my finances absolutely would not work for that. So, for the past year or so, I have had a bit of an under-the-gun feeling about relationships. If I want to have my own children, then I need to do it rather quickly. I don't have tremendous amounts of time to sift through potential matches, waiting for an ideal fit that may be only a fiction. I do wish I had taken my desire to have children more seriously at an earlier age and conducted my relationship life in a way that reflected that as a goal. Instead, I'm afraid I fell prey to romantic ideas that it would 'just happen' when the 'time was right.'

This author's work is definitely pretty shallow. I agree that the benefits she sees marriage bringing are fairly lame (20 minutes to herself while the husband plays with the kids) and that the grass is definitely greener for her. But I think her epiphany about settling represents a shift from a romantic view of marriage to a pragmatic one - a shift which many women have to choose or not choose to make if they were not fortunate enough to find a match they were largely pleased about earlier in life.
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on February 10, 2008 [12 favorites]


rather than settling for a schlub

The author of this article obviously has an axe to grind, but at the same time people who have long, complicated shecklists of qualifications for their potential mates always struck me as miserable people, too. 99% of the human race qualifies as schlubs or schlubesses and we need love, too. My main qualification when I was a single guy was a girl who would accept me the way I was, and thankfully pips does exactly that.

as a wise song once put it:

I always dreamed the boy I loved would come along
and he'd be tall and handsome, rich and strong
now the boy I love has come to me
and he sure ain't the boy i thought he'd be

(meaning that ultimately, you really don't have much choice about who you are attracted to or fall in love with.)
posted by jonmc at 10:14 AM on February 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


to think it's a great idea to have a child without some sort of partner (married or unmarried, same sex or opposite sex) as a backup really tells you some things about this woman's views of herself, children, and men. And none of those things are good.

Whoa! Now that I totally disagree with. I admire the proactive nature of this decision and envy her the way she made life choices that made it possible. A lot of women are doing this, and I don't think it reflects negatively on her morals or feminity. See this Times Magazine article on the phenomenon from 2006. And intentional single motherhood is not even that new an idea; a friend of mine has a 24-year-old daughter because she decided to give it a go.
posted by Miko at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2008


Insults everyone who doesn't agree with her really inflammatory, contentious argument. Check.

Yeah, I thought it was really cheap of her to put this line in the article:

Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Tip to magazine writers: Just say what you're going to say, and be done with it. Don't try to pre-empt your critics by characterizing them as knee-jerk whiners.
posted by jayder at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2008


Thanks for sharing, Miko. As a person, albeit male, who has spent most of my life scoffing about the 'more-likely-to-get-hit-by-a-truck-than-get-married' threats about delaying marriage it is interesting to hear a perspective of a woman who, now older than I, is struggling with those decisions of her earlier self.
posted by localhuman at 10:20 AM on February 10, 2008


Yeah. I admit I would never have predicted that I would be saying these things.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2008


What some people call "settling" I call "giving up unrealistic teenage fantasies".

Fertility declines beginning in the late 30s, on average, and gets very challenging after 40.

It's worse than that; fertility begins declining in the late 20s, not late 30s. Not nearly as quickly as it declines in the 30s, but it still declines.

Thanks to evolution the peak child bearing years for women are from like 18 to 25. Hooray?
posted by Justinian at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2008


(Note that fertility isn't the only issue; birth defects increase with age as well)
posted by Justinian at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2008


Thanks to evolution the peak child bearing years for women are from like 18 to 25. Hooray?

People's life spans used to be much shorter. In that context, this is not a bug, but a feature.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:28 AM on February 10, 2008


This has as much to do with economics as anything else. If women could afford child care on their own, then they probably would have more children. But that's pretty unlikely unless it's going to be done by robots. You saw a huge explosion of single moms under the welfare system.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's no such thing as a perfect partner, so marrying at any age is, by definition, settling. The difference is that the later you settle, the slimmer the pickings. I'm sure I glad I married mine before someone else got her! I think she is a real prize and I tell her that every day. Mates are like parking spaces. If you wait too long, almost all of the ones left over are in the handicapped section. My single mother was 45 when I was born, and this was in the early '60's when it was guaranteed to raise eyebrows. She was perfectly happy and self sufficient and would have scoffed at any advice to settle for any schlock with a pulse. If you second guess yourself too much and dwell on your regrets you're responsible for you own unhappiness.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't think Amanda's post at Pandagon (linked above) is a destruction, at all.

This topic does not lend itself to simple answers; Amanda's attempt to discredit the article with a few deft swipes is not successful.

First, Amanda is not among the women that Gottlieb is addressing. Gottlieb is addressing women who are waiting for the perfect guy to come along. Amanda apparently does not want to be in a relationship.

The dynamic between Amanda and Gottlieb can be expressed this way. Let's say Gottlieb wrote an article that encouraged people who are holding out for a certain model of BMW, to consider a certain Toyota model as a pretty satisfactory, cheaper substitute for the BMW. Let's say a committed anti-car, pedestrian activist comes along and tries to demolish Gottlieb's defense of the Toyota. The activist's argument is essentially, "how dare you think we need a car to live a fulfilling life." The activist did not realize that Gottlieb was not addressing people who are against cars altogether, but was addressing people who are holding out for a BMW that is out of their reach. Amanda is like that anti-car activist; she missed the point.

The Atlantic piece makes some sound points.
posted by jayder at 10:30 AM on February 10, 2008


Settle by Amy Jo Hylkema
posted by ZachsMind at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2008


To all desperate-to-be-married women: we know who you are by the first date and we find it unattractive. That's why we don't call.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 10:34 AM on February 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


This person is an idiot. Other idiots should enjoy reading and debating her article. People who are not idiots should avoid it.

The irony in this passive-aggressive comment, in relation to the author's own aggressiveness, is breathtaking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on February 10, 2008


You're right, jayder, but I think Marcotte makes her best point here:
At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle?
Here’s a fun idea: Let’s ask someone who settled! After all, they probably did so after a period of being alone, so they have full information... So we’re going to have to settle (See what I did there?) for a woman who’s never been married, and certainly never to someone she doesn’t really love, tell us how great she imagines a loveless marriage probably is.
posted by grouse at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2008


Chris believes that women are far too picky: everyone knows, he says, that a single middle-aged man still has appealing prospects; a single middle-aged woman likely doesn’t. And he’s right. Single women are painfully aware of this.

I don't have enough middle fingers to fully express how I feel about this article. I may need to buy the magazine so that I can take a giant dump on the page.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


we know who you are by the first date and we find it unattractive. That's why we don't call.

You shouldn't, because you are a guy who is not yet interested in getting married.
posted by Miko at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


0<
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:42 AM on February 10, 2008


Chris believes that women are far too picky:

Some woman are too picky. Some men are too picky. I've always been of the opinion that these people are either conciously avoiding relationships out of a fear of intimacy or failure or are monumentally egomaniacal special snowflakes who want to make people jump through hoops for access to their golden genitalia as affirmation. Either way, I can do without them. As far as I'm concerned, someone being interested enough in me to want to date/sleep with me was enough for me to at least investigate further.
posted by jonmc at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


"When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion."

This is, in fact, a good point.
posted by oddman at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2008


I agree that the benefits she sees marriage bringing are fairly lame (20 minutes to herself while the husband plays with the kids)</i.

Believe me, that is freaking GOLD when you have a spouse and kids.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2008


I have no comment on the writing style or the framing of her argument. To be quite honest, if you are writing for these magazines, being provocative will get you paid by the word.

But there is undeniably an evolutionary component to many (if not all) of our behaviors, and it would have been interesting (to me) if the author could have stepped back and put her behavior and expectations in some kind of evolutionary context, beyond the usual presumptions of social influence.

Of course, she is no scientist or science journalist, so that wish of mine may yet go unfulfilled. I suppose expressing that wish of mine makes me an "idiot", but I'll say it anyway, because otherwise the piece was interesting (to me) in how much human desperation was written between the lines. And whether I agree with her or not, I do have empathy with her as another human being who is suffering in her own way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sorry man, but Dan Savage is the only good source for relationship advice. A short version is : Have lots of sex. If your not getting it good, then talk about it. If talking doesn't help, then DTMFA.

But one must read the advice from the target audience's perspective. Quite a lot of women are raised to be "princesses". Otoh very few men are raised to be princes. Well, this situation isn't as asymmetric as it appears. But it still creates problems. Isn't she really just saying "Don't be a princess"?

On a practical note, the long term solution seems quite simple : All kids should be raised by their grand parents. Parents should help their daughters buy well engineered genetic material, who'll then have children between 20 and 25, but her parents actually raise the kid.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:57 AM on February 10, 2008


I was struck by this:
every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.
That rings thoroughly false to me. (And if the author is comfortable arguing from the limited perspective of "every woman I know," then I'm comfortable answering with an equally personal response.) At 30, I worried that I had made careless choices in my life, but I never regretted being unmarried. Refusing to transform infelicitous relationships into unhappy marriages saved me a lot of heartache (and, not incidentally, left me free to consider marriage at my leisure now that I've found someone I might want to marry).

At the time, most of my female friends expressed a similar relief that they were free agents, though I certainly didn't hear that from "every woman I know"; most of the women I knew at 30 were going through the dissolution of their first marriages precisely because they and their husbands surrendered to the thoughtless panic to marry someone and settle down --- with the emphasis on "settle."
posted by Elsa at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Hello.

