Last week, several people tipped me off to an article called “Why You’re Not Married,” written by TV writer (Mad Men, and United States of Tara), Tracy McMillan. “I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it,” one reader emailed me. My first thought was that the article sounded a lot like one I’d written a couple months ago called “8 Reasons You’re Still Single.” In fact, the two articles are so similar, I had a fleeting fantasy that this successful TV writer had actually mined my writing for ideas. Then I got over myself. And then I thought, “Boy, I bet she’s getting skewered,” because if there’s one thing I’ve learned writing for a primarily female audience it’s that single woman do not want other women insinuating that they’re doing anything wrong at all in terms of dating or finding a relationship. That McMillan used such a derisive tone and tongue-in-cheek language to deliver her message — which, for the record, is not that single women are doing it all wrong, but that they have some power in their dating lives and don’t have to passively wait around for Mr. Right — made it all but a sure thing she’d be taken to task. And she certainly was. But I happen to think there was a lot of truth in her words.
Sure, there is a subtext in the article that getting married period is the end goal versus getting married happily (or at all), but if you can look past that, and if you can look past the derisive tone and the language, there are some real nuggets of truth and good advice that may actually help some women who are sick of being unhappily single. (Please note: I am not suggesting that all women who are single are unhappily so). After all, if you’re in a situation you don’t want to be in, doesn’t it make the most sense to examine your own role for being in that situation? If you’ve been out of work for months and months and you go to a headhunter for help, don’t you think she’s going to want to look at how you’ve been approaching the job search as opposed to, I don’t know, how prospective employers are looking for you? You don’t have any control in how prospective employers are looking for you — or what they’re even looking for — but you certainly have some control in how to attract them and the impression you give when they find you. Looking for a romantic partner is exactly the same thing. Whether you want the job — or the prospective partner — is a different question, but wouldn’t it be nice if that choice was yours to make?
Read McMillan’s article critically — rather than just giving it a cursory glance — and you’ll find what she’s really saying is if you want to attract a husband (and if you don’t, then obviously this article doesn’t apply to you!), it would behoove you to: be nice to men; judge a man by his character and not by the size of his wallet or how pretty he is; quit having sex outside monogamous relationships so you don’t confuse oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that’s released during orgasms, with real love; quit dating guys who only want casual flings — especially when they’re honest about what they want; practice being selfless; know your own worth and look for someone who is an equal. So, I ask you: what is so wrong with those points?! Is it the assumption that if a woman is single it’s because she’s isn’t already doing those things? OK, based on the title of the article, “Why You’re Not Married,” I’ll grant you that. But if the message doesn’t apply to you, isn’t it possible that it still may apply to someone else? And maybe that someone else could learn something? I just don’t understand the vitriol. In my experience, the kind of anger McMillan’s article has incited usually comes about when a nerve is struck, and a nerve can’t be struck unless there’s an element of recognition.
So, single ladies, if you recognize yourself — or even part of yourself — in McMillan’s article — or my article by a similar title — rather than get angry at the author, go inward. See what part of your behavior the article resonates with and if it’s an element of who you are that might be worth modifying. If not, no big deal. Keep on doing what you’re doing and waiting for Mr. Right to show up. But if, just maybe, you recognize in this article something about yourself and your search for the right partner that could be examined a bit, don’t be scared to take a closer look. It may just make your search a bit more successful. And who can argue with that?