Magazine article The New Yorker

Love for Sale Books

Magazine article The New Yorker

Love for Sale Books

Article excerpt

The notion that dating, mating, and marriage take place within a marketplace is a conceit universally observed by writers of comedic-dramatic television shows, directors of romantic comedies in Hollywood, and authors of "chick lit" novels loosely based on plots from Jane Austen or Edith Wharton. Objective measures of eligibility--appearance, earning power, age--are understood to determine whether individuals will be perceived as desirable commodities (the six-foot-two investment banker; the communications director with a good decade of childbearing years still ahead of her) or relegated to the remainder bin, shopworn by blind dates and disappointments.

Rachel Greenwald's new book, "Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School" (Ballantine; $22.95), takes the notion of the marketplace literally, and addresses those single women who worry that their comparative value is dwindling with each passing year. "You, the reader, are the 'product,' " Greenwald, H.B.S. Class of 1993, writes. "And The Program"--her fifteen-step course to matrimonial satisfaction, which she also provides in workshops that she conducts around the country--"is a 'strategic plan' to help you 'market' yourself to find your future husband." There are twenty-eight million single women in America, Greenwald writes, and a dedicated husband-hunter should be no less zealous than General Mills in distinguishing her product from the competition. Greenwald urges women to embrace the business practices they know from the workplace and apply them to private life. "When you've finished this book, you will be able to devise and advertise your personal brand, know how to get out of your rut, be able to create a winning plan to increase the volume of men you meet, conduct an exit interview and much more," Greenwald promises.

In order to establish that "personal brand," a woman must submit to rigorous market testing. She should convene focus groups among friends, former boyfriends, and workmates to learn whether she should grow her hair longer or wear red instead of beige. She should reflect on her Physical, Personal, and Other characteristics, and identify three of them ("Witty, Easy to Talk To, Golfer" or "Architect, Charming, International") which will distinguish her from the pack. She should reinforce this brand message through the proven techniques of consumer marketing, including online marketing via Internet dating sites (Greenwald warns against using a slutty-sounding screen name or betraying a taste for Virginia Woolf or Danielle Steel, to which no man is expected to warm) and direct mail. Greenwald suggests that a single woman send, to a hundred or more friends, greeting cards bearing photographs of herself being witty or playing golf, and include the message "This year, I would like to find someone wonderful to spend my life with. Do you know any single men you could introduce me to?" She should work on what Greenwald calls her word-of-mouth advertising by, for example, casually saying to a colleague, "I was talking to my friend Melissa last night, and she said, 'I want to introduce you to this guy I met in my writing class. I've told him that you're a charming architect with an international background.' "

Some of Greenwald's suggestions for finding men are achingly familiar; she advises single women to take evening classes in such male-friendly subjects as log-furniture-making. (This remedy has been proposed by so many advice columnists over the years that to attend an evening class in order to learn about the advertised subject would surely be as misguided as stepping into a massage parlor and expecting to get a massage.) Other ideas are more original: one of Greenwald's clients volunteered to teach a seminar entitled "Fifteen-Minute Meals for Bachelors" even though she had no particular expertise in the subject. In Greenwald's view, every moment a woman is anywhere other than her apartment--a place where she should spend as little time as possible, except while updating her online profile--is an opportunity to meet men. …

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