Breakpoint has published my op-ed in response to Lori Gottlieb's article in last month's Atlantic Monthly (Marry Him!) suggesting that single women should forget about romantic love and settle for "Mr. Okay" instead of waiting around for "Mr. Right." What would Jane Austen say? Ultimately, I think she would challenge our notions of love (and probably have a great deal of fun laughing at them as well).
Perhaps I should start by saying that I’m not incensed by this notion. I’m single, I’m 36, and I want to be married. I want to have kids. I actually believe, as Gottlieb ever-so-heretically asserts, that relationships (and primarily marriage) are still in many ways what define us as women.
What strikes me about all of this is that these are conversations we’ve been having for hundreds of years, all the way back to Jane Austen’s dear Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (or perhaps more to the point here, Charlotte Lucas and the obsequious Mr. Collins. Could Charlotte have been happy that she settled? I doubt it). And as the film The Jane Austen Book Club pointed out, we’re still asking ourselves today, “What would Jane do?”
Would Jane settle? Absolutely not. Marriage in Austen’s day was all about settling, of course. Women who had no opportunity to earn their own living, needed financial security. Men as well were hoping to “settle” on a woman of means. The whole thing became a matter of business, which led to all sorts of mischief and misery. In that setting, Austen gives us poor, intelligent women hoping to marry for love. And because this is fiction, they do. (...)