Certainly Effervescent

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Posts Tagged ‘personal

“Marry Him” and the Idea of Settling For A Spouse

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Few things have been as intriguing to me of late as the writing of and responses to Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough. Not because I empathize with the subject: Marry Him is a book for women of middling age who are in the market for marriage. Me? I’m a single guy in my midtwenties that has little interest in matrimony. So why am I so fascinated? My guess is that it’s just really refreshing to read honest discussion.

Before I write my own thoughts and opinions on the subjects of women, romance, marriage, dating, cultural norms, and any other topic: allow me to remind you that they are just that: my thoughts and opinions. I’m no expert in these matters, by any standard. There are plenty of women who found Marry Him wrong-minded and shrill, others who found it thought-provoking. Please keep in mind that they are out there, and that their opinions are to be remembered in all of this. In keeping with the internet ethic of “cover what you do best and link to the rest,” I’m going to write what I write best (views from a man whose faith and politics left him) and link to the rest (namely the writings of 1) women, 2) single women, and 3) married women).

Also: background on the book: Lori Gottlieb is a Stanford Medical School alum that made her name in writing confessional books of differing sorts. She’s been on all kinds of shows, from CNN to NPR to writing for the The Atlantic Monthly, and she’s a single mother through a sperm donor. In March 2008 Gottlieb wrote an essay for The Atlantic titled “Marry Him!” which prompted all kinds of letters, a book deal, and an option for a movie off the book. The essay talked about the problems she’s facing as a single mother and that:

A number of my single women friends admit (in hushed voices and after I swear I won’t use their real names here) that they’d readily settle now but wouldn’t have 10 years ago. They believe that part of the problem is that we grew up idealizing marriage—and that if we’d had a more realistic understanding of its cold, hard benefits, we might have done things differently.

The first element that I’d like to point out is the contradiction of Marry Him. The percentage of business that is the job of Provoking Unhappiness is debatable, it’s existence is not- one way to encourage sales is to present the greener grass, to make What You Already Own seem worse than What You Could Buy. Few industries are more defined by this than books and movies on romance, and particularly in the women’s market. Now an entire other post can be dedicated to discussing why this is: be it the rampant sexism that still pervades corporate leadership and marketing, be it the male-centric Western civilization norms that plague our society, be it the stubbornheaded pinko feminist college professors vainly trying to rewrite women’s genetic codes, I don’t care. What I find interesting is that Ms. Gottlieb, after surveying the field of self-help and advice books and finds most of them wanting, decides to…write a self-help and advice book. Considering that part of her critique is the idea that many women are misled into thinking that there’s “someone better out there” by a cottage industry, it is remarkable that Ms. Gottlieb seems to think her own contribution to said industry will help rather than hurt.

Secondly, while I find it amazing that the idea that There Isn’t Anyone Close To Your Ideal Person is so novel and revolutionary to the modern woman as to warrant a full book, I find it even more amazing that the writing of said book has created such squabbling. It’s a hoary tactic to “turn the tables”, but whatever small amount light might be shed from it should be worth it. If a man were to come out with a book suggesting the exact same “settle for Ms. Good-Enough” idea, there would be a limited few reactions:

  • The majority of men would probably say something along the lines of “No s***, Sherlock.” There would be few men who’d suggest otherwise. There’s a reason why traditional manners dictates you say “congratulations” to the groom and “best wishes” to the bride: dudes gotta lock down what they can and be happy about it. I’m sure there’s all kinds of evolutionary/sociological reasons for this, I have neither the expertise or energy to discuss them.
  • For all those who disagree with the above bullet, what would most likely be said is: “Not for me, man- maybe for you.” To each their own.

I think this second bullet is the more serious point. When it comes to the gender writ-large, there is no reason or urge for me and my friends to defend all men. One of my friends never gets married? As long as he’s happy with it, okay. Another gets married at 22? I wouldn’t do it, but hey, it’s his choice. I think this is partly why there are so few books and even fewer successful books targeted towards advice for men in relationships: there’s no consensus about what makes men happy. Perhaps it is because we don’t have a badly-placed arrogance to presume to speak for all men like we do for women. I don’t know. All I know is that the mere presence of this book speaks quite loudly to the chasm we see between women and men in relation to books, problems, and love.