The Planet Earth has asked me to share something with you:

STOP HAVING CHILDREN. I'M FULL, AND I CAN'T PROVIDE EVERYTHING YOU WANT, MUCH LESS MORE OF YOUR OFFSPRING.

The author of the piece comes off as yet another typical self-obsessed consumer, feeling the sense of entitlement that helps her justify that she WANTS children, and so she'll get them at ANY cost. No father? No problem, just settle for a cock with a paycheck. Does the child need to be in a loving, supportive environment? Fuck it, who cares, I WANT A CHILD NOW.

If we go extinct, it's because we deserve it.
posted by dbiedny at 11:04 AM on February 10, 2008 [22 favorites]


It's times like this I truly cherish life in the American capitalist-entertainment multiplex. It's so much easier to fall in love with a business plan than a person, and to justify doing so using hazy statistics, personal anecdotes, and the plot points of long-demised sitcoms.

It's also times like this I wonder why good women writers, ones with an actual grasp of how to interpret demographic and cultural trends, bother writing the same goddamn book every 15 years. Christ, doesn't anyone remember Backlash?
The most famous case in point is the notorious Harvard-Yale study on women's marriage patterns, word of which hit the front pages, network news programs, and talk shows of America like a bombshell in 1986. The thrust of the study was that women who failed to marry young could basically kiss off their chance for marrying at all: the so-called "man shortage" was allegedly so severe that, as Newsweek so memorably put it, by the age of forty an unmarried woman was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find her way to the altar...

Within the field of demography, the Harvard-Yale study received so much criticism about its methodology and conclusions that by the time it was finally published three years later its authors had decided to leave out the infamous statistics about the "marriage crunch." But by then, of course, the damage was done: the perception of a bleak and lonely future facing the millions of working women who had foolishly delayed marriage in favor of career was firmly established in the national consciousness. As Faludi demonstrates, the media had succeeded not in reporting the news but in making it. Before the Harvard-Yale study was publicized, most attitudinal surveys found a high level of contentment and little anxiety about marriage among single women. But within a year of that terrifying blast of publicity, the proportion of all single women who feared they would never marry had nearly doubled, according to one yearly indicator, the Annual Study of Women's Attitudes. The barrage of warnings had succeeded in inspiring a tremendous level of distress among women who -- until they found themselves assailed at every turn by dire pronouncements that they had made a terrible mistake and might already have ruined their lives forever -- had been quite happy with their choice.
At least the Faith Popcorns of yesteryear justified their retrograde blather by using social science, no matter how poor. Gottlieb's friend Renee and some dude named Gabe and a bunch of embarrassingly out of date cultural referents (Broadcast News?!?) are apparently all the research an article like this requires these days, even in a magazine as venerable as the Atlantic Monthly.

I will not deny the pain of loneliness or how tough it can be for middle-aged and older women to find suitable partners -- but it is simply pathetic how mainstream conversation of these issues applies the same disordered, reductive, shallow thinking to addressing, much less resolving it. The commodification of every goddamn last human emotion leads to a way of thinking so thin and sad that "Carrie should have gone for Aidan" becomes an acceptable shorthand for one of the most profound and mysterious experiences of being human: falling in love. I must be getting old myself, because this must be the thousandth iteration of this article I have read since first cracking open Faludi as an undergrad. I never would have dreamed I'd still be reading this kind of glib, insulting, and poorly argued horseshit all these years later, much less that it would have actually got worse.

I am fairly certain by the time I'm 40 I'll be so fed up I'll just be randomly screaming bullshit all day and flipping off magazine kiosks. If anyone -- male or female -- who feels the same way would like to join me you are more than welcome to come along. It'll be like the Red Hat Society, but with fewer hats and more court dates and swears.
posted by melissa may at 11:12 AM on February 10, 2008 [54 favorites]


I agree that this article was weak and even shallow, but I think the bad thing about it is that she latched onto a very real phenomenon among a certain segment of society-- late marriage-- and then blew it.

I really think that the point she missed is that professional men have been sold this bill of goods that they don't need emotional intimacy, or worse, that emotional intimacy is for wimps and losers. It's really the same phenomenon (stay with me here) that has people with lower middle class incomes buying upper middle class life styles on credit. All of these people have bought into a consumerist shiboleth that emphasizes current "happiness" (defined as acquisition of material things) in favor of longer term benefits like a secure retirement, stable relationships and your parents' and grandparents' caution to live within your means.

When these men finally wake up, and they are in their late 30s they also want to have families, and they are aware of that biological clock, so yeah, they're going for the younger women who are still good risks for childbearing. It's not fair, but there it is.

Women I think understand that they are going to want emotional intimacy, but they are victims of a real triple bind-- first, the risk of not being taken seriously professionally if they get married (I once interviewed to manage a not-for-profit feminist organization about 6 months after I got married, and the board president, a well-known local feminist artist, told me during the interview that she figured I was just going to have a baby and quit. And this was a feminist.) Second, they are also part of the poisonous consumer culture that tells them you can always pay the bill down the line. And then there's that damned biological clock.

In the 70s there was the Superwoman trope "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never let you forget you're a man, cuz Ah'm a woooooman" "I am woman hear me roar" (aack, do I need to find the links for the songs-- I will if someone makes me). You could get married and have a family and be successful at work. This morphed into the Soccer Mom of suburban sprawl and the MBA mom of the old-line burbs (who carries her Harvard MBA like a Prada bag-- just as expensive and just as useless), and the self-absorbed Upper East Side wife of chicklit. But these are all very destructive, backlash stereotypes. In fact, Helen Reddy got it more right. The way to be like men was not in the idea of success, but in the idea that you are allowed to have a go at it. You don't have to choose. It's all available if you have the economic fortitude.

The other thing that articles like this leave out is the so-called "working" class. Women in the working class are in fact having it all. They have jobs and husbands and children. They just don't have the jobs and husbands and children that Ms. Gottlieb and her ilk seem to think they deserve.

Yeah, you *should* settle. You should settle for doing what you want with your life, on your terms within the constraints (or fighting the constraints) placed on you by your culture. I think Gottlieb has done this, but I don't think she's getting her point across very well in that article.

At any rate I slogged through the entire article hoping for insight; I suspect the letters section in two months will be better than the original publication.
posted by nax at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2008 [11 favorites]


Incidentally, on the subject of pop-culture nonsense as anecdotal data: does anyone else remember that [spoiler] Rachel's fiance, the "nice-guy orthodontist" Lori Gottlieb describes as a good enough husband, was banging Rachel's maid of honor? Some nice guy. Just how low does the author hope our standards will sink?

Ah --- skimming it again, I see that she'll go on a second date with someone who was rude to the waiter, which is a standard intolerable to me; when a person putting on best first-date behavior is unprovokedly rude to the waitstaff, that person is showing who he or she really is.
posted by Elsa at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2008


I thought Jezebel had an interesting take on the article.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2008


Someone send this thread to the Atlantic "Letters to the Editor" when it winds down.
posted by nax at 11:19 AM on February 10, 2008


Aww man.. I'm settleree.. I thought letting my wife eat lunch at the park was a good thing..

Oh well. I'll always have Bravo!
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2008


A Christian man's point of view (speaking from experience).
posted by thomas j wise at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2008


fuse theorem: Wow, just wow. Lori needs to hook up with this guy.
Wow, for a ranting craiglist post, that wasn't misogynistic, and basically dead-on-balls accurate. He's completely right!

Me, I couldn't make it through the original post, since I'd get a few paragraphs into the front page each time I tried and just found the writing interminable. But based on the comments, I suspect the original post and the craigslist post are saying the same thing, in different ways: don't be a princess, don't imagine that the most superficial measures are what matter, and realize that "settling" isn't really "settling"- it's just maturing enough to understand what matters most in choosing the people around you.
posted by hincandenza at 11:29 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Miko,

Maybe I should flesh out my reasoning a little more. I do think there's a serious problem with choosing to have a child on your own without a support structure, specifically another partner, to help raise that child. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) What happens if Gottlieb dies in an accident?
2) What happens if Gottlieb gets so sick or disabled that she can't take care of her child on her own?
3) What happens if Gottlieb's child develops a serious medical problem that requires expensive long term hospitalization or home care?
4) What happens if Gottlieb loses her job?

Yes, the bad effects of 1-3 can be somewhat mitigated with insurance. But let's not focus on what will happen to her child monetarily, even though that's important. Who will raise it? Gottlieb's parents? Siblings? Friends? A foster family? If Gottlieb's parents are dead or unable, my money's on foster family.

Ideally, you'd want another parent who isn't disabled, sick, or dead--one who has already formed a strong emotional bond with the child--to continue to raise it and help it through the ordeal. Ideally, you'd want another parent's help taking care of a child with a serious medical problem. And if you think scenarios 1-3 are unlikely, 4 is much less so. Wouldn't you rather have a partner who hasn't lost his or her job be there to help you and your child as you look for another job? By choosing to have a child without a partner, you've affirmatively taken away a safety net for your child should something bad happen. In my mind, that's doing an extreme disservice to your child.

It's one thing to unexpectedly have a child and cope with having a safety net taken away. It's quite another to say that "I'm enough" and not give your child that safety net.

