Monday, October 13, 2008

What does it mean to settle?

At first, I wanted to hate this article.

Then, after taking a shower to wake up/cleanse myself from this seemingly anti-feminist rhetoric, I re-read the article again. Now, I understand that I am not the demographic that Gottlieb is giving her advice, but at 25 and still waiting for that elusive second date, I'm not that far away. It feels like yesterday that I was moving into the city as a fresh faced 22 year old, and I have a strange sense that I will feel the same way 3 years from now. Life is moving very quickly, so I can't rely on the "I'm still young" excuse much longer.

It's certainly not that I agree with everything Gottlieb is saying. Most importantly, her article does make the dangerous assumption that all women want to be mothers. This is untrue, and unfair. I feel as though the social pressure to WANT to be a parent is one of the biggest problems that women face today. Not all people want to be parents, not all people SHOULD be parents, so we should not force people into feeling that their lives are unfulfilled without offspring. And the point behind this article is that women should settle so that they can have a partner in raising children, so those women who do not feel as though children are a part of their future should ignore this advice entirely.

But that brings us to those women (myself included) who do want something that at least resembles a traditional family. Should we start to worry at 25, 30, 35, or beyond? We have been taught to pursue our career dreams and that family can wait, but how long can it wait, and can we ever have both? Is the sage advice from Sex and the City true: "The key to having it all is to stop thinking it would look like what you thought it would look like?" If this is true, shouldn't we all be privy to this advice, not just our 30-something counterparts? It is in this that I believe Gottlieb makes some interesting, important points.

However, I find issue with one key term: settling. This word has basically lead all women to believe that they can never find passionate happiness if they don't meet their "soul mate" before the age of 23. This is painfully untrue. I don't believe in soul mates, but I do believe in kindred spirits. And, with the increasing population in the world today, there just can't be that many different personalities. Thus, anywhere you go you will be able to meet and connect with a person with whom you are compatible. It IS NOT settling to date/marry someone who doesn't exactly "turn you on" 24/7, because that sort of passion is fleeting. In fact, to me it seems far more like settling to shack up with the first person who makes your stomach flip. When Gottlieb states "Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business," I believe this statement to be mostly correct.

So, what does this mean? To me, it requires we take a good long look at how we define the term "settling." If you marry the first person who shows you any interest simply because you feel your biological clock ticking, then this is settling. But when you realize that you can look past a man's imperfections (just as he, guess what, looks past yours), then this can really be seen as intelligent and mature. So ladies, don't settle -- just be understanding enough to know that no one is perfect, no relationship is perfect, and that you have to try hard to make a partnership work. There is no such thing as Mr. Perfect, but that doesn't mean that Mr. Imperfect can't be Mr. Right.

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