Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How Many Fish in the Sea?

Not to brag or anything, but last week I had a really good outfit. As I was bopping around work and through the lobby, I got an uncommon number of compliments, winks, smiles, and enthusiastic hellos from the security guards than normal. Admittedly, I looked cute—just not that cute. I was slightly suspicious. Not quite as suspicious as I am when Maureen Dowd has something nice to say, but a little suspicious. So I began thinking.

New Yorkers leave the city for 4th of July weekend faster than they grab cabs when it's raining. Working at a college means you're typically surrounded by all of your young female coworkers and peers. Working at a college over the 4th of July in New York means that you are suddenly the ONLY eligible bachelorette in the world, and you're going to get complimented. Suddenly, it all began to come together under what trendy journalists are calling "sexual economics" (I know, right?).

A few of my faithful readers may remember my blog post "Romanconomics," that discussed some of the market principles guiding male/female relationships. What has become increasingly important to point out is that the "singles market" simply isn't performing very well. Various headlines, beginning with Kay S. Hymowitz's "Where Have the Good Men Gone" in the Wall Street Journal, and more recently Mark Regnerus's "Sex is Cheap" on Slate, have tapped into what many find to be an alarming cultural trend. Namely, young people today don't date and don't know how.  

Reasons for this include a knowledge economy that requires more years of schooling and extra-curriculars, a "dude" culture that features bum-glorifying movies like The Hangover and Knocked Up, and a move towards sexual promiscuity by many women.* When you put these things together, you get a surplus of eligible women. 

Surpluses and shortages are generally caused by price floors and ceilings. If there's a surplus of eligible women, it means that something has happened in the market for smart, attractive, successful women. For a long time, men went to college and women didn't. Men had to be ambitious to take care of their homemaking wives. Then a few women went to college. Men had to be ambitious to end up with the pretty humanities major, and not the future librarian. Today, lots of women go to college. Women have to be ambitious to get internships and boyfriends. Men can sit back, relax, and maybe reply to the three girls who texted them while you read this paragraph.** 

When the number of eligible men and women is closer to equilibrium, dating is both more efficient and more fulfilling (more good options means less time wasted in angst). When I was suddenly one of very few young women around, lots of men who had previously labeled me as "just one more blue-eyed fish in a sea of pretty faces" began to say hello. In other words, being in an unsaturated market can change your whole day! The challenge today is for college women to find those unsaturated markets. After all, exceptionally cute outfits can only happen so often. 

I got complimented in:
Gray shirt-dress with skinny black belt, orange "hole punch" scarf, silver disk earrings with coral flowers, straw fedora, silver daisy ring, white watch with orange and yellow flowers, and black patent peep-toes with a wicker wedge. 

*I'm not trying to say that you're any of these things simply because you fit into a demographic. I'm also not saying that there's no one in the world worthy of dating me, or anything else obnoxious. Just analyzing a trend.

**This surplus has a variety of interconnected variables, so I'll be doing a short series of posts on this topic. Stay tuned!