Sunday, October 18, 2009
Like Glenn, I’ve got my quibbles about the rankings… but not that many quibbles!
Like Glenn, I’ve got my quibbles about the rankings… but not that many quibbles!
At least, you should consider it if you’re desperate to get married and you don’t want to “settle.” Here’s why.
After consultation with experts — by which I mean a late-night conversation with friends who are not remotely close to being authorities — I have determined that ladder theory is fully compatible with Austrian economics, vis-a-vis the subjective theory of value.
According to ladder theory, the primary the goal of any person seeking a relationship is to maximize the attractiveness (broadly defined to include both physical and non-physical characteristics) of his or her partner. The problem, of course, is that if both partners are pursuing this strategy the only equilibrium is when two people with precisely equal attractiveness levels find each other. And I’m not talking about a 6 on the standard 10-point scale finding another 6, I’m talking about a 6.34987394 finding another 6.34987394, because that would be the equilibrium point with the lowest probability of defection.
Fortunately, the subjective theory of value resolves this problem. If I were an objective 6 it would be difficult for me to maintain a relationship with an objective 8, because she would always feel like she was on the worse end of this deal. However, there’s no such thing as an objective 6; there may be a consensus 6 but the 6 won’t hold in all cases — and that’s what makes the magic possible. Say I’m a consensus 6 but the girl in question perceives me as an 8 because her preference set happens to match my attributes, and and she’s a consensus 6 but I perceive her as an 8 for the same reason, we can both feel like we staged a coup.
So in short, the market for attractiveness works just like any other market: a voluntary transaction is mutually beneficial and value-creating because individuals have differing preferences. Thank you, Austrian economics, for justifying yet another of my many theories about women.
Pajamas suck, and I will now explain why.
By and large, women wear pajamas, and men do not. I know of almost no men who wear, or even own, a pair of pajamas. Of the ones I do know, none of them are single. I don’t see why men would wear pajamas, as they represent a wholly unnecessary change of clothes. The opportunity to have another change of clothes each day is perhaps reason enough for women to enjoy pajamas, but there seems to be something more to it than that. Not that I have figured out what that is. But regardless of the rationale, pajamas suck on metaphorical grounds.
For men, the “sofa state” — the state in which men commonly exist when they are sitting on the sofa with no immediate plans — is usually something like a t-shirt and jeans or shorts. Approximate time to prep for bed: 5 minutes. Approximate time to prep to go out: 5 minutes. Even if a sweater or socks are involved, the marginal difference in time commitment is small.
As best I can tell, the “sofa state” for women is something like pajamas, pastel-colored socks, and a stuffed animal. But even if I’m wrong about the socks and stuffed animal, the operative difference is what takes place in order to change into pajamas. Approximate time to prep for bed: 5 minutes. Approximate time to prep to go out: 45 minutes. And therein lies the pajamas rub: they create poor disincentives for women to behave spontaneously.
It’s a simple incentive problem, really. A man sitting on the sofa could just as easily be persuaded to go out as to go to bed, because the effort required to do either is negligible. By contrast, a woman who has gotten into her pajamas has probably taken off her makeup, removed her contacts, put her hair in a pony tail, and put on her warm footies. It would take quite the incentive to get her to put herself back together and come out. The transaction costs of the outing are simply too high.
We can observe this in practice by noting how early women tend to set their plans relative to men, and what happens when they do not. I would put the chance that the average guy has figured out his Saturday evening plans by 7pm at 50%. For women, I estimate it at closer to 90%. Let’s say there are no plans established by midnight: what are the chances of calling the guy up and getting him to come out on the fly? I’d again say 50%, maybe even higher. For women? 10% and plummeting rapidly. The reason? Pajamas!
