Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
Dear Neil: I am an attractive, successful, affluent woman in my forties, and I am having a hard time finding men who I might consider marrying. Why is there such a Great Man Shortage? Where are all the good men?
Puzzled in Estes Park, Colorado
Dear Puzzled: Consider the following choices. You are single woman. You are about to bring home to your parents the man you are engaged to marry.
Case 1: He is tall, handsome, articulate, warm, tender; he listens carefully, understands you thoroughly, expresses his feelings. He works as a night watchman in a local junk yard.
Case 2: He is hot, gorgeous, tall, dark, handsome. Modest income, works part-time and is heavily in debt. Is not articulate or expressive. Has a history of being unfaithful.
Case 3: Engineer. Hard worker, good income potential. Uncomfortable with emotions. Faithful. Frequently doesn’t know how he feels. He’s 5’6” and 195 lbs.
Case 4: M.D. Highly respected medical specialist. Very affluent. Works 15 hour days and is often on weekend call. He isn’t tender or affectionate, and is uncomfortable talking about emotions.
Rate the enthusiasm level on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest) that you think your parents would feel about these four choices. Now rate your enthusiasm level on the same scale. Between the four choices, which one appeals to you the most? A woman’s choice says a great deal about her priorities and about what she seeks in a man.
Women end up finding few men who have the combination of qualities that leads to their total relationship satisfaction, and a woman tends to be sexually cautious until she knows whether a man meets her conditions.
What conditions are those? There are at least nine of them, says Warren Ferrell in the book Why Men Are The Way They Are (Berkley Books). She must be physically attracted to him, she must respect him, she must develop positive emotions toward him, she must respect his intellect, he must be single and available, he must have status and/or success, the man must ask her out, he must pay and he must take the first sexual initiatives.
By contrast, men are socialized to want sex as long as only one condition is fulfilled—physical attraction.
Women who focus their binoculars on the small percentage of men who meet all or most of their conditions perceive a much greater man shortage then actually exists. Would men perceive a woman shortage if they imposed the same conditions? Suppose a man were looking for a woman who was more successful than he, a woman who was willing to use her income to support him should his career falter, someone very physically attractive who he felt emotionally and intellectually connected to, someone who would risk rejection by calling him and inviting him out first and then keep making advances toward him until he responded. Might such a man, Farrell asks, perceive a “Great Woman Shortage”?
The irony of this dynamic is that it makes both genders feel powerless and inadequate. I will discuss how in next week’s column.