Tuesday, March 04, 2008

reader: marry him

It is make or break day for Hillary Clinton! Even Bill says she needs to win both Texas and Ohio to stay in the race; carrying Rhode Island (little ol' Rhode Island) won't be enough. New Hampshire seems so long ago now, and though I distinctly remember how much I wanted her to win under those circumstances, I have fallen out of touch with my intense sympathy for her. At this point I would like her to bow out gracefully. If only such a thing were possible. However, I am also glad that retains certain supporters -- Tina Fey, for one -- because I don't think, for example, that she's been such an utter embarrassment, such a miserable mistake, that she alone has set women back fifty years.

That article, by the way, turned me into a cartoon: my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out as ten alarm clocks jangled loudly in the background. In that, I wasn't alone. As of right now "How Dumb Can We Get?" has generated over a thousand comments on the Post website. Its author, Charlotte Allen, exemplifies what I don't trust about women who don't have female friends, women who, like Maureen Dowd and Ann Coulter, are disdainful of "women" as a whole and get to think of themselves as "brilliant outliers." Isn't that convenient for them? And mustn't their mothers be proud?

As long as I have my Outraged Feminist hat on (and I'm hoping my hair looks okay when I take it off), I may as well mention an Atlantic Monthly article Marry Him. This has been around long enough for the controversy to simmer, boil over, and then fade to quiet, occasional snufflings of anger already but it's worth checking out if you haven't subjected yourself to its mind-boggling leaps of logic. In short, Lori Gottleib argues that because she, as a 40-something, never found the perfect man and had to proceed to the Plan B of single motherhood, anyone who is still single should settle, and ideally they should do so while they are hot (read: young) enough to command a high price on the open market.

Gottleib's use of the word "settling" is what makes her argument hard to take seriously, but I don't think her overall point -- that some women are led by our Disney-fied American culture to have unrealistic expectations of perfect romantic love with a perfect tall, rich, handsome man that will last forever -- is entirely wrong. I do think everyone learns at some point to adjust expectations to reality. When I was 16, I wanted either Rhett Butler or Noel Airman to rescue me from the doldrums of teenage virginity, depending on the day. Did I hold out for that? Clearly not. And I am extremely happy that I didn't. But if someone had described my going out with a guy who was not dapper, older, cruelly brilliant and forceful as settling, I would have bought a really mean incontinent dog just so the dog could piss all over the idiot's new shoes.

Gottleib gets on the Assumption Train and waves at us as it drives her straight into Crazytown. All women want children, she declares; all women must want what her, Gottleib's, friends want; and being married to a man you don't love is better than being alone, as long as you have a family. It's perplexing that she didn't consider why, if she's right and no married woman would trade places with a single one, the divorce rate is so high in this country. The truth is that people aren't willing, as a general rule, to be unhappy anymore. Women who aren't crazy about a man know that they're not going to be a happy chained to him for eternity, and why should they pretend otherwise? They'll just end up leaving those lackluster husbands for the handsome fiftysomething divorcees they meet and have a smoldering affair with at age 47.

Also, who says that these men want to marry women who are settling? Has anyone asked them? I thought American men these days, in the popular imagination, were the world's happiest bachelors.

Don't you think these ladies should have a picnic? Coulter can bring the salad, Gottleib the alcohol, and Allen the tart of self-hatred, and they can help themselves while gossiping about how they alone have it all figured out. Woody Allen can drop by about midway through the meal so that they can make eyes at him; then he'll catch a glimpse of Scarlet Johannson and go scurrying after her. They will murmur and nod and call this only natural.


tami said...

another gem post. i suddenly want to curl up in bed with Our Bodies Ourselves...

ester said...

aw ... thanks!