Mars, Venus, and Valentine’s Day

Just two days before Valentine’s Day I went to a book presentation and signing by John Gray, the original Mars and Venus man…that is, author of the series of books that began with Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. He has a new book out–Why Mars and Venus Collide. Never was a book more needed.

Before attending this presentation by John Gray, I had been going to write about a radio show that had aired on Valentine’s Day a few years back. It was a pretty grim assessment of romantic relationships and who controls them…basically it’s the one with the least invested–the one who doesn’t really care, or, the one in the relationship who cares the least, and although that’s definitely the truth, it’s also pretty grim news to be broadcasting on Valentine’s Day.

John Gray is a lot more upbeat and fun–and also very funny–so, instead, I’ll write about him, at least in part. This guy could have been a stand-up comic if he hadn’t gotten into the Mars and Venus thing…or, I would say he is one anyway, and he just uses Mars and Venus as his platform–not that there isn’t merit in what Mars and Venus offer as a theory, even without the humor. What a clever guy. He makes you laugh while making total sense. He sees men and women as we really are–and it’s his way of telling us about ourselves that rings so true and is so funny.

By profession, before he became a best-selling author and speaker, John Gray was a marriage counselor–and maybe he still does some of that. If he doesn’t, he needs to gear up and get back into it–there’s about to be an explosion of need in that area if women take the advice being offered in an article in the current (March 2008) issue of The Atlantic.

The article, also available online, has the suspicious title of “Marry Him!” Now who, exactly, is being addressed and who is doing the addressing?

The addressor/author turns out to be Lori Gottlieb, someone who apparently makes regular contributions to NPR. (I hope it’s not usually relationship advice.)

The addressees are single women–those who have presumably been waiting for Mr. Right. Ms Gottlieb’s premise is that he will probably be a no-show, so these waiting women had better go ahead and marry Mr. Good Enough. And won’t that just make John Gray’s marriage counseling business boom like it never has before!

Even though the article is in The Atlantic’s March issue, it was out in time for a day-before-Valentine’s Day NPR broadcast. Can’t you just imagine all the women who said ‘yes’ on Valentine’s Day to Mr. Good Enough just because they suddenly got tricked into believing that life with ‘somebody’ is better than life with nobody? Ms Gottlieb needs to get a reality check.

I cannot think of more than two of my married friends (and I have a lot of them) who don’t envy me as a single woman. Some of them tell me on a regular basis, “You don’t know how LUCKY you are!” They repeat this over and over, time after time, sounding like a Greek chorus even though they each sing the line solo when presenting it to me. (So, no, I am not holding brainwashing seminars to get them to rant in unison.)

But back to John Gray. According to the Mars and Venus theory, men and women have trouble getting along because they think and communicate differently, and along gender lines, to the extent that it’s as if they came from different planets–specifically Mars and Venus. And he’s talking about couples who love each other–or at least they did at one point, not couples who are with the other just because they each were the best of the available leftovers.

In any event, his latest book about Mars and Venus colliding couldn’t have had better timing for its release than now, when it coincides with the appearance of Ms Gottlieb’s ill-advised advice article. (At least that’s what it is to me.) There are sure to be even many more collisions among these coupled people who have settled to be where they are, and then find themselves with plenty of things to communicate to their partner that are not likely to be well received–especially with no measurable love involved.

In normal circumstances, John Gray might counsel a woman to condense what she has to say to her man so that he can better understand her (men aren’t as fond of extraneous words as women are). But with problems like the ones that are going to be coming up among the “”conveniently coupled” as opposed to the ones who got that way “for love,” Dr. Gray will perhaps need to come up with some additional pointers to address the problems of the sure-to-be upcoming onslaught. I give its start about six months.

So, now that Valentine’s Day has just passed, it’s a bit late for good wishes for that day. Perhaps it’s more important to wish everyone good luck, and directions to the nearest bookstore to get a copy of John Gray’s latest–especially if on the brink of settling for Mr. or Ms “Good Enough.”

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