One of the first books I put on my Kindle was Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, because I’ve seen it quoted quite widely, but I could not bring myself to walk around with a copy of book explaining why a warm body with basic conversational skills is better than dying alone.
One day, while I was in the middle of reading it, I sat down on the subway and pulled out my Kindle to read some more, BUT the Kindle opened to a Star Trek novel, and it’s not me who reads Star Trek novels. Which means that I had taken Harold’s Kindle and left mine at his place, and that if he turns it it on, it will opening to a book about settling for an underwhelming romantic partner.
I’m really glad I read the entire book because Gottlieb gets quoted pretty frequently, and sentences from this book are taken wildly out of context to make points pretty far from the text. (Her main thesis, as far as I can tell, is that two good people who share interests, enjoy the same lifestyle, and would like to be married should marry each other.) I wouldn’t say I agreed with everything she wrote (Marry a kind, balding bore before they’re all taken and you’re settling for a balding bore with a potbelly and bad breath!) but there was a lot to think about regarding how we choose partners and how relationships work or fail.
I was pretty excited about reading Suzanne Venker’s How to Choose a Husband: And Make Peace With Marriage for the same reasons. (Disclosure #1: Review eARC!) (Disclosure #2: Even with the early copy, Venker’s associated Fox News article, accidentally illustrated with the photo of the lesbian wedding, has stolen all the thunder for this book.)
Choosing a husband is a slightly disingenuous title since the book is more about choosing a sperm donor than about choosing a life partner. How To Choose a Husband was a lot more about how not to have any goals or identity outside of childrearing than about making peace with marriage. Feel dissatisfaction at work? It’s totally NOT because you’d be happier in another field, your boss is a jerk, or women make 74 cents to a man’s dollar. It’s because women are only fulfilled by submitting to their husbands and having babies. Any happiness women take from professional success or work satisfaction is a result of feminist trickery, convincing women that they want to be men.
Most of the book states and restates that any desire felt for babies and home life is woman’s inner nature asserting its proper place, and any desire for any other kind of life, or any conflict about motherhood and other goals, it’s all due to feminist trickery.
Then Venker describes how to act on this wisdom. Don’t spend time with your single friends. Ignore all presentation of relationships in the media — except for the book, of course! Don’t focus so much on a career, and definitely don’t inconvenience your husband for your career, since you’ll be giving that up soon to have babies. Make sure your husband feels like a Man, by agreeing with what he says, deferring to him, and by having sex when he tells you to. (Because all men want sex all the time, and women aren’t particularly interested, apparently.) Parts of the book infuriated me, but overall it was just such a terribly dull and depressing view of womanhood. Subservience to a decision-making husband instead of having a friendship between equals, and devaluing any career or artistic success as a time-filler until motherhood is just too depressing to contemplate.
I wanted to read this book so I would have context when it was quoted, but I think I can sum up the book with this line:
At the moment, the single greatest problem your generation faces is the relentless anti-male/pro-female rhetoric you’re exposed to. It’s inescapable.
Yeah. What can I say to that?