I'm sympathetic to career-focused women who don't want to wait to have children in their late thirties and early forties. But that desire is no excuse for not being in a long-term relationship with someone before having children. All that should do is put you on notice to get in one before you reach that age. Otherwise, it seems to me that the desire to have children as a single mom is, whether one realizes it or not, fundamentally selfish. It seems these women choose to have children mostly because they want them now without fully considering how much that may disadvantage them compared to waiting (or more quickly finding) a stable relationship in which to have them.
posted by saslett at 11:31 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being single and dating again in my mid-thirties, there most definitely is a vibe of desperation among many, if not most, childlessfree upper-20/lower-30 aged women. I've seen a 32yo woman crying, literally, at the bar because she just wanted a baby so bad. It's getting common for a woman to ask me if I want kids ON THE FIRST DATE.**

Mother Nature is a total bitch.

** I mean, it's good to get your intentions and desires out there, and certainly flattering (to me), but wow talk about putting the cart before the horse! Ya might make sure I'm not an axe murderer or a crack addict or *gasp* a Bruce Springsteen fan first...
posted by LordSludge at 11:36 AM on February 10, 2008


it seems to me that the desire to have children as a single mom is, whether one realizes it or not, fundamentally selfish.

saslett: I think it's a shame to presume women who have made the choice to become single parents have not considered your questions. Of course they have; finding a way to overcome those concerns is an essential part of the decision to not wait for a spouse. How do they do it? Variously. They make use of non-traditional family structures, their own parents, groups of friends, financial structures, and so on.

Life is risky. Bad things happen to children and families even when there are two parents, and sometimes because there are two parents. Illnesses and accidents happen. Jobs are lost. Humans are plagued with all sorts of potential miseries.

There are many who would say that having children is selfish, period, regardless of how many people are parents. If only people who could ensure a perfectly supportive and healthy environment - physically, financially, emotionally, intellectually - had children, there would be many fewer children in the world.
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on February 10, 2008


I see that she'll go on a second date with someone who was rude to the waiter, which is a standard intolerable to me;

Generally speaking that's a dealbreaker to me, too, but....Back when I was young and foolish, there was this girl. She was a spoiled girl, her daddy was a professional fundraiser for Christian colleges and she had lousy taste in music. But I was coming of a year of working on the nightshift in a supermarket bakery and hadn't had sex in about two years..and she was really into me (I don't get it either) to the point of sending me boob-o-grams on the sales floor as I shelved books, so I put up with all the faults. So dealbreakers change with circumstances, I guess. Later our thing cooled (without an official breakup) and I found out through a mutual co-worker that she got engaged to some guy. A few years later, she called me, and after a few minutes of recounting our [*ahem*] escapades, she asked me if I owned any Black sabbath records and told me that was a way for Satan to sneak into my mind when I wasn't looking. She's a parent now.

Maybe 'not settling' isn't such a bad idea.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2008


she was a pain in the butt to servicepeople, too, I meant to say.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2008


Seriously, procreation is totally optional. When you start getting those insane baby urges, you need to keep your legs crossed, get a good shrink, and buy a fucking cat.
posted by hermitosis at 11:44 AM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Settling is short term thinking. While it's nice to have "someone with you in the trenches", what happens when the child grows up and moves away? Do you really want to be in an empty trench with this person you're ally not interested in?

People shouldn't get married to have kids, they should get married to people they love and want to spend the rest of their lives with.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jayder nails it. The article shouldn't be aimed at everybody. Not everyone wants to marry and have children, and not everyone's expectations are too high. Ms Gottlieb has some reasonably good advice for younger versions of herself. Unfortunately, she makes some generalizations and assumes that all young women are going to feel the same plight as her later on. It's a shame because she raises some interesting questions.
posted by Loudmax at 12:11 PM on February 10, 2008


While I'm sure that many women DO want to get married & have kids, the author
here assumes that it is natural and universal (she only seems to consider
monogamous heterosexual marriage -- what about lesbians? what about the
polyamorous?) and implies that feminism is just a phase or a veneer to hide
their "real" desires.

She gets points for acknowledging that the "everyone has a one true love/go out
and find your soul-mate" narratives are just that -- stories and myths.
However, minus several million points for completely ignoring that the "married
family life is the end-all-be-all of human existence" story is just the same.
Also, her vision of marriage is totally a lame, bourgeois "I don't want to die
alone/family is the rock upon which I build my life" idea.
posted by papakwanz at 12:11 PM on February 10, 2008


What some people call "settling" I call "giving up unrealistic teenage fantasies"

Yeah, that's what I took from it too. Rejecting a series of perfectly good men (or women) that you could lead a perfectly happy life with in favor of waiting for THE ONE who's going to complete you and be your soulmate and be physically at least highly acceptable and your every conversation will be dripping with shared subtext and barely constrained passion is sort of like passing up an endless series of good jobs because you're waiting to somehow just blunder into the combination job of President, marine biologist, and pony farmer.

Letting go of unrealistic fantasies, whether they're about your job or your love life or in general about being fully self-realized or whatever you call it isn't settling, it's growing up.

I wonder if women who hurt their long-term lives by clinging to these fantasies of perfect soulmates are the counterparts of the men in that other article who (purportedly) cling to their own adolescence by gaming etc?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:21 PM on February 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Let me point out it isn't just women who wonder if they shouod have settled.

A friend of mine (male) is in his midforties, never been married. Smart guy, attractive, WANTS marriage and kids, but so far, apparently hasn't met The One.

He told me once he was afraid he'd been too picky. My answer to him was that being picky wasn't bad. Better NO marriage than being married to the wrong person.

I myself am married to someone who loves me passionately even after almost 25 years of marriage. I cannot imagine how hurtful it would have been to me if I had been married to someone that long and known they had "settled."

OTOH there is no such thing as the perfect person, either. My own ideal of a great guy would have been shorter and with darker hair. But my light browned haired tall hubby fills the bill nicely, anyway.
posted by konolia at 12:35 PM on February 10, 2008


you're waiting to somehow just blunder into the combination job of President, marine biologist, and pony farmer.

GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:39 PM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Elsa: At the time, most of my female friends expressed a similar relief that they were free agents,

Same here. By 30, we knew ourselves enough and had challenged ourselves enough that we were confident about our abilities, our brains and our bodies. We'd gone through a few relationships, learned what levels of crap we would and would not put up with. That confidence attracted all kinds of cool interesting guys who'd learned a thing or two from their own experiences. We had so much fun, and all through my early 30s I kept meeting more and more unattached women in their early 30s who agreed that they were having the best time of their lives, travelling and exploring different paths, and taking life and men as they came. We weren't typical, though.

konolia: Better NO marriage than being married to the wrong person.

Absolutely. I have a good friend who settled for someone who's really not a good match for her, and neither of them are happy. They have a child now. I just hope that when they split up, it won't get too messy.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:41 PM on February 10, 2008


"Having turned 40, I now have wrinkles, bags under my eyes, and hair in places I didn’t know hair could grow on women. "

Wait. What is she talking about? What hair? Where?
posted by onepapertiger at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2008


I have a question: Who the hell is "Rachael", and why can't anybody spell her name?
posted by mr. strange at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2008


Metafilter: Letting my wife eat lunch at the park.

(I haven't read the article yet, but I'm sure I'll have a lot to think and a little to stay, as my life's experiences have led me way away from this presumed venn diagram.)
posted by not_on_display at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2008


I am going to add "Settle for less" as a next action on my todo list.
posted by srboisvert at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2008


mr. strange: Rachael Ray of 30 Minute Meals spells her name that way.

I wonder if it is a more traditional Hebrew spelling?
posted by papakwanz at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2008


Oh! It's by Lori Gottlieb. She's been hustling her work ever since she quit her major movie studio/TV job to attend Stanford Medical School (where she decided she didn't like being around sick people), dropped out and then decided to try pitching her own ideas as a writer. I've heard her on This American Life and she never sounds entirely grounded. Just nervous and high strung. Po Bronson wrote a chapter on her story in his book, What Should I Do With My Life?

Yeah. She shouldn't be giving advice to anybody that isn't her special kind of crazy. Anyway, everyone knows that Barry was cheating on Rachel with her maid of honor, Mindy. Gottlieb ought to know that.
posted by onepapertiger at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just read the interview with Gottlieb. Oy vey.

This moron thinks that Sex and The City is a fucking documentary.

An she's spawned. Heaven help us all.
posted by dbiedny at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2008


My friend and I, who, in fits of self-empowerment, had conceived our babies with donor sperm

I understand your point, Miko, about women thinking ahead when they make the decision to become single mothers, but I have to say that this sentence seriously casts doubt on the whole, "Of course she thought about those considerations!" argument.

The author sounds, to me, like someone flighty and unsettled in her personal life, who now wishes she had someone to help her parent her child. Maybe she is a responsible, mature adult when it comes to her career, I don't know. But one doesn't decide to have a child in a "fit of self-empowerment," and I think that decision, which rates only one throw-away line in a far-too-long article, is the real motivation behind this whole piece.

Wow, guess what? Raising a child is hard, after all! Maybe we were wrong when we shot all those potential mates down with snarky Sex In The City cynicism! Amazing! Who'd of thunk it?

If you are going to have a child, you had better start out with a more realistic idea of what it entails. Single women who make the decision to go it "alone" ought to consider what their own family and friends think about it, because they will be relying heavily on help from their own support network once the baby arrives. So, yes, I think having a child "on your own" is selfish, because I don't think it is really an accurate concept of what actually happens.

I have seen women who have children too young. When they screw up their lives because they weren't ready for the huge responsibility, who ends up watching their children? Their own mothers, who thought they were done with that part of their lives.

