Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey Day Rejections

My wife and I invited all the single guys in my research group to Thanksgiving dinner. Seven of them are in their early to mid twenties, while the last is 33. They all had other plans.

But here's the thing: of those that offered specific excuses, four said they were spending Thanksgiving with their girlfriends; only one said he would be with his family.

Four of eight have girlfriends? How the hell did that happen? I mean, the 33-year old is pretty smooth, but the rest are as geeky as I am, and I didn't get an actual girlfriend until I was 28!

Maybe geek cachet has improved this decade. Or maybe I've forgotten how truly geeky I used to be.

10 comments:

trumwill said...

It's very generous of you to invite all those guys over. Clancy and I have been fortunate in being invited by the family one or another of the nurses that she works with. This year we'll be celebrating Saturday with a coworker of hers.

That you didn't have any girlfriends until you were 28 explains a lot about your outlook and why your experience lends credibility to theories that my experience does not. I didn't know that tidbit.

Brandon Berg said...

I wonder how much is attributable to an increase in the population of young East Asian women. They seem to be strongly overrepresented among geeks' girlfriends and wives, and as far as I can tell have virtually unlimited tolerance for nerdiness in any man who is at least six feet tall.

trumwill said...

The East Asian female population in the Pacific northwest probably does have a little bit of an impact. There probably aren't enough where I'm from (and those that are are frequently Vietnamese who seem less nerdy on the whole) for it to have much of any at all.

I think one factor, though, may be that more and more girls growing up these days have geeks as fathers. Not that it's Freudian or anything, but they'd at least be a little more familiar with and probably more comfortable with it. It seems that a lot of the girls that I dated or that seemed to pick up romantic interest in me had fathers in computers or engineering.

Thursday said...

I think one factor, though, may be that more and more girls growing up these days have geeks as fathers. Not that it's Freudian or anything, but they'd at least be a little more familiar with and probably more comfortable with it. It seems that a lot of the girls that I dated or that seemed to pick up romantic interest in me had fathers in computers or engineering.

Girls with nerds for fathers tend to be nerdier themselves. They tend to think more logically and share more of the nerdy interests of their nerdy suitors and they are considerably less susceptible to "game." I would say this has more to do with genetics than fatherly influence in the home. Young girls notoriously don't think much of their parents', particularly their father's, tastes.

Female engineers and engineer's daughters really are their own breed.

Thursday said...

Here is nerd girl Megan McArdle's post on her own encounters with Roissy types:
http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/06/by_request_dating_games.php

I think it's a bit unfair of Megan to look down on "game" as pure manipulation. The best way to get women is to show them a really good time. Game is just understanding what (most) women really want and giving it to them.

trumwill said...

I think that's a factor in it, Thursday, but I don't think that's the whole thing. Even girls who are not themselves nerdy seem to be more open to dating nerdy guys. My wife falls into the somewhat nerdy category (her original major was in engineering, though she doesn't like computers and technology much), but the most prominent girl that I dated before that definitely did not and yet mostly dated nerdy types.

Young girls (and young men, for that matter) often explicitly reject their parents tastes, but I think for a lot of people that changes as they get older and get a little more distance. I think there is the tendency among many to use their opposite-sex parent as a sort of template for what a father and husband (or wife and mother) is. They deviate from that template, of course, and rarely look for a replica, but it's a starting point.

I think there is some sort of transition between when they're looking for someone to date (in which "game" is frequently quite valuable) and someone to settle down with.

One of the things that I've been amazed about is how many of my peers, both male and female, suddenly found the judgment in finding a life partner that they'd lacked when looking for someone to date. When it mattered, they knew what to do and what to look for. This is true of many people that I never would have guessed it to be true for.

Brandon Berg said...

One of the things that I've been amazed about is how many of my peers, both male and female, suddenly found the judgment in finding a life partner that they'd lacked when looking for someone to date.

The problem with this is that it's a pretty shabby deal for the guys who make for good husbands but aren't particularly attractive as fling material. A large subset of women give their best years to men of questionable value and then, when they hear the ticking, expect the boringly stable men to be thrilled at being offered too little, too late. Granted, many are thrilled because they've never known anything better, but they shouldn't be.

Aside from being unfair, this screws up society's incentive system. For most of the history of civilization, the rule was that (economic) losers didn't get laid. You worked hard to get ahead so that a pretty woman would want to marry you.

But the sexual revolution turned that on its head: Now that women pay no price for consorting with underachievers, men can slack off without being put at a sexual disadvantage. In fact, in some ways it puts them at an advantage---take, for example, Roosh Valizadeh, who found that quitting his job gave him more time to work on picking up women.

This is broken. I'm not blaming women, really—they're just responding to the incentives they face. I think it's up to provider-type men to change those incentives by finding ways to make credible threats to reject inadequate offers. I speak Japanese reasonably well and a fair bit of Mandarin, so I have that covered.

Φ said...

I think it's up to provider-type men to change those incentives by finding ways to make credible threats to reject inadequate offers.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that we provider-types should collectively shun women who are over 30 or otherwise ill-used, and that we should communicate this embargo to twenty-something women in the expectation that fear of spinsterhood will drive them into our arms.

Let me know how this works out.

I see a couple of problems though:

First, voluntary embargos seldom work. Prisoner's dilemma, and all that.

Second, even if we were to create the conditions in which women over thirty had more difficulty finding husbands than they do presently, I doubt that this would make much of an impression on women in their twenties. Trumwill is correct that the "adjustment" in the expectations of women as they get older is at least partly driven by their wanting different things from a husband than they want from a hookup. (And yes, it is also partly driven by the realization that the kind of man they can hook up with is not the kind of man that will marry them.) But these expectations are conditioned by macro social and economic conditions that have little to do with what happens to them when they turn thirty. So I really don't see any alternative to letting this adjustment proceed at its own pace.

In the meantime, we are better off taking Bobvis' counsel: maximize our own opportunities by learning to be the kind of men a twenty-something woman would want.

trumwill said...

It's not just women that lack judgment in their early 20's, Brandon. It's simply not the case that you have a bunch of 20-something men that are ready to hunker down and get married but for the misplaced priorities of young women.

A substantial portion of non-cretinous guys want flings with girls based on ill-conceived criteria.

The main difference here is not often not so much the virtue of their heart and the wisdom of their priorities but rather their success at following through on their misplaced priorities.

Brandon Berg said...

Φ:
By "make a credible threat to reject inadequate offers," I meant find better options. If spending your '20s alone and then marrying a woman in her mid-30s is really the best you can do, then you have to take it, but provider-type men should be aware that they have options and try to do better than that. Learning to attract younger women is one option, and I'm working on that. Another, as I alluded to in my prior comment, is to look abroad. The world is full of young women who'd be delighted to marry a reasonably successful American man.

Will:
True, but I don't think it's as much of a problem, because youth isn't as desirable a quality in men as it is in women. As long as he stays in decent shape and does well career-wise, a man's stock continues to rise throughout his 20s and into his early 30s, so if he screws around through his 20s and starts dating his future wife at 30, she still gets him at the peak of his desirability, which is not the case when the sexes are reversed.