Revisiting Marry Him at 10 years on
February 14, 2020 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Tracy Clark-Flory: "Just as heart-shaped candies and pastel greeting cards filled drug store shelves, in time for Valentine’s Day of 2010, a new book came out: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by the journalist Lori Gottlieb . . . This opener is representative of what Gottlieb does repeatedly in the book: paint a caricature of petty, shallow, and self-aggrandizing women. Meeting in a bar with a group of single women in their thirties, Gottlieb relays outrageous examples of the reasons these sources say they once broke up with seemingly good men: He was bald, too optimistic, or a cryer. He bought the wrong kind of flowers, had long nose hairs, or loved her too much."

"But in reading her words now, it also strikes me as marginally true. Gottlieb’s position didn’t arise from a backlash to feminism, so much as from anxiety around what it had afforded women like her: the unpredictable reality of living a life of greater freedom.

It is in these muted chapters that it might be possible, for a fleeting moment, to see the book as misunderstood, but only by a degree. The attention-grabbing title and punishing early chapters are followed by a bait and switch. Culture trolling and finger-wagging is traded for inarguable wisdoms, like that love can blossom where there isn’t an immediate spark"
posted by Carillon (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot the Previously
posted by Carillon at 9:23 AM on February 14

[added quotations around the quoted parts, carry on]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:08 AM on February 14

This is SO well put: “anxiety around what it had afforded women like her: the unpredictable reality of living a life of greater freedom.”

I was talking about this with some friends who aren’t sure if they want kids, when it’s getting to be crunch time for that choice. And one of them pointed out that if you forego having them, you have the chance to cut a different path through life than you might have always expected—but you also feel a burden to do so. Because if you deviate from the prepared path, you’re expected to have a reason why—why would you go tramping through the forest instead of walking down that sidewalk with anyone else? Some people have very good reasons—they can’t have kids; they were achieving huge careers; they were taking care of a spouse or parent. But it’s a bit frightening to think about the freedom of saying “I didn’t have kids because I just didn’t want to. Instead I just...lived my life!”

Same for not settling. Gottlieb’s book acts as if life is a game of musical chairs and there’s actual urgency to make certain you nab a functioning one, because if you don’t, you lose. But while it might be frightening for her to consider, there is no winning or losing with this.

Wisest of all is this author’s mother: “Somewhere in you is the answer to what is right for you.”
posted by sallybrown at 11:19 AM on February 14 [14 favorites]

“Somewhere in you is the answer to what is right for you.”

Or there's just what happens. A lot of life is post-facto rationalization: not that "everything happens for a reason," but that we retroactively manufacture a "reason" out of everything that happens.
posted by Miko at 11:29 AM on February 14 [36 favorites]

But it’s a bit frightening to think about the freedom of saying “I didn’t have kids because I just didn’t want to. Instead I just...lived my life!”

Also exhilarating, if you embrace it. But then for some reason 90% of my friends are childless and I'm the weirdo who wanted to be a mom.

I wish more women felt free to reproduce without marrying or being in a relationship; the pressure to put up with a guy because you deeply long to be a parent and that's the only approved method to do so is strong.

Increasingly, I'm learning to deal with the anxiety- and shame-inducing messages aimed at me as a woman with the knowledge that I live in a society shaped by forces hostile to my well-being. I can't change that this is the period of history I live in (and it's a hell of a lot better than most women before me had) but life for women could be so, so much better. And that's true of our relationships and career and everything else.

Which means that I don't need to feel shame, and neither do other women, for making choices that work out , or don't work out, or stop working out. We're doing our best to thrive in hostile terrain.
posted by emjaybee at 12:04 PM on February 14 [12 favorites]

Man, that "previously" thread had some ugly bullshit about women, and from posters that I thought would know better, too.

The key to happiness is knowing there's no key to happiness but that there are decisions that will make you bitterly unhappy. And getting married or having children just because that's what grownups do--well, those are two big ones right there.

Like other single-handed solo sailors, I'm frequently miserable. But I am far, far away from the levels of misery I experienced when I made big life decisions because they seemed more grownup than the alternative. And there's no one I can personally imagine having married that would make my life better than it is today.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:54 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]

No one actually breaks up with someone because they're bald. If them being bald is bothering you enough to consider removing them from your life, that's an indication that there is something deeper at work.

I am disappointed because my initial thought about "good enough" and just go with it is based on my fondness for satisficing rather than maximizing. You don't need the best or greatest or most whatever. If it does what you want it to do, it's good enough and you can just grab one and move on. Applying this to romance would, I thought, have had more to do with getting over impossible dreams of perfect lustful romantic love that lasts forever without effort and instead accepting your partner for who they are and honestly asking if they meet your requirements or not.
posted by Scattercat at 2:08 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]

That previously - wow, what a painful read. Only 12 years ago. Hip dee in hideous sexism.
posted by Miko at 6:23 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I'm sure there are women alive who have broken up with men for petty, shallow, Seinfeld-esque reasons, and one might even be able to find enough of these women to string together an entire book about their experiences, pretending it actually represents some kind of broader force or trend.

But I am lucky enough to have access to the internet -- AskMefi, for example, as well as a number of pages on Reddit -- and to also be close enough to a number of women to hear their thoughts about their relationships and their secret struggles. And it's quite obvious that the overarching trend is in fact, by an overwhelming degree, women attempting to settle for men who cannot even aspire to such lofty heights as "good enough," because they are so overwhelming immature, irresponsible, self-centered, selfish, lazy, cruel, and destructive. I believe most women would be happy to settle for something approximating "tolerable."

What a ridiculous, insulting, misogynist book.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 6:37 PM on February 14 [12 favorites]

I wonder how many of these answers are just a polite way to avoid talking about the impact of relationship violence while chatting at a bar with some friends .
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:50 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]

I definately have a Oh he had horrible 'body odor story' for guy who was arrested-in-a-sting-operation-soliciting-a-minor. The first one gets laughs and eye rolls and omgs and the second gets serious and deep way quick.
I usually opt for the excuse.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:54 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if only we lived in a world with an actual steady supply of Mr. Good Enoughs--by which I mean little more than: law-abiding, possessed of human decency, equipped with the basic skills and interest in the bedroom, and actually committed to being an equal partner in building a life. As it is, there's almost no bigger risk than marrying a guy, and I don't just mean in the sense that life is complicated and any marriage is a struggle and a bit of a crapshoot as the years go by.
posted by praemunire at 9:14 PM on February 14 [11 favorites]

I ised to have 5 things i wanted in someone to be perfect to date:
1. Must work(or be actively seeking work)
2. Not live with parents (because i was on my own so i wanted someone who could relate to the struggles)
3. Non smoker.
4. No serious criminal record (serious being violence, dui, or a felony that precludes them from having a job.)
5. Some sort of post high school education (college, apprenticeship, career training, tech certifications, whatever. Anything that indicated new input didnt shut down after high school.)

I didnt consider these standards all that high, but i have never actually found someone that ticked all the boxes. I mean these were in addition to not being an asshole, so maybe it was too much.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:37 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

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