Every now and again, a subject comes along that we know is going to cause a debate. Today’s Midmorning broadcast with author Lori Gottlieb is one such subject. She advocates women in their early 40s to stop waiting for Mr. Perfect, and accept Mr. Good Enough, if they want to get married and have families.
Gentlemen, I know what you’re thinking: “Thank goodness my spouse didn’t settle for ‘good enough,’” to which I have only one response. “Are you sure?”
Here’s Gottlieb’s treatise, which was published in The Atlantic:
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.
This widespread characterization, of course,is met with a single word of advice: “settle,” as in “settle for less.”
In another article she wrote for MSNBC, Gottlieb says:
Of course, we’d be loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).
Is this true?
Not according to a writer — a woman — on Helium who says she’s tried the “settle for less” thing and what she longs for in life isn’t what Gottlieb says she longs for:
Today I find myself struggling with a decision. Settle for this misery, or be free? Am I being selfish, as my husband constantly reminds me, to go after my goals of finishing school, of writing that book, of having a life outside of my husband and children? Am I trading the happiness of my children for my own? Is it better to be alone than to live your life wishing you were alone?
This discussion isn’t exactly new. It’s been going on for generations (usually inspired by an impatient mother, I hear.) And last year, on the NPR segment This, I believe, it was given voice by Corinne Colbert, an Ohio woman who settled:
So, yes, I’m settling. Sure, I wish my husband would kiss me more often, tell me he loves me every day, and get as excited about my accomplishments as I do. Emptying the dishwasher without being asked and giving me unsolicited foot massages wouldn’t hurt, either.
All that would be nice, but it’s not necessary. I’m happy with my husband who, despite his flaws, is a caring father, capable of acts of stunning generosity and fiercely protective of his family. Thinking about him may not set me on fire as it used to, but after 17 years and two kids, our love is still warm. And I believe that’s good enough.
This is one of those areas of discussion that my colleague, Mary Lucia, usually turns into a question for which every answer is lacking. Since she’s down in Austin at South by Southwest, I’ll have to fill in. So here’s the question that you might want to think about before going home tonight and discussing this with your insignificant other: If your spouse settled for you, do you really want to know?