Okay, so maybe the PJs themselves are not an impedement to female social promiscuity, but rather a proxy or metaphor for behavior that would be equally likely if women slept in boxers and t-shirts. But the larger point is there’s a clear difference here between women — who at some point decide to “shut down” for the night even if it’s well before bedtime — and men, who just kind of come home and chill out until they literally run out of things to do or get so tired they could no longer engage in functional activity anyhow. And no, I don’t think the difference can be explained by how much longer it takes women to get ready. If that were the variable, women would sit on their sofas in t-shirts and sweatpants and wait till the bitter end to make bedtime maneuvers they are unlikely to reverse — and some women do. But once the pajamas come out, the death warrant for evening festivities has been signed.
And this clearly represents an inefficiency of sorts. It would be one thing if only married women and high school girls were the pajama-wearing culprits, but I know plenty of twentysomething single women who seem just a little too excited when they get a new pair. This ought to illicit, in single men, a hearty groan. The only single women who should get a pass on this behavior are attractive social neophytes: the ladies who are never without a dozen options of parties, club-going groups, or dates, so if they decide to PJify themselves it’s because they know the options are out there and made the early choice to spend the evening with Carrie and Samantha.
As for the rest? I recommend ditching the PJs. They hinder spontaneity and sociability in a world where time is scarce. And they usually look stupid too.
I’ve written before about why I dislike Sex and the City. Well, I was skimming Versus, a culture-themed Vanderbilt student publication, today and stumbled across a column by Brandon Heriford saying what I probably would have said if I had decided to write about liking SATC. So, quick plug for him for saving me the time.
I have plenty of opinions about this, but for now all I want to do is link to this article I’ve been meaning to share for a few weeks. A teaser:
Pop culture abounds with examples of friends who’ve navigated (or attempted to navigate) the path to romance. Think “Friends,” in which Monica and Chandler get together. And “Little Women,” when Laurie longs for childhood pal Jo March. Or, most famously, “When Harry Met Sally . . .,” which explores the muddy waters of sexual tension to determine if, in fact, men and women can be friends.
So let’s start with that controversial question: Can men and women be friends? I mean, can they really be just friends? Okay, yeah. Yes. And yet:
“All friendships, even same-sex ones, have ambiguous and changing boundaries,” says Linda Sapadin, a clinical psychologist and author of “Now I Get It! Totally Sensational Advice for Living and Loving” (Outskirts Press, 2006). “You may think somebody’s a best friend, and they just consider you a casual friend. How it’s perceived is not always the same.”
In other words: Your perspective can shift. Suddenly you see a friend as desirable, but he or she still sees you as only a friend. Which leaves you with two choices, Sapadin says: You can try to change it to a romantic relationship. Or you can learn to live with it so that there’s flirtatious banter — footsie, anyone? — but nothing else.
By the way, I can’t wait for the He’s Just Not That Into You movie, in spite of the fact that I just know it’s going to have an unrealistically happy ending. Here’s the courageous ending: the hottest woman gets her dream guy, a couple of them “settle” for someone average and dependable, and the rest, after seeing the hot woman get her dream guy, hold out well into their 30’s, spend a few years as cougars, and then grow extremely bitter about men and society as their desirability plummets, never quite understanding why not all women can be Carrie Bradshaw.
Hey, it’s not my fault reality gets mistakenly interpreted as cynicism — that’s a false mental model caused by idealist propaganda :)
I’ve seen more episodes of Sex and the City than I probably should admit, and it’s actually a pretty good show. The problem, as with all iconic television series, is that too many people don’t just see it as a show — and, anticipating a rebuttal here, that’s exactly how the writers wanted it. And, given that at least some people appear to be taking the messages of Sex and the City to heart, I have some reservations about the message that’s being promoted.
I take issue with Sex and the City for the same reason I take issue with Third Wave Feminism (link to the description in case you need it), and not for the reason most feminists would probably think. If women want to be sexually liberated, that’s their business and frankly makes the world more entertaining for me, so that’s not my criticism. My problem with the show is that it paints a wholly unrealistic picture of what’s attainable in life — not just for women, but for anyone.
