I usually make a morning stop for an entertaining read at Dads House, where I am met by the perspective of a single dad who talks about parenting and sex, cocktails and sex, internet dating and sex… Well, you get the picture. But this single dad is also keenly aware (and opinionated) when it comes to the world around him.
This morning, his comments concern the soon-to-be released book by Lori Gottlieb, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.
I saw. I read. I paused.
Settling for less than what you want
Whoever titled this book got it wrong – and right. “Settling” is the sullen yet emotionally-charged equivalent of being beaten (or beaten down), and cornered into accepting anything but exactly. what. we. want.
It is the word used for agreeing to negotiations yielding an unsatisfactory result, and in a relationship, “settling” is ripe with negative connotations – in marriage or dating. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that “settling” in a relational context has everything to do with giving in, giving up, and sometimes shutting up when it comes to the foibles of another human being, or aspects of our lives that leave us less than content.
Thus, the clearly intentional use of the word “settling” in (perfect) proximity to “good enough.” Frankly, all aspects of this (successfully crafted) title rankle – excellent for book sales (I imagine), and irritating for those who, like me, realize that “settling for good enough” touches on much of what is wrong in our society.
Yes, I will read the book
This is one I’ll drop the dollars for (with annoyance), hoping for the promised humor, and to see if the content has anything to do with reason; apparently, there are distinctions made between what constitutes “good enough” for single women versus married women, and more. And while flabbergasted at the implication that this is purely a female phenomenon (Gottlieb has, after all, targeted women so they may “marry”), I’ll need to peruse more than a summary or review to see what I make of this particular book.
I’ll be crystal clear. My dating experience these past years (post divorce), and that of many of my friends, offers anecdotal evidence that men in the 40+ age bracket, in this country, are anything but reasonable when it comes to their expectations as they search out Ms. Right by checklist. And generally, they get her. I’ll qualify further: they get her, if their wallet is fat enough.
Do I have the feminine side of the house bristling at that?
Yes, I’m generalizing. Another yes, I believe it to be true. Let’s go for a third: there are terrific men on the planet who have not found a Ms. Right or a Ms. Good Enough. And as for those monikers, I tolerate the former, and UGH, I shudder at the latter, as applied to either gender.
Marketing – One; the rest of us – Zero
Once again – words twist and spin; words influence sales, and self-esteem. Words shape culture (and psychology), even as culture restructures our language.
The dilemma? We take these pop culture terms and their underlying concepts as absolutes. As truths. We don’t think them through. Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong, and the cute quips about Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now. (Shudder again.)
This may make for amusing banter, great marketing, strong book sales, quickie reads, (and more commodity-style dating) but the end result is score one for the commercial transactions involved (good for the economy), and score nothing for the rest of us.
“Good enough” in business versus our personal lives
In the business world, “good enough” means you’re ahead of the other guy – and you’re also conserving valuable resources (or redirecting them) in ways that serve long-term goals. Good enough is not bad in business (or many areas of life); “good enough” is, in fact, good – and often – very good.
What if “Settling for Good Enough” were “Content with Good” as a title? Doesn’t that change the game? Doesn’t that change the way we who are deemed second class citizens of the realms of “good enough” perceive ourselves? Isn’t that really where we all belong – imperfect but luminous in our very-goodness, in the game of getting to know potential friends, lovers, and life partners?
Call me crazy, but since when is perfection, comparison, and competition the norm (and entitlement?) in every aspect of life?
Perhaps that’s Ms. Gottlieb’s very point (or not), but her terminology makes me cringe!
Not her fault, you say? The way we speak, you say?
Rocket science, precision machining, medical breakthroughs, car shopping
I may hope for exceptional quality (perfectionism?) when it comes to life-and-death scenarios. I’ll take high doses, thank you, when it comes to rocket science, precision engineering and meticulous standards in our buildings, airplanes, heating and air systems, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals – but a perfect match versus one who is (woefully) “good enough?”
How did we end up comparison shopping for romantic partners the way we wander from one auto dealership to the next, looking for the best trade-offs of features and price? This year’s BMW versus last year’s Audi?
What if we thought of “good enough” as “good for me?”
Book sales, car sales, superlatives and sense of self
I concede. Marry him: Content with Good makes a lousy book title, whereas Settling for Good Enough is a catchy one, even as it represents all that undermines our self-esteem and mars our expectations of what is reasonable and of value. We have become a nation of saucy superlatives, the superficial once-over, the readily bruised sense of self, and the pop psychology quick fix.
We could, at the very least, pause. Process. Successful corporations understand that “good enough” is good. Often, very good. And “settling” implies reluctant acceptance of the begrudgingly accepted unacceptable.
What if we were more mindful of language that subtly transforms the way we see our world and each other? What if we rejected the concept of a man or woman as “good enough?”
Yes, I’ll read the book. And I haven’t even addressed the implication that we are all looking to marry (another topic entirely). But more than that, I’ll continue to insist that we choose our words with greater care, take time to think before we speak, and most definitely, look beyond the superficial, the ten tips on love, or any other pop culture confection that promises an easy way to find treasure in each other. That, to my mind, can only be about maximizing opportunities to meet a variety of people, then opening our eyes, taking our time, and following a route as individual as each and every one of us.