Still single? Well, it's probably all your own fault. Suzanne Harrington looks at a theory currently doing the rounds
Excuse me! You there! Yes you, Miss. The lady without the wedding ring. The single lady. Why are you still not married? Why are you still on the shelf, unclaimed, unwedded, still negotiating life without someone else's surname or the prefix 'Mrs'?
A new book called 'Why You're Not Married ... Yet' says that it's because you're a shallow, godless bitch slut who hates herself.
You're mad as a box of frogs, terminally disorganised, a total liar and deeply selfish. In fact, you might as well be a bloke, so rubbish are you at being properly feminine.
This is according to Tracy McMillan, an American television writer who has just published a book-length version on an idea she originally published online for the 'Huffington Post'.The post went viral, becoming the site's most viewed article ever.
"All through your 20s you were fine -- working, shopping, getting drunk on the weekends, and having sex with your boyfriend or whomever," she writes.
"Then something happened. Another birthday, maybe. A break-up. Your best friend's wedding. And as you made your way to the altar, looking at a groom who wasn't yours, you found yourself, for the first time ever, having something -- feelings? -- about the craziest thing: why you're not married. Why you're not even close."
McMillan tells us about her own messed-up childhood and inability to maintain long-term relationships. She has been married three times herself, so knows what she is talking about.
"In my decades of dating and marrying, I have screwed up so many right relationships and chased after so many wrong ones that I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't," she writes.
"Now I'm like a jailhouse lawyer who's done so much work on my own case that I can help you with yours. I know what you're doing wrong because I've done it."
McMillan is working on the premise that you want to get married and have babies. Finding a chap is easy, she says, because there are "zillions" of them out there.
"The question is, how come you're not marrying any of them?"
Quoting Madonna ('Open Your Heart'), McMillan says that "if you're not married and you want to be, you need to express more love. Not get more love. Express it. Feel it. Be it".
And stop being a bitch, for Chrissakes! Your anger and fear are keeping you single. The very idea of being nice to a man makes you furious; and all men want is someone to be nice to them.
Nice includes "sex, laughing, and occasionally --but not to the point of oppression or anything -- cooking a meal, folding laundry, or doing something else he's too lazy to do for himself. Just because you love him. That's what nice is", she says.
Conversely, you're a bitch if a man wanting that kind of stuff makes you angry. Men want you to be sweet. They won't marry you if you are not. In order to be sweet (as well as sexy, clever, dynamic, witty), you'll have to address your anger and fear by being nice, which can involve cooking nice dinners -- this is nurturing and sends out good signals -- and being sexually available.
Forgive people who have hurt you in the past, and by letting go of old hurts, you write a new script for yourself, thus making yourself sweeter, nicer and more marriageable.
"Men don't mind powerful, they don't mind fabulous. What they mind is emotionally unstable, annoying, scary, bitter, cold and, above all, unloving," explains McMillan.
But no matter how sweet you are, it still won't work if you are shallow. Shallow is having a list of what you want in a man, which is objectifying and dehumanising.
"If you're a woman who wants a man of a certain height, or a wallet of a certain thickness, or with a particular kind of job, education or family background, you are not really any different from the man who wants a woman with big boobs or blonde hair," she says.
And don't be a slut either. Being a slut means having "any sex outside a committed relationship".
Although McMillan doesn't mind if you have casual sex -- she's not here to moralise -- she says that it is "probably the biggest lie ever", and that, for women, "casual sex is like recreational heroin -- it doesn't stay recreational for long".
Apparently, your hormones will bond you to whichever cad, cheater or otherwise unavailable bounder with whom you are carousing, but this doesn't happen with men, who "could have sex with you for 1,000 years and it would never produce the feeling of being 'in love'".
Men don't marry women who like casual sex as much as men do. So stop having sex with anyone except yourself.
"Develop a sexual relationship with yourself that means as much to you as one you would have with a man," McMillan suggests.
"That way, when a man does come along, he joins a party that is already in progress."
So you're sweet, not shallow, and have sworn off sex. But what if you're crazy? McMillan advises you to deal with your inner crazies in order to make yourself more eligible. "It's scientifically proven," she says, that men "just can't handle it."
What, exactly, can't they handle? "Crazy is about intensity," she writes.
"It's about being out of control emotionally; acting against your own best interests in your relationships; stoking lots of drama; being needy, easily hurt, jealous, insecure, and/or other psychological states of being men are not looking for in the mother of their children.
"It also includes eating disorders or crying after sex," she adds.
Deal with these aspects of yourself or you will never get a husband -- unless he had a crazy mother, but even then he may not wish to relive the experience.
And as well as going to therapy, get a hobby, so that the focus on your relationship becomes less all-consuming. McMillan suggests ice skating or joining a band.
"It's your dependence on men that's causing you to act crazy," she says.
