How To Embrace What IsbySelena_Kitt©
Remember that line Susan Sarandon says to Gina Davis in Thelma and Louise, when Gina is complaining about her husband?
"You get what you settle for."
Well, Lori Gottlieb made a case recently in The Atlantic in the same vein: women should settle for "Mr. Good Enough" before it's too late. Apparently, Ms. Gottlieb has grown tired of the single mother scene. She's discovered that doing the child-thing all by yourself isn't as easy as she thought it was going to be and is now looking forlornly at all her friends who "settled" for less-than-perfect in their husbands and married anyway. Now she sits back and watches, green with envy, as Daddy throws a ball with Timmy in the park and Mommy actually gets to have a sandwich.
Look, I know being a single mother is hard. My mother was one for lots of years. I was one for a while, too. It isn't easy to be the only one in the house who can answer a plaintive call in the middle of the night, to clean up vomit while you're also throwing up every half an hour, or to deal with a migraine and a toddler at the same time. But no one ever said it was easy, and no one ever said life was fair. I think Ms. Gottlieb missed the memo that went around about promises and rose gardens. And that other one, about making beds and laying in them.
We all make choices, right? I chose to have children very young. I missed the whole getting drunk at frat parties and pulling my top up during Spring Break thing. I also missed, for the most part, the climb up the corporate ladder. I could have taken that route, but I chose something different. When we make a choice, we immediately close the door on something else. There is just no such thing as "having it all." Ms. Gottlieb chose to have a child without involving the father—a perfectly valid choice.
So why all the sour grapes now? Does the grass really look so much greener over here in marriageville?
Honestly, if you read the article, you'll see that Ms. G doesn't really want a husband. In fact, all the complaints her friends throw around about their husbands just reaffirms her idea that they have "settled" for something less than they deserve. But that doesn't mean she doesn't want a husband, she protests. Vehemently, she claims she does. In fact, she makes herself sound desperate enough to jump the bald guy with plumber's butt who came to fix her toilet last week and told her she had a nice ass.
Except she isn't. What she's doing is still holding onto the ideal of marriage, just like she idealized having a child. Both of those things inevitably fail to live up to our expectations. That's called life. Marriage isn't perfect because people aren't perfect. Having children isn't perfect, because again, human beings have faults. Having children is rarely ever what we fantasized while we were pregnant. Our spouses never live up to the image we had of them walking down the aisle.
Gottlieb's logical, practical (and rather self-absorbed) approach gets her that far... but that's where she stops. Her own narcissism keeps her from going any further. She assumes, based on her current yearning for connection (or her longing for someone she doesn't have to see all that much who'll share the financial burden, childcare and housework - it's hard to tell which she wants more...) that she should have "settled" for someone inferior because then, at least, she'd have a partner with whom she could run the boring, tedious and tiresome "business" of family - and, hey, she wouldn't even have to put on lipstick get a little nookie once in a while!
Is this chick for real!? Unfortunately, I think she is. She's bitter and angry with herself for not settling sooner, for idealizing marriage and relationship. Yet she's done nothing to change her selfish and limiting perspective. From her inflated vision, every marriage is considered "settling." (Except those people who were lucky enough to have romantic notions and wonderful beginnings - they just end up disappointed and bitter when the facade falls away.)
What Gottlieb doesn't seem to grasp is that it is within all of those horrible human imperfections, we find our most precious gifts. When our expectations are dashed, it opens our lives up to the fullness of possibility. What Ms. G doesn't see from her superior high horse is that settling isn't about lowering your standards - settling is about embracing what is.
Our flaws are what make us beautiful, individual, human and loveable. The Zen potter puts an intentional flaw into every piece. Amish quilters include a faulty square in every quilt. These deliberate flaws add to the unique beauty of each piece, and some traditions believe that it is through these flaws (or in humans, our wounds, our "issues") that gifts and beauty flow.
Perfection is too cold. The pursuit of perfection is pure torture. Imperfection, on the other hand, is not only warm and inviting - it keeps you warm at night.
Settling is simply the flipped opposite of pursuing perfection. It is giving up on the ideal. However, embracing what is - that ultimately gives us far more than our expectations would ever allow. If we stop trying to make things the way we want them, to control everything, to fit them into a box, we find the beauty in the people and things right in front of us. If we get out of the way of ourselves, we get the joy of connecting to another person, who is an amazing miracle, flaws and all.
If you think of it as some sort of business transaction, or "settling," you're going to live a miserable life. If you truly see the beauty in the flaws, in the imperfection, you're going to find much more peace.
And that's how you embrace what is. You not only accept or tolerate it - you love it. It's not as hard as it sounds. All it requires just turning around and looking into a mirror. Are you perfect? Are you without flaws? Neither is anyone else. But you can still love yourself - and you can love those parts of someone else as well, and together, you might just find a way to heal what's broken inside you both.
That's what Ms. Gottlieb is missing. She's missing it still.
Instead, she encourages woman to settle: "...do it young, when settling involves constructing a family environment with a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger—as opposed to doing it older, when settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods."
Good grief! Men magically turn into damaged goods after the age of 30? Do they all just go downhill? Or do they get picked over, like the best fruit at the farmer's market, so only the bruised and rotted ones are left? Perhaps it's not the crop, but discernment of the person choosing that's out of whack here...
It's sad to see a woman so afraid to let go she's backed herself into a self-constructed catch-22, someone so caught in their own condescending vision of the world, they can't open their eyes and see what's right in front of them. But it's obvious that she isn't ready to let go of her high expectations, in spite of her lip service to the contrary. Maybe she never will be.
But until she is, she's not gonna find Mr. Good Enough... let alone Mr. Right... or even Mr. Right Now. At the moment, she doesn't really want a husband. She wants to complain.
I do have one suggestion for her though...
1. Get over yourself.
2. Hire a damned nanny.