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 others, and perhaps some won't budge in the slightest, but ultimately, what determines the course of the relationship is how much she's willing to compromise on that template. (Men's selectivity is somewhat less linear, I think.) I don't want to get all Mick Jaggery here, but he was right: you can't always get what you want. Still, some do seem to get what they need.

Posted at 10:27 AM to Table for One


TrackBack: 11:43 PM, 7 January 2003
» Carnival of the Vantities #16 - The New year's Resolution Edition, Redux from The Eleven Day Empire
Before we say anything else, we will bow to tradition and give thanks to the Glorious Leader who gave figurative...[read more]

The plumber and the art historian might have a lot to talk about if the plumber also happens to be interested in art, or if both have some other mutual interest.

When I read: "...most women felt that there were some men "out there" who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them." I was reminded of a funny little exchange between my son and a friend of his when she was at our house a few weeks ago. I wasn't really listening so I don't know what the argument was about but this statement popped out at me. She said, "I'm considered a hard-core intellectual." Obviously anyone who would say that could not be an intellectual but if you had been around this girl for no more than half an hour you would know how hilarious that statement really is. To put it bluntly, she is a whiney, clueless little twit.

The reason I thought of that is, I wonder if all those women complaining about men being scared off by smart women are really as smart as they think they are.

Posted by: Lynn at 3:35 PM on 2 January 2003

The sad thing is, though, that girl could very well be considered a "hard-core intellectual" by little twits whinier and more clueless than she. In a brain-dead world, the twitching man is king.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at 3:57 PM on 2 January 2003

I am going to have to read this book. It seems right up my alley. The excuse, "I can't get dates because men are intimidated by my intellectual prowess" is much preferable to "Men don't like me because of my sparkling personality." My own theory is that the single, 30 something male is single for a reason. If he had something to offer, he would have been snatched up years ago.

Posted by: Donna at 4:39 PM on 2 January 2003

This is not necessarily the case.

It could be that this freewheeling 30-something (or, for that matter, 20-, 40-, 50-, or some other something) male is single, possibly again, because he didn't quite fit the aforementioned Mate Template by a point here or there and got cut loose. Maybe she really didn't know what she wanted or was unrealistic or, as was mentioned, very inflexible in her wants.

If she's decided it's over, unfortunately, there ain't one damn thing he can do to change her mind, particularly if she's the inflexible type.

He may have quite a lot to offer, just not to the one (or ones) that have tried him for fit in that template.

On the other hand, maybe the problem is -hers-.

Posted by: Steve at 7:35 PM on 2 January 2003

Weeding out the phony pseudointellectuals from the real pseudointellectuals is a full-time job in itself.

My real gripe, though, is with the notion that there is someone for everyone. Some people simply can't be matched up with any degree of success, no matter how much they, um, twitch.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:54 AM on 3 January 2003

I'm quite sure that there is someone for everyone.

I'm equally sure that mine won't be born for another 250 years, or was born and died 250 years ago.

I thought I'd found her....twice. My track record sucks.

Posted by: Steve at 10:28 PM on 3 January 2003

Steve, you sound bitter. Women have tons of dating/relationship self-help books. Maybe it's time for one from the masculine perspective.

Posted by: Donna at 12:03 PM on 4 January 2003

Aw, come on, Donna. Guys actually reading the instructions? Next thing, you'll want us to ask directions. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 2:12 PM on 4 January 2003

Maybe it would have helped if either of them had read one.

Bitter? I don't think so.

Hurt? Yes!

Lonely? Entirely too.

Me? Write a book about something I am -this- bad at? Who are you trying to kid?

That's funnier than Bill Clinton on Fidelity.

Posted by: Steve at 9:33 PM on 4 January 2003

Oooh. Mick Jaggery. That one will end up in the dictionary, for sure!

Man, I'm glad to be 32 years past dealing trying to forge a relationship. I got married and didn't have to worry about that anymore. Just kidding.

Posted by: fredf at 5:33 AM on 8 January 2003

Actually, I consider that the solution closest to ideal — but getting there, while it may be half the fun, is certainly more than half the work.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:31 AM on 8 January 2003

I am 30 and with having a twin married at 23 and a older borther married at 30 (*now 36*), I look back and it is starting to worry me. Most of my relationship failures have been because women did not know what they wanted. The last was a women whom, having only dated a few men, and dating me for 3.5 years was worried she might miss out on something. So she took a separate path. I warned that there was very little chance of going back. My feeling is that love is a magic of its own and all the set of circumstances that brought the two of you togather will probably not happen again. The other things I have to say is that I do have female friends with whom I have GREAT conservations with, but they are NOT interestined in the nice guys. They seem to be attracted to men whom they want to change. Its sad to see, and even hard to take, because you want to point out the obvious, be we all know that doen't work. Anyway thanks for the time.
-Jason

Posted by: Jason Watts at 6:16 PM on 8 January 2003

"Weeding out the phony pseudointellectuals from the real pseudointellectuals is a full-time job in itself." You can say that again LOL

I like the "Mate Template®" theory - it fits pretty well with my personal experience. For instance, I met my wife via an, ahem, "Internet Dating Service", so of course we both had our 'templates' pretty well defined and 'out there'. We matched very well on those, and things clicked from there on. But I can't count the times when I will do something (fix a nagging PC problem, auto repair, cooking, washing clothes) and she will say, "That's another reason I married you - it was on my 'list'". So, it turns out that there was a much longer 'list' than just what was in the public profile - I just happened to match it perfectly ;)

As for me, my criterion were pretty simple (not to be confused with 'easy'): High intelligence, strong spiritual beliefs and values, emotional stability (relatively speaking ), nice smile and positive outlook. Most everything else was negotiable. I am firm believer that relationships are 10% attraction and 90% interaction - a commitment to make it work. So far we have.

BTW, I didn't marry until I was 31.

Posted by: Wylie in Norman at 2:38 PM on 10 January 2003

Sounds good to me. I have not been particularly fortunate in this realm, which I attribute mostly to inexplicable (to me, anyway) spates of personal cluelessness. (When I get dumb, I get really dumb.) I got married at 24, at least partly based upon the dubious premise that this was likely going to be the only shot I was going to get. It didn't last, of course. And I derive no comfort from having demonstrated prescience in this matter.

Posted by: CGHill at 4:24 PM on 10 January 2003