Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Now Let's Talk About Me

Megan McArdle wrote a review of a book called Marry Him, by Lori Gottlieb, in which Gottlieb recommended that other women "settle" for a man who is less than ideal, rather than regret their unmarried state for the rest of their lives. The culprit, of course, is feminism, which made women "too picky about their dating lives," to quote McArdle's description. After many paragraphs of maybes and on-the-other-hands, McArdle decides that while it might be better to have a "bitter, unhappy ex-husband" than to be a single mother, it's hard to generalize.

So maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but that's not the important part of the review. The important part is the chance for McArdle to inform the audience that while He's Not That Into You, Megan McArdle is the exception to the rule. Cutting away all the parts that are not about Megan, we are left with this:

[Waiting to marry] is a slightly sensitive topic for me to write about, of course--I'm a woman in her thirties who will, barring tragic accident, get married in six weeks. My dating prospects did not dry up as I moved deeper into my thirties (much to my surprise), possibly because I was a skinny woman with a baby face. I won't say, coyly, that I never really thought about [being unable to find a husband] (because I'm too fabulous to worry; I did, and frankly I find it awfully hard to believe any woman in her late thirties who declares that it never crossed her mind.[)] I decided I wasn't going to settle, because I suspected that if I settled down with someone who wasn't a good match, I'd have killed either him, or myself. Then as luck would have it I didn't have to--I met someone as ideally suited to me as is possible in this vale of tears. That women should have to think about [getting older and not finding a husband and having a baby], while men don't, is certainly unfair, and I understand why feminists resist accepting it. But not all unfair things can be rectified.

Does she find that people often roll their eyes when she's around? Wince? Look at their watches? Have to meet a deadline?


Anonymous said...

"vale of tears?" I take it that she took your satire as a suggestion?


NO FATTIES! Was that in Suderman's ad? Jeebus, what a revolting person. Her prose style wavers between arch and nauseating with brief detours through self parody. I love the "baby face" comment--what, are all men definitively known to be closet pedophiles? And I love the pointless side swipe at feminism for trying to buck the obvious natural fact that if all women were Megan McCardle they'd have no trouble marrying. But alas, evolution apparently missed this trick and the vast majority of us never get married at all. I mean, except for me, since I,too, saw my dating chances take off in my thirties where I was blessed with being forty pounds overweight and having a fat face and a sharp tongue. Who knew that that would produce a perfect match in this vale of tears. If only other feminists would grasp this fact how happy they would be.


satch said...

Well, to be fair, apparently she DID meet someone ideally suited to her. It's all about knowing where to cast your bait...trolling those wingnut think tank intern rosters and campus Young Americans for Freedom clubs really paid off.

atat said...

"...possibly because I was a skinny woman with a baby face."

At least she's aware that it wasn't her personality that was the draw.

Dillon said...

At least she's aware that it wasn't her personality that was the draw.


Anonymous said...

On rereading the passage I marvel, once again, at how supremely unconscious Megan is of the wall between our inner self love and our outer world. More and more she reminds of two separate scenes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In one, responding to a hysterical rant from Buffy about one thing, which is really a disguised rant about something else, Giles says to her, helpfully:

"The subtext is rapidly becoming the text."

In the other, Buffy is miraculously enabled to read minds. Each character's secret thoughts reveals something about him/her except Cordelia. As it turns out, her secret thoughts are identical to what comes out of her mouth. If she's bored, she thinks "I'm bored" and simultaneously she says "I'm bored." She is incapable of withholding her thoughts from others, and this perfectly describes her character. In fact, in another episode in which her staggering self involvement prevent her from grasping that there is a dead body on the floor in front of her one of the other characters has to shout "Cordelia!" to get her attention. To which she replies "Why does everyone say my name that way? I'm not deaf!"

I imagine that Megan, too, has many moments when she turns to Suderman and says, as Susan of Texas says, "it was so weird, I was just stepping on the homeless guy's face when someone called my name, really sharply. Why are people always shouting at me?"


zeppo said...

It must be fabulous to be MM. We should all be MM. Not just try to emulate her. We should all really become MM. Life would be fabulous.

Actually, that would probably suck a lot, but it was an interesting thought that actually didn't go very far before I realized it was a big dead end as satire goes.

Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show had such great dialog.

