I should just lower my standards…
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a female friend of mine say this statement over the past year, I’d own a Maserati, penthouse, and a strapping, strapped escort for every day of the week.
Yeah, I’d own the escorts. Nightly renting is for sissies. And for lower standards.
What is is about the gray area after 27 that causes otherwise intelligent lady urbanites to suddenly seek out some form of interminable blurriness in their judgment when it comes to dating? Most of them seem to be looking for permanent beer goggles. Like liquor Lasik, only without the liquor.
Now, I know that scientifically it’s probably just the precursor the their biological clocks collectively blaring “Bell Tower” at the age of 35 but still. Lower standards? For the sake of what? Is it that they believe they can force true love with an ironically mustachioed “artist/DJ” who wears capri pants, suspenders, and a bowler hat? That they’re finally ready to settle down with a pot-bellied, pimply programmer who smells like Feta even though they have nothing in common? It’s as if my girlfriends have decided that chronic erectile dysfunction, racism, and mouth-breathing are equivalent to a slight gap between a man’s front teeth, simply because they’re single and starting to see crow’s feet. Waking up single and near thirty has set off alarm bells.
Perhaps the most infuriating detail that I’ve noticed is that this is absolutely gender-specific. I have yet to meet a guy approaching — or well into — his thirties who thinks, “Fuck, maybe I should stop hoping to bang a girl who moonlights as a lingerie model during her downtime from being a sportscaster.” My guy friends are all well aware that they want to settle down…one day. Just not yet. And certainly not now. Any shot-glass spectacles are only caused by tequila and a still-functioning erectile response. Until they have to ask their doctors if they’re healthy enough for sexual activity, they are sure as hell going to cover as many skin surfaces as possible with their personal brand of ecru-colored paint. They’re not commitmentphobes any more than they’re phobic of the particularly gruesome parts of a supernatural and wholly implausible horror movie.
The other night I was out for dumplings with a friend who is a retail sales associate/amateur MMA fighter who doubles me in all stats excluding IQ. I’d made the mistake of bringing up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and was forced to explain that it wasn’t a reality show. After I gave him the preschool version of it (“See, it’s a pyramid, which is like a triangle…”) I came to the conclusion that I should have some fun and try to discover just how deep a meathead’s river runs. This led to some pretty heavy questions being sarcastically slung over shrimp shumai as I internally debated whether or not to attempt to throw the saddle on him for the night.
“What do you want? Like, out of life, not off the menu,” I asked.
“I want a family. A wife. Kids. I mean, not now, but eventually,” he added quickly. “Like, in a few years or something. After I win my first title.”
Pull the needle off the record for a second. I know, I rolled my eyes pretty hard too. Dream answer, especially for a young man who beats the piss out of dudes in a cage while wearing nothing but sweaty underpants. But for a 25 year old guy on the quite-to-very side of the hotness spectrum, with a fun job and a good — albeit empty — head on his shoulders, what’s left to achieve? A few more years of knocking back microbrews with his buddies, maybe another trip or two to the Bahamas, finding a better apartment, and adding more weight when he maxes out, bro are all tangible and noble goals, and far more immediate than sizing a platinum band. He’s not seriously dating anyone at the moment, though if he were in the market, I could field him more decent looking women who graduated with honors than even the most selective Upper East Side madam, even though he’s as dumb as track six on Nirvana’s In Utero and his profession will undoubtedly break every bone in his face.
“What if that doesn’t happen?” I asked. “A family, a wife, those things aren’t guaranteed, you know.”
As a single-woman in New York who owns a Chihuahua, talks to her potted plants, and finds jigsaw puzzles an increasingly more attractive hobby, I don’t add the fact that the eligible pool of attractive, available mates technically shrinks each passing day.
“Well, I don’t see how that can’t happen, unless I really sabotage myself,” he replied.
And there’s why women are going to be turning the mirror on themselves, wondering why they’re still living alone even when everything else in their lives is possibly tied with a bow. As a man, how can having a family not happen when you’re ready to? How many single men in their late thirties do you hear complaining about not being married yet?
