Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Reading

It’s that time of year where NY single professionals, normally hard pressed to fit more than the latest news and a magazine or two into their reading schedules, hit the beaches with best selling paperbacks in hand. So, Ladies, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest a summer reading which may increase your chances of meeting “the One” far more than your great fitting white jeans or tickets to polo.

“Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb. Yes, as you peruse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com I recommend placing this smart, easy read in your basket and see if it doesn't change your whole perspective as you set out in search of your summer romance.

I actually picked this book up with great interest shortly after it came out a year ago. I had read Gottlieb’s controversial article for Atlantic Monthly the summer prior and knew that her message had stirred up a strong reaction among single professional women around the country. What advice was this pixie looking, 41 year writer going to offer single women about who we should marry, when she was not even married herself? Now, I didn’t go into it with skepticism (after all, I am a professional matchmaker - any book encouraging people to be open minded is a worthwhile read in my opinion), but rather with intense curiosity.

I turned the pages of “Marry Him” with my head in an almost perpetual state of nodding a rabbi would have thought I was davining. It was a dose of a reality BIG TIME. A candid assessment not just about unrealistic expectations of what we are looking for in another human being at any age but also a PC-stripped assessment about how these exacting expectations become more and more unrealistic and unattainable as women hit the 30+ threshold. In a no-nonsense look at her past mistakes, Gottlieb explains to the reader how she wishes she now had a chance with half the good guys she smugly turned down for trivial reasons in her twenties and early thirties. In her mind, she had all the options in the world ... until she didn’t.

I could relate to the chapters in “Marry Him” titled “How Feminism Fucked Up My Love Life” and “It’s Not Him, It’s You”, as part of my job is coaching women who are attractive and wonderful (but who have less options than let’s say Bar Refaeli) to make smarter choices. As Gottlieb explains, women do not understand that their stock with potential partners is not rising as they pass the milestones of 30, 35, 40 simply because they have traveled the world, make a nice living, have developed a keen wit, and still look amazingly young for their age (all positive things, of course). Rather, it is declining in the eyes of men looking to have a family. My summary of the message: women, you may think you are like a fine wine, getting better every year but the fact is, when it comes to reproducing, most fertile men (who knows any eunuchs?) want grape juice. Ok, ok, not jail bait grape juice - as one mid 30s guy I dated two years ago said to me when I made the fine wine analogy about my mid30s self: “I don’t need the wine to be quite so aged - a 29/30 year old wine is aged plenty and just right for me!” I know he sounds like a [fill in the blank] but he was just an honest guy saying what many men think.

It’s a tough message. I have no doubt Lori Gottlieb received her share of hate mail (I am trying to get her as guest on my “Love in the Morning” radio show so hopefully she can share her experience with my listeners). I certainly read plenty of commentary by irate women blasting her on the internet.

However, I found the story of “Marry Him” so compelling and refreshingly honest, I recommended it to friends and I started giving it to each new client female 35 and over as required reading. The reaction to it was telling. The women who responded to it with the “I don’t believe that I need to settle for an older, ugly, poor, obese, annoying, NICE man just because I’m 35” were usually the ones who needed to hear the message most and yet understood it the least. It’s as if presenting the counterargument in such an extreme makes it sound. No where does the author say anything even remotely akin to advocating ending up with someone you are not attracted to or can’t stand. But she does address why some women seem only to be attracted to men who don’t want a commitment with them or are “out of their league” and so they end up saying they’d rather be alone then settle. Ok, fair enough, if someone is prepared for that reality and he or she thinks that they would be happier in that scenario, that is absolutely their prerogative. But what if that is not the case and they will not be happier being alone? And what is “settling” after all? Accepting someone as not perfect but still wonderful? Choosing someone who is exactly your equal and is “settling” for you as well? The fact is, scientific research shows that the majority of people do not see themselves accurately and overestimate their own attractiveness and personality traits (not that I need scientific studies to prove this, as I encounter this psychological phenomenon all the time). However, as author Andrew Trees stated recently on my radio program, the beautiful thing about the dating market is that - ultimately - it has a way of pairing equals together.

Ok, I have to make a statement here in anticipation of any hate mail on its way to me - I do not subscribe to a defeatist, you’re over 35, your life is over, take what you can get mentality. In fact, anyone who really knows me knows I am an eternal optimist and believe that everyone brings something special and unique to the table that someone out there will appreciate. But I am pragmatic. And dedicating every waking minute to my work, I know what I am talking about when it comes to dating in NYC for the 25 -55 crowd. So no, Ladies, of course women are not over the hill at 35 - but you are higher toward the crest in the reproductive world and so you need to be aware of the changing landscape. I have friends spending thousands of dollars freezing eggs starting at 36 years old - we all could have used a fresh off the press copy of "Marry Him" when we were in our 20s. Not to encourage us to get married before we were ready but to help us balance and prioritize career and personal life. As Rex Ryan said to the Jets preparing for a stellar football season "if you want something, you pay a price." We all make choices based upon the information available to us and our value system at the time but if you can learn from someone else's life lessons (i.e. Gottlieb's) a few years earlier, so much the better.

In the interest of being an equal opportunity preacher, if there were a “Marry Her” book I would suggest that my male clients and friends go buy it (as an aside, I do know some men who have read “Marry Him” with self-vindicating glee - “see it’s them, not me.”). Unfortunately, I know of no such "Marry Her " book - the books that are out there specifically directed to men tend to be by pickup artists helping men to get laid. You’re much more likely to see a guy reading “The Game” than a cautionary tale about delaying marriage. If a guy is really set on marrying, he can - and will - typically make it happen.

So as a woman who likes to empower other women, here's some helpful advice: read “Marry Him” with an open mind but with a magazine over the book cover (in all honesty, with a title such as "Marry Him" you might scare off a well intentioned, relationship oriented guy who simply doesn't know what the book is about!), put on your cutest bikini and if the guy on the beach who comes over to return your flyaway hat seems like a truly quality guy (but maybe doesn’t fit your online profile “wish list”) go on at least one date and let him buy you a gelato. He may be the summer romance that lasts the rest of your life and if you don’t go, you’ll never know...

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