On Settling, and On Moving On

Update 2/20/08: I forgot to point out that, once again, this post is all the Hermits’ fault.
In 2003 and 2004 I was 27 and 28 years old and living in suburban Chicago. I was mostly unemployed; I was thoroughly directionless; and I was defensive, bitter, and not very happy.

Because I had a lot of time on my hands and high speed wireless internet and a laptop (the same one I’m typing this on now, actually), I read a lot of things online, including just about every article in the Life section of Salon.com. A lot of them bore a strong resemblance to Lori Gottlieb’s argument for settling for Mr. Good Enough instead of holding out for Mr. Perfect. The people who wrote for Salon were not necessarily giving the same advice that Gottlieb does, but they were writing about the same sorts of things, often from the same place–twenty- and thirty-something professional white woman considers the vicissitudes of romance.

Of course, I was also an upper middle class twenty-something white woman, only I didn’t have a profession, and what I thought when reading those pieces was mostly along the lines of “maybe I should just get married and have kids, because then I would have something to do.”

Having something to do is very much a feature of having children, from what I can tell–in fact, quite frequently parents are unable to do much of anything else–but it’s not a particularly good reason to have children, and so I think it’s just as well that I didn’t meet anyone I wanted to marry and I ended up going to library school and getting a job and fulfilling my dream of living in a small town in the West and traveling and hiking and blogging and other things that are more difficult to fit in if you have kids.

That takes care of the kids part, but what about the marriage part?

I’ve always figured that the chances of my marrying are slim to nonexistent. The marriage track record in my family is not very good–so much so that I once burst out laughing when a therapist suggested that in order to make my own relationships work I look to the successful relationships of close family. members and people I knew grewing up. And although, as Laurie Colwin points out in an essay in one of her books about food, you do not have to be beautiful or talented or even thin to fall in love, that entirely sensible argument is hard to uphold against the romantic comedy paradigm that is so heavily promoted by popular culture.

According to Gottlieb, if I tell you I’m not particularly worried about marriage, I’m either in denial or I’m lying. If I’d said that at 27, I would have been. At 32–when, in the world according to your biological clock, I should be more worried–I’m not.

The world according to your biological clock view promoted by the sort of professional white women who write articles like Gottlieb’s–and there are many, many such articles–is only one view of the world, and, however prevalent it may be, it’s not necessarily the best one.

I suspect that Gottlieb is right that your chances of finding Mr. Absolutely Right are pretty slim. The reality she doesn’t acknowledge, however, is that you might not find anybody at all–and that that, too, may be all right.

6 thoughts on “On Settling, and On Moving On”

  1. Don’t be a sourpuss! Someday the right man will come loping up the trail, L, and after he drops Lefty off at the bar, he’ll join you in the library for earnest conversation about poetry! I guarantee it.

  2. I’m not being a sourpuss–I’m just saying that, had getting married and/or having children been my primary goal in life, I would have (or should have) made different choices. I’m quite content in my spinster-librarian-lady way (though for proper spinster librarianism, I think I’d have to have a few more cats).

  3. My aunt has chickens. When we were there last, they were in the process of shrinking the flock. All the chicken-eaters thought it was great luck, but us? Not so much… Still, they were happy chickens; they lived good lives even if they were et.

  4. I was happy being a spinster librarian for several years and really was not looking for Mr. Right (or even mr. wrong, for that matter) when at age 33 I met the man I would eventually marry at age 35. The having kids thing was not an easy journey, but we have now have a beautiful son via adoption. It all worked out how it was meant to be when I was least looking for it.

    I am glad that you are happy in the life you have made for yourself. It is how it should be. Thanks for sharing this.

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