Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Article reviewed: Choosey girls and eligible men

*excuse the delay and general lack of writing. 5 days until the Tribeca Film Festival.

Now this is interesting.

In a sentence: eligible men become less and less available as we age because decisive girls swoop them up early leaving choosey girls with the last of the litter.

It's a bold statement, but when you pick it apart, some of it is terrifyingly logical.

I’m ignoring the first part of the hypothesis because I think it’s dated. It rests on the fact that the woman chooses. She chooses the suitor, she chooses to keep him, and ultimately she chooses to accept his proposal for marriage. This may technically but true (as the article says, it’s not, “I want to marry, you” but “will you marry me”), but I think we've progressed to entering relationships, staying in them, and sealing them with mutual effort. The proposal is just tradition. Still, even if the premise is shakey the argument at large stands strong.

"You can think of this traditional concept of the search for marriage partners as a kind of an auction. In this auction, some women will be more confident of their prospects, others less so. In game-theory terms, you would call the first group "strong bidders" and the second "weak bidders." Your first thought might be that the "strong bidders"—women who (whether because of looks, social ability, or any other reason) are conventionally deemed more of a catch—would consistently win this kind of auction."

Yes, this was my thought.

"But this is not true. In fact, game theory predicts, and empirical studies of auctions bear out, that auctions will often be won by "weak" bidders, who know that they can be outbid and so bid more aggressively, while the "strong" bidders will hold out for a really great deal. "

Oh, well shit.

I'm not particularly familiar with so-called "game theory" and the only auction I've ever been to was for Senior Slave Day in high school, but this is sounding somewhat logical, totally terrifying, and eerily like a theory I'm very familiar with - Prom Date Theory. The longer you wait the less you've got to choose from.

Of course in Prom Date Theory the like matches tend to pair up. There's a disadvantage to waiting, sure, but people don't wait because they think they're going to find something better. The "strong bidders" - the term this article uses to describe highly eligible girls - are not at a disadvantage. In high school there are 5-10 great guys. The prettiest most popular girls go to prom with them. The rest doesn't matter.

In life - not so. And, according to this article, actually the opposite of so. According to this article the most eligible men settle for women who choose them early and strongly.

"Where have all the most appealing men gone? Married young, most of them—and sometimes to women whose most salient characteristic was not their beauty, or passion, or intellect, but their decisiveness."

The question isn't why underdog women fight for the homecoming kings - it's why the homecoming kings decide it's time to lock it down full well knowing there are better prospects in the audience.

Embedded in this article is the suggestion that men, above everything, just want to be chosen. That they would choose the security of a woman who decides on them, and decides strongly, over a woman with, what this article calls, the better hand.

It’s interesting – and it might be true – but it makes these so-called "most eligible" bachelors out to be the most insecure of the bunch. They see the strong bidders in the audience but figure those bidders likely have their eyes set on something even better than them.

Of course it’s not all on the guys. Why are the women with the strongest hands holding out full well knowing that they could trump any bid?

It makes vague but not completely sense – somewhat like every other theory of relationships. I have to think more about it and get back to you. You do the same. In the meantime, let’s all exist under the assumption that eligible people, both male and female, are not running out. We have enough reasons to drink as it is.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Today's reading assignment

How economics and game theory explain the
shortage of available, appealing men.

"Shouldn't there be about as many highly eligible and appealing men as there are attractive, eligible women? Actually, no, and here's why?"

Comments shortly. Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

That "fuck" in your stomach

This one might be hard to explain.

You know that undeniable gnawing feeling in the top of your stomach that sinks into your body and makes you stop in your tracks for a second (or ten) to think, for the thousandth time, about the stomach-turning thing you’ve done? It feels like the first drop in a roller coaster or the moment right before you give a public speech? I asked around - apparently it’s feels different to everyone but the source is universal: you did something you wish you hadn’t done.

If you think about it scientifically it’s pretty remarkable. Our body has developed a way of self-scolding. Whether the emotion is guilt, regret, or fear of the greater shit-storm ahead, our brain connects with our body in an instant reflex of “fuuuck.” That’s impressive. Reflexes abound in the body. Touch a hot object, you jump back; hit that weird spot on your knee, your leg kicks up; drink too much alcohol, you kiss boys - but this isn’t quite the same. Hot things hurt. The leg is connected to that one knee nerve. Boys are often very cute. How does the brain know that whatever you did is worth slapping you across the stomach for?

There’s only one of two choices: it either knows because you told it so or it knows because of its mysterious, innate brain functions. There’s a term for the latter – the kind of thinking that’s an instant function of the brain: breathing, avoiding fire, sensing predators. Survival instincts maybe? Higher order thinking? I don't know, but I don’t think feeling awkward because you hooked up with a co-worker quite applies to the group.

Let’s say it’s as simple as your body’s innate reaction to an act that’s directly counter to your brain’s understanding of what is acceptable behavior. You build a system of what's acceptable and what's not in your mind – call those your morals. Then you live your life in an attempt to stick by that system – call that following your conscience. So the “fuck” in your stomach is your body somehow reminding you that you didn’t let your conscious be your guide (thank you Disney). How/why the body makes that reminder sit in your stomach vs. your feet or your arms, or your face (HA to visions of face muscle spasm) remains a mystery.

This whole system leaves you to wonder why the brain is so selectively smart. If it can trigger this constant physical punishment any time you even think about the wrong you’ve done, how is it not smart enough to stop you from doing it in the first place? If you get a dull wave of nausea every time you even remember the moment you cheated on your girlfriend, why doesn’t the body just make you vomit right before you actually do it?

Two theories:
  • You’re drunk 90% of the time you make whatever bad decision you’ve made thus rendering the senses and morals dulled
  • Sober carnal desire trumps logic, morality, and anything else of order in its path most days/nights of the week. It’s not logical it’s physical – just like that turn of the stomach.
I can’t explain how the body makes that stomach thing happen. And I can’t really explain – save for blaming alcohol and it-just-felt-right-at-the-moment – why it drives us to do whatever it then makes our stomach turn over. Seems the body's a little conflicted and dumb to be, say, running our entire lives. Then again – it does explain a lot.