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Marry Him? No, Thanks (Book Review of an Oldie but Shit-Stirring Goodie)

April 4, 2013

I try to broaden my perspective as far as the borders will allow. Even though I’m an atheist, I like to read books about religions and their followers to try and get a sense of what most of my fellow US citizens are thinking. Even though I’m childfree, I read memoirs and websites devoted to childrearing, trying for a glimpse at a lifestyle that still remains personally unfathomable to me.

And even though I’m personally anti-marriage, after my favorable book review of Eric Klinenberg’s Going SoloI thought I should try to understand what this whole marriage business, or at least the desire fueling said multi-billion dollar business, is all about.

Of the two books cited most prominently in Klinenberg’s work as calls for connubial bliss, I had to cross The Case for Marriage off my list before even looking at the dust jacket. The earnest academic tone, I felt, was liable to lead me to defenestrate (oh how I love that word) the book, costing me glass-pane removal and replacement fees as well as the $25 or so it cost the Denver Public Library system to acquire it. My perspective only expands so far before it bursts completely.

Instead, I went with Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him, a book that initially crossed my list of amusing poolside reading when it first came out due to the controversial premise that women should settle for guys who are decent but not necessarily awesome if they ever want to get married, especially if they’d reached the stage of life the author had (i.e. never-married and a single mother). Gottlieb’s self-deprecating humor and the fact that I secretly love drama as much as anyone else who announces they hate it in attention-grabbing Facebook posts convinced me that I needed to move it from my “What the actual fuck” list to my “Must-read” list.

So read it I did, and “What the actual fuck” I responded. In my humble estimation, there is very little about the book that, had it been worded differently in the pages or, especially, the title, is anything but a no-brainer. Lori, whaddaya mean I might have to make compromises between my fantasy guy and real-life men if I want to get married?! You mean Amazon and Google Shopping haven’t teamed up to set up a venue where I can custom-order a dude with Jon Hamm’s looks, George Carlin’s wit, and Mr. Spock’s emotional detachment?

So yeah, the idea that women who really want to obsess over wedding boards with their eye on the prize instead of being filled with tears over an ever-decreasing possible future probably need to do a serious evaluation of the men in their lives and how they’d actually function as husbands, not some fantastical ideal of manhood that no amount of Viagra or testosterone supplements or willingness to watch more Sex and the City (ugh) could ever match up to…not so revolutionary. As it turns out, I’ve been there, done that on compromising from my fantasy to the reality at hand until there were no issues left to be negotiated and I simply had to walk away from the table.

Which leads me to my primary issue with the book, the one that led me to choose and peruse a volume on seeking marriage in the first place. The question Gottlieb never answers and that I might have to suffer through The Case for Marriage in order to find out: Why the hell is it so much better to be married than to live alone? Granted, Gottlieb herself has no frame of reference, having only sought the brass ring–or is that diamond? I get confused when it comes to these things–without actually having attained it.

She tries to articulate what she is looking for in a potential mate: a father figure for her son, a lifelong companion, an intellectual equal with whom to have stimulating conversations. And once she figures out that these items are needs rather than romantic-comedy-fueled desires that would be nice bonuses, she does have more solid footing.

None of this explains to the (dare I say) single-minded why her needs in a mate equate to needs for a fulfilling life. Sure, single parenting is still universally regarded as a sub-optimal way to raise children, but it sounds like Gottlieb is a caring mother who can provide for her son. And doubtlessly her friends will be at her side through thick and thin, able to exchange a good series of witticisms back and forth, although I do see her point about the potential difficulty of situations in which you are the sole single person in room full of married couples.

Still, I have not been convinced as to why I should marry Mr. Good Enough, or even Mr. Hamm-Carlin-Spock Perfect, for that matter. So maybe I do need to pick up a copy of The Case for Marriage and read it in the center of Denver’s Central Library, where nearby windows and library property are unlikely to be damaged by a burst of violent disagreement with the authors.


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  1. Hmm… I might have to give those books a read through. I personally am not of the opinion that one should settle if they’re getting to a certain age and haven’t found “the One” yet. Why would I risk being miserable with someone that I have “meh” feelings for when I could learn to be happy by myself? If I’m going to get my heart broken and stomped on it should at least be with a guy that I’m crazy about. That’s not to say that I’m going to look for the “Perfect Man” (which in my case would be the actor Lee Min-ho). I think it is a given that we have to be realistic. But who am I kidding!? I’m a dreamer. I don’t live in the real world.

    • The real world isn’t much fun much of the time. I have a pretty involved and developed fantasy life that keeps me sane, too, so I’m going to go with Aerosmith and say, “Dream On”!

      I seem to remember that premise of, “I already waited this long for a man who would sweep me off my feet. Why not wait longer? I’m clearly self-sufficient and can see myself through to that day,” got cited as a complaint when Marry Him first came out. Having read it, I’ve realized that for Gottlieb and this book’s fans, it’s not so much about the man as it is about getting married. If that’s not your priority, it seems, there’s no harm in waiting for Lee Min-ho!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Maybe We Should Start on “Yes Means Yes,” No? | Not Taken, Not Available
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