Then there are those women who waited until they were in their late 30's who are now struggling with infertility or apparently stunned to find out that their likelihood of having a child with a birth defect is much higher because they waited too long.

I guess the argument I am making here is that if this woman, and in fact most people, spent a lot more time considering the consequences of their actions, and made informed, well-reasoned choices for the long-term, there wouldn't be so many articles like these, where getting together with someone who has, god forbid, foibles and faults just as you do, is seen as some kind of major epiphany instead of just good old common sense.
posted by misha at 1:00 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a single woman, pushing 50, who is living alone (offspring moved out, bless him!) and who has just, extraordinarily, had to politely decline the attentions of two ex-boyfriends (I think it must be a mid-life thing, and one of them's married, I mean sheesh), I can say this: It's better to be alone than to marry just for the sake of social status or social expectation.

I haven't read the article, and don't feel at all inclined to. It's like something from another world, really.
posted by jokeefe at 1:04 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just don't understand this magazine or its aims. A year ago, I bought myself subscriptions to The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, believing I would enjoy their offerings about equally. The New Yorker has exceeded my expectations in nearly all aspects--BERET ADVERTISEMENTS ON EVERY PAGE--and I consistently want to set The Atlantic Monthly on fire. Everything about it bothers me: the thick shiny porny pages, the tiny narrow frog-footed font, the Caitlin Flanagan. It completely baffles me. It makes the world worse.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2008 [10 favorites]


Of course they have; finding a way to overcome those concerns is an essential part of the decision to not wait for a spouse. How do they do it? Variously. They make use of non-traditional family structures, their own parents, groups of friends, financial structures, and so on.

Do their parents and friends consent ex ante to being surrogate parents when these single women have children? Maybe some do, but I suspect that most of them assume the second parent role by default rather than out of any conscious choice. "Well, it looks like (my single daughter or friend) now has a kid. I'll do what I can to help out."

Life is risky. Bad things happen to children and families even when there are two parents, and sometimes because there are two parents. Illnesses and accidents happen. Jobs are lost. Humans are plagued with all sorts of potential miseries.

Exactly. All the more reason to be in a stable relationship to hedge against those risks. Even divorced parents are better placed to support a child than a single mother is.

If only people who could ensure a perfectly supportive and healthy environment - physically, financially, emotionally, intellectually - had children, there would be many fewer children in the world.

Don't stuff the strawman too full now. I never said that mothers had to wait for a perfect environment. All I said is that they should wait until they're in a stable relationship.

Also, what misha said.
posted by saslett at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2008


Wow, guess what? Raising a child is hard

Yes it is Misha and Saslett, but the assumption implicit in your arguments is that having a backup/life partner involved in the endeavor automatically makes it easier - financially, physically, emotionally. That ain't always so. In some cases, if the partner isn't the right fit on the core values, that partner (or sometimes his/her family) can actually make it harder.

There's also the question of economic status. It's undeniably difficult to raise children as a single parent if you do not have a decent education or higher levels of skills. Those with more money and skills have the option of purchasing whatever resources they need, ie., a nanny or good daycare.

I guess the argument I am making here is that if this woman, and in fact most people, spent a lot more time considering the consequences of their actions

... then the world would be a much better place. Yes indeed. That doesn't necessarily mean that women (or men) who choose to have children without a life partner haven't considered the consequences. This particular woman in this article, clearly hasn't, but then again, she comes across as rather self-absorbed and shallow - and the article has the same tone as that one posted on here a few days ago about the guy wondering whether he could stop worrying about $30 tubes of moisturizer or whatever it was.
posted by Zinger at 1:31 PM on February 10, 2008


He told me once he was afraid he'd been too picky. My answer to him was that being picky wasn't bad. Better NO marriage than being married to the wrong person.

There's a vast difference between not marrying the wrong person and refusing to marry a right person because you're waiting for the perfect person.

GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!

Pfft. If you didn't want me scanning and effectorizing your brain, you shouldn't have been meat.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


had to politely decline the attentions of two ex-boyfriends (I think it must be a mid-life thing

nah, male thing. they figure that if you were nice enough to do sexy stuff with them once, you might do it again.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on February 10, 2008


the guy wondering whether he could stop worrying about $30 tubes of moisturizer or whatever it was.

yes. once you've got the girl, you cans top futzing around with the grooming and the fancy clothes, since that was the only reason you were bothering with it anyway. unless you're weird.
posted by jonmc at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2008


Seconding onepapertiger on detecting a whiff of crazy about her. From Amazon reviews on a book to which she contributed:
Lori Gottlieb (recovered anorexic) writes unapoligetically about her hateful thoughts and behavior toward the fat man she met through email. She had a sexual relationship with him, but wouldn't be seen with him in public or introduce him to her friends.

So maybe she shouldn't assume every other woman is as unstable in relationships as she is.

I look forward to the FPP written by schizophrenics about how to avoid the CIA
posted by fermezporte at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Maybe some do, but I suspect that most of them assume the second parent role by default rather than out of any conscious choice.

First, what Miko describes as "non-traditional family structures" of extended families and communities are, as she doubtless knows well, actually very traditional.

Your statement assumes that these single parents tacitly designated one unwitting person to act as "second parent," which seems unwarranted. (If I missed something in the article, I hope you'll point it out to me. I'm not addressing here the supposition that these single parents have legally designated a guardian in case of their death, since that's a precaution that plenty of parental couples find advisable, too. In my admittedly limited experience, that's formalized with the potential guardian's consent, usually after a good bit of soul-searching on all parts.)

But it's not a stretch to imagine that these single parents do get help from their friends and family, that their friends and family (and quite possibly paid help) take on some of the peripheral tasks of caring for and entertaining the children.

How it this different from the way many friends and family respond when couples in their families or social circles have children? I'm aunt to nine children, and family friend ("pretend aunt") to a great many more. Whether my friends are single parents or a couple, it never occurred to me not to pitch in when I could, to help out people I care about. That's what relationships are based on: the bonds of caring for each other when we can. Why should a friend or family member's single parenthood invalidate that tradition?
posted by Elsa at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hmm. This seems like an exercise in solipsism. She never once talks about what she could bring to the 'settlee' (or even the anointed 'Mr Right'). The partner seems to feature in her life as a dreamy satellite, beaming affection from some arm's length orbit - there for her requirements, not his own. And likewise her child.

I have no idea what it's like to crave a baby whilst simultaneously feeling I'd cocked up my chances of ever having one in a 'traditional' sense, but neither do I know what it's like to grow up with half of my genetic source pool a total mystery. And unlike a potential mate, s/he won't have any say at all. Will her child actually end up feeling like the one she 'settled for'?
posted by freya_lamb at 1:55 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


The opinions of any writer whose primary reference points are TV sitcoms and romantic films can safely be ignored.
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2008


Shkespeare saild it a long time ago when a male character warns a standoffish youglady to "sell when you can. You are not good for all markets."
posted by Postroad at 2:12 PM on February 10, 2008


single woman, 'of a certain age' here.

i've known quite a few people who settled, rather early in life. some of them are in loveless, friendless relationships, either because they've got too much invested (i.e., financially, a divorce would not be beneficial to them) or because 'it's better than nothing.' some of them are divorced. some of them are in loveless unions but they have enough shared history and common interests that they're quite content with their lives.

conversely, i know people who were madly in love and are now miserable. or were madly in love but for whatever reason are not any more, but they've got enough history and common interests that they're content with their lives. some of them are divorced.

it seems that no matter what the start, the outcome can be frighteningly the same.

for whatever reason, i've never had whatever it takes to try the settling thing. there are times when i absolutely despise being alone, but it passes. and the thought of settling has passed my mind on more than one occasion. i've been in enough relationships to know, though, i'd rather be alone by myself than alone with someone else. it's not for everyone, though.
posted by msconduct at 2:18 PM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Interesting: I did not realize that different areas of the US had such different lifestyles. Judging by my daughters friends, here in the MidAmerica Bible belt we have obtained around 50% rate of single mothers by age 22. No husbands, the fathers seem to provide child support and are involved (adequately, as far as I can judge) in the daily life of their children. Marriage seems to come later, if it comes, but mostly I see cohabiting.

Overall, I do not see a lot of stable, two partners hoseholds around me: the rate of divorce seems high. The norm is complexly structured families.

What is there to settle for?
posted by francesca too at 2:20 PM on February 10, 2008


If she and her fellow sperm-bank-mom friend are so desperate for a trench-buddy that they'd consider marrying closeted gay men, why don't they just shack up together themselves? They apparently don't care about sex, or even if the thought of touching their partner revolts them. They clearly don't care about social stigma--at this point a single sperm bank mom probably gets as many evil eyes from squares as the average lesbian mom couple. They're on the same page as far as having kids is concerned, obviously. And they already know they like hanging out at the park together. The least they could do is watch each other's kids while they take turns eating their picnic.

If you're going to think outside the box, think outside the box.
posted by lampoil at 2:22 PM on February 10, 2008 [16 favorites]


Sadly, I think the author is simply too proud to admit that her own narcissism led her to undervalue the men she now regrets breaking up with, so she's come up with this bizarre argument instead. Hopefully at some point she'll get over herself to the point where she's actually able to enjoy a normal relationship.
posted by teleskiving at 2:25 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Postroad: I'm studying As You Like It at this moment; I think that's why I'm so affronted by this shoddy advice being offered in earnest to modern audiences, not in jest to a long-ago fictional shepherdess of haughty demeanor.