But sanity will get you nowhere if you are selfish. "Selfishness is when you approach men in terms of yourself -- how they make you feel, how they make you look, what they'll bring to your life or what they won't," McMillan writes.
"You're going to have to change. The spiritual remedy to selfishness is service. Service is what marriage is all about."
She does not mean going geisha, but is talking about service in a 12-steppy kind of way.
"Be a better person," she says. Which means not being a mess-- "get your s**t together".
Imagine your future husband is secretly spying on you. "What is he seeing? Your messy room? Your secret ice-cream binge? Your one-night stand?"
McMillan says that being a mess is being a drag for other people. "Being a mess is about having issues. This is behavioural, emotional or psychological stuff serious enough that it is standing in the way of your getting married.
"Maybe you drink a whole bottle of wine every night, or eat too much, or have a weird sexual twist."
Or are in debt, clean too much, or don't get on with your mother, she continues. Here's what to do: "Go back to therapy, join a 12-step group, go to the doctor, cancel the satellite TV, get acupuncture, call the credit counselling people," McMillan advises.
Especially if you hate yourself. "You think you're not good enough, and it's getting in the way of letting someone into your life," she says. "Learn to love yourself. Because you can only love someone else as much as you love yourself."
Say it out loud to yourself. Go on. In the mirror. McMillan has done this. "I love you Tracy," she told her reflection. "Men are like mirrors," she adds. And what about if you are a liar? Stop lying to yourself about the eligibility of the man you fancy and face up to the truth about him.
"He's married. He's 19. He watches porn three hours a day. He has a needle dangling out of his arm. He's got a major poker problem," McMillan says.
"Whatever it is, he's busy. A less delusional women would immediately reject him. but not you. You think you're going to hang in there until the problem is solved -- most likely by you."
Also, telling a chap you're happy to be his squeeze when really you want to be his wife counts as lying, as does not telling your friends that he's a serial killer you're writing to in jail.
McMillan advises against rationalising, minimising, justifying or denying a man's behaviour; it's the slippery slope, she says.
"Do you sometimes feel like if it weren't for sex, you would have no real need for a man?" she asks.
"Listen to Beyonce songs -- the women in them are utterly self-reliant. They make money, they buy their own stuff, they have sex with men, and when they're done, they tell the men to go home."
This is not feminine behaviour and will not get you married, according to McMillan. You are the egg, men are the sperm -- only one egg a month, millions of sperm a day. This is a metaphor, by the way.
Let the man do the work, McMillan says. Be feminine, be the prize. "Men feel empowered -- in a good way -- by a woman who is grounded in her Feminine [side]," she says, adding that "a happy wife is a happy life".
McMillan's final piece of advice is to find a god. Because you're godless. "If you could change on your own, you already would have," she says.
Not 'God' per se -- "I don't mean a bearded dude in the sky who is watching you all the time," she says.
No, she's talking about a 12-step higher power, which she calls a 'spirit' -- non-denominational and of your own imagining.
"Don't make men your higher power," she warns. "They don't want the job, and besides, they're bad at it." In her epilogue, McMillan tells us that just a month after publishing a shorter version of her own advice in the 'Huffington Post', she met a man with a beard (not God) and fell in love.
"I am everything in this book," she enthuses. "For the past six months I have been writing this thing while living this thing. As for marriage? After eight months of relationship, it's really too soon to say ... but we're talking about it."
While McMillan doesn't slide from self-help to self-harm by advocating settling (as does Lori Gottlieb in 'Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough') -- when we all know that settling is strictly for pints of stout -- she might want to read Laura Kipnis's 'The Female Thing' before she walks up the aisle again.
'The Female Thing' looks at how man-made concepts of femininity undermine feminism, and how women seem to have this destructive, inbuilt thing that makes us peck away at ourselves in our unending quest for unattainable perfection.
From our toenails to our eyebrows to our friendships and relationships, we are never quite good enough. But for whom?
The self-help industry is built upon this female thing of eternal dissatisfaction with ourselves, as are the diet and beauty industries -- the former focusing on our internal flaws, the latter on our external. Because there's gold in them there flaws.
Whereas everybody knows that men are perfect.
OTHER REASONS YOU’RE NOT MARRIED
You’re busy — maintaining a committed relationship is time-consuming and can be tiresome. Life is short.
You’re fussy — you have a lovely home, and excellent taste. You’re welleducated, earn plenty and are selfactualised. Why screw up all that?
You’re happy — you love your work, your friends, your kids (newsflash: you don’t need to be married to have kids) and live a fulfilling life. You don’t need ‘completing’.
You like sex — not always with the same person. Why give up variety and, ultimately, sex itself, in order to be married? (Because we all know that married people don’t have sex — at least not with each other).
You’re just not that into it — the idea of a white dress makes your throat constrict. You’re in a committed relationship — with yourself.