Thursday, August 24, 2006

Love and Money

Suppose a man asks a woman to go on a date with him. The woman has no romantic interest in this man, so she declines, but he asks her again every few weeks, suggesting different activities, hoping to catch her interest. Eventually, he offers to take her snow skiing. The woman still has no romantic interest, but she likes skiing, and skiing is too expensive for her to afford on her own, so she agrees to the ski trip.

Question: has the man done anything wrong?

According to Natalia Antonova, for a man to leverage his financial resources to win the attention of a woman, he has done something very wrong. He has somehow exploited her. How this is exploitation, when no force or fraud are used, is never explained. How a man taking a woman on a ski trip has done her injury is never explained. That the man's greater financial resources make dating him attractive is somehow inauthentic . . . and, oh yeah, this is the guy's fault.

So let's continue the story. Let's say that, over a succession of ski trips, the woman finds a side to the man that she had not seen before, a side that does stir her romantic interest. So when the man proposes marriage, she accepts. That the man is financially stable is part of the practical side to her acceptance, but if he had not been so, he never would have had the opportunity to display his non-financial desirability.

The reason I tell this story is that it is ours, my wife's and mine. Nine years and two children later, we are very happy.

Now to be fair to Miss Antonova, the story she tells is quantitatively different, though perhaps not qualitatively so. She describes an Englishman visiting Ukraine, apparently for the expressed purpose of meeting women. It appears he would like to find a wife there, but in the mean time, he is content with casual hook-ups, and clearly expects sexual favors in return for the things his money provides. (In my own case, in contrast, I asked nothing but the pleasure of my future wife's company. Indeed, such was my restraint that she had to ask me to kiss her. Poor woman.)

Note that Ukraine is poverty-stricken, but not famished. It's per-capita GDP is 1/6 that of the U. S., if I have my numbers right. While that certainly makes it poor, it does not seem that anyone faces imminent starvation. This is an important point: when one's very survival is at stake, his or her moral principles can be tested beyond their breaking point, and I don't want to sound as if I don't appreciate this. But if moral principles they truly be, they will be stronger than mere speed bumps on the way to a prosperous life-style. At some point, the Ukrainian women Miss Antonova writes about must be held morally accountable for their own decisions, yet Miss Antonova herself seems unable to do this.

She does, however, possess ample scorn, contempt, and hatred for the Englishman (hereafter, "fat-ass"). For he is indeed fat. And ugly. And socially inept to the point of being repulsive. In short, he is the kind of man who stands little if any chance of winning the romantic attention of a woman in the West. But according to Miss Antonova, fat-ass's greatest sin is desiring a woman who is obedient, which Miss Antonova confounds with being financially dependent. Now I will not attempt here to mount a concerted defense of male headship, for certainly I would fail to convince such as Miss Antonova of anything except my own atavism. But I will point out that, theory aside, a man's de-facto authority in marriage is the established pattern even in America and is expected in one degree or another by the vast majority of women. (Miss Antonova, being unmarried, may not know this.)

Likewise, financial dependence (not the same as "obedience," though I grant the correlation). Again, feminist ideology aside, most women contemplating children would very much like their husbands to be the family "breadwinner," allowing their wives to devote themselves to their offspring. In due course, the women become "financially dependent." This is not without risk to women, given the culture of the day. My point here is not to defend, but to describe, and to point out that fat-ass's objective, while stated more bluntly than we are accustomed to, is not unusual.

So that rounds up the case against fat-ass. And in the end, the invective poured out on the fat-asses of the world seems far out of proportion to their actual crimes. For I suspect that their most unforgivable crime is to seek an escape from the loneliness to which Western standards of desirability have exiled them. They have spent their lives suffering rejection and ridicule for wanting what so many others around them have, but which has been consistently denied to them in their own country because, here, there is no market for middle-age, no market for overweight, no market for anomie, no market for mediocrity. I do not fault Miss Antonova for finding fat-ass undesirable; after all, I don't want to date him either. But I can look on a fellow human being and say, "There, but for the grace of God . . ."

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