Let's say I refuse to buy a car because I'm waiting for a car that can fly.* If you advised me that this is not the Jetsons and that I should look for a car that actually exists, would you be telling me to give up my high ideals and "settle" for a less-than-perfect car? No, you would just be informing me of reality.
That is what is so irksome about this article in the Atlantic Monthly, "Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough." I've been obsessed with this "settling" idea for several months, since my intrepid friend Sara Lipka told me she was going to interivew Lori Gottlieb, the author. (Sara did a great job with the interview, and extracted such interesting and humanizing details as the fact that Lori, who is a 40something single mom, is worried her mother will tell her "I told you so.") The article's thesis is that single women--mostly women over 30--should "settle" for men who do not meet their "high expectations" because it's better to have a stable partner who can contribute money to your household and help you raise your children than to be alone when you're in your 30s or 40s, as Lori herself is.
Lori says she knows women are going to write in to accuse her of being part of the "feminist backlash," but it doesn't seem particularly feminist to me to call a desire for a Stepford man "high standards." The issue is that the whole "settling" paradigm addresses the wrong part of the problem: you're not lowering your standards by deciding to look for a partner amongst existing human beings rather than imaginary ones. As Carolyn Hax would tell you, if you're waiting for an all-encompassing, life-changing, spine-tingling, love-at-first-site soulmate kind of thing like Bush had with Putin with a person who's tall, athletic, environmentally aware, has straight teeth, loves Grey's Anatomy, hates Coldplay, and can hold a tune, you can join me on the Waiting for a Flying Car bench for an indefinite interval.
*My desire for a flying car is only partly why I have not yet gotten rid of my '95 Geo.