Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Red Flags in a Bull Market?

The third and final post in my brief romanconomics series focuses on some of the troubles men face in the modern dating world (see my posts about the troubles for women and the market at large). I know, I know. I'm not a man, so how would I know? Well, always anxious to avoid coming across as pretentious, I asked some guys! 
Fortuitously, (no, I don't go there often) has just published their annual Great Male Survey, which asks men a variety of questions about life. There's a whole section on "Dating & Sex," which corresponds perfectly to the third part in our miniseries. So, that's the good news.
The bad news is that out of the four guys I asked, only one responded (for those of you keeping track at home, that's a terrible response rate, and it's not even an impressive batting average). Luckily, the one guy who replied graciously wrote enough for four people, someone else conducted an international survey, and I have a bit of common sense. So we ought to be in good shape.
This guy, Jake,* is a confident junior majoring in Business Management. He takes an approach he likes to call the "FZ," short for "friend zone," and can often be seen laughing it up with a pretty stable group of co-eds. In this scenario, girls mill about in the FZ for 6-12 months, while Jake assesses their compatibility. He describes this as playing the stock market, and instead of doing something trendy and risky, like buying "5,000 shares of Pandora today," he says "I'd rather put my money in more stable investments, like commodities or well-established firms with current profitability." Jake says the FZ lets people determine compatibility in a low-risk environment, and then take a slower, more casual approach to dating. He's wary of outside pressure to conform to a "rom-com-onomic," unrealistic view of relationships, and of other one-size-fits-all solutions. When I asked if he's gotten any feedback on his views, he said that most girls tend to support them. He admits that he's able to hang out with interesting women who tend to share his views, because "given the supply and demand of females and males, guys often have the luxury of the friend zone."
 Next, we have the Great Male Survey results. One of the most striking things was that a whopping 66%, when asked if they "believe in the institution of marriage" said that  "Yes, I believe it is a necessary institution and one in which I will participate to help preserve." On the two separate questions with the option "I am single," the most common response was that the participant was single (though one question listed 35% single, the other had 46% single ...). Over half the participants want to get married, but nearly half replied that they're single. If men want to get married, why are so many of them unattached? Could it be that they're spending 6-12 months rocking the "friend zone?" Or are there really no appealing women left?
Finally, we have a bit of anecdotal evidence from nightlife in NYC.  The New York Times article, "Dress Codes In New York Clubs—Will This Get Me In?"highlights one club owner who recommends guys wear "a blazer, a solid button-down or a solid sweater," but says that for women, shoes with a "minimum five-inch heel," preferably Christian Louboutin, are a must for admittance. Guys are told to dress like they're playing it cool, but women should vamp it up ... without being cheap. 

It seems that Jake's original analysis of dating being like the stock market is actually spot-on. What's happening now is a classic bull market. Like oil barons watching the price of a barrel rise, the question becomes how long to fish around for the best possible option. In other words, with a host of eligible women at your fingertips, you should wait awhile to make sure the best are really the best. If the commodity (your singleness) is going to go to $500/share, why sell at $350? If a trendy EuroBabe is coming to the club tomorrow night, why buy a drink for the former cheerleader? Did you remember your play-it-cool blazer or what? There's no reason to put yourself out there before you have to.

I'm not saying guys are cads (in fact, Jake says he's recently started dating someone). The market is definitely in their favor. Spouses are a lifetime investment, and even boyfriends/girlfriends are an emotional commitment, so it's worth waiting and picking a good one. It sounds like guys have marriage on the mind (37% said a family was the ultimate status symbol, picking that over beautiful wife/girlfriend, beautiful house, beautiful car, and country club membership), but they aren't dating. There just seems to be a disconnect, and I imagine it's frustrating for some.

My analysis? Sure, the FZ is a good plan for awhile, because it's low-risk, but at some point you have to up the ante. Otherwise, the bubble might pop before you've gotten that big payout you were waiting for.

I was on the singles market in:

Grayish pencil skirt, brown tank top, hyacinth blue sweater with giant safety-pin, abalone disk earrings, and green leather stilettos with cork heel and platform.

*Name may have been changed.