One of those insufferable TED talks was making the rounds last week. The gist of it was that 30 is not the new 20, and that grown women really ought to be getting their sh*t together in their 20s. Be proactive about your career. Don’t refuse to get a full-time job as an excuse to figure out who you are. Stop dating losers. All sound advice. But why does no one ever say that to men?
Not the first part, obviously. Men are expected to have a sense of direction and ambition more or less from birth, so much so that most women will list “ambition” right under “sense of humour” on a list of vague qualities they seek out in a romantic partner. No, the last part, the thing about dating “losers.” It’s a testament to just how useless TED talks are, because people have been telling women that their boyfriends are losers forever. Not once, though, have I ever heard someone tell a man, “Dude, why are you dating her? She’s such a loser.”
The more I think about why, the more depressing the can of worms becomes (and a can full of worms should be depressing enough on its own). It says something about society as a whole, in that men have never really valued drive and success as selection criteria and we’re all kind of OK with that. Mothers instruct their daughters to find a “nice, successful boy,” but fathers high-five their sons when they bring home the prom queen. It’s also (sadly) kind of presumed that men will settle down as they age and choose higher quality women, as though it’s a concept we as men had the good sense to invent and that the womenfolk would never figure out were it not for our guidance.
Additionally, despite tolerating men calling women all sorts of awful things for centuries, society, curiously enough, won’t stand for men referring to women as “losers” or “useless.” I’ve just never heard it. Were someone to call a woman a “loser” for being, say, a career grad student or some kind of lowbrow service professional, I feel it would be met with cries of “Hey, at least she’s trying!” or “Who are you to judge?” Of course, the joke’s on them, because justifying someone’s career choice undermines that person’s freedom of choice, and chastising one group for judging another while encouraging the same thing among your own group is the very opposite of equality.
Unfashionable as it may be, I’m going to go ahead and say that, in 2013, men need to stop dating losers. What exactly that means may be hard to define. When women deride a man as being a “useless loser,” what they really seem to be complaining about is someone who blindly, uncompromisingly places his own prerogatives above all else, often at the expense of others. The girl with the loser boyfriend who won’t get a job because it would “cut into practice time with the band” is actually saying that if he would compromise a little, they could probably realise some goals that would benefit them both equally. The same thing holds true the other way around.
While career/ambition is far from the only way in which being a loser can manifest itself, it’s definitely common, and prominent. Any woman now in her 20s and 30s was likely raised to believe that she can (and should) do well in school, get education, and then go forth into the world and make her mark. Barriers and pay gaps still exist, but most women are able to pursue any career they’d like. In fact, there are more women breadwinners than ever. Given that, if ambition is something that’s important to you, it would make sense that it would be something important to your partner as well. An earnings rift, or at least one caused by one less-ambitious partner, can and will wreck a relationship. Women know this, which is why they seek out men who at least have the potential for success. Men don’t seem to realise it until they’re supporting another person whose biggest life decision is where she wants to eat lunch that day. A woman who doesn’t really have anything going on is not worth your time. Modern life is too expensive for everyone’s ambitions not to matter.But it’s not just about careers. I think we’ve all, at some point, been involved with a woman who was so wrapped up in some aspect of herself that it made her a loser in her own right, whether it’s her job or something else (and we men are just as guilty of this). Whenever you ask someone to tell you about themselves, and their answer begins with, “Well, I work for such and such,” you know you’re dealing with someone with not a lot to offer. Really, that goes for all people who defines themselves through a singular characteristic. Life doesn’t work that way. You can’t “cheat” by pouring yourself into and perfecting one single aspect of it and then expecting everything else to fall in place. A woman who’s beautiful is nothing if she doesn’t also have goals. A hard-driving career woman is no good unless she has outside interests and knows how to create time for them. If it sounds like I’m saying men should try to find a woman who “has it all,” I am. Women are taking the same approach to us.
If women can set a high bar for the men they date, there’s no reason we can’t, too. It’s time more men set standards for themselves that go beyond cup size or hair colour. If your standards are ridiculous, that’s fine. You’ll just take yourself out of the dating pool. But there’s no reason for men (or anyone) to date losers unwilling to alter their course in life to at least somewhat accommodate what’s supposed to be a loved one. She wants a man who went to a prestigious school? That’s fine, but she shouldn’t be surprised if the men she’s after expect the same thing. She wants a guy who makes a lot of money? Sure, and maybe she doesn’t need to make as much money as you, but maybe you expect her to at least have some clear goals.
Life, as they say, is a two-way street.
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