Why is it that guys can believe that a family is inevitable at any age, so long as they want it? Is it a self-perpetuating truism, caused by their unchallenged optimism? Or is it that women are shooting themselves in their proverbial bare-feet by hoping to get pregnant and be thrust into the kitchen so frantically?
In Julia Bard’s old counter-piece to Lori Gottlieb’s many treatises on settling, including her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, Bard says, “Most of us just want to love and be loved. The data show that when it comes to money and education, women are in fact lowering their standards.”
Both Bard and Gottlieb seem to think that women are in the positions of power when it comes to this ultimate romantic compromise. I disagree. Sure, women hold the pussy, and the pussy is key. But, like Bard says, most girls just want to be cared about. Most ladies aren’t going to go all Anne Boleyn on their courting King Henrys. Feminists point out that women have needs, sexual ones, physical ones — and that they should act on them, but acting on them shifts the traditional power dynamic. Try waiting for him to call if you’ve already given it up, Miss Independent. Unless your vagina is a teleportation device to an NFL game with unlimited free wings and beer like mine is, you’re shit out of luck. As my dumpling-scarfing friend astutely pointed out to me later in our conversation, virginity can’t be reclaimed. The clit can’t be put back in the panties, so to speak.
Lee Dye said in a totally on-point ABC News article, “Men don’t need to get married to get what they want these days — mainly sex — so they feel comfortable in putting off that long term commitment until they have a few bucks in the bank, and a mortgage to pay off….The primary reason given by men for taking their sweet time: They can get sex without marriage more easily now than in the past.”
There’s also the fact that guys don’t see why they should marry. Think about it, outside of the abstract, what do men gain? This can be turned around and asked to those with the pussy power, too. But while women have traditionally been considered “taken care of” once a ring is put on it, men have formerly been put in a position of being the provider, the main breadwinner, the protector, and many of them still consciously or subconsciously buy into that historically assigned role. That’s a lot of pressure, even if that societal ideal no longer holds true in this age of working women, skirt-suits, and the rise (though hopefully not crest) of gender equality. Moreover, religion, public perceptions of morality, and peer pressure no longer poke men in the ribs saying, “Hey, buddy, time to wife her.” In fact, other than Facebook and the occasional frilly invite to get drunk on someone else’s tab, I can’t imagine what could even clue a guy into the fact that marriage still exists.
Certainly the availability and prevalence of women wanting to date him — whoever he is, regardless of his job, looks, previous success sticking his dick in a warm hole — nothing is telling him to put the pedal to the metal when it comes to that final hurdle in the race to grow up.
So I’m not going to try to figure out why men get married at all, ‘cause I would be on my private jet wearing nothing but Louboutins while getting sexually serviced by a linebacker if I could figure that out. But with girls it’s tricky. When I look at my friends, it’s as though they’ve woken up in a foreign country and are confused, without the proper language to figure out where they are and how to get home. They thought that by “this point” (this point being whatever age or level of success they’ve achieved) they would have fallen in love with a guy who fit their own personal “forever” criteria. Because they haven’t, they slip into this kiddie pool of self-doubt that suddenly develops a rip-tide. All of the previously imagined elements of their ideal mate are thrown into question, and they believe that it’s their own inability to discern the right dude from the testosterone throng that’s been the problem.
So they decide that it’s time to settle.
Which can be good, as Gottlieb (and her self-tauted marriage) seem to imply. But why do women want to get married in the first place? And how in the hell could lowering their standards help them to achieve that goal? Again, I don’t get it and can’t solve this riddle, but maybe I’m just not there yet. Perhaps growing up still isn’t a priority for me. I’d rather play Twister with a full-bladder than attend another wedding, even my own, even if it somehow meant that I’d have a weird, abstract, intangible future goal checked off of my nonexistent list. Maybe all cat ladies were smug and self-satisfied wannabe writers in their thirties. Maybe years earlier they owned a Chihuahua and enjoyed going out for pretentious “modern Chinese” cuisine. Who knows.
The dumplings were damn good, and I didn’t take him home with me. I guess I need to keep my standards high. To me, that’s not unreasonable…not yet, anyway.