I first heard about this concept on the Huffington Post in this article by Christine Whelan. She descirbed Hannah Seligson’s new book as a “well-researched and cleverly written pop-sociology self-help book.” I agree with the well-researched part; cleverly written I can argue with. I want to go ahead and get this scruple out of the way: she has numerous grammar and spelling mistakes. Perhaps she was afraid someone else was going to steal the terminology before she could make it as popular as “tweeting,” but Ms. Seligson really needs to fire her editor. The mistakes were so balatant at times that they distracted me from the entire page’s message. I could understand if it were a blog, or even a newspaper article, and she claims to have written for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but this is a book. I would suggest trying to impress the readers a little bit more, especially since the target demographic appears to be “upwardly mobile, college-educated twenty- and thirty- somethings living in urban areas” (5).
That being said, I throughly enjoyed this book’s concept about a new group emerging in soceity; a group of young adults that aren’t hooking up but also aren’t settling down. They’re “A Little Bit Married” (ALBMs as Seligson abbreviated) and they’re content, most of the time, staying right where they are – usually living with their significant other, no plans of engagement and enjoying all the benefits of being married without many of the drawbacks. It’s a stage that more and more young adults are entering into, and Seligson finally finds a way to define what has been such a mysterious passage into adulthood over the last decade.
Personally, I have yet to be ALBM, but it looks like soon I may be headed there. Already my boyfriend and I match up to many of the criteria Seligson lists: we go on each other’s family vacations, we’d move for each other if our jobs required it, we don’t have plans to get married any time soon and we may soon live together in D.C. So to say I didn’t love this book because I could relate to it is an understatement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading passages such as this one: “What emerges here is that men, understandably, want to enjoy their “youth” and have some version of commitment without commitment – to have freedom to go out and “do what they want,” as many men explained it” (33). In this Chapter she describes what it’s like to date Peter Pan – the boy that never wants to grow up – and when I read that, I could only think about the millions of times my boyfriend has said to me “I’m terrified of getting old… I’ll never grow up… I’ll always be a boy.” Now of course he doesn’t mean he doesn’t want any responsibility. But it also doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be miserable if he couldn’t drink a keg in a night with his boys just for the fun of it or play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (what does it tell you that I know about that game?) for a couple hours to wind down. Granted, Ryland has done a lot of growing up since we first met over four years ago during my freshman year of college, but I don’t think I’d want someone right now who was too focused on responsibility and marriage – mainly because I’m not there yet myself. Between finding a job, moving to my dream city, trying to figure out bills, credit scores and taxes (oh my god, dreaded tax season…) I don’t want any of those big responsibilities either… so I think we’ll happily stay “A Little Bit Married” for a while longer.
As far as the book goes, I’ve found it’s hard to explain the concept. I tried explaining it to my boyfriend and my mom, but I think people just need to read it. It’s educational, entertaining and a very quick read, so it’s really worth it to pick it up on a Friday and have it done by Monday’s first meeting. So to keep myself from not being able to write anything really constructive (aka: a proper review) I made some notes while reading of things I liked, things that I would have changed or questions I had:
1. Good data from reliable sources: The back of the book contains a full notes section that I appreciated because now I have extra reading if I want to delve into this topic a bit further. Most of the good data comes from doctors, sociologists, psychologists, etc from well known schools, so we know we can trust it. For example, two things I’m glad I know now: “…the odds of divorce among women who married their only cohabiting partner were 28 percent lower than among women who never cohabitated before marriage” (75). Basically, it’s better to cohabitate once and marry that person than it is to have multiple living partners before marrying. Another is: “It’s surpising how little discussion of ‘we-ness’ factors into the moving-in conversation… couples need to uncork topics like what if they got pregnant, are they going to split the household expenses evenly, and general expectations surrounding gender roles and sex” (79). I appreciated the advice that I got from multiple sources, and I feel more prepared to have conversations in the future with my boyfriend about living together.
2. Tries to show multiple sides: While this book, written by a woman, is mainly geared toward women, Seligson tries to include men interviewees’ stories and what men might be thinking in situations instead of always using the woman’s perspective.
3. Surprisingly well organized: I can tell Seligson had a good thesis for every paper she wrote in college. Each chapter is well defined and keeps on topic; of course, some information has to overlap, but she did a good job with using old information in a new way.
4. All these questions are leaving me with more questions: My copy is already littered with notes in the margins, and I’m sure when I refer back to this book either in future discussions with my boyfriend (who is reading the book on our way up to NYC) or with girlfriends, I will make more notes about my own findings or stories/questions that my friends had.
5. As I said earlier, this book was written for a specific demographic and I loved that. It’s not a wide ranging book by any means, but a Detroit paper “came close to calling the rise of cohabiting couples an epidemic” – over 5 million opposite-sex couples in the United States live together outside of marriage (16) – meaning that this book is geared toward a certain group, and that group is growing each year as people choose to be ALBM over being fully married or alone.
Overall, I recommend this book whole-heartedly. It’s a great tool to have if you’ve been dating someone for a while and may be considering living together or getting engaged. I also think it’s great for any woman to read, no matter what their status is, because I think Seligson’s tone is empowering for women. Strong and independent, she endorses love but also encourages conversations and a thought process to the second biggest decision of our lives – will you be A Little Bit Married with me? I do.
(Note: I bought my copy on sale here. Amazon recommended “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, so I bought them like the sucker I am for sales. Both will be reviewed in the near future also.)