Kathy said...

"someone as ideally suited to me as is possible in this vale of tears."

Well,that's an interesting way of describing her romance, her once-in-a-lifetime-Love.

Yep, Meggy is gonna end up a bitter ex-wife-with-a-baby. You betcha.

Reminds me of Prince Charles reply, when asked if he loved his fiance Diana "Well, as much as one can love anyone in this world" (or something like that).

Clever Pseudonym said...

The "possibly because I was skinny" remark is just disgusting. As if there are no men in the world who prefer curvier or heavier women. And didn't she and P-Sud date for about a month or something before they got engaged? That's not really long enough to learn if someone is "ideally suited" at all.

We should start a pool to see how long it lasts.

Susan of Texas said...

Joss Whedon said that he was going to have Cordy turn against Angel so he would have to fight someone he loved. That changed when Carpenter became pregnant, but parts of that survived--her emphasis that she was special. All the motivation for such actions were already in her.

Cordy already felt she was better than most people, but when her parents lost their money her ego took a huge hit. She found another way to feel good about herself by helping Angel, but her problems increased dramatically when she became a seer. She wouldn't let go of the demon-based power even if it killed her, which it nearly did. When she had the choice of taking more power from Skip or giving up power, she said, "Demonize me." Later Buffy had the same option--take more demon power or give her power away, and she chose to give it away. When I say we need to give away our power, I'm quoting Buffy all the way.

Cordy couldn't give up the power. It was what made her special, in her eyes, and she had to be special to feel better about herself. So she made terrible choices that ended up killing her and a lot of other people.

Everyone in the media has that choice--side with the powerful, "work from within," or reject the power. When you choose more power, you are indebted to those who gave you the power and it's something you'll never be able to control. Either you conform and compromise or you risk losing that power, and the Cordelias of the can't do that--they need the acceptance, praise and sense of importance, since they can't get those good feelings any other way.

McArdle can't even write a book review without stroking her own ego. She can't help herself, any more than Cordy could go back to just being Cordy. Instead, she had to be Special. (Just like Angel, who repeated his own mistakes over and over for the same reason, which culminated in his utter mishandling of Connor and disastrous time at Wolfram and Hart.)

Downpuppy said...

Sure and next you're going to talk about a (clearly over 30) Cordy taking a teenage demon loverboy, aintcha?

I love Logo.

Susan of Texas said...

Lalala I can't hear you!

(I had to look up Logo. I'm so old-school.)

I could talk about Angel's Escher perspective (repeating old patterns) based on his relationship with his father and then Darla. And the correlations between our invasion of Iraq and Buffy's Generalissimo phase. And Illyria and Wes' conversations on lies and truth. And Buffy's depression, the result of her repression of anger at being brought back to life.

And lots more. God, I loved those shows.

Sharon said...

How nice it must be for the men who are "settled" for.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh! Yes, the whole aspect of settling is distasteful, for both sides. What sensible woman marries someone she feels is not good enough for her? What man would want that woman?

Kathy said...

I think Meg was waiting for some uber-rich dude to sweep her off her feet. After all- she's thin and has a baby face.

Anonymous said...

Sharon brings up an interesting point--"how nice for the men who were settled for." The whole essay by Megan, and the comment thread that follows it, ascribes to the notion that women are desirable only when they are immiediatly post pubescent and that every day they are unused by the right man (a permanent marriage partner) they diminish in value. Many of the commenters explicitly argue that even women in what appear to be happy, healthy, self chosen relationships *right now* will inevitably be ditched for younger women at some later point because men just are that way. [To quote BTVS again, basically:

"Xander - "Yes. Men like sports. Men watch the action movie, they eat of the beef, and they enjoy to look at the bosoms. A
thousand years of avenging our wrongs, and that's all you've learned?""]

But my point is this--there isn't some magical thing about the wedding, or the ring, which changes anything about either men or women. Megan starts by talking about "risk"--the risk that somehow the available pool of men to women diminishes as women get older. But her commenters here her talking about absolute natural phenomenon (as they see it) which are that men must and will want baby making machines. And if women want a man, any man, they'd better get with the program and decide to choose early enough to pump out those babies.

