Do you like shopping, but not dating? What if there was a way to make dating just like shopping? In “How to Shop for a Husband,” author and TODAY contributor Janice Lieberman uses her shopping and dating expertise to help you close the deal on the most important “purchase” of your life — your spouse.
My friends and I used to have a running joke: We wouldn’t date a guy if we didn’t like his shoes. I think it was my friend Roz who first pointed out the problem, but then we all fell in line. Geeky shoes were a nonnegotiable no-no, a reason to cross a guy off our unwritten, potential-husband list with no further explanation necessary. If a guy had cheap shoes, shiny shoes, shoes with high heels — pretty much any shoes that weren’t black or brown — he was a goner. Ixnay. No go. And you know those worn-out, mousy-brown, sort-of-fuzzy lace ups? As if!
One by one, my girlfriends managed to get over the shoe thing. They either found guys who wore good-enough shoes, or quickly improved the shoe wardrobe after marriage. My sister managed to find her future husband in summer camp, when they were both sixteen. But there I was, searching endlessly for the perfectly shod man. Looking back, I have to ask myself: was that any way to shop for a husband?
Of course, I had plenty of other reasons besides shoes for crossing guys off my PGHM (Perfectly Good Husband Material) list: boring, bad job, bad breath, bad mother. I have to admit I was kinda picky. There were plenty of pretty nice guys — guys with potential, guys who could, perhaps, have been gently molded into PGHMs — that I dismissed out of hand.
I would say to myself: shouldn’t a girl be picky? Why should a girl have to settle? And if I do settle, won’t I be miserable later on? This internal debate went on for years, while I dated what seemed like most of the eligible bachelors on the eastern seaboard.
There was the doctor who wanted me to room with his mother on vacation. The guy who slurped his yogurt. The ex from high school who always had a new motorcycle but never a job. I dated and dismissed, dated and dismissed, all the while longing for the man with the perfect shoes (and the perfect everything else).
Once in a while, I would meet a guy who seemed to be up to snuff, shoes and all. Somehow, though, the relationship would stagnate or stall, and end up going nowhere fast. Maybe, I would console myself, none of these guys was the one meant for me.
But where was he and why was this so freaking hard?
While my personal life floundered, I have to admit my professional life took off. In fact, the worse things got in the man department, the better they got at the office. Over time I worked my way up from covering stories for a local TV affiliate in Buffalo, New York, to becoming a consumer expert on national network news shows. For years, I anchored a daily TV show on CNBC, Steals and Deals, in which we showed the world how not to get scammed. On that show, we offered consumers rules for finding the best products, getting the best deals, and closing those deals on the most favorable terms. Then I joined NBC’s Today Show, where I became the consumer expert. For a little girl who grew up on Mary Tyler Moore, I was living the life I had dreamed of, the life I had worked so hard for, the life I so wanted.
But still, no husband. It felt like a big gaping hole in my otherwise very happy life. The bottom line was this: I was a shopping expert, but I didn’t know how to shop for a husband.
By the way: Does any of this sound familiar to you? I wouldn’t be surprised, because most of my girlfriends, not to mention my mother, were in the same boat as I was, adrift in the Sea of No Good Guys. They all had great jobs, great clothes, great friends, and could basically run the world. And they certainly know how to shop. They just couldn’t land a good deal on a guy.
After years of dating misery, I finally took matters in hand. After all, this was the most important shopping trip of my life, wasn’t it? And shopping was certainly a topic I knew a lot about. So I decided to approach dating in a smart, systematic way, as if I were making the purchase of a lifetime. Slowly but surely, and almost before I even realized it, I began to apply the rules I had learned as a consumer reporter — caveat emptor, don’t get scammed, learn where to shop, and know how to close a favorable deal — to shopping for a husband. I made a list of what I really wanted, I narrowed down the shopping venues to those that would really work for me, I consulted some experts who helped me get into a marriageable state of mind, and I figured out how to close the deal.
As it turns out, shopping for the typical consumer goods — a car, a bed, or a diamond ring — is really not that different from shopping for a guy. The laws of consumer behavior and protection really do apply beautifully to the dating scene. And not long after applying the “rules” — the rules of being an educated consumer, that is — they worked for me. Finally, after years of searching, I met and married Steve, a great guy who even has some really nice shoes. With the recent arrival of our second child, I can’t believe I spent all those years not knowing the how, what, and where of shopping for a husband.
I wrote this book because I don’t want you to waste time like I did. I’m over it, ladies, and I hope you are too. Get ready, because in the following chapters, I will show you how to make the rules of consumer behavior work for you in your dating life. After all, it makes sense: dating doesn’t need to be the part of your life in which all bets are off and you lose all of your otherwise rational thought processes. No matter how picky you are, you don’t need to be the kind of girl who has it all when it comes to her work life, or when it comes to her friends, or even when it comes to her children — but not when it comes to her love life. You don’t need to live a life in which your personal happiness is placed firmly on the back shelf with the expired canned goods.
