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‘How to Shop for a Husband’

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Consumer affairs expert’s new shopping guide offers tips on life’s most important ‘buy’ 
04/21/2009

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Ignore the shoes; focus on the ‘guts’


When Janice Lieberman was single and dating, she put a lot of stock in what kind of shoes her potential suitor was wearing.

As the Consumer Smarts correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show” and former host of the consumer affairs show “Steals and Deals” on CNBC, Lieberman had been living an exciting life with a successful career. Yet, she was missing a loving husband to share it all with, which made the rest of her life seem a little less fabulous. “I was single for way too long and I was going nowhere with my dating life,” she said. “I had the perfect job and the perfect everything, but when you come home to an empty house, the job doesn’t seem so exciting.”

After many years of dating anguish and “writing off guys for stupid reasons,” Lieberman, who is Jewish and lives in New Jersey, decided that footwear doesn’t matter in a mate and neither do many of the other attributes on her previous “shopping list” for a husband. What counts, she says, is the content of his character.

So she altered her list to consider the fundamentals that really matter in a partner—the “good guts,” as she calls them—like how good a friend he is, how he treats his mother, and how polite he is to restaurant staff.

Then, about seven years ago, she met Steve—who she says has “good guts”—in a Torah study class and, six months later, married him when she was on the wrong side of 35.

In her new book, How to Shop for a Husband: A Consumer Guide to Getting a Great Buy on a Guy (St. Martin’s Press; $22.95), coming  out this May, Lieberman couples her expertise as a consumer reporter with her personal knowledge of the dating marketplace to guide other women as they make the most important “buy” of their life—their spouse.

In the consumer guide, written with Bonnie Teller, Lieberman uses shopping principles to formulate rules that will help women choose a spouse and “close the deal.” The book provides a shopping list that women can use to hunt for their ultimate bargain and highlights potential pitfalls and the most important rules of the dating (and marriage) game.

The ‘Picky Generation’

Lieberman labels her current “shoppers” as the “Picky Generation.” People can customize the “perfect” anything—their Starbucks, their iPod playlists, and even their “Build-a-Bear” teddy bears for their kids, but it doesn’t stop there. “Our predilection for the personalized, the customized, the made-to-order, and the all-around, generally perfect has bled into our search for a soul mate,” she writes.

In researching her book, Lieberman met people who have rejected potential mates for reasons including the following: “Poor grammar,” “thinks Olive Garden is fine dining,” “had never heard of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and “didn’t know that Houston Street in Manhattan is pronounced “how-ston,” not “hue-ston.”

She advises people to be selective, but not picky in choosing a mate. People need to learn to compromise, but not to settle. “We have a million things to check off [such as in online dating] about going to the movies and taking walks on the beach, but what does that really mean?” says Lieberman. “You need to be selective about the qualities that count—the goodness in a person.”

Dating sage Charles Grodin

Back when Lieberman was single, her friend, TV personality and CNBC colleague Charles Grodin, started a campaign on his talk show to get Lieberman married.

He asked her on air what she was looking for in a husband and she rattled off a list of five descriptors: “Smart, good-looking, wealthy, athletic, and a sense of humor.” Every few weeks, he would invite Lieberman back on the show for dating updates. She went out with a lot of men, but still couldn’t meet Mr. Right.

Ironically, her future husband Steve’s father heard about Grodin’s campaign and urged Steve to call in and ask her out, but Steve refused because he worried that “she’ll think I’m a stalker.”

At the end of the failed dating campaign, Grodin suggested to Lieberman that she was searching for the wrong five things on her shopping list and suggested five more: “You want somebody who loves you, cares about your family, somebody you can trust, who is kind, and who wants children,” he explained. Grodin later told Lieberman that the most important thing to look for in a prospective spouse is a good disposition. You never know how time and circumstance will change a person, but one thing that generally stays the same is a person’s disposition, “so pick a spouse,” he says, “who is kind and pleasant.” Eventually, his advice paid off and she met Steve.

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Janice Lieberman’s “shopping list” may just lead you to Mr. Right

Shopping tips for single Jewish women

Now, happily married with two sons—ages 6 and almost 1—Lieberman recommends the following shopping tips to single women:

1. Ignore the packaging. Learn how to discriminate between legitimate reasons to cross a guy off the list and those that will lead to buyer’s remorse.
2. Avoid scams and sleazy sales pitches in men.
3. Shop in the men’s department. Go to where the guys are, such as Home Depot, the Apple Store, and fly-fishing vacations.
4. Shop alone. “If there is one dress on sale and you both want it, that’s an issue,” Leiberman explains. “This applies to dating as well.”
5. Tell everyone to set you up. You never know who has a nice, single Jewish friend.
6. Finally, alterations are fine. “You don’t want to go into a relationship and need someone to change completely,” says Lieberman. “But a few minor alterations are OK, just like that classic little black dress. If it needs a hem, that’s fine, but if it needs major re-altering, leave it on the shelf.”

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