In over 15 years of flirting, dating and general romancing, I have observed many things about men. They can be funny, charming, kind and passionate. And they can also be childish, selfish and irrational. Not to mention lazy, self-centred and arrogant. But enough about my chequered dating history. What else have I discovered about them and the women they choose to date? In a longitudinal study dating back to the mid-90s, I have observed that there is a gradual change in their choice of temporary mates (only swans love once, as Right Said Fred so sagely put it). While women steadfastly pursue men who remind them in some way of their fathers (see Jung for details), men’s selection is based on the assessment of women’s physical allure relative to their own, also known as “trying to punch above one’s weight”. So while the general principle remains constant, their “weight” changes over time.
We start in a grim place for anyone’s imagination… a spotty, geeky, socially inept teenage boy. Interests: Football, masturbation, death metal. Dates: zero. Shags: zero. Conversely, over in the girls’ changing room, nubile young things are starting to count their bedpost notches on two hands. In the world of teenage sex, any girl can get any boy simply by virtue of having breasts and the ability to say yes when in the mood. Of course this leads to heartbreak and torment as their fragile minds fail to understand that under “Interests”, their prospective boyfriends did not include “having a girlfriend”, “spending time with a girl” or “doing girl things”. And so the power balance, shag-wise, at least, is firmly weighted in favour of the girls.
Then comes a strange time for the sexes, as they start to enter the adult world, go to university and start to integrate on a level playing field. And this is where the balance starts to shift. The boys’ spots have cleared up, they begin to understand that there are clear and obvious routes into sex, with the possibility of more sex if they start listing girl-friendly hobbies under “Interests”. And so they start to seem more attractive to their female peers, and the calibre of women they can lure into their (still) none-too-fragrant bedrooms begins to creep up. This period of joyful equilibrium is when a lot of long-term relationships, civil partnerships and marriages are formed. The salad days of the early 20s. He’s happy because she’s the first woman since his mother who’s shown him love, and knows how to make a roast dinner just like mum. She’s happy because he gets on well with her Dad. They both like golf and Dad’s Army, while agreeing that they don’t make TV like that anymore. Let’s live happily ever after.
Ah, the folly of youth. As my research has led me to discover, a turning point starts to happen in a man’s love-life in his late 20s. While she does make a wonderful roast dinner, he can’t help thinking that her less-than subtle nudging towards “the next stage in our relationship” isn’t quite what he’s after. All the boys are still out there, having fun, playing the field, and is this really IT? Saturdays spent in IKEA and coming home to watch the X-Factor (which he HATES; they really don’t know how to make TV anymore). The late 20s break-up is a well-documented phenomenon.
So there they are, flung out into the singles dating scene again. And how has time taken its toll on the sexes? The man emerges butterfly-like from his relationship-cocoon into a flurry of women. And now the choice is his. The women are there for the taking. To women in their early 20s, he’s got (half-ownership of) a car and (half-ownership of) a flat. He knows how to order wine and he strives to give her pleasure in bed. And there’s just something about the way he talks about his passion for golf that’s just so familiar. And to women his own age, those brilliant, confident women in their early 30s, they love him because they could see themselves married soon. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. And mum always liked men with blue eyes, too.
And here is where man has hit his prime (in the course of the current study to date, at any case). The world is his romantic oyster. He finally has the opportunity to live that boyhood fantasy of punching above his weight. Yes, so all those nights out boozing, playing hours of computer games and other poor lifestyle choices may have taken their toll on his complexion and waist-line, but he’s a lovable rogue! Or He’s such a laugh! Or he has a penis! He is at the ultimate of his desirability, his sexual peak, his fighting weight.