Saturday, July 28, 2007

Modern Fairytale

Lindsey lent me her copy of He's Just Not That Into You. I had read reviews of the book before and was curious to know what the buzz was all about. It is short, easy to read and takes no more than a couple of hours to reach the last page. That's the end of the good news.

For a book by a man that is supposed to tell women the honest to goodness truth about why their relationships suffer and inevitably fail, the analysis is flippant and blatantly one-sided. Life is not black and white as Greg would have us believe. Relationships are neither simplistic nor formulaic so any one size fits all theory (which this book is all about) is dead on arrival.

Reviewers at Amazon who have given this book a one star rating have gone to great lengths about what is wrong with it, so I will not belabor the point. A good male friend once told me that to ascribe more sophistication to men than an unicellular organism is a huge mistake women make when they get into a relationship. The issue not so deep and complex for them. I am sure he was being facetious but there is some truth in the fact women sweat the small stuff more than men do in a relationship. Or perhaps the difference in male and female coping mechanisms leads to such an impression.

Greg has one central message which is if a man is seriously into a woman he will pursue her relentlessly. Even the most stressful circumstances in his personal life will not diminish his zeal. This may be true of a man looking to make a conquest and take home what he considers a trophy wife. Trophies abound and the thrill of chase grows old with time. There are men out there who have no interest in trophies and in as such pursuit of one is moot. They seek an equal partner in the relationship which is based on healthy respect for each other.

A relationship reaches stable equilibrium when both can be their natural selves. This would include being able to call each other without needing to scheme and plot. While it may fun for a while, to persist in the cat and mouse mode is unwholesome. Greg also neglects to mention that a man who is currently in hot pursuit of a woman (as he deems necessary for a viable relationship) would be a man who has pursued others in the past with equal ardor.

Does a woman really need a man in her life who has a long history of chasing things in skirts ? What's to guarantee that a new woman will not intrigue him enough to warrant pursuit even after he is married or in a committed relationship ? Many "happily married" men have no qualms about flirting with fascinating strangers. Even if it leads to a hook up it does not change how much they love their wives. Sex without emotional investment does not "count"

Greg imagines he is empowering women by telling them how they can or should jockey for power and control in a relationship to their best advantage. He would have them get rid of losers who can't decide fast enough and hold out for the fairy tale Prince Charming who is so absolutely certain and smitten that he will move heaven and earth to become her lawful wedded husband. It is a worthy goal and has been addressed exceptionally well by the Grimm Brothers two hundred years ago.

I find it a lot easier to relate to and understand Connie Colbert's "good enough" marriage. She is a realist and is happy to live in a flawed and imperfect world. Hers is a message that is both encouraging and empowering for women who are being constantly chastised by Greg and his ilk for being willing to "settle" for less when they could have so much more. Peddlers of relationship utopia like Greg would no doubt consider Colbert's marriage a disaster and feel sorry for her.

This seems to be a telling effect of consumer culture in the realm of relationships. The advise is to cut your losses early, so you don't miss out on bigger, better opportunities out there. Become an informed and an aggressive consumer. Have the car salesman and the real estate agent pursue you for your business and offer you a deal that you like. Greg would have women turn into buyers in the relationship market and get men to sell them the dream of "married happily ever after". This book is profoundly disturbing if taken seriously.

1 comment:

ggop said...

Connie Colbert summarizes what many marriages morph into - I know plenty of women who get so peeved by things their husband do. However if they are excellent fathers and as she says are capable of warmth and generosity they overlook the things that annoy them.