The idea of a "soul mate" who you enjoy and want to be with through thick and thin is something, apparently, that feminists foolishly dream of because *men aren't like that.* They don't enjoy your company, or long for a soul mate, they want a "skinny, baby faced" fertile woman and they pretty much don't care who she is. They might be satisfied with you early on and then still dump you when you get older because you have, bizarrely, chosen to age.

What boggles my mind is that its so insulting to men--and yet the men involved in the discussion don't seem to grasp that. They all congratulate themselves on getting women to settle--and they assure themselves that when women do settle they'll have to settle for these guys (and stop hankering after guys with education, money, talent, charm, and good hygiene).

Feminists, in this scenario, are playing a game of musical chairs where the chairs are available (not desirable, available) mates and they need to fight over the chairs regardless of comfort, strategy, or personal taste because every few minutes another one goes out of the game. But in the game as described by the men the men/chairs reserve the right to refuse a given woman, or to dump her out after she's chosen, because the men all want to date down in age, get a beautiful woman, and want the option of babies.

I never seem to be as coherent in the browser as I am in my head. But if you read the comment thread over there those guys have to be some of the most pathetic and miserable creatures around. I wonder why Megan seems to appeal to them?


Susan of Texas said...

The conservative fantasy seems to be an abusive relationship based on assumption of male superiority. In other words, Mom and Dad.

Men are due their rights and women are due their responsibilities. I think it's in the Bible.

These people make themselves miserable trying to live some fantasy that their society tells them to want. Doing what they want and need to do is a sin--only following the group is acceptable. But nobody actually lives like that, which is why conservatives divorce, cheat, have gay sex, and everything else other humans do. Then they hate themselves for being human, and take it out on everyone else.

bulbul said...

Back when I was at high school, BTVS and Angel were on every Thursday night on German TV and I hated it. Then all this internet thing happened and apparently you all guys love it. I guess a lot must have gotten lost in translation, so I guess I'm getting the dvds...

Is anybody as wary of trusting Our Lady's of the Slim Figure description of "Marry Him!" as I am? We know she doesn't have the best track record when it comes to, um, understanding stuff...

Susan of Texas said...

One of the best parts of the show is the clever word play, so maybe a lot is, literally, lost in translation. The show rewards the long-term viewer, since the second best part of the show is the incredibly good (for television) character development. We made decisions and actions based on our personality, history and psychological development but usually doesn't happen with tv characters--their actions are there to fit the plot, not the other way around. Long story lines showed the development of the kids into adults with all the baggage that we always end up with as we grow.

The shy, ignored picked-on girl grows into a woman who will do anything to avoid emotional pain. The son of alcoholic parents has trouble maintaining a relationship with his serious girlfriend. The girl whose father abandoned the family got involved with an older man who couldn't be there for her either, causing her years of pain. There's reasons for everything, and nothing is more addictive than a really clever, emotionally realistic soap opera with supernatural creatures and hot young people. (If you happen to be into those sort of things.)

I read the Gottleib article and the other one McArdle mentioned and McArdle didn't seem to be too far off. The Atlantic seems to have a lot of articles by confused women who think airing their private life and mistakes in print (for money) is journalism.

bulbul said...


I assume you are familiar with Fred Clark's long*-running commentary on the Left Behind books. Well, I'd love to see something like that done for something really good, because, frankly, I often miss a lot of subtext and even some of the text (some philologist I am). BTVS would be a perfect candidate, wink wink nudge nudge :)

* really, really long

Anonymous said...

I love Fred Clark's slactivist--its brilliant, and totally illuminating. I have to say that much as I love Buffy I don't see the same analytic depth there that Fred manages to get out of the blinds squirell nuttiness tht is the left behind series.

I tried for a while to improve my French by watching the dubbed version of BTVS. Since I've essentially memorized the lines in english it was fine, as far as understanding went, but it didn't strike the same emotional chords. However, I will say that they really tried to translate the jokes. I don't remember how they did it but they made a really good pun, in french, out of the scene where Buffy turns out not to know the word "dike" and thinks its "duck" as in "the boy stuck his finger in the duck (sic)." It was very funny, but they had to do something totally different since the words wouldn't have rhymed in french. They just sort of shifted the whole joke.


Anonymous said...

Ten bucks says she starts trying for a kid within 1 month of saying "I do."

Susan of Texas said...

Yeah, that's the next step. God help us all.