In fact, this comment is just one more moment of procrastination. I ought to be polishing and proofreading tomorrow's essay on the marriage of Orlando and Rosalind, not blathering away here.
posted by Elsa at 2:29 PM on February 10, 2008


fuse theorem: Wow, just wow. Lori needs to hook up with this guy.
I don't see that working out well either.

At least half of her problems come from her absolutely unquestioned assumption that she, and her potential husband, alone, are the only people who can possibly be responsible for raising her children, and must do so in a territory in which they alone live. This is crap. Humans belong in tribes, otherwise known as extended families. The best environment in which to raise children--and that term in itself is part of the issue, one doesn't "raise children", one raises human beings--is an environment where there are multiple adults raising multiple kids, and all have responsibilities for the care and development of all of the kids. Slightly greater responsibility for one's own biological offspring, of course, but not completely ignoring the wellbeing of others.

Our society has sold itself a huge load of crap about child development and education. Of course two parents with a job and a half between them can't raise intelligent, responsible, morally developed kids. They don't have time. Grandparents have time. Aunts and uncles, probably just as busy as mother and father, have slices of time in which it's just as easy to feed six kids as three, or watch them play, or help them with chores, etc. The natural role of older siblings is to assist the raising of younger ones. They're not "meant" (in the sense that, if they do, the results will be bad, rather than that it is a deviation from some pre-set plan) to all be filling all available time with individualistic pursuits; they're meant to be playing with the younger ones. Teaching each other.

There are some problems with extended family living, of course - they tend to arrange themselves into heirarchies with the most self-centredly forceful at the top, some people do more or less than their share of work, etc. But if you stack them up against the problems of social atomism, and this article illustrates several of those problems, extended family comes off looking good.

So. What Lori needs to do is, learn to live with others. Give up that privacy and total control and responsibility and sweet sweet unjudged isolation, because it's the exact same reason she can't get married and probably can't even keep a regular boyfriend, and it's going to drive her kid as mad as she is. She's a control freak over her own life. I have no doubt that she was raised that way, and her problems are partially due to that: she was no doubt told that she would have to do everything ever for herself, all her self, that she and she alone was responsible for everything, good or bad, that happens to her, and wasn't taught to live with other people, she was told "it's my way or the highway, and if you don't like it, move out" (because her parents, in turn, sought out isolation in which to run things "their own way" ... and then had kids, and so much for the plan). Isolation is an utterly crap way to live. Life is chaos. It's our responsibility to help each other through it. (Of course it's our natural inclination to help more those we're related to and/or really like; but that's fine. "Help ye one another" is the important bit.)

So, who to live with? Blood relatives are a good choice, for sound biological reasons. Consider moving back in with grandpa and grandma, for a start. They might be dead, or really unpleasant to live with; the last option seems distinctly possible, given the evidence of Lori. If so, maybe that friend she describes; making common cause with her, would, if they were the kind of people who were prepared to relinquish the necessary degree of self-determination, free up time and energy for both women. Maybe they know another single mother, but this is starting to raise logistic difficulties: four generations of the building industry busily making four-person isolation dens has made finding a decent-size tribal house difficult and expensive; though some things can be done with apartments and residential complexes.

So, having more free time and a relaxed attitude, communal-living Lori will feel less desperate and drained, and thus be able to exercise more choice. She will still need to settle--everyone, always, in every way, settles--but she can settle for someone better. Maybe even someone good enough that she actually wants to settle for him. If she finds a guy she wants to spend time with, she is freer to do that. Of course there are arguments that this is another kind of trap, that she and the other women will sabotage each others' relationships in order to keep the status quo, that if she moves out Lori's child will lose contact with the other children he/she has come to think of as siblings, that a new woman and child(ren) moving in will change the social dynamic, etc. All of these are valid concerns; but again, life is chaos. The only way out is death. No matter where you go or what you do, it will in some ways not be to your liking. The question is whether it will be better.

I have no doubt that Lori and women like her--and men too--will read this, think "But I must take full and sole responsibility for my child, it's my child! Only my personal romantic lover could possibly share child-raising with me!" and miss the entire point, and raise children even worse, and even crazier, than themselves. It's the fashion.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:50 PM on February 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


Maybe she should hook up with this guy, I mean he has the ritzy condo, the Beemer, and he's single! (warning: page contains appalling conceit, tacky pictures and also background music)
posted by clevershark at 3:20 PM on February 10, 2008


You know, people of the future will look back and find the entire institution of marriage to be just hi-larious. The entire thing is just a big stupid mess. It's a highly dysfunctional market ruled by an ancient monopoly who only sells a single product that nobody really wants. If there a fifty percent return rate in any other market there would be law suits all over the place and the FBI would be launching an investigation. But then again I'm a traditionalist. I'm pro-"child labor." It pisses me off so damn much when I find the park to be full of shrieking children during my afternoon stroll. Those kids should be in a factory somewhere earning a fucking living. Increase the ROI/risk for children and people will start having them again!
posted by nixerman at 3:51 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it is strategically a mistake for women who want to have children to spend their early twenties being single and partying (or devoting themselves to political work, or whatever). Traditionally, the power dynamic amounts to a woman trading her "good years" of maximum fertility to an older man in return for a lifetime of security and support. It's difficult for a woman over 30 to "get a man" precisely because of this phenomenon: there are many women aged 20-25 who "date up" ten years. They are at the peak of their physical attractiveness, and the man they are dating is nearing the golden years of his career, if he has followed the traditional trajectory. A thirty-five year old man has much more power in the "market" than a thirty-five year old woman, just as an attractive nineteen year old girl has much more power than a man aged 16-25.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:51 PM on February 10, 2008


It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

This part of the original article cracked me up. At first, I half agreed. Then I realized, I work at a nonprofit. There are plenty of people you'd run a nonprofit with but not want to sleep with. Necessary but not sufficient attributes. (I think Brandon Blatcher has it here.)

aeschenkarnos, I agree with you in theory. But you should meet my friend who is looking for that communal situation and having trouble finding it in a place where everyone else is signing up for the nuclear family plan.
posted by salvia at 3:53 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry man, but Dan Savage is the only good source for relationship advice. A short version is : Have lots of sex. If your not getting it good, then talk about it. If talking doesn't help, then DTMFA.

I don't know what DTMFA stands for, but this is decent advice if you're 19 years old. Otherwise, I find it kind of pathetic. Perhaps I'm an outlier, but people who focus on fucking, and talking about fucking when they're not doing it, are precisely the sort of people, of either gender or any persuasion, that I find crude, offputting, self-absorbed and infantile, and do my best to stay the hell away from.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:10 PM on February 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


stav, you're my man, but come on. the urge to fuck..something is programmed pretty deep into the fabric of being human and there's nothing infantile about it. It's merely animal instinct and at the end of the day we're just animals no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise.
posted by jonmc at 4:23 PM on February 10, 2008


DTMFA= Dump The MotherFucker Already
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:25 PM on February 10, 2008


I won't go too far down the road of defending the story. I identify a bit, as I said, and wish I'd been smarter earlier. Of course I'm responsible for all my own choices (though the reflection on what the consumer culture says we 'should' have or 'deserve' to have is something interesting to consider). But I also don't want to ever immediately dismiss women (ro men) who openly say 'I may have made some relationship and life choices that I would change, had I known how they would play out." Their thoughts are worth looking at, because they may assist in the decision-making of others. Almost every human has some stories like that to tell.

That said, this gal does seem to be a bit...teh crazy, and parenting alone is obviously hard.
posted by Miko at 4:29 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


at the end of the day we're just animals no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise.

Um, speak for yourself, mmkay? I second the wonderchicken.
posted by Zinger at 4:29 PM on February 10, 2008


Basically what I'm getting from the article is that years ago, when she was younger she made a variety of judgments regarding kids, love and life that she later found out was wrong--or iffy at the very best. In several more years we'll have another article about how she was wrong yet again in the time since this one was written. It's good that her perspective has changed, but tragic that she now thinks that everyone has to be on the same page as she is.

I always thought that choosing a partner would involve some form of "settling." Not in the resigned way that she seems to advocate, but in the pragmatic and human sense that I acknowledge everyone has faults. In fact, I'm pretty much banking on someone to settle for me. Of course, I'm trying to sweeten the deal as much as I can.

The difference will be when that someone says to herself "I don't think it gets any better than this" will she mean that there's no way she can be more satisfied, or that she's tired of trying and calling it quits?
posted by sambosambo at 4:30 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, speak for yourself, mmkay?

I guess you're a plant then? or maybe an amoeba? (also me and the wonderchicken go waaay back, he knows what I'm getting at)
posted by jonmc at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2008


I read the article, and although it is really problematic, she makes some good points. Underlying what she is talking about, I think, is that -- to paint with a really broad generalizing paintbrush -- in the US men are usually willing to marry women approximately their age and younger, while women marry men approximately their age and older. Yes, there are lots and lots of counterexamples to this, several in my own family. But they are really exceptions to the rule -- the vast majority of heterosexual couples I know fit into this pattern.

There is a point, somewhere in one's mid to late thirties, where there start being more eligible younger women than there are eligible older men. And so when she describes women at that mid-thirties turning point to be facing a diminishing of options, she isn't making it up out of anti-feminist whole cloth. I don't care whether you explain it with evolutionary psychology or by culture or by the mind-control beams from the CIA satellites. Either way, a lot of the single women I know of that age, who aren't happily single, are facing this -- the men they find interesting are already married, have lots and lots of baggage, or are uninterested in same-age women and instead are dating much younger women. It's not fair, it's not easy, and it's not making the women I know happy.

