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On Love

Dating dilemmas: Author Lori Gottlieb's 'Marry Him' adds realism to dating dreams

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By Lisa Bonos
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Author Lori Gottlieb says she's like a "dating public service announcement," and she urges women to be more realistic in their search for Mr. Right to avoid her plight of being single at 43.

Last month, when she spoke at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown, it was clear that men are hearing her message, too.

In what might be Our Nation's Capital of Singles -- more than half of Washington adults are single or have never married -- Gottlieb discussed her bestselling and controversial book, "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough." And while the audience was overwhelmingly female, some men in the crowd identified with her struggle to find her match.

"I'm a 27-year-old man, and I've dated plenty," says Ari Teichman. "But the idea that I might get married and find someone better six months, two years, five years later -- that terrifies me."

That common dating dilemma is one that Gottlieb and the singles in her book explore. One young woman in "Marry Him," which was published in February, says she "wasn't looking for a perfect 10 in a mate -- an 8 would be great." But, she asks: "What if I want a different 8?"

In setting out to help others -- and herself -- answer that question, Gottlieb talked with dating experts, scientists, spiritual leaders, married and single people, and tried to reform her dating life by working with matchmakers and a dating coach. Through her dating narrative and the stories of others, Gottlieb argues that women shouldn't be so quick to write off men -- and that if you spend too many years being too picky, you might end up alone and still searching in a rapidly shrinking dating pool.

Not everyone has fallen in love with Gottlieb's message: She's been compared to Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin. She's been blasted on feminist blogs, and she responded to "the haters" in a Washington Post commentary piece earlier this year. While the word "settling" causes many to bristle, she reasons: "I'm not asking people to settle; I'm asking them to think."

In line to get his copy of "Marry Him" signed, Paul Chen was among those who were turned off initially. The 30-year-old says he pooh-poohed Gottlieb's argument at first when someone forwarded him the book's precursor, a 2008 article by Gottlieb that ran in the Atlantic. But after reading more, he saw her point. He says he wants to try to be "less rigid and more open-minded" in his dating life.

"It may have finally dawned on me that I was closing doors on people after the first date, before I got to know them," Chen wrote in an e-mail after the event.

Stephen Richer, 24, says Gottlieb's lessons are equally applicable to men.

"We might have this platonic ideal and it's nice to hold out there," he says, "but we have to realize that not everyone will fit into that.

"I like to think that you don't have to settle," he adds, "but maybe ask me in 10 years."

In Gottlieb's view, snap judgments, along with sky-high expectations for Hollywood-style romance, are more common among women -- and are their main stumbling block to finding a partner.

Women don't realize that they're being unreasonably picky, hyper-analyzing their dates with the "Supreme Court of your friends," she says at Sixth & I. But "men say: 'I feel like I'm sitting across from an Olympic judge who's taking off points rather than adding them.' " Gottlieb says that men have told her they hope her book "changes the dating world in some small way."

"It resonates with them in another way -- this is their dating experience and no one has written about it," she says.

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