Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Success is not sexy

I often play the game "Would you rather?" with friends. It's a simple game, where you give the players two options to choose from and hopefully you learn something funny or scandalous about them. In a recent game played, I asked a male friend "Would you rather date Lana Lang or ....." before I could even finish the sentence he stopped me and said, "Rory Gilmore!" I was shocked by this. Growing up watching both shows I would have never imagined someone, let alone a guy, making the comparison. Lana Lang is a character of Smallville, or better known as the high school sweetheart of Superman. In the show she is the beautiful, popular girl at school whom all the boys can't seem to stop fighting over. She is petite, sweet, innocent, and always needs someone, in most cases the young Superman, to save her. Rory Gilmore, on the other hand, is a character in the Gilmore girls. She is a little more "plain looking," and although she too has had many male suitors fight over her, she is known for her brains and her wit. Growing up I appreciated both characters. However, most guys I knew didn't. I couldn't get a guy to watch the Gilmore Girls with me if my life depended on it. And since most of my guy friends already watched Smallville, I couldn't get them to stop talking about how "hot" Lana Lang was if my life depended on it. Needless to say, I was shocked by the recent comparison between the two characters.

My first question, "Do you NOT think Lana is pretty... is she just not your type?" His response, "She is beautiful. Of course, she is my type. She is every one's type." My second question, "So why Rory?" His response, "She goes to Yale. She is smart. She can take care of herself, and that means she can probably take care of me." Clearly, he didn't mean take care of him in the "traditional" sense, which includes cooking, cleaning, and raising the children, but he meant someone who could support him, in every way, including financially. I guess this shouldn't shock me. Talking to many men in the legal field or on in law school, I've heard many of them say they want to marry an equal, someone they can talk to and respect, and someone who appreciates higher education and or ambition. But I never heard of any of them say that they want to be taken care of. This was a refreshing first?

Walking away from this "would you rather" game, I thought to myself: Are we now moving to the direction where men want and expect to be taken care of financially? Sure, I have heard of sugar mamas, which often refers to distinguished older women taking care of younger less distinguished men. But are men, who are equally distinguished and equal in age, looking for a woman to support them?

In a recent NY Times article, Keeping the Romance Alive in the Age of Female Empowerment, Katrin Behold explored the recent development of women taking on high powered positions and its effects on romance. Despite the "liberal-minded" trend that seems to be taking over my male friends, it seems that men are still afraid of a powerful woman and want to hang on to, at least to the appearance of, traditional gender roles.
Sexual attraction in the 21st century, it seems, still feeds on the 20th-century stereotypes. Now, as more women match and take over men in education and the labor market, they are also turning traditional gender roles on their head, with some profound consequences for relationship dynamics.
As the author notes, it is getting harder for successful women to find a mate and if they have already found one they must keep up a facade of traditional gender roles. For example, Anne-Laure Kiechel, an investment banker in Paris, who makes fives times more than her boyfriend, pays for all the major expenses, including vacations. Nevertheless, her boyfriend, insists that he pay for things in public to avoid looking like a "gigolo." Timothy Eustis,a proud stay-at-home dad, says that he and his wife, who is a senior manager at the French lingerie brand Etam, "both" cherish "those little traditions" to keep the romantic spark alive.

While it is understandable that one would have a feeling of inadequacy when comparing one's self to friends or family members who seem to be more successful then you (a college roommate recently announced she is engaged and I immediately started thinking of my failure to even have a boyfriend) it is interesting to note how sensitive the male ego seems to be,
It is amazing how even many liberal-minded men end up having sexual and emotional difficulties being with more obviously successful women... The male ego can be a more fragile thing than the female ego, which is used to a regular battering and has hence developed a sense of humor!
Bernard Prieur, a psychoanalyst and author of "Money in Couples," suggest that men who earn less are insecure. They feel socially vulnerable, going against millennia of beliefs and stereotypes, and personally vulnerable, as failures.

How are women who want success and romance suppose to deal with these insecure men? Ms. Domscheit-Berg, of the European Women's Management Development International Network, suggests: 1) leave your nice car at home on the first date, 2) find your life partner in your 20s, before you become too successful, and 3) go after men who draw their confidence from sources other than money, like academics and artists.

For my own sake as well as the sake of all my female friends in law or whom have a successful and bright future ahead of them, I really hope that the trend is moving to more liberal-minded men, like my friend in my "would you rather"game. I hope the 21st century is ready for the 21st century woman, because whether men like it or not they will have to deal with women who can support themselves, and if they want, support you.

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