But just because some people really are happy single, and some people are really happy in "non-traditional"* situations, doesn't make it any easier for a 38 year old woman who is looking at that ticking fertility clock and who would prefer to be in a relationship to have her children. She simply doesn't have the options that she did when she was 21; I think the author of this piece is writing about the experience of looking back and second-guessing choices that we all have had.

(* That use of "traditional" really chaps my ass, because what is called "traditional" (man in flannel suit bringing home bacon to wife and 2.3 kids in detached house) is historically deeply non-traditional in that it is a product of a deeply abnormal and short-lived historical period; conversely, all those "non-traditional" practices that scared the Moral Majority like cohabitation, blended families, bisexuality, and worse, are actually totally traditional in the sense that they were and are the practices of probably the majority of families throughout history.)
posted by Forktine at 4:44 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess you're a plant then? or maybe an amoeba? (also me and the wonderchicken go waaay back, he knows what I'm getting at)

Now you're being deliberately obtuse. My point is that humans are quite capable of being than their "instincts." Just as I object to the author of the original article generalizing her account to that of all women, I object to your generalizing some people's inability to think about anything but sex to everyone.
posted by Zinger at 4:44 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Drat, and I previewed too. That should be ... being more than than their instincts.
posted by Zinger at 4:44 PM on February 10, 2008


I think the author of this piece is writing about the experience of looking back and second-guessing choices that we all have had.

I wish she were able to write about that actual thing, rather than raising this topic of 'settling.' They are really two different topics.
posted by Miko at 4:48 PM on February 10, 2008


That use of "traditional" really chaps my ass, because what is called "traditional" ...is historically deeply non-traditional in that it is a product of a deeply abnormal and short-lived historical period

Elsa's right, I shouldn't have said "non-traditional" but instead "non-conventional" or something like that, because I understand this to be true as well and meant no value judgement.
posted by Miko at 4:50 PM on February 10, 2008


The Planet Earth has asked me to share something with you:

STOP HAVING CHILDREN. I'M FULL, AND I CAN'T PROVIDE EVERYTHING YOU WANT, MUCH LESS MORE OF YOUR OFFSPRING


Hmmm Lets kill those pesky poor people under the guise of 'protecting the earth'....people starving in an another country ? Well ......... they just shouldnt have had children, should they ?
'Environmentalists' seem incredibly keen to have certain types of people removed from the face of the earth, dont they ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:02 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking for myself, sarge, I've got no interest in having 'certain types of people removed from the earth', and nor, I suspect, does the person you're quoting, but I do very much think that if there were fewer people in general, rich or poor, fat or hungry, the world would be a much better place.

I also think that whether we do it deliberately or not, population decline is going to happen. Whether it happens through catastrophe, starvation, war, desertification and disease or through careful planning and a focus on making a better life for those already alive rather than just making more people, that's entirely up to us. My pessimistic bet is on the former.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:12 PM on February 10, 2008


sgt.serenity, don't smear all "environmentalists" that way. Most of us know that if you talk about overpopulation, you blame the world's poorest, while if you talk about consumption, you place the blame where it lies.
posted by salvia at 5:13 PM on February 10, 2008


Oh fuck, I forgot to weep for my 32 year old unmarried barren womb. Who am I without a husband or offspring to define me? These other things in my life mean nothing!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:14 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think this is the part that drives me craziest:

"Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying."

Right. Because in the near-infinite variety of human experience, there never existed a woman who just didn't want to get married and/or spawn.

Newsflash, Lori: We exist. And I personally am 26, so my (long-held) conviction that I don't want to get married or have children can't really be read as denial or some other sort of defense mechanism in response to having hit your "big red panic button" age of 30.

Jesus, people like this just make me sad.
posted by liruskainen at 5:25 PM on February 10, 2008


There are a couple of fairly true, if also fairly banal, point that I think this author was probably trying to get at, namely: A) If your goal is to be in a relationship, and you have impossibly high standards, then you are likely to end up alone and unhappy. B) If your goal is marriage, you will be served well by thinking about relationships as long-term situations.

Unfortunately, she buries these in a wave of idiocy to the extent that they aren't even really the point anymore, by essentially saying things like:

1) All women in her situation (unmarried past 29) feel the same way she does (desperate for marriage and children if they don't have any) and anyone who says they aren't is a liar, and -

2) Therefore, all women in her situation obviously made the exact same poor choices she did, or they would be married, so -

3) Not only should they not have impossibly high standards, they should have downright low standards, and take the first prospect that comes along, because -

4) Although she's never actually experienced one, being in a loveless marriage is better than not being in a marriage at all, even if it leads to divorce, even though -

5) The last time she "didn't wait" and decided to be a single mom, even though marriage was still her goal then, it screwed up her life because apparently she didn't realize that having a kid would make it more difficult to date or even be particularly hard ... but despite that, "not waiting" and getting into a loveless marriage is now *clearly* the thing that will solve all her problems and not make her miserable at all, because -

6) Marriage makes everything easier! Because even if you hate their guts and die a little inside every time you have sex and want to strangle the other person every time they talk, at least they'll bring in a little extra money and spend some time helping to psychologically mess up the inevitable baby, because -

7) Even if her married friends complain constantly and are miserable they still must be happy, although -

8) For some reason this only applies to women and not men because as everyone knows men can marry whoever they want (somehow) while all women are DESPERATE DESPERATE DESPERATE (somehow), and -

9) Everyone who says anything different is just being a PC feminist hater. Suck it, haters!


Speaking as a refugee from an abusive marriage that left me homeless and insane for a while ... er, no, it's not always better.
posted by kyrademon at 5:34 PM on February 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


That doesn't necessarily mean that women (or men) who choose to have children without a life partner haven't considered the consequences.

Most single moms haven't chosen at all. They got pregnant. And often keeping the kid is based on some social stigma or becuase they simply are too young to full understand the consequences.

Educated professional single moms who consciously chose to have child are the extreme minority of single moms.

Anyway the article was dumb. But from my own anecdotal experience every person I know that has had ridiculously high "standards" and obsessed over a checklist for a life partner is extremely unhappy or divorced.

Newsflash, Lori: We exist. And I personally am 26, so my (long-held) conviction that I don't want to get married or have children can't really be read as denial or some other sort of defense mechanism in response to having hit your "big red panic button" age of 30.

liruskainen I hear you and I can't agree with the authors shaky rhetoric either, however now that I'm 44 and can look back on all the women I have known who have said basically what your saying? And that has been quite allot of women. ALL (with the exception of one who is married but no kids) of them are married with kids now. These positions tend to change over time and it appears biology is a powerful motivator.
posted by tkchrist at 5:51 PM on February 10, 2008


Perhaps I'm an outlier, but people who focus on fucking, and talking about fucking when they're not doing it, are precisely the sort of people, of either gender or any persuasion, that I find crude, offputting, self-absorbed and infantile, and do my best to stay the hell away from.

Point taken, but where do I meet women like that?

I have this friend who might be interested.
posted by clevershark at 6:18 PM on February 10, 2008


In a society that privileged the needs of women as well as men, I think lots of women would have the option to have kids young, not marry the fathers (since neither of them would be really ready to settle down), raise the kids while they were still young/had energy/had younger grandparents to help, and blend part-time school and careers until the kids were old enough to need less constant care. And then maybe marry later if they found someone, or just take lovers if that's what they wanted. During the childbearing years, they might live in groups with other women/their children to share childcare and give the kids playmates. This would place the choice whether or not to have children entirely in each woman's power, and dissolve the property-transferring characteristics still inherent in marriage as it is now.

But because we have this strange insistence on the isolated marriage dyad being the only way to raise children, women are forced to either "settle" if they want kids, risk finding someone before their eggs give out, or voluntarily become single moms. Wanting to be a mother is not at all the same as wanting to find a permanent partner, so why do the two have to come together? Doesn't the stress of wanting/not wanting to have kids tear apart a lot of relationships?

Of course, such a society would have to value the hard work of bearing and raising the next generation enough to support it with daycare, healthcare, and flexible work/education arrangements. And we can't have that..
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 PM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I am fairly certain by the time I'm 40 I'll be so fed up I'll just be randomly screaming bullshit all day and flipping off magazine kiosks.

Welcome to my world.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:59 PM on February 10, 2008


Shkespeare saild it a long time ago when a male character warns a standoffish youglady to "sell when you can. You are not good for all markets."

As Elsa's pointed out, this wasn't a male character: it's Rosalind, dressed up as Ganymede, being deliberately rude to the snotty shepherdess Phoebe. And, of course, the joke is that Phoebe immediately falls in love with Rosalind, because the boy is so deliciously unusual.

Elsa's other point -- that examples drawn from 16th century fiction are no more valid than examples drawn from 20th century fiction -- is more important, though.

:Close Pedantry.:
posted by jrochest at 8:45 PM on February 10, 2008


I find it a little disturbing that this woman was in her forties before she figured out that a short guy with an "unfortunate nose" could still be a good boyfriend. I had that worked out when I was fourteen.