In this book, we will take you through the entire husband-shopping process. First, we’ll set out the rules for picking out good husband material. What makes for a great, long-lasting relationship and how do we know it when we see it? Then, we’ll show you where to shop for that dream guy. Bars, the Internet, singles vacations, your workplace? Which are winners and which are losers? We’ve got the goods. Finally, we’ll give you the inside scoop on closing the deal and by that we mean ring, aisle, guest list, and honeymoon.
Just follow the rules of being a good consumer, listen to what the experts say, and I think you, too, will be very happy with the “purchase” you make. And you might even like his shoes.
Part I: What to Shop For
We get it. It’s easy to get stuck in the “dressing room of dating.”
Sure, at first, shopping for a husband can be lots of fun. There are so many different shapes and sizes for a girl to try on! But just like any other shopping trip, if you don’t get lucky right away, shopping for a guy can get pretty tiring, pretty fast.
Here’s how it usually goes: This one doesn’t quite fit around the hips, that one makes you look seriously frumpy, and the other one is waaaaaay too pricey. Before you know it — can somebody bring me a latte — you’ve tried on more than you can even remember, and you’re ready to call it a day. The pile on the dressing room floor has reached mountainous proportions and you’ve begun to feel as if you’ll never hear the register go “ka-ching!”
Well, that’s where we come in.
Ladies, it’s time to shop smart. Just think of us as your very own personal shoppers in this, the most important shopping expedition of your life. We’re here to teach you how to get a great buy on a guy — and to get you to that checkout counter, pronto.
So, listen up: Step number one to becoming a wise shopper in today’s dating marketplace, what we call the “meet market,” is learning exactly what to shop for in a man.
This may seem simple, but believe us, it’s not. Finding perfectly good husband material is no easy stroll through the mall these days.
A hundred years ago things were much more straightforward. A girl’s parents chose for her, or she selected an eligible man from a small group, narrowly circumscribed by social class, geographic location, and the value of her dowry. Period. This is still the tried-and-true method for finding a spouse in many cultures today, including parts of India, the Middle East and Japan (although nowadays the arranging often takes place by cell phone and instant messaging). A family meeting, a few chaste dates, and then wham! A walk down the aisle.
Are you thinking, Lucky them?
We hear you. The state of dating in America today is enough to make a girl wish the fine art of marriage arrangement weren’t a dying practice. A meddling yenta or a courtly coming-out party may sound pretty good if you’ve become a luckless, long-term Match.com constituent. OK, sure, a quick perusal of Anna Karenina’s or Madame Bovary’s miserable marriages will set you straight about the good ol’ days, but there is something to be said for rules, criteria, parameters, and traditions when it comes to dating.
Unfortunately, in our world, all bets are off. Here’s the harsh truth: it’s a free-for-all out there. After all, anyone is possible dating material, you can meet that special someone anywhere, and when you do, anything can happen. Sure, your choices are almost limitless and the male marketplace is global. This should be a good thing, right? Age, race, and social background may be a consideration, but they are definitely not the insurmountable boundaries they once were. This newfound freedom in dating is not something we’re really willing to give up, but it certainly does make dating more baffling than it has ever been.
The questions abound: What should you be looking for in a man and how will you know him when you see him? What makes a guy a keeper and who should be tossed out with yesterday’s half-eaten Caesar salad?
Okay, no freaking out allowed! Let’s think rationally. When the sky’s the limit in choosing a husband, then you have to make your own criteria. So let’s look at this as wise consumers:
Q: What do you do when you’re setting out on any other important shopping spree?
A: You make a list. A shopping list.
If you’re willing to put pen to paper to make a trip to the supermarket, why in the world wouldn’t you do it for a husband?
Our advice is this: make a list of the most important characteristics you are looking for in a man. Sounds good, right?
Before you start, read on. We don’t want you to make just any list. We’ve seen that one: smart, funny, and handsome. Blah, blah, and blah. Just wake us up when you’re done, OK?
We want you to make a list of qualities that really, truly count — your very own PGHM (Perfectly Good Husband Material) shopping list — and we’re going to help you out.
We’ve done the legwork for you, ladies, and we’ve uncovered exactly what it takes to be PGHM. We’ve also discovered why we women so often don’t recognize PGHM when we see it. Let us help you write your very own shopping list that will help you get married to the right guy, on the double.
First, we’re going to tell you why you are stuck in the dressing room of dating and not hearing the register ring. Then, we’ll show you what really makes a guy a keeper.
Once you learn what really constitutes PGHM, you’ll be ready to make your own shopping list.
Then you can hit the stores.
You don’t have to thank us. It’s our pleasure to shop with you!
Excerpted with permission from “How to Shop for a Husband” by Janice Lieberman (St. Martin’s Press).
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive