He's Just Not That Into You and The One
Through Bitch Magazine, here's a good criticism by Tobin Levy of He's Just Not That Into You at Nerve. Her point is a good one--embrace it, deny it, coddle it, ignore it, whatever but getting rejected is never fun and no book is going to change that. Levy doesn't talk much about what to me seems the biggest inanity of the book, which is that it furthers the bizarre notion that men do the selecting and rejecting, and women mostly stand around hoping to be good enough for some man to condescend to marry. She does touch on it, though:
I had previously refused to read the book, partly because Rick Marin, author of Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, wrote the review in the New York Times, and partly because, as Marin not-so-insightfully put it, "There's something wildly condescending about the image of women as helpless creatures, standing around minding their own business until men come into their lives and break their hearts."
Of course, it wasn't a deep insight, but Marin is right on the money there. Anyway, Levy's point is that she read the book after getting dumped by a guy who used one of the lamest break-up lines I've ever heard, one that is truly just a sentimental variation on "he's just not that into you".
Four months after I got the line no one wants to hear, I'm still wondering when "you are not the one" became acceptable breakup vernacular. The last time I got dumped, "it's over" worked just fine.
Levy counts off a number of girl friends who have heard this line, which is both really heart-breaking to the person it's delivered to and gives me eyestrain from rolling my eyes so hard. I can tell you right now why the guys who used this line did--self-flattery. Much like "he's just not that into you", the point of it is to emphasize that these men demand far more perfection from a lifelong partner than mere mortal women who age and have grumpy moments can offer.
Fact of the matter is that plenty of women are extremely picky and waiting around for "the one" and dumping plenty of perfectly nice guys along the way. The difference is that society tends to pick on these women--relatives cajoling you not to be picky, jokes about biological clocks all over TV, David Brooks telling women to get married and start pushing out pups on the day they graduate without wondering why women might not want to be married so young. With men, we run the gamut from indulging it as a simple male entitlement (HJNTIY) to actually applauding it, as the young man in this story did for himself when he dumped Levy.
But I thought it over and realized that guys who indulge in social sanction to deride perfectly nice women for their imperfections when they dump them are at least a step up from this form of male entitlement that Katha Pollitt talks about in the comments at Feministing:
I've said this before, but I think first marriages of college-educated people are often of equals -- more so than pre-feminism. But once people get up into their 40s and 50s, I have to say I think the men disproportionately want younger women. Not necessarily "service" women, in fact sometimes quite accomplished and ambitious women -- but younger, which gives the man a permanent advantage. It doesn't work the other way around very often. Not too many 60 year old women with 40 year old men, not too many female professors leaving their husbands for their grad students etc.
For what it's worth, I hope that men who have egotistical ideas about what they deserve in a mate--always young and compliant, for instance--do the women they date a favor and dump them before they get married and have kids and then decide to run off with younger women.
As for myself, I've always hated the phrase "the one", coming from men or women, because while I think it's fine only to consent to living with another person if they knock you off your feet, I also think that it's ridiculous to believe that there is the one perfect person out there for everyone. There's no such thing as a relationship without a little compromise, even between people who have envious amounts of chemistry.