The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

2 January 2003

A few good men

Sometimes I schedule a book for future reading on the basis of the title, and the title doesn't have to resonate positively, either; Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman, a title I would love to hate on general principle, will simply have to be read.

In the meantime, the author has been interviewed for Atlantic Unbound, and some of her observations did strike me at, um, interesting angles.

Several women mentioned that at times in their life they felt that their intelligence or intellectual achievement seemed to work against them in their romantic relationships with men, but most women felt that there were some men "out there" who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them.

The inference, as I see it: all else being equal, we guys would prefer to be the brains of the operation. This is certainly true of some of us; historically, I have often been drawn to women of greater intelligence than mine, but there's always that nagging thought in the back of my mind: "If she's that smart, what in the world would she want with the likes of me?" The author does in fact touch upon this phenomenon; asked if some men felt they "were being spurned because they aren't impressive enough", she replied:

[S]ome men did, yes, but they tended not to be four-year college graduates. They were guys who were not quite so well-educated and felt that many women looked down on them.

I think there's more to it than that — I don't think I'd be any more desirable (or, more precisely, any less undesirable) with a sheaf of postgraduate degrees — but frankly, what would a plumber have to say to an art historian? Or, for that matter, what would an art historian have to say to a plumber?

[T]he standard for someone who you'd want to spend your life with hinges much more today on emotional intimacy. It takes some trial and error and a pretty prolonged and dedicated search to identify the kind of person who is emotionally in sync with you and who is able to communicate and listen to trouble talk.

And when there is a perceived socioeconomic gulf, the ability to communicate becomes even more critical; the lack of common experience means that more often than not they'll be scratching around for conversational topics. According to the standard stereotype, men don't really want to talk about things, and maybe there's some truth to that, but the man who can't talk, I suspect, is no real improvement over the man who won't talk.

Women, I have always believed, have a Mate Template of sorts, and whether a man has any chance with her depends on how closely he conforms to the standards she has proposed. Some points are more negotiable than other