Actually, his entire face was unfortunate, if we're going to be shallow about it, but that didn't stop the summer camp puppy love. Two joyous weeks, then we went long-distance ... and on my side, the break-up was in large part because I couldn't stand how bad his spelling was on AIM.
posted by bettafish at 9:38 PM on February 10, 2008


I think there's a contradiction at the heart of modern life for heterosexuals. To be economically stable, we're encouraged to defer having children. Thus, you see people being pushed to attend higher education (or a trades type program) , then pursue professional certification and maybe graduate school. Yet at the same time, people are in the prime of their (physical) lives. So they want to have a lot of sex, and they're told "you don't want kids. you want to focus on your work, on building a fulfilling career, on exploring the world.'' Okay. I can buy that in the post-modern industrial world this is true.

But people still want to have sex. And at the most basic level, that is saying "I want to parent a child." That is what that means. That's what a million years of evolution is telling you-- get it on and get a female pregnant/pop out some kids. Yet half the time you'll talk to someone in their 20s or 30s , male or female, and they'll say, OMG no way do I want kids. But damn s/he is hot, I'd get with her/him. Come on. That's setting people up for misery. Because as a society we've created a tension between basic instinctual urges (hardware), and the culture (software) that we've developed. And it's such a fucking lie, when I meet a guy who tells me , oh I don't want kids. I just want to have sex with as many beautiful women as I can. What do you think that really means chief, is what I want to say. On the other hand, when I meet a woman who says "I don't want kids. I want an independent life, and a handsome boyfriend who can give me great orgasms." Well what exactly do you think is driving your desire to have an orgasm? What is the logical outcome of that situation if there is no birth control?

I'm not saying that 19 year old college sophomores should be having kids. That's probably not such a good idea. What I am saying, is that perhaps we'd all benefit from a little more honesty about what is driving/motivating someone towards sex, and what that means, and what we're all giving up in order to have our organized society. There's a difference between telling a 17 year old "look, you're horny because you're 17 and you want to have fun, but don't do it because the consequence is that you have kids and you screw up your life," and saying "look, you want her because you want her to have your kids. That's what this is about. But right now, having kids isn't such a good idea." It's stupid because what we're telling people is that their basic biological urge to reproduce is .... useless, or inconvenient, or "just stupid kids who want to have fun without consequences." And then we wonder why there are miserable 35 year olds who suddenly realize that they want kids. No. They always wanted kids as soon as puberty fully kicked in. We aren't honest about this because frankly , our society doesn't work if all the 17 year olds have kids. This tension between what society expects (long time to ''maturity," long educational/professional track) and what we want at our most basic level is what makes people unhappy.
posted by wuwei at 9:49 PM on February 10, 2008


But wuwei ... we do, in fact, have this amazing "birth control" stuff of which you speak, which allows the act of sex to be pretty much divorced from child-creation, in much the same way that "farms" mean I can enjoy mucking about in a garden without it being a desperate scrabble for food so I can survive, "central heating" means I can build a nice crackling fire without actually dying if I don't have one, and "the entire history of civilization" means I can participate in artistic, social, or leisure activities without survival or reproduction being the immediate or even primary concern.

Even if the imperative of "man, that sure is someone I'd like to combine my genetic material with to produce an offspring, boy howdy!" is the actual original basis of the reproductive drive, it is so distant from the actual process of thought, action, activity, and reality of the situation on a day-to-day basis that it hardly matters in many cases. I do want sex. I don't want kids right now. When I was 17, I did want sex ... and didn't want kids. Saying I want to have sex is NOT necessarily saying "I want to parent a child". The two are not one and the same.
posted by kyrademon at 10:13 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Not to mention that I also like oral, anal, same-sex, masturbation, and a variety of non-penetratory fetishes in addition to the standard het in-out in-out. You are welcome to try to explain that to me from a strict bioprocreative perspective, but I hope you don't mind if I'm busy and preoccupied while you do.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:24 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


But people still want to have sex. And at the most basic level, that is saying "I want to parent a child."
I'm not sure I can agree with you here. People enjoy sex, at least in large part, because it feels good, emotionally and physically, full stop. That those good feelings may have originally evolved because it leads to getting knocked up isn't hugely relevant to most people's decisions of whether to have sex or not. The point is, it feels good.

To be frank, it's a bit of a bait-and-switch; we have impulses that make it pleasurable to do something that, were it not pleasurable, people might not do, or have done historically, nearly so frequently because of the serious consequences involved.

To be clear: I'm not saying that people don't have sex for purely or mainly procreative reasons. However, in terms of the majority of sex acts, I feel pretty safe saying that the vast majority of them at any given time in our current society are definitely non-procreative, and are done for reasons entirely separate (and in fact detached, at great cost and expense) from the reproductive aspect.
Because as a society we've created a tension between basic instinctual urges (hardware), and the culture (software) that we've developed. And it's such a fucking lie, when I meet a guy who tells me , oh I don't want kids. I just want to have sex with as many beautiful women as I can. What do you think that really means chief, is what I want to say.
I think that means "I want to have sex with as many beautiful women as I can." A desire to have sex doesn't say anything about that particular individual's desire to have children, then or ever.

The "tension" or conflict that you're noticing isn't a product of our society, it's because the desire for the physical/emotional pleasure that's involved in the sex act is different from the desire to have children. We've evolved to have quite a lot of the former, because apparently it's quite effective in getting us into each others' pants and thus perpetuating the species. But just because you want to jump somebody doesn't necessarily mean that you want to have children with them; it just means you want to have sex with them.

And speaking as a former 17-year-old boy, I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that I wasn't looking at girls because I wanted to have children with them. What I was interested in was a lot more simple -- granted, unchecked it's exactly the sort of thing that can lead to children, but "children" weren't part of the goal. The sex was the end; getting someone pregnant would just have been an unfortunate after-effect.

Just because an impulse has evolved in order to promote a particular function doesn't mean that people who pursue or are driven by that impulse actually care or want the original evolutionary end. I'm sure you can come up with tons of examples of acts we do every day that are pleasant because of hardwired evolved impulses, but have since become totally detached from their original purpose and are pursued simply for themselves.

You have to be careful not to confuse evolutionary objectives from personal objectives. An evolutionary objective might be reproduction, and to that end, we're probably "programmed" (again, by natural selection of some sort) to enjoy sex. But a personal objective might just be pleasure, or sex, and reproduction could be entirely irrelevant or secondary to that personal objective (and I would argue, frequently is).
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2008


From a man's point of view, this was an interesting article. When men meet potential partners, they really just tend to have to questions in mind: do I like this person, and are they hot enough to want to have sex with? If you can tick those boxes, then you're gold.

Women, on the other hand, tend to have much longer check lists: does he have enough status? Does he earn enough money? Does he like my friends? Does he want to spend interminable amounts of time having a conversation about the relationship: its current status and its future direction? How does he spend his relaxation time and do I approve?

The answer to these questions might not be enough to get you ruled out immediately, but if they are wrong, they will often tend to have you categorized as a 'fixer-upper', somebody whose fundamental characteristics need radical modification before real commitment can ensure. If Lori Gottleib's idea of 'settling' embraces the idea that women should be taking all this superficial stuff far less seriously, then it seems to me that it's a thoroughly good thing.

Also: this post needs a girlzone tag.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:20 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


When men meet potential partners, they really just tend to have to questions in mind: do I like this person, and are they hot enough to want to have sex with? If you can tick those boxes, then you're gold.

Women, on the other hand, tend to have much longer check lists: does he have enough status? Does he earn enough money? Does he like my friends? Does he want to spend interminable amounts of time having a conversation about the relationship: its current status and its future direction? How does he spend his relaxation time and do I approve?


I don't agree, at all. I'm not saying that men and women approach this with the exact same considerations (be they cultural or evolutionary or whatever). Clearly, in the US and Europe men are much more willing to marry "down" in terms of income and education, and women are not, for example. But I don't know a single guy who has married a woman (except for a few people I know who came back from a vacation with a big hangover and a surprise marriage they can't really remember) without considering a few more things than your two items. Questions like "will she be a good mother?" and "will she be faithful?" and "can I introduce her to my friends and family?" should resonate both with the evolutionarists and the culturalists, I think.

And the cliché of "women want to talk about relationships and guys want to go out and have fun" is pretty tired by now. Newsflash: men chat and gossip and so on; sometimes less than a stereotypical woman, and probably differently than that stereotypical woman, but those are not foreign activities of the mysterious woman species.

Those stereotypes are at the heart of the problems of Gotleib's article; your use of them is not any less problematic.
posted by Forktine at 3:09 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe the Metafilter users are the wrong target for this article: But in "Joe Six-Pack Land" this is really what goes on.
Sometime I think we on Mefi think we are representative of society at large. Would this be the case, Obama would be long President, no Irak war, everyone drives a bycicle and takes the train...
Reality is, in First-Life, for a lot of girl mid-30s, once the bell for the last round rings, their is a big scramble and suddendly all we males are "Hot" and "Attractive". I remember (pre-marriage and pre-kids) that when going on a date I was very careful *not* to give the impression that I did not wanted to have a child: otherwyse the mental door would shut down well before we could have a chanche to connect. That I still managed to find a lovely partner and raise a family, in that hell of a cross-fire, still wonders me.
posted by elcapitano at 4:11 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Women, on the other hand, tend to have much longer check lists: does he have enough status? Does he earn enough money? Does he like my friends? Does he want to spend interminable amounts of time having a conversation about the relationship: its current status and its future direction? How does he spend his relaxation time and do I approve?

WTF. Hate women much?
posted by amro at 6:17 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


that's a little strong, amro. It's unfair that he's applying it only to women, but I see his point about people with demanding checklists for potential suitors, be they male or female.

