It was two years ago today that Lori Gottlieb's Atlantic magazine article, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Right was released. The piece raised many eyebrows from feminists and those who thought they had to toss away their dreams of finding "the one" and live "unhappily-ever-after."
There's been a lot of attention and criticism about Gottlieb's bestselling book. It started with a phone call from my mother who said, "I'm watching this author on the Today show who wrote a relationship book. Do you know Lori Gottlieb?" I had to answer honestly that I didn't. I was one of the few who hadn't read the article.
I was unable to attend Gottlieb's personal appearance in Los Angeles just before Valentine's Day, but quickly found out that several of my friends and colleagues were featured in her newly released book with the same title of the controversial article. I knew we were meant to meet. When the invitation arrived for a dating advice panel in Los Angeles which was featuring Gottlieb along with authors Greg Behrendt, of He's Just Not That Into You fame and first-time author, Sascha Rothchild of How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage, I quickly sent in my reservation and put the date on my calendar. The event was created by 826 LA, a non-profit writing/tutoring organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18. Proceeds from the dating panel would benefit the organization. Charity and dating advice moderated by Time magazine's funny man Joel Stein. It was a winning combination for me.
I decided it was time to meet Lori Gottlieb and find out what all of the controversy was surrounding her bestselling book. We planned to meet after the presentation for a private conversation about dating, love, romance, and of course marriage. Unlike many who have been very vocal against Gottlieb's book who ran to their blogs to quickly complain, yet never took the time to read it, I picked up a copy and read it cover-to-cover before our meeting. I have to admit, until reading the book, the thought of settling felt like having a bad stomach flu or something I would forever regret. The book, however, I felt was very well-researched and I was pleasantly surprised.
In my conversation with Gottlieb, I asked her if she truly believed that feminism has ruined dating and marriage for women. She quickly pointed out that feminism never referred to dating at all. She stated, "In feminism you should have equality and respect. It was never about if you should marry or not. It's about having high standards. Compromise is important to all relationships."
I asked her why she felt her initial article sparked so much negative emotion. She answered with, "It's very unsettling to see a woman who really wants to be married." She added, "I don't need everything to be happy. Our culture says that we need to be 100% happy to be fulfilled. It sends upsetting messages to say you have to have it all."
I wanted to hear her take on why she felt she was so misunderstood. Gottlieb explained to me that everyone thinks she is telling the world they have to settle for second best. Her book, she added, is about settling for the right things, not the wrong things. She urges women who want to get married to get their priorities straight by their 30s so they will be better off when they hit 40.
In a world where we judge people so quickly and the next pretty face is just a mouse-click away, women are disqualifying potential partners due to their long laundry list of must haves.
Gottlieb points out in her book that women have a list of 300 reasons on why they won't go out with a man on a second date. On the opposite side, she believes that the men have a simple list of only three.
She chuckled at the fact that Oprah called her the new marriage guru, as she had never been married. "Go figure?" she said. When asked if she could rename her original article, what would she call it? Her reply, How to Settle for the Perfect Man.
In the end, it's important to point out that Gottlieb isn't encouraging women to settle and be unhappy. She just wants those who are interested in marriage to learn how to value what's truly valuable-- and the sooner the better. If marriage isn't your priority, perhaps this book isn't for you. If living single makes you happy, then I say enjoy your single life. We all make choices on our romantic journey based upon the knowledge that we have at the time. I'm the first to admit that what I want now in a mate is much different than what I thought I wanted in my 30s.
At the end of our conversation, my last question to the bestselling author was, "Who will play you in the film version of your book?" Her answer, very appropriately was, "Someone who is good enough."
Julie Spira is a dating expert and the author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online. Visit her at CyberDatingExpert.com
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