Not gonna lie about how this topic came up. It was a late summer afternoon in the HuffPost Toronto offices, and a blog had just come in that immediately became the subject of an all-out newsroom debate.
The blog was titled: I Rejected a Good Date Because he Was a Bad Kisser.
Now, our newsroom is pretty much a direct split between men and women. Many, if not most, are young unmarrieds or newly marrieds -- plus we have a bunch of single summer interns. Thus very quickly the argument became heated, and progressed beyond the blog itself to a general discussion of, "Is the modern woman too picky?"
The one thing we could all agree on, in the end, was to put this question to two savvy male bloggers (both of whom happen to be single, therefore very much "the boots on the ground" in this battle) and let them go at it. And of course, have you, the readers, decide upon the winner.
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My first instinct in writing this piece was to line up the hard facts: Women were this picky during these decades and as you can see they have become increasingly pickier. This statistic is not only unavailable, it's impossible to ascertain because pickiness cannot be reduced to a percentage that's seen to increase or diminish from decade to decade. That said, there are strong rumblings in my belly and my eyes are clear of sight, so I'm going to lay it out there.
Not just women, but modern people are too picky these days for two simple reasons. One, we have been fed on the lie that all the most fantastic aspects of our dreams can be fully realised if only we continue hoping. This delusion is peddled by Disney and a wide range of other frauds, charlatans, and advertisers (excuse the redundancy) out to convince you that the acme of happiness can be yours if only you buy what they're selling. Consumers are best when they're optimistic and credulous, but this carries over, unintended but harmfully nonetheless, and leads to people who make perfection their standard when seeking a mate.
The second reason pickiness has increased has to do with the Internet as backdrop. We are constantly bombarded on social media with Photoshopped images and painstakingly cultivated profiles, contrived to look favourable yet effortless so we believe that the grass on the other side is a plush and robust green. To make things worse, because the volume of this superficial puke is so high, there are more pastures in sight to be tempted by than ever. This fantasy realm is pernicious and misleading because the images projected in it are ghost images with none of the faults or virtues of real people. Whatever enchantment it generates is conjured up by self-interested tech-savvy schemers. You can sue a company for false advertisement, but not the perpetrator of a misleading Internet profile.
Resigning yourself to imperfection strengthens relationships for the simple reason that people are imperfect. It is always wise to adjust your outlook to coincide with reality. Willfully maintaining that moth-eaten, juvenile craving for true love, as imagined as a permanent state of bliss, is to be grown out of, the sooner the better. A person may be very wonderful, but eventually they will do something that freaks you out.
In love, curveballs abound. This doesn't mean they are not for you. In fact, couples who fight earlier in relationships have longer and more enriching connections, and this is thought to be because they have developed a common schema with which to communicate and air their grievances (I was briefly a sociology instructor during my teaching practicum, and this nugget of wisdom is from a textbook I can sadly no longer remember the title of). Love is not about seeking your idea of the ultimate companion. If life were like Disney movies, Disney wouldn't be magical (though note, it is aimed at children).
Resign, resign, resign! Your dream man is situated between Adonis and Urkel. Don't get me wrong: you do not need to court a ring from the first slack-jawed yokel who glares at you on the subway, but there's something to be said for compromising. And what is a compromise but two people resigning simultaneously? As sociologist Louis CK puts it, "...the attitude that keeps a family together, it's not 'we love each other,' it's, 'fuck it, man!'" Yes, CK!
Love involves putting up with a lot of crap that never seems to get advertised on the first date. Relationships come with no tables of content. (Let me state: I am talking about getting over bad mannerisms or habits or pet peeves, not unambiguously depraved things like abuse. Of course, nobody should resign themselves to that.)
The most sordid thing is to compare your lover against a list of objective qualifications they must meet, as if you were selecting a family pet:
"Two inches too short, his career is stable but insufficiently impressive, and I am not a huge backer of the mole on his right bicep. Despite wonderful chemistry and constant laughter, sadly, I am forced to pass."
You can be this shrewd when arranging your mortgage or buying a used Honda Civic, but the fire of human relationships -- that intangible human element that mysteriously signals connections by means of pheromones, unexplainable shivers and palpable interior excitement -- should never be reduced to something that can be transcribed wholly and accurately on paper. Love should burn up such lists.
The brilliant philosopher, but less than sunshiny, Schopenhauer called life, "an unprofitable episode disturbing the blessed calm of nonexistence." Let's face it: The guy's not totally wrong! Whatever gender you are and whatever gender you're interested in, if there's someone who makes life special or beautiful or meaningful but they lack some quality you expected the platonic form of your ideal mate to embody, you are not forced to pass on them. Not at all.
Do the right thing and say, "fuck it, man."