Thirdly, his video was put out in promotion with the book:

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Written by C.S. Stieber

February 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm

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Haiti: Some Thoughts

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Reihan Salam’s thoughts on Haiti jibe very well with my own.


I don’t have much to say about the disaster that has struck Haiti. But it does serve as a vivid reminder that Haitians have been suffering through a far deeper and more profound slow-motion disaster for decades (emphasis added). Every earthquake or tsunami or flood in the developing world yields tragic images…

Yet the number of people who die in these calamities pales in significance to the number who die because of broken institutions and the resulting absence of the kind of dynamic capitalist economy that we take for granted. In 2008, economists Michael Clemens and Lant Pritchett published “Income per Natural: Measuring Development as if People Mattered More Than Places,” a brilliant illustration of the damage broken institutions can do.

It is easy to learn the average income of a resident of El Salvador or Albania. But there is no systematic source of information on the average income of a Salvadoran or Albanian. In this new working paper, research fellow Michael Clemens and non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett create a new statistic: income per natural — the mean annual income of persons born in a given country, regardless of where that person now resides. If income per capita has any interpretation as a welfare measure, exclusive focus on the nationally resident population can lead to substantial errors of the income of the natural population for countries where emigration is an important path to greater welfare. The estimates differ substantially from traditional measures of GDP or GNI per resident, and not just for a handful of tiny countries. Almost 43 million people live in a group of countries whose income per natural collectively is 50 percent higher than GDP per resident. For 1.1 billion people the difference exceeds 10 percent. The authors also show that poverty estimates are different for national residents and naturals; for example, 26 percent of Haitian naturals who are not poor by the two-dollar-a-day standard live in the United States (emphasis added).

The desperation on the part of would-be Haitain refugees is easy to understand. One approach, which Clemens and Pritchett strongly endorse, is to liberalize international migration flows. Communities in affluent countries resist this idea, for obvious and understandable reasons. But blanket opposition to mutually beneficial offshoring strikes me as really tough to justify, particularly when it helps strengthen market

My experience isn’t in Haiti, but Rwanda. I taught in a rural school in Rwamagana and lived in Kacyiru, a neighborhood of Kigali. And what Clemens and Pritchett have found meshes with my experience: the gap between income-per-national and GDP/capita shows the chasm between Third Worlders who stay and those who emigrate. Things are often economically worse in poor countries than some of the data suggests.

Something Salam doesn’t point out, but is worth mentioning, is that many people in the Black American community have been talking about the plight of Haiti for many, many, years. And, in my limited history and knowledge, I seem to remember that many on the Right pushed it aside as a bit of Black nationalism/identity groaning. Also, the last public figure I remember talking about Haiti, pre-earthquake was, wait for it, Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Gasp! I’m not certain that Reihan has been negligent on Haiti or disregarded former discussions about it, but I know co-workers of his at National Review have ignored Haiti’s failed institutions in the past.

A bit off topic, but worth saying about that last paragraph quoted above: I do not have an answer to all of this (anyone who does is an idiot or a liar) poverty and failed institutions. But I do think that restrictions on migration, whether of people or products, are either xenophobic, selfish, or ignorant (or a mix of all 3). I challenge anyone to go to Africa, see the poverty amidst very fertile lands capable supplying the First World with plenty of food, and say with a straight face that “the American farmer is under attack”. So for the billionth time: Lou Dobbs is a jerk.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 13, 2010 at 11:14 pm

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Finding My Place

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So I’ve done the legwork, spent some time setting this up, and I want to begin.

To fully suss out my web presence:

  • My Facebook page is here. I rarely go there, since I really don’t have the time to “Ignore” a bunch of invitations to concerts and performances I have no way of attending.
  • My Twitter is here, and in the sidebar. I’m not hip enough to have a smartphone at the moment, but when I’m at my computer I’m pretty active with it. Especially when there’s a sporting event to livetweet.
  • My Tumblr is here. Not really sure where it’s going, but I find it’s a solid blend of the immediacy of Twitter with the fullness of a full-platform blog. I also need it for my Glee fix.

For awhile I tried to use Tumblr for my longer-form writing, but the medium just isn’t right, at least at the moment. So I’ve staked out this spot for the more ponder-able things I’ll put out. I’ll probably import some of those Tumblr posts to this blog to start.

For those who are confused by my URL and blog title, stop what you’re doing right now and get reading anything by this man, P.G. Wodehouse.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

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