Monday, February 11, 2008

Gag Me, Not "Marry Him!"

I wasn't going to write anything on this piece from The Atlantic because, quite frankly, it didn't seem worth my time. Lori Gottlieb's conclusions about just settling for the man that will marry you were ludicrous. I will however, say that I do agree with a small portion of her argument.
When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier.
I tend to agree that thanks to a lot of trivial romantic comedies and other social expectations, some people get caught up in finding "perfect love" like they see in movies and on television. I'll give her that point. Some people have expectations for relationships that are just too damn high. But I won't pretend that's just limited to women, either.

But the thought that women should just "settle" seems ridiculous. Why should you feed into stereotypes like this?
The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.
What's the most silly is that Gottlieb seems to conclude that a relationship is a happy utopia. Even though her married girlfriends seem unhappy they still haven't left their husbands. This is because relationships are actually -- get ready -- a lot of work. Marriage does not necessarily equal happiness. I know it may seem profound to the likes of Gottlieb, but there isn't such a thing as happily ever after, even if you buy into it. She takes evidence from herself, a 40-year-old single mom, and um, Ross and Rachel on Friends to conclude that it's (drumroll, please) the fault of feminists.
To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist—vehemently, even—that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), 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.
Gasp! Not unmarried! The horror! Now, granted, I'm only 24 and finding myself unmarried, but I don't seem to be unhappy, and I think a lot of women who are 30, 40, and 50 and totally happy as single human beings. What's more, she seems to be interested more in the institution of marriage than in the idea of a committed relationship. One does not necessarily equal the other. She also leaves out the main reason they legalized divorce in the first place: some women face marriages that are either physically or emotionally abusive. For those women, being single truly is better than a marriage that threatens her emotional or physical health.

Furthermore Gottlieb's proof that an unhappy married woman is more satisfied than a single woman is that when she offers to take over her friends' husbands they don't take her up on her offer.
But then my married friends say things like, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons” or “You’re so lucky, you don’t have anyone putting the kid in front of the TV and you can raise your son the way you want.” I’ll even hear things like, “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to have sex with someone you don’t want to.”

The lists go on, and each time, I say, “OK, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!”

Not one person has taken me up on this offer.

Shocking that your friends wouldn't want to um, go through a heart-wrenching divorce with someone that they're in a committed relationship because it would save them negotiating over piano lessons. It seems that Gottlieb should just keep such conclusions to herself and not try to push her own regrets on others.


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