Should a modern woman search for a soulmate or settle down for Mr. Good Enough?
This question popped in my mind during a recent outing with a group of female acquaintances, a mix of expats and Russians. A few glasses of Chardonnay — and we switched to the predictable "sex in the city" topics that so often prevail at girls' get-togethers across the world. A thirty-something Londoner Kate, a slender, Prada-clad brunette on a two-year contract with a big Moscow legal firm, told us of her fresh break-up with a Moscow businessman who, it turned out, had not been faithful to her. Still, Kate insisted she couldn't care less. "He wasn't The One anyway — I was seeing him mainly for sex," she said with a winner's smile. "I am looking for a soulmate."
"Ha! Dream on!" gasped a girl sitting across the table, 31-year-old Anya, another lawyer who is married and has a three-year-old daughter. "At your age," she added with a know-it-all attitude, "You should go for a guy you want to have kids with."
A heated debate ensued, I, too, began to wonder if Kate's pursuits were indeed too unrealistic but Anya's perhaps too mundane and unromantic. But when I did learn of Kate's exact age — she was about to turn 37 - I realized the inevitable. Kate was most likely infected with the virus to which many of today's women are prone: shopping for the Perfect Man. We grow up with the premise that we should be ambitious and pursue life to have it all. And just as we aspire to have a dream job, we dive into love escapades hoping to one day find the Man of our Dreams for whom we'd feel a divine spark and butterflies that will carry us straight to the altar. Moreover, we expect that godsend creature to be able to read our minds, finish our thoughts, adore our children and fulfill our other emotional, physical, intellectual as well as financial needs. The older and the more accomplished we get, the more exigent some of us become — we convince ourselves we'd settle only for an equal, for a soulmate. For many women this soulmate quest has become a trendy excuse for still being single. Some tend to get bitter about it and set to complaining of the "deficit of worthy men."
I asked a few solidly wedded friends if they married their soulmates. The men's responses were dry and laconic. Some didn't even know what a soulmate was which only proved that it's the women in the first place who are hooked on the soulmate-spouse idea. "I married my best friend," said one guy, a father of two middle school-age kids, who's been with a wedding band for more than 10 years. "I felt so comfortable with this woman that I didn't want to let her go," said another father who'd been married for nine years. "I met my soulmate long after I got married," said Olga, a 28-year old accountant and a very devoted mother of a seven-year-old boy. This girl has been married for seven years and is the last person in the world I expected to have a say on the Soulmate vs. Mr. Good Enough dilemma. "I met this guy at a work event and I got smitten," she confessed.
"We could talk for hours: I'd start saying something, and he'd finish my sentence. The chemistry was palpable, it was just crazy." Still, Olga said she didn't give in to the temptation — the stakes were too high. And then, as time passed, she came to realize that her prospective soulmate, a strikingly exciting personality, wouldn't make a good husband after all as he was "just so self-absorbed and unpredictable." "Whereas my husband is reliable and incredibly generous, and I trust him completely," Olga said. "My man is not as versatile, but one can't expect to get everything in one person."
In a 2008 non-fiction best-seller, "Marry Him. The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough," American journalist-writer Lori Gottlieb called single women who would like to get married to drop the futile search for perfect fantasy husbands and start going for seemingly flawed but available men instead. She claimed that today's typical girl, especially in the successful league, has "a heightened sense of entitlement that previous generations didn’t have," and often "sees herself as too good for an ordinary relationship." The writer believes one should look for long-term stability, not a passion fest. Lori Gottlieb's book got fierce attacks, especially from the feminist camp. The author was called "desperate" and a "love-killer," but I tend to agree with her on most points.
I am not saying my friend Kate should settle for a cheater and quit dreaming of meeting The One and I am not saying love, chemistry and connection are not important. But I believe while looking for a soulmate, we may fail to notice somewhat imperfect but flesh-and-blood men who cross the path of every girl at least once in while. These chaps may end up not being able to cater to all of our needs like sharing our interests or hobbies or eagerly listening to us for hours, but they may still make good enough husbands.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.