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Pop Culture, Scourge of the Onelys part 7×777: Completely Unscientific Onely Poll for Lori Gottlieb and The Nation October 7, 2008

Posted by Onely in As If!, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Singled Out.
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Christina alerted me recently to a debate between our (admittedly) favorite singles expert, Bella DePaulo, and writer Lori Gottlieb, who wrote a rather infuriating article entitled “Marry Him!” that was published in The Nation back in February/March 08. I’m not going to touch the conversation between DePaulo & Gottlieb (see below for links to the full exchange), but I do want to ask our valuable, intelligent, anti-singlist and happily single readers the question that Gottlieb seems to already have answered for us:

You say you’re happy being single…

So, are you lying or just in denial?

WHAT? YOU WANT MORE CHOICES?! Sorry, Gottlieb isn’t giving us any. Here are a few paragraphs from the article to give you some context:

To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist-vehemently, even-that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know-no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure-feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.

Oh, I know-I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous.

OK, I’ve got to admit: Gottlieb had me so freaked out that I just checked myself out in the mirror (Gee, maybe I don’t know what I think after all — as so many women have historically been told). And it’s true, I DO look silly, but — gotcha! — I ALWAYS look silly (Christina can attest to this)!

To be fair, if we were to read generously (and to tell you the truth, after reading the first few paragraphs of this article and feeling completely stereotyped and silenced, I don’t feel generous at all), I think Gottlieb would say that one of her main points is that those of us who want to be married should stop clinging to idealized versions of potential mates, because they will always disappoint (see, LG, wasn’t that generous of me? To portray you fairly?). Unfortunately, this point is muffled within dangerous, singlist rhetoric that  overgeneralizes, mocks, and thereby alienates the very readers whom she intends to address.

So, Happily Single Readers, let’s give Gottlieb the feedback she’s surely looking for, and tell us:

Are you lying or just in denial?

— L

(You can read the full chain of conversation between DePaulo & Gottlieb by clicking on the following links: DePaulo’s first response; Gottlieb’s response to DePaulo; DePaulo’s response to Gottlieb)


1. Anita - October 7, 2008

“We’re feminists, but we think everyone does and should conform to society’s expectations!” Radical. I wonder if they think gay people just aren’t trying hard enough, or if career-oriented women all secretly long for stay-at-home mothering.
Any feminist that makes broad, sweeping proclamations about women’s experiences, much less feelings, much less motivations, much less honesty, is a jerk and *maybe not that feminist.* Who listens to women’s actual stories that they tell (so those letters that come in might just be from women with, you know, different experiences), and who index the stories they do hear with social pressures (so you and your friends may feel genuine panic, but it may be a socially constructed panic).
Oh, yes, I’m sorry, there are things in my life I’d change if given a choice, but a partner would not be anywhere on the list.
Also, way to ignore the bi/lesbian women, who can’t always marry the person they’re settling for.

2. lp - October 9, 2008

wow, thanks for posting the article and letters. i don’t even know where to begin. but i’m having another one of those moments in which i wish i was still teaching comp–having students follow this debate would be useful for so many reasons but especially for dissecting argument development. how interesting to see what gottlieb says she was arguing versus what really came out!

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