What do I want in a man? Well, he must be taller than me… and make six figures… and have straight, white teeth… and have a college degree from a ‘good’ school… and have grown up with both parents present… and want kids… and be physically fit with a perfect medical record… and be of the same faith as me… and have a strong jaw structure and manageable hair… and have had all gorgeous girlfriends in the past, none exceeding my beauty, of course… and be able to read my mind and know when something is wrong, even if I say there’s nothing wrong… and be able to find a cure for AIDS and the secret to world peace.
The above list is a slightly exaggerated rendition of a scenario I’ve seen too many times among urban 20-something women. We are increasingly selective with who we will date and why. We can easily rattle off a list of everything their dream man must have and are often completely unwilling to compromise. We notice that he may fall short in terms of one of the items on our four page list of what we want, and we immediately dismiss him.
Why do we do this?
I have several thoughts on why this growing phenomenon exists:
1. The age of women‘s rights
The women of previous generations had shorter lists. Back then, the most important items on their checklists were: good provider, good father, loyal and nice. Things were much simpler in those days. As a result of the women’s suffrage movement and the rise of feminism which led the denting of the glass ceiling, women are more professionally and financially successful than ever before. This causes some women to feel like they don’t need a significant counterpart because they can provide for themselves. We have become a society that is obsessed with planning. We are willing to wait much longer than the women who came before us to settle down. Our careers and financial well-being have moved up on our priorities lists while family planning gets pushed towards the bottom.
So by the time we hit our mid twenties or early thirties, we feel as though we have acquired the success that we need and that we must then race against the hands of time to find a life partner and pop some babies out before it’s too late to breed healthy offspring or get our youthful shapes back easily. Now the pressure is turned all the way up and we begin to search for a man who meets our standards of success and who has a complementary gene pool.
2. The age of divorce
We have grown up in a society which encourages divorce. This conditioning has caused many of us to take the “I’ll buy it now, but if I change my mind, I’ll return it to the store tomorrow” approach in many aspects of our lives. These days people seem to be going into relationships thinking in the back of their mind that they can always get out when they’re over it. I think that being conditioned to think this way breeds detachment, the ability to dissociate one’s seemingly rational thoughts from one’s seemingly irrational feelings. We go out on a date with a guy, go down the checklist and if anything is missing, we’re quick to shout “NEXT!”
3. There’s always something better over the horizon
I’ve noticed that many of my successful female friends who live in major cities tend to either kick guys to the curb prematurely or keep guys around, not close enough to smother their chances of meeting other men, but just close enough to keep him around in case the future brings rainy days. When I ask these women why they do this, many of them respond that they’re afraid to completely commit because they’re always hopeful for something better and don’t want to block their blessings before they find that something. When I ask why they keep the guys in whom they’re not interested hanging around, they often respond that it’s for insurance purposes – just in case they don’t find that something.
Ladies, this is what we call BBD Syndrome (Bigger, Better Deal syndrome). I believe that Robert Fulghum said it best:
The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.
Perhaps this is phenomenon is born of some twisted façade that we subconsciously create – pessimism disguised as skepticism. Are we subconsciously pessimistic about committing to guys who don’t merit the sufficient number of checks on our lists because we’re just picky or because we’re afraid to stumble upon greener pastures after it’s too late?
No one is perfect – not even you. We must be willing to compromise… not on everything, but on minute and superficial details that could be standing in the way of finding and deeply connecting with Mr. Right. Your Prince Charming may have all of the qualities required to make you happy, but may not have perfect teeth or may be shorter than you when you wear 6” Giuseppe Zanotti stilettos. He may be exceptionally driven and goal oriented, but may not possess a degree from an accredited four year university.
Ask yourselves if these small flaws worth throwing away potential happiness without really giving it a chance. Maybe we should re-evaluate our checklists, prioritizing the most important things that will matter now as well as forty years from now and be more pliable with the superficial items on the list.