The great thing about Second Wave Feminists is they were focused on achieving political and social equality. If some women want to make dumb choices, so be it and they shouldn’t face discrimination for it — at least not to a greater degree than one might discriminate against men for similar choices. Sex and the City, and the movement it embodies, completely ambiguates the lines between choice, responsibility, and consequences.
I might have felt differently had the series ended differently, but it didn’t — instead, it took the exercise to its most illogical conclusion. The entire point of the series is to show that women (supposedly like men) can be rich, powerful, ambitious, fun, sexually promiscuous, etc. etc. etc. all the way into their upper thirties, and still be completely realistic in holding expectations that stability and bliss and satisfaction and true love are right around the corner.
The series tells women they can have it all no matter how long they wait, so why settle? As a middle-class white male, who supposedly enjoys all the privileges of society, I wouldn’t bet on those odds for myself. One major problem, as I’ve written about before, lies in a false stigma about settling. And — not trying to piss off the feminists any more than I may have already — that doesn’t even take into account the psychological implications of several inate biological differences, including differing peaks of sexual desire, the fact that women can only have children for so long, and the cold reality that men place more weight on outward appearance.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I probably will at some point. I suspect I would be interested to see how the writers handle the fact that the main characters are now over forty and probably still struggling to balance all of their competing interests, emotions, and ambitions in order to have it all. But until then, I’ll direct you to my favorite someecard of the week.
I’m a bit late to this, but I just had to comment on wooing one’s girlfriend the Prince William way: landing a military helicopter in her garden. A few brief thoughts:
1. Being a helicopter pilot sounds cool, but paying for the minimum training and being a pretty crummy helicopter pilot probably is not all that cool. Not that Prince William did that, but it’s probably how most guys who tried this stunt would end up.
2. Landing a helicopter in your girlfriend’s garden sounds cool, but taking flight lessons without telling her, then taking her up in a small plane and having the pilot fake a medical condition so you can save her with an emergency landing would be way cooler.
3. From a cost-benefit perspective, I actually agree with Kathy Lette’s perspective toward the end of the article: it’s possibly more advantageous, and definitely cheaper, to impress your girlfriend by learning to cook.
4. From what I hear, Prince William doesn’t need to be a pilot to get women.
Women often scoff at the term “settling” and so do I—it’s a loaded term. I would prefer to jettison it in favor of a word that more closely describes what women actually ought to do: understand what you want in the context of real, rather than imaginary, options. But in spite of semantic disagreements, I fully support Lori Gottlieb’s piece in this month’s Atlantic—so much so that I’ll offer a lengthy excerpt as an enticement to read the whole thing:
Whether you acknowledge it or not, there’s good reason to worry. By the time 35th-birthday-brunch celebrations roll around for still-single women, serious, irreversible life issues masquerading as “jokes” creep into public conversation: Well, I don’t feel old, but my eggs sure do! or Maybe this year I’ll marry Todd. I’m not getting any younger! The birthday girl smiles a bit too widely as she delivers these lines, and everyone laughs a little too hard for a little too long, not because we find these sentiments funny, but because we’re awkwardly acknowledging how unfunny they are. At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle?
My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)
Obviously, I wasn’t always an advocate of settling. In fact, it took not settling to make me realize that settling is the better option, and even though settling is a rampant phenomenon, talking about it in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable. Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment, the way a child might look at an older sibling who just informed her that Jerry’s Kids aren’t going to walk, even if you send them money. It’s not only politically incorrect to get behind settling, it’s downright un-American. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize (while our mothers, who know better, tell us not to be so picky), and the theme of holding out for true love (whatever that is—look at the divorce rate) permeates our collective mentality.
If this just made you angry, I encourage you to read the whole thing because she has some good responses to the objections you’re probably raising. And if you’re still upset afterwards, then we shall spar in the comment section!
(Hat tip: Erin, ironically)