How This Cow Sold Herself
Why buy the cow when you can
get the milk for free?
—MY MOTHER (AND EVERYONE ELSE’S)
Marriage can be wonderful. It is a historic, sacred institution that provides security, respectability, tax breaks, and regular nookie. Every culture from Africa to Antarctica embraces it. It means always having a date for Valentine’s Day other than Ben and Jerry. It is proof of your commitment, a public statement that you love and are loved in return. Hey, dozens of animals (for example, beavers, bald eagles . . . even pigeons in the park) know how great it is to mate for life. Surely if a bird that drinks from puddles and eats trash knows the value of marriage, we all should!
Overall, happily married people are healthier, accumulate more wealth, and get a chance at the good life. So, of course you want to get married and you can’t understand why your boyfriend is unsure. You are thinking: If we get hitched, we get to make long- term plans with each other. We get fluffy new towels and a waffle iron. I get to have a big white wedding and make all my friends wear unflattering dresses to get back at them for the hideous peach things I had to wear at their weddings. I get to be the center of attention for a day and the center of his world for a lifetime.
Once upon a time, I too set out to convince my boy friend that it was the right time to marry me, to finally buy this cow. With all that free milk, he had become fat and confused. But I’m really quite good at getting a guy to pay for something that was once as free to him as the silverware at Denny’s. If you think about it, this requires profound skill. You wouldn’t suddenly start paying for samples of Kirkland- brand cocktail wieners at Costco. If they charged, you would complain to the manager and hunt for free hot dogs elsewhere. You have a major challenge in front of you if you want to get your boyfriend moving on the proposal, but as long as you’re confident that he is the one, I am here to help you.
I was once right where you are, feeling the same things you are feeling, and I pushed for marriage and strategized. It wasn’t that my man was unsure about me or didn’t recognize the economic benefit of having other people buy us an espresso machine; rather, he just wasn’t in a great hurry. I initiated talks about marriage, but months passed. I initiated talks about engagement, but the only proposals I witnessed were on YouTube. He repeatedly said that he understood what I wanted and it was coming. He offered no formal excuse for stalling, but talked to me about the need for perfect timing. I had visions of toddling down the aisle, leaning on a walker and trying desperately not to break my hip. Marriage was not coming according to my perfect timing.
My man really wanted me to move in with him long before we got engaged. He wanted me to quit my job, change cities, and basically squeeze out all my precious milk for a prospective customer. My first realization was that doing this would not get me hitched any faster. I remained firmly planted in my city but promised him that once we got engaged, I’d always be around to proofread his work reports and fold his socks into neat little balls.
I credit my husband-catching success to always speaking openly about my expectations and withholding most of my milk until I got exactly what I wanted. In other words, I followed some wise, age-old advice. Since gas started to cost a fortune and milk became free, all the rules of driving and dating appear to have changed. Today you are supposed to fool around in the backseat of a fuel-efficient car, perhaps a Mini Cooper or a Prius. If the world is such a different place now, why does the expression "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" still hold true? Well, dating practices may change but human nature does not. Luxury product makers like Rolex know that the best way to make more money and to create mystique is to actually raise the price of a product and to limit the supply.
What exactly do we mean by "milk"? The milk that is given out for free all over the world is not just sex (as our grandmothers understood it). Milk is any number of benefits men get from being married. These include sex on a regular basis, companionship, and a wife who gets the car inspected. You basically need to have premarital sex to play the dating game in this day and age, but how much of the rest of your milk you give away is up to you.
Don’t give it all away or cheapen its value by becoming a wife before you actually have a husband; however, if you have already given too much away, you can use the tactics in this book to reclaim your power. It doesn’t matter if you live with a man or three thousand miles away from him. Remember that there is no shame in going after what you want or using tactics to achieve a goal. You do this every day in business and in your personal life, and any tools you learn here can be applied to a myriad of life situations. Business tactics win money and power, psychological tactics win hearts and minds, and military tactics win battles. Getting-him-to-propose tactics win husbands.
If you hate thinking of yourself as a cow with a milk supply of sex, companionship, and support to give away, get over it now. All of this is just a funny way to think about a very real problem. Also, get over the idea that pushing for marriage is somehow beneath you. I too worried that it was antifeminist to want marriage so much, and unromantic or manipulative to "wear him down." Well, does feminism say that you should be powerless in your personal life? That you should kick butt at work but be passive at home? Does feminism somehow advocate that life- altering events be solely the man’s decision? Does talking a guy into an institution that will make him healthier, wealthier, and happier seem wrong? Hell no. After getting over my initial concerns, I finally learned how to get what I desired, and the goal here is to teach you everything I learned.
The Get-Your-Man-to-Marry-You Plan presented here is perfect for you if you are in a long-term relationship or may find yourself in one in the next few years. Given the fact that the average American male is more afraid of commitment than of a twelve- month tour in Iraq, even if you are single now, you need to know this stuff. In general, a boyfriend is reluctant to begin what he sees as his lemminglike march to the sea of tulle, rice kernels, and pain. Your relationship may be solid, but he is just not in the same hurry you are. You feel the biological clock ticking, or you see your friends getting settled and registering for gravy boats, or you want to buy a condo. Unlike Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, whom you adore, you are conventional and would rather have children in wedlock. Your man loves you, but is just not keen on change. You, of course, are not trying to manipulate him into doing something that isn’t good for him; you are just showing the guy who loves the status quo like he loves a steak or a flat-screen TV, that marriage is not so scary. The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University surveyed men and reported that 94 percent of married guys are happier being hitched than being single. Men flourish in marriage, and don’t you want to help him flourish?
