Thursday, January 19, 2012

Practical Romance

Tonight it was suggested to me that when a woman starts dating a man the first thing she’s thinking about is how that man makes her feel. If it’s good her focus is on that giddy feeling.

I don’t think it works that way. At least it doesn’t for me, not anymore. I think on a whole, women are much more pragmatic about their relationships in the beginning. If they’re interested in something more than just a fling what they’re initially thinking about is not how this guy makes them feel. Instead they’re focused on the following questions: “Is this someone I can respect?” “Do we have enough in common?” “Could I trust this person with my kids?” (assuming there are kids) “How would I feel introducing this person to my friends?” “Is he stable?” “Do we share the same values?” and so on and so forth.

I think that this is the main reason most of us want to wait before having sex. It’s not that we’re worried that the guy we’re with will stop respecting us if we put out too early, it’s that we know we won’t even be able to fully enjoy the experience unless we feel more settled about the above questions. In other words, the giddiness can come but only after our brains have decided that this is someone worth getting giddy about.

But a lot of men don’t realize women think that way. Sure, they complain about gold diggers but when you press them further they seem to imagine us to be much more romantic about it all, even going so far as to suggest that we are guided completely by our emotions.  And maybe we are...when we’re in our teens and early 20s.

But by the time the 30s come around women have become pragmatists and it’s the men who are the romantics, being led around by their feelings of excitement over this or that person, barely noticing the warning signs until they’re either slapped in the face with them or their excitement has died down. So why is it that women are still seen as the emotional ones when it comes to relationships?

I think we fiction writers are partially to blame. See, the fun thing about movies and books, particularly those written purely to entertain, is that everyone is guided by their emotions and that’s doubly true when it comes to female characters and romance. Take Scarlett O’Hara and Catherine (of Catherine and Heathcliff fame). Both were completely impractical when it came to love and when they did make pragmatic decisions they usually ended up regretting them because those decisions didn’t fulfill their hearts the way giving into their true soulmates might have. And when it comes to modern literature...well really, does anyone think it’s pragmatic to date a vampire?

But secretly (or maybe not that secretly) we all want to be able to be controlled by our emotions. We want to do what feels right rather than what logically seems right. We want to trust that our hearts really will lead us in the right direction. So people like me create emotionally driven characters and we joyfully live vicariously through the romance of it all.

And then we go out on our dates and we temporarily shelve the let's-get-giddy instinct and cling to our pragmatism.

Because really, being led around purely by our emotions? That only works for fictional women and maybe a few not-so-fictional grown-up boys.


krisgils33 said...

GWTW is one of my most favoritest books. I'd like to think that eventually Scarlett would have gotten it right and been happy and fulfilled. As for real life, I'd like to think that there's a point where heart and mind are both engaged in the decision-making process...and not one or the other. *sigh* mostly doesn't work that way, though, does it??

kyradavis said...

I've read GWTW more times than I can count (I just skip over the racist parts) ;-) It's impossible not to love Scarlett and Rhett. I do think that women find that balance between heart and mind...I just think they hold off on getting their heart involved until their mind has been at least somewhat satisfied :-P

Gail said...

I wish more women were like you, Kyra, and used their heads before jumping headlong into a relationship. Unfortunately I have met many, many women who are just as impulsive as the guys.

kyradavis said...

Really? Maybe my friends & I are the exception, but when I hear my girlfriends talk about the guy they just started dating it's always about how successful he is, how they like to travel to the same places, how he's a foodie like them, how he loves kids &/or animals....all pragmatic issues. When I hear men talk about the women they started dating I get, "she's awesome." & maybe she's hot. But practical issues aren't even considered.