The modern woman is not too picky. "Picky" infers fastidiousness, and evokes the air of being spoiled, of being a princess. When a woman refuses a man, she is not being "picky"; she is exercising judgement. To call a woman "picky" because she doesn't give her phone number to a man who's just sputtered out a few mundane lines from last month's GQ, is akin to saying calling someone "rude" because he won't allow a stranger to come to his party after he tried inviting himself. As far as women are concerned in dating, they don't owe men a thing. So to say the modern woman is "picky" is nothing more than laying the blame for one's Saturday Night Failure on anyone but oneself.
This is not surprising. Men are having quite a hard time these days. The magazines that their grandfathers used to read -- The Atlantic and Newsweek -- while their grandmothers read Vogue, are the same ones that run fatalistically-titled stories such as "The End of Men." Women are on the rise, and have been for some time. One of the advantages that men have always had over women -- jobs and money -- is now gone. To say women have become fully independent is another topic for discussion, but one can certainly say that in terms of finance, they just don't need us like they used to. For some odd reason, this is a difficult concept for men -- or should I say boys? -- to wrestle with; after all, shouldn't the lifting of the burden of bills be celebrated?
But this point is especially important. For while the absolute independence of women can still be argued over, the fact is that due their recent advancements in terms of money, they can now focus on more interesting, more masculine (gasp!) criteria when it comes to selecting Mr. After-Work Drinks. The problem is, men don't like being judged according to the eerily similar criteria they would use to rate women with. It feels arbitrary, it feels strange, it feels unfair. When men say the modern woman is too picky, what they're really saying is "she's not picking me."
For so long -- and maybe it's all been in the interest of continuing the human race -- women have been incredibly forgiving of men's faults, whether it be their manners, or the wrong kind of six pack under their shirts. To say the same thing of men would be a stretch: We've all been witness to the man who won't "call her back" because her cup size is not inversely proportionate to her high marks in college. Women have never expected their men to look like Chris Hemsworth, but men have always been in search of women who follow the lines of Uptonian figure. And to be frank, they've been quite shameless about it. Anyone who argues that we are the dejected sex, that we are the ones who have been taught by society to look like David Beckham, is doing nothing more than trying to play the victim.
The modern woman is not picky. She is merely exercising not only her right, but her female duty to find a mate who is best suited to her needs. Men certainly do the same, so why the surprise? Why the outrage? Where was it written that a woman ought to bend over for a man because of his chromosomal configuration? If anything, men ought to take this cultural change in stride. This is the perfect opportunity for men not only to grow, but to cease being financial shields, and instead, become emotional boucliers, or, if possible, both.
So women need different things from a man than they did, say, 50 years ago? And because of this, we call them picky? Of course, there are those women whose demands are greater and more irrational than those of Nero, but the majority of women do not ask for nearly as much as men owe them. Naturally, it is much easier to insult women as being "picky" than to ask oneself if he has been giving as much as he could.
Look around you, and not only is it clear that women are not picky, but arguably, they are not picky enough. We all know someone who was "friend zoned" by a woman while she was off dating one of those objective jerks. All one needs to do is go to a club and watch how a Jersey Shore extra goes up to a girl, begins to squirm against her like a wet seal, shouts a few pick-up lines recycled from the night before, and ends up in a cab back to her place. Are we really going to say the modern woman is too picky when we have all been witness to these vomit-inducing scenes? Can we truly criticize women when we see them day-in, day-out, stay in relationships that are abusive, vulgar and downright dangerous?
There have been books devoted to the "craft" of the pick-up "artist," but even their widespread popularity has not prevented women, time and time again, from being won over by the same cocktail of artificial body language, positioning, compliments and of course, insults. Yes, insults; it's borderline sociopathic: Insult her, then compliment her to bring up her self-esteem. It's the verbal equivalent of a man slapping a girl, then playing the hero because he oh-so-conveniently has an ice pack with him. (By the way, this method is called "negging," and I would ask you to try it if only to prove my point.)
The state of women's judgement, and the current practices of men is so abysmal that, in certain cases, many women think that just because a man wears a tie and holds the door open for them, he is James Bond incarnate. Women, unlike men, are more prone to giving the opposite sex the benefit of the doubt. While this is certainly one of their greatest features, it is also one of their greatest weaknesses; one which has been taken advantage of by countless men, and championed heroically in trash TV shows such as "How I Met Your Mother" with that catastrophic character Barney Stinson.
The modern woman has every right, like a man does, to get what she wants. If that means that she does not want a particular type of man, for any reason whatsoever, then that is not cause to insult her, or to belittle her desires. If anything, it's a time for reflection of the self, much in the same way that behind closed doors, women would stare at their bodies in the mirror and ask "Why not me?" As far as men are concerned, the modern woman is only picky if she ever says no to the modern man. If she says "yes," that's because, well, how couldn't she? It's me.
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