Chivalry & fertility

Not too long ago, it was considered de rigueur when a man was courting a woman that he would offer to pay for her. Nowadays, there is considerable diversity of opinion about this question. The egalitarian position is that because both men and women work, they should both bear the costs equally. Chivalry need not be dead, some argue—but it should brought up to date for the modern world, with partners taking turns treating each other.

However, even modern women in well-paid professions often expect the man to pick up the tab. This expectation does not usually manifest itself as an express principle. More often, it is an attitude made clear indirectly. Women are more generous with their affections to men who are generous with their treasure; men who pay are rewarded in kind.

Are the men and women who maintain this state of affairs simply old-fashioned? Not necessarily. It occurred to me that there’s an economic justification for male chivalry:

Women have fewer years of fertility, so their time spent in courtship is more valuable. By offering to pay, the man is honoring the woman by placing a high value on her time—a tacit acknowledgement of the scarcity of this resource.


The nice guy paradox

A friend of mine asked me the other day how I made so many female friends. He saw me with two or three different women in the course of a few months, and (I gather) made an untoward and hasty assumption about the depth of my intimacy with these women. This is a common refrain. I have many female friends, but the vast majority of them are just friends.

It has also happened that women that I have become intimate with have been intimidated (and even scared away) by the fact that I have so many female friends. They too make assumptions, and probably feel threatened—or at least not valued as much as they would like—because I am friendly with so many people. I’m open about my friendships, and I don’t hide much about my life from the new people I meet. I never really saw the point of being secretive or distant. It just isn’t my style.

There’s an old saying: ‘men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love.’ It’s an oversimplification of course, but it contains a kernel of truth.

Another saying, phrased as a rhetorical question, asks ‘why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?’ This started out as a humorus explanation of why men are often reluctant to commit to a single woman, but instead indulge in comparatively promiscuous relationships.

Well, the other night, as I was preparing dinner for her, a female friend of mine wondered out loud “how is it possible that you’re single, Michael?” This, too, is a tired old refrain.

It occurred to me though that I knew the answer.

The nice guy paradox is that while women always say they want to be with a nice guy, the nice guys often end up with many female friends, but no committed partner. Jerks, on the other hand, seem to be able to write their own checks when it comes to women.

In the original view of the analogy about cows & milk, buying the cow represents committing to a single woman, and the milk represents sex. The parable asks, why should a man commit to a single partner when he can have sex without commitment?

A new viewing of the analogy recasts it from the woman’s point of view. As in the original version, buying the cow is analogous to committing to a single man. But here, the milk represents love. Why should a woman enter into a committed relationship with a man if he is already giving her love?

This insight illuminates some of my past experiences. It helps to explain why the asshole technique works. (Of course, the original explanation from supply and demand still holds.)

I love all of my friends, and I don’t plan to change who I am just to improve my success in the dating game. However, I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of not giving too much of myself to people whom I’ve just met.

This isn’t about playing games or pretending not to be interested. On the contrary, I think it’s very important to express interest openly and directly. What it is about is putting oneself first, and not giving another person more love and openness than one gets in return. This may sound trite and obvious, but for some reason it has taken me a while to let the lesson sink in.

Being a man is fun, scary, wonderful, and fascinating. One of these days, I’ll figure it out!


Forced sterilization for transgender Swedes?

A friend brought to my attention the fact that in Sweden, to change one’s gender under the law, a person must submit to sterilization, forever forgoing the possibility of having children.

At first I didn’t see the logic behind such a law; a moment’s reflection, however, made it clear why some people want to force this terrible choice on transgender citizens.

The existence of gay, bisexual, intersex, and transgender people threatens the idea of a simple binary division of humanity into two genders. One can understand why this idea makes some people uncomfortable. People may aspire to be open-minded and not prejudicial; but in reality, people like the comfort of knowing at a glance what to expect from someone. People expect different behavior from men and women, for example. I imagine many women would feel uncomfortable sharing a toilet, shower, or dressing room with a person with fully functional testicles, regardless of the gender with which that person identifies. Testosterone affects attitudes, desires, and behaviors; so this reluctance is understandable. People who don’t fit into society’s predefined categories are scary to many because they challenge long-held and cherished assumptions. To grant rights to another, one must often be willing to give up some of one’s own rights.


AmEx Feedback

I recently applied for a Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold card, enticed by the offer of 30,000 free miles. However, when prompted for my feedback regarding the card, I was straightforward:

“The Delta SkyMiles Gold AmEx is being pushed very heavily right now, by both Delta representatives, and folks standing at stands set up in airport terminal buildings. Even though I did find the offer compelling and opted to apply, I found the campaign a bit too pervasive. Especially in light of recent news about Americans’ destructive and unsustainable credit card spending habits, the ubiquitous push to get people to sign up for a high interest rate AmEx card seemed a bit distasteful and capricious. I have made enough purchases to get the free traunch of miles; I’ll be honest that I intend now to use the card only within my budget, paying off the bill in full every month. Furthermore, a free companion travel voucher will be of little use to me, and this inducement will not be enough to overcome my general objection to paying a yearly fee for a card that already imposes a significant merchant fee. For this reason, it is likely that I will close my account before the end of the first year.”