On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to address a particularly important issue to me: Is it better to be alone and get to sleep in the middle of the bed? Or settle and scooch to one side of the mattress (along with other great compromises) just for a relationship? My answer is always I’d rather be alone than with someone who’s not right for me. That’s the loneliest feeling of all.
And while I fervently attempt to keep this notion top of my mind and stay in the moment (I am exactly where I should be), I do worry about the future and whether I will meet someone who is not necessarily perfect, but hopefully perfect for me. (Or maybe I have met him, but I don’t recognize him yet, as my wise friend Nancy once observed. She’s a smart one.) There has to be a middle ground between being Mrs. Settle and being Mrs. Cat Lady.
I’ve been thinking more about this ever since I heard about Lori Gottlieb’s new book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. It was born from her 2008 article in The Atlantic Monthly called Marry Him! Her thought is basically women who are in their 30s should stop looking for Mr. Perfect and settle.
When I read the article, it burned me up. And then that book (that I truthfully haven’t read)—the book that would further infest the minds of even more single women with this idea that Mr. Good Enough truly is enough…my thoughts percolated into a rank and acrid: Really?
I was so incensed I started a blog post last week called “An Open Letter to Lori Gottlieb.” And let me tell you, I let her have it. But not before Bella DePaulo who had already had laid into her as well as Liesl Schillinger.
But then I saw Lori on The Today Show and realized that all she’s saying is that women should ditch their superficial checklist for Mr. Perfect and focus on the important things that create a good relationship.
Because, let’s face it, there are legions of lone women and men who have built their expectation on an impossible ideal. They think they get the perfect man (or the perfect women) with the perfect hair and the perfect laugh who everyone loves and who shares all the household duties and spoons you when you’re premenstrual and doesn’t forget birthdays and de-ices the car and pumps the gas and pays the bills and does all the shit you don’t want to and you still have this amazing sex life. He completes you, and life is perfect.
This person—this Mr./Ms. Perfect—does not exist. At least not in this totality.
And so my ranting “Open Letter to Lori Gottlieb” was quite useless because she and I agreed (for the most part) on this one crucial issue.
However, I do believe there’s a Mr. Just Right who sits squarely and decisively between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Good Enough. Yes, it’s a case of semantics. But there’s a danger in using the terms “downgrade” and “settle,” as Lori does. They carry the burden of negative connotation. They are a shoulder shrug, a future eye roll, an “aw shucks” kick in the sand. They’re a Debby Downer trombone. And while love, dating and marriage (I’ve heard) can be difficult to negotiate at times, these are not the concepts I want to ascribe to a lifelong relationship at the outset. And actually, once you strive for the essentials that create a good relationship (shared values, physical, intellectual and emotional attraction as opposed to your favorite hair color and height), it isn’t settling at all.
And is absolutely worth giving up the middle of the bed for.