In May 2008 Lori Gottlieb wrote an article in the Atlantic entitled “Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough“ which caused quite a stir. The resulting conversations and controversy lead to her publishing a book by the same title. My mother, ever patient with my dating trials and tribulations, was one of the first people to suggest I pick up the book, (she’s not actually all that worried about me being single at 31 for the record) but it wasn’t until my friend Susanna started talking about it over drinks that I was compelled to go buy a copy. In person. Le sigh.
Now I didn’t enjoy the book nearly as much Susanna did, or dislike it as much as Slate, in fact, I’d probably recommend it to anyone who thinks that perhaps, just maybe, they might be approaching dating wrong. What follows is an AIM conversation between Susanna and I on the book. If you’ve read it please do leave your feedback in the comments.
tarynaronson: so, as you’re one of my most attractive and intelligent girlfriends, when you told me to run out and buy “Marry Him” i listened
susannafrances: obviously. i have impeccable taste.
susannafrances: and a lifetime full of neurotic dating issues. well, not a lifetime, but twelve years worth.
tarynaronson: so why did you feel so strongly about me reading this book?
susannafrances: when i read lori gottlieb’s article in the Atlantic Monthly a couple of years ago, i reacted strongly to the idea of “settling” for anything less than instant passion/eternal love.
susannafrances: reading more closely, i realized her point was more that women often place too high a value on the wrong traits in a man when it comes to who is actually a good partner.
susannafrances: especially smart, independent, successful woman who don’t “need” a man in any practical sense.
susannafrances: because we can support ourselves and are often happy single, it seems we often decide that the only thing a man can really do for us is bring passion and endless stimulation on top of an already totally fulfilling life.
susannafrances: unfortunately, passion and endless charisma happen to often go hand in hand with crippling narcissism
tarynaronson: and I’d prefer to be the only narcissist around here!
tarynaronson: i agree with that her analysis on that point. and i really appreciated her comments about “kindness” being an undervalued trait in a guy.
susannafrances: niceness isn’t flashy
tarynaronson: no its not. i felt like such an idiot reading that suggestion too because at 31 it really had never occurred to me to make that a priority in a boyfriend. but it’s a given that i expect my friends to be kind.
susannafrances: definitely. if asked to describe my ideal mate in the abstract i’d say – brilliant, hilarious, successful, hot.
tarynaronson: i‘d say brilliant, hilarious, successful, hot and doesn’t mind driving to long beach.
susannafrances: but i think women, hearing about the title of the book, assume she’s going to say settle for some lame dentist who’s really loyal and nice but totally unexciting or else YOU WILL BE ALONE
susannafrances: i think she’s saying – give the dentist a date.
susannafrances: you might find you like him more than you think.
susannafrances: stop judging people for putting apostrophes in the wrong place.
susannafrances: if you go out with apostrophe guy and he’s an idiot in person then you are allowed to not date him
susannafrances: but maybe he just doesn’t put that much effort into his online dating profile because, i don’t know, he’s busy having a life.
tarynaronson: how dare he!?
susannafrances: to me, though, the best point she made was really that when asked to define what we’re looking for in a man, we name 10 men
susannafrances: often traits are mutually exclusive
susannafrances: so when we dont find all of them (ie always) we feel like the person falls short
tarynaronson: yes. because we’re used to online dating where we get in a mode of looking at men like they are items to buy at a supermarket
tarynaronson: the one thing i didn’t relate to however was the traditional first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage stuff…
tarynaronson: like she talked a lot about the difficulties of dating with a kid
tarynaronson: and i felt like it was just presumed that i want a kid too
tarynaronson: and i better hurry up and stop being picky before my eggs run out
susannafrances: i totally hear that.
susannafrances: the book didn’t account for the breadth of personal goals women have
tarynaronson: but i also think that she presumed im the one doing all the heartbreaking
tarynaronson: just leaving a trail of the dead behind me
susannafrances: i didn’t get that. i think she’s probably just not mentioning the guys you’ve dated who have dumped you who had some of the “bad” traits she mentioned women go for.
tarynaronson: aha! thats an interesting point
tarynaronson: so essentially in not rating kindness a top priority, i am at fault for getting hurt when someone isnt kind to me
tarynaronson: i can deal with that
tarynaronson: so do you think this book has made a long term change in the way youll approach relationships/dating in the future?
susannafrances: in my case personally, i started dating someone nice and stable before i bought the book
susannafrances: it did make me righteous about my choice
susannafrances: and more appreciative of him than ever for not making me feel crazy with unpredictable craziness
tarynaronson: right, which is really the part i appreciated the most about the book
tarynaronson: the idea that looking forward to that insane feeling you get when someone is dicking you around, not writing you back, making you insecure…is just stupid!
susannafrances: i liked when she said:
susannafrances: think about the time you were most excited
susannafrances: you were probably acting like a crazy obsessive freak
susannafrances: bc he kept you guessing
tarynaronson: which then renders you sucky at the rest of your life
tarynaronson: well i expect you to keep me on track as i begin my dating adventures this summer
susannafrances: i will be your sponsor
susannafrances: beware the glamorous guy with the proust references and great bone structure, he’s probably getting hit on by 100 girls a day and will break your heart.
susannafrances: go for the quieter guy who is actually way more interesting and smart but maybe doesn’t have game. he probably also doesn’t have STDs.
Susanna Fogel is a film and television writer living in Los Angeles. Most recently, she co-wrote a comedy for New Line Cinema called “What Was I Thinking” about women analyzing the trials and tribulations of relationships on a hedonistic ski trip.