Lean in to love


Lean in to love… it could be the title of a particularly bad rom com starring Matthew McConaughey and probably Cameron Diaz. It’d be the story of a high powered, helpfully very good-looking, female executive making all sorts of classic high powered female executive decisions. These decisions would include wearing shoulder pads, stilettos, a ponytail and a ‘don’t even think about it’ expression, along with a sad and lonely love life involving too many solo bottles of wine and a far-too-intense crush on a gym instructor. You could swap Cameron for Sandra Bullock, here, if that works for you.

One day, possibly while stopped by Matthew McConaughey from reversing over a homeless person in her Porsche because she’s too busy doing a business deal on the phone, she ‘leans in to love’, and is swept off her feet, rendering all that career stuff totally unnecessary.

After all, women in Hollywood romances have only turned into these ruthless viragos because they have yet to meet a man. Once they do, their hair magically falls down out of its bun, their severe grey business suit turns into a floaty pink dress, and they immediately get married. Then they spend a lot of time doing baby yoga with the progeny of their union and ordering babychinos surrounded by Bugaboos.

The Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was in Dublin this week, speaking at the launch of the company’s European ‘SME client council’.

Of course, because she has written a book for women  – advising them on their careers – some bright spark decided to ask what women should do about their love lives. Her advice didn’t tally with my ‘Lean in to Love’ scenario, above, although if any Hollywood producers are reading this, I am available to talk about scripts any time you like – I think we could be onto a winner.

I’d say you could probably count on one finger the amount of times anyone has ever asked Mark Zuckerberg what men should do to ‘have it all’, in the romantic stakes, even though he is married to Priscilla Chan, who is both accomplished (they met at Harvard, and she plans to become a paediatrician) and very attractive.

Despite my reservations about Sandberg’s qualifications as an agony aunt, or a marriage counsellor, I can’t disagree with her assessment of how you should pick out a potential life partner: Audition them.

Ok, it’s not very romantic. Obviously, there has to be some kind of chemistry involved to begin with.

But if you are what was once known as a ‘career woman’ and plan to continue with your life outside the home once you’ve signed up for lifelong commitment, then what choice do you have? Women do 72% of the unpaid household work here, according to a 2008 ESRI study. In dual income couples the disparity was less, but still very evident.

And apart from anything else, there is only one Matthew McConaughey in the world, and he’s already married. And no longer doing rom coms.

Friends of mine who are in their early 30s and looking for more than a bit of craic from dates have developed this approach. Intentions are paramount, and once you have established whether they are interested in developing beyond a casual relationship, you need to decide whether or not they are marriage material. Otherwise you’re three years in and wondering why he disappears with a black bag every weekend and comes back with a pile of washed and ironed clothes. If he can’t do his own washing, he will certainly never do yours; or that of your children.
”Be picky, I’m serious. Date whoever you want, really, but the cool boys, they are not going to change as many diapers, so don’t marry them,” Sandberg told the audience.

In the Irish context, it’s “he is only after one thing” updated for the 21st century. These days, if the “one thing” he is after is a lifetime of having his cleaning done for him, and you want to have a life beyond the kitchen sink, you need to figure that out immediately, and head for the hills. Be picky, or you’re picking a pig in a poke.

First published in The Herald, 18 April 2014.

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2 comments

  1. My parents wanted me to marry a man with money – a doctor, solicitor or such like – so I wouldn’t have to work so hard. My only requirements were that I loved him (helplessly, ideally) and that he loved me. It took me a while, but I found him. He washes dishes (which I dislike) but hates hoovering (which I don’t mind). We both quit our jobs and went travelling, so neither of us has any money anymore. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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