Sarah ordered a $16 dollar glass of Bordeaux – “For the tannins,” she said – before counting off her latest glamorous projects: interviews with famous actors, a travel piece on Iceland, a film script that’s provoked “some interest” with agents. After scanning the room for available Y-chromosomes, she asked what I’m writing. “Just reviews,” I admitted, and whipped out this week’s assignment. Surprisingly, she laughed, and not her sophisticated New Yorker laugh, but rather a teenaged girl’s oh-my-god-I’m-so-embarrassed squeak: “My mother just sent me that!” Even with grace, beauty and accomplishments, Sarah’s still an unmarried Jewess pushing 30. We both read the book’s subtitle: “The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” During the awkward silence that followed, the waiter poured her wine.
Journalist Lori Gottlieb cuts right to it. At 39, successful but still single, she dared wonder, “How had this become my life?” in an explosive article for The Atlantic, which has now turned into a full-grown book. Also the author of Stick Figure, a devastating diary of her anorexic childhood, Gottlieb uses truth like a set of brass knuckles, and Marry Him will knock single girls right in the guts, possibly near the ovaries. Simply put, a woman has more choices at thirty than five or ten years later. Also, “the longer you wait, the less likely you are to find someone better than you’ve already met.”
Though it might sound like feminist backlash, there’s nothing meek or self-loathing in Gottlieb’s very funny and straightforward writing. With her impeccable logic, she conducts a vast dating experiment involving coaches and matchmakers. She interviews social psychologists, neurobiologists, behavioral economists and tons of women, both married and single, young and old. “I did the research. I was recording the book as a journalist and acting as a guinea pig,” she told me.
It ends up that romantic delusions cause a lot of women to make poor choices. In the process, a lot of pretty good guys end up dumped for failing to meet impossible standards: “He was very loving, but he wasn’t romantic;” “He was too optimistic;” “He bought me flowers but cheesy ones . . .” And yes, it seems the problem is the women.
Gottlieb explained: “There’s a survey in the book, that asked men and women, If you got 80% of what you wanted in a partner, is that okay? And the women said, â€˜No, that’s settling,’ and the men said, â€˜That’s a catch!'”
Throughout Marry Him, the author focuses and refocusing on what makes a real successful relationship, and guides the reader in that direction. Even though everyone wants that loving partner, it’s surprising how rarely women search out the qualities that actually create a strong union. In the end, the book is less of an indictment of entitlement than a pragmatic guide to shifting one’s perspective.
“People might be put off by the title,” Gottlieb said, “but when they really read the book, they see it’s not about giving something up, but getting so much more.”
I had to ask: Is it even worse with Jewish girls? They want a guy to not only be attractive, but also smart, successful and rich. Plus, he has to even be a “mensch,” besides. Don’t they all really want doctors?
“I think Jewish men probably feel that way because they’re dating Jewish women,” she answered. “They can try dating the shiksas, but I’m telling you, they’re just as picky.”
Marry Him is on sale now. To find out more about Lori Gottlieb, visit her website at www.lorigottlieb.com.