My tactics to trigger a proposal can help everyone, but you should be careful to pick and choose which ones you use if your boyfriend is not serious about you or, alternatively, your boyfriend is extremely serious and is about to propose. You shouldn’t start to push really hard just to shave a few weeks off the wait. Also, you must select tactics based on the unique personality of your man. All men are not the same, and any dating book that gives you a list of universal truths about men is full of it. This attitude is dangerous (not to mention stupid) and can lead you to try tactics that can backfire. So, evaluate and modify each potential tactic to speak specifically to him. This plan offers some general rules on human nature, but there are always exceptions. There are even situations in which the "what not to do" moves can actually work to your advantage. Men are complex creatures (note that "complex" can refer to anything with a brain larger than a golf ball). You know your guy better than anyone, so don’t doubt your instincts.
The plan also requires that you be willing to play tough. If while trying the tactics you discover that he won’t recant his antimarriage position, you have to be willing to walk. If you can continue indefinitely as Smithers to his Monty Burns rather than move on, then these tactics are not right for you. You must be committed enough to becoming his wife to risk becoming his ex-girlfriend. Men—like women—do want to get married eventually, but men would also keep us waiting for de cades if they could.
It is important to remember that society teaches men and women very different lessons about marriage, and we are socialized from a young age. You are up against very powerful social influences here. Let me explain. When we are around five years old, both boys and girls go to Disneyland. Once at the park, girls learn that the primary concern of every beautiful fairy princess is to land a handsome prince. Boys, on the other hand, learn that you can keep millions of people waiting for hours just by winding a long line around various distractions and curves. By extension, boys realize that girls will hang out forever if they think that the prize (i.e., marriage) is just around the corner. As we grow up, the Disney lessons remain. You desperately want a husband, and he knows exactly how to keep you waiting in line as you fry in the sun, hoping to get on the damn ride.
If you pick tactics wisely and be strong, this plan will help you avoid all the waiting. The advice shared here is based on the common, horse sense of my strong Russian grandmothers who, during the war years, managed to score numerous husbands because so many of the men died. Also, the anecdotes in this book are loosely based on my personal experience and the experiences of friends, acquaintances, and random strangers whom I interviewed.
Word of Caution
Before proceeding, you must be very careful to ensure that your man does not catch you reading, highlighting, or fondly caressing this book during a long slow dance. Don’t refer to it in conversations with him and don’t leave it in the beach bag or on the kitchen counter. He will thank me once he has the fabulous you, but for now, it could be a bit scary that you are so intense about marriage. Also, men (and people in general) like to feel like they made a decision for themselves, not as a result of subliminal messages or more overt pressure. If your boyfriend sees you reading this, he will know that the marriage thing was not his idea. When an idea is not your own, it is much easier to reject.
As you are reading, don’t let any of your friends tell you that this plan is antifeminist. Actually, it is about female empowerment. If the goal of feminism is choice, why shouldn’t you choose when you will get married—one of the biggest decisions in life—rather than wait forever for your boyfriend to figure out the obvious? The reality of the modern woman is that she reads the newspaper, but she usually starts with the wedding announcements. We may like The Economist, power tools, and hockey, but we also like Modern Bride, fondant, and taffeta. We should pursue all of our diverse interests and we can have it all. We have the right to be wooed, to be serenaded, and to be proposed to with skywriting. But we also have the right to decide when (approximately) the proposing will occur, because hey, some of us have to balance wedding planning with running the world.
The tactics described in this book do not use mind games or manipulation. What I am suggesting instead of "games" is that you slightly modify what you say or do if your behaviors are preventing you from reaching a goal. In life we are always changing our behavior, our tone, and our persuasive style to get what we want in a particular situation. You have to be yourself, but the tactics in this book will help you be your most desirable self! The Get-Your-Man-to-Marry-You Plan is about female empowerment, about taking control of your love life the way a Hollywood starlet takes control of her fat roll with a pair of Spanx. Taking action not only delivers results, but it is also therapeutic. In laboratory studies, animals without control quickly become depressed and prone to illness, because all of us (from the lab rat to the first lady) need to feel that we are masters of our own fate.
I am here only to help you find your path and remove barriers to what you know is a good decision for both of you. Working for this goal is just like applying for a job or taking the SATs. Think of the plan as your comprehensive study guide—or Princeton Review—to the MRS degree. If a Motown-medley-playing disc jockey is leaving the station at 2:04 P.M. and some gold Chiavari chairs are leaving at 4:10, how soon before you can buy a cream-colored Vera Wang with a sweetheart neckline? The answer is soon . . . very, very soon.
Excerpted from The Get-Your-Man-To-Marry-You Plan by Lori Uscher-Pines.
Copyright © 2008 by Lori Uscher-Pines.
Published in October 2008 by St. Martin’s Press
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.