I remember (pre-marriage and pre-kids) that when going on a date I was very careful *not* to give the impression that I did not wanted to have a child: otherwyse the mental door would shut down well before we could have a chanche to connect. That I still managed to find a lovely partner and raise a family, in that hell of a cross-fire, still wonders me.

Dude, stop pouring whiskey over your Cheerios. Seriously.
posted by jonmc at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2008


Metafilter: We don't like articles that use sweeping generalizations and personal anecdotes as evidence. That's our job!
posted by Zinger at 7:42 AM on February 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Poorly worded, but the point that men mostly judge women's attractiveness based on looks whereas women judge men's attractiveness based on more complex cocktail of looks AND confidence/leadership/power/security/etc. is valid.

Most guys would happily date a Victoria's Secret model even if she's annoying, stupid, and penniless -- because, damn she's hawt! Conversely, many women would date a wealthy, powerful guy even if he ain't that great looking.

Different things trip our respective lizard brain attraction circuits, and it's emotionally dangerous to not acknowledge that fact. I tried (seriously) dating women that I was only somewhat attracted to (but who were otherwise awesome, cool people), and lemme tell you that's just a recipe for disaster and broken hearts.
posted by LordSludge at 7:44 AM on February 11, 2008


Most guys would happily date a Victoria's Secret model even if she's annoying, stupid, and penniless -- because, damn she's hawt!

small correction: we'd have sex with her, sure. Date her, as in get serious about her? Probably not.
posted by jonmc at 7:45 AM on February 11, 2008


Hmmm Lets kill those pesky poor people under the guise of 'protecting the earth'....people starving in an another country ? Well ......... they just shouldnt have had children, should they ?
'Environmentalists' seem incredibly keen to have certain types of people removed from the face of the earth, dont they ?


Huh? Who said anything about killing the "pesky poor people"?

I'm suggesting that the human species, ALL OF US, are becoming too much of a burden to the planet. Rich, poor, it doesn't matter - too many humans be the problem. In fact, nothing I wrote suggests that I want to "have certain types of people removed from the fact of the Earth". I consider myself an equal opportunity hater - ALL people are a problem. Do I feel any differently about the wealthy family with 6 kids, or the poor South American campesinos with 6 kids? No siree, they are both a menace to the planet, and one could certainly make a strong case for the rich 6 kids to be WAAAY more of a problem, due to the realities of resource consumption in the first world.

And I practice what I preach - I don't have kids, will never have kids, and am very content with that decision. No regrets.

My original point stands - the author of the piece is a typical example of the vapid, self-obsessed, materialistic, psychotic breeder that does no one a favor by spawning. Why does she want a child so badly? Society, culture, marketing? What does she offer a potential mate? Her own self-importance? Her offspring will most likely not live up to her expectations of perfection, so another bitter human will likely be roaming a planet already sagging under the weight of excessive humanity. There are no winners here.
posted by dbiedny at 7:46 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, this certainly turned into a trainwreck.

Gender relations triage and rehab, through this door. Burned and alone, down the hall on the right. Please have your insurance card ready.
posted by Miko at 7:49 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Poorly worded, but the point that men mostly judge women's attractiveness based on looks whereas women judge men's attractiveness based on more complex cocktail of looks AND confidence/leadership/power/security/etc. is valid.

I think that's a generalization, but you're free to make it. I wasn't disputing the possibility that men and women may diverge in some respects with regard to what they seek in a potential mate. I was, with perhaps less clarity than was necessary, highlighting Peter McDermott's apparent hostility towards women. "Interminable amounts of time having a conversation about the relationship"? "How does he spend his relaxation time and do I approve"? Um, no.
posted by amro at 7:54 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


But people still want to have sex. And at the most basic level, that is saying "I want to parent a child." That is what that means.

I must be older than 28, because I'm screaming bullshit reading this. Come on. Not even animals who want to have sex are wanting to parent a child. It's sex they want.

I do not want to have kids, ever. I have no interest in parenting anything. But you bet I'll still have sex as long as I am able.
posted by agregoli at 8:00 AM on February 11, 2008


Gender relations triage and rehab, through this door. Burned and alone, down the hall on the right.

Never mind that, who's giving out the drugs?
posted by jonmc at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2008


amro: Yeah, there's some underlying hostility there, but unfortunately most married couples I know have a tension where the woman is dominating the relationship, berating the male (often publicly) when he steps out of line with what SHE thinks is correct behavior. The thing is, it's up to the guy to assert himself and NOT let the woman control him, any more than he controls her. Many guys don't, their wives slowly become (are trained to be and are unconsciously rewarded for being) control freaks, and the men end up resentful X years later -- guessing that's where the hostility comes from, but it's misplaced, IMO.

"How does he spend his relaxation time and do I approve" is sad, but very common, basically "normal", among couples I know. It ought to be more like "does he enjoy some of the same activities as I do?" or simply "does he enjoy his activities? do they bring him joy?"

jonmc: we'd have sex with her, sure. Date her, as in get serious about her? Probably not.

What if she refused to have sex with you, on an ongoing basis, unless you had sex with her exclusively? That's "serious dating" as I define it anyway. (Admittedly, not a real high threshold for me, as I don't like dating more than one girl at a time.) Remember, Victoria's Secret girl here -- (hypothetically) BY FAR the hottest girl you've ever been with or ever will. I'm a little older, so I'm at least somewhat over this -- and perhaps you are too -- but most guys would pick the hottie every single time and just complain about her bad behavior. (Not saying I'm totally immune -- life would be much easier for me if I could fall for a girl independent of her looks.)
posted by LordSludge at 9:18 AM on February 11, 2008


What if she refused to have sex with you, on an ongoing basis, unless you had sex with her exclusively?

Then probably not. My position was basically admitting, that, yes, I'm human, I'm not immune to the lure of physical attractiveness (although the Victoria's Secret girls really aren't my physical type, and I think that too a large degree physical attraction is subjective), so sure I'd have sex with one if I was single and the opportunity arose. But if the woman in question was as you say stupid, annoying or mean, it would take away from the attraction and I'd be disinclined to date her, meaning make her a part of my life as opposed to just a roll in the hay.

life would be much easier for me if I could fall for a girl independent of her looks.

I don't think either gender is wholly independent of looks when it comes to sexual attraction, but once a basic physical chemistry is established, someone being smart or funny or good-hearted only adds to the attraction. So I think that while people definitely want their mate to be good-looking (to them at least) they'd also like them to be smart, funny, kind etc.
posted by jonmc at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2008


and Lord Sludge, my conclusion holds across gender lines too. Remember my oft-mentioned handsomer-than-hell, independently wealthy, was-in-a-band, former fireman/current polieman buddy? (on the left, on the right). When we hang out together, he gets far more female attention than I do, because he's better looking etc. But over the decade and half we've known eachother, average-looking broke-ass me has had a far more stable relationship history. Make of that what you will.
posted by jonmc at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2008


their wives slowly become (are trained to be and are unconsciously rewarded for being) control freaks, and the men end up resentful X years later

LordSludge, I'm sorry that has been your experience. I've seen relationships like you mention, but in my world they are not so common. In fact, I see them a lot more of them in sitcoms than in real life.

life would be much easier for me if I could fall for a girl independent of her looks.


Not all attractive women are manipulative, bitter control freaks. Perhaps you are looking in the wrong places? Or the wrong age group?
posted by misha at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2008


misha: I'm okay** -- was just trying to put some context of what I see among my peers to the bitter comments that amro detected in somebody else's post. Me, I'm pretty sure I'll have this whole dating thing figured out right about the time I turn 90. LOOK OUT LAYDEES!!!

** Just started dating an amazing, amazing girl a few months ago. She's waaaay out of my league, but we also have a lot in common and she likes me (yay!), so we'll see how it goes. Being single is fine too.
posted by LordSludge at 12:51 PM on February 11, 2008


we know who you are by the first date and we find it unattractive. That's why we don't call.

You shouldn't, because you are a guy who is not yet interested in getting married.


Perhaps you should think of it this way: if one person wants to find the right person, and finding the right person is a prerequisite for marriage and other things, they most likely won't waste time with a person who appears to consider marriage as the goal, and the person they're marrying as a means to achieving that goal.

Looked at that way, a man might be fully ready to get married once they're sure they've got the right person, and are scared away by someone who appears to put getting married ahead of finding the right person.
posted by davejay at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a happily married guy with no kids...lord, did this article ever make having kids sound awful.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:07 PM on February 11, 2008


This goes here.
posted by 517 at 4:53 PM on February 14, 2008


I read this thread when it was new, and it's only now that I've been discussing it with a friend that I feel like commenting. Better late than never, I suppose...

My primary reaction to this article was one of irritation. Notice that this article, which urges women to "settle", was written by a woman who hasn't "settled" herself. I bet most if not all of the married women she cites don't feel they've settled either. I may look at a given relationship and think, "How can she stand him?" but at the same time I recognize that this is only MY assessment of the guy in question, and that it's really irrelevant to their relationship. The two of them obviously want to be together, and would be rightly insulted if anyone were to suggest that they'd "settled".

This writer is a condescending ass, the flip side of the woman who assumes her husband is every other woman's dream and who has no clue as to what anyone else actually wants or how they make their decisions. Other people don't necessarily want what you want, honey. Stop projecting your own standards and desires onto everyone else.
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on February 21, 2008


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