Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Women Want

When you walk around the city, don’t you see many ‘couples’ walking about as well, holding hands, talking to each other and whispering quietly under their breath to each other? You walk in a park, you’ll find them comfortably promenading. You walk to your place of work, you’ll find them leaving cars and rickshaws and auto-rickshaws together. You walk to college, you’ll find them chattily skipping along, maybe holding hands, or not. Not many of these would be really very old. By old, I don’t mean octogenarian old, but slightly older among the younger lot. Just slightly older than the average young person on the street, whom I would hazard to peg at presumably 21. The practice of holding hands is more prevalent among the young. For the older it’s just a customary gesture. They hardly ever attach any importance to it. Most older people would counter this by saying that they do, in fact, indulge in a spot of intimate hand-holding occasionally, and do not look at it merely as a gesture. They are not so dispassionate about it. But, still, any observant person will tell you that for the old, the act is not something they deliberately seek out to do; au contraire, it’s something they do purely out of either necessity or habit.

But the real question is, what kind of demography do these couples constitute? Not just age-wise, or racially even, but what sort of people are they. What is their (to use something pretty convenient) psycho-social demography?

It is difficult to assess something like this, most people become imperturbably taciturn when questioned about their taste in the opposite sex. You can’t, first of all, ask a girl outright what she likes in a man. The use of such impudence is only available to the most ill-mannered, or the most distant of acquaintances, and then only casually. When you are serious about the question, it can only be asked by someone who has known the person long enough to warrant the intrusion. Sometimes, after several remonstrations to the contrary, even those you are relatively closer to among the questioned become suspicious about the reasons for such nit-picking and scrutinizing, as they see it. You may want to hear of it or look at it purely from a disinterested, but curious, point of view. But they won’t, and in all fairness should not, think of your probing as being facetious. Of course, on the other hand, several people will look at it merely as just another nice and easy conversation starter or conversation conjunctive, depending on the situation.

But what do women really want?

I loved that movie, mainly because it actually didn’t really answer the question at all? There are several things that women think about, that’s a given. But what do they really like in men? What makes they inclined to like someone better than someone else? What sort of preferences do they have. In the summer months, The Telegraph published a report about a study done in which women were asked to react to the presence of a moustache, or a beard, or some denomination of facial hair. Apparently, and this is slightly surprising, they preferred the bearded over the clean-shaven, the bearded over the mustached, and the clean-shaven over the mustached. So, all in all, the mustached are the irredeemable scum of the earth, the clean-shaven are all right, and the bearded are the most attractive. Predictably, and I was personally hoping for some such response, most women responded to the study by saying that attraction depended on a diverse set of factors, and certainly included more than simply the face. Besides, they said, that it is not simply the presence of facial hair that accentuates a man’s quotient of attractiveness, but the face itself, its features, and whether the hair really suits the man. Sigh. This was slightly a little partial on the technical side for me. I mean, I prefer to keep such descriptions simple. But a growing awareness of appearances and their importance necessitates such precision. It is the face’s dimensional attributes. Very nice. Of course, if I were shopping in the supermarket for salad bowls, I would also be similarly engrossed in the dimensional attributes.

But the studies that are conducted by students of psychology, on the human response to appearance, is significantly different from what you gather in your day to day encounters and conversations. Most women are not so specific about the tastes. In fact, most women don’t really have any opinion on the absence or otherwise of facial hair. Even men are slightly baffled by the reactions they receive. Some time back, I remember watching a model on television with his newly wedded wife, talking into a camera inside their car, and the model had a very prominent beard. Immediately, the girl I was watching it with remarked how much more pleasing to the eye he had become. I sort of felt the same, but I never really know how to respond to beards and all that. The fact is that consciously or unconsciously, most indicators of attraction tend to be physical.

If, like I mentioned before, you ask someone about their preferences, the first few indicators will inevitably be physical. And why not? The person’s physical being is the first thing you will take in anyway. Here, the variety is slightly exasperating. Some say they like men who are taller than they are, hefty, on the muscular side. Some prefer them skinny, maybe even skinnier than themselves. Some girls like men who have a specific length of hair. For instance, if she is not favourably disposed to long hair, she would say that she likes a guy with well cut hair. Hmm. I wonder what kind of exact dimensional attribute that would have. Some absolutely do not prefer men who are thin or lanky. It gives them the impression of being too weak, casual or clumsy, or worse, all of the aforementioned. Some girls like to look at men who have broad shoulders and slightly prominent shoulder blades. In this category, would fall the likes of obsessive body-builders. And then again, in a change of direction, some women do not appreciate the heavily-toned and muscle-induced bulky frames of men.

Even as the variety in this regard is endless, there is further hope for the questioner where the real deal, or the personality, of the man is concerned. This is because the responses are usually very exacting and clear. There is usually very little ambiguity in this department. The response could be mixed and full of mixed epithets and contradicting qualities, but even then, the girl usually has a definitely idea in mind.

For instance, the excited type is a very often vilified ‘type’. The denotations of being ‘excited’ are rather unfortunate: It means that the guy does not really have his head in the right place. He is flippant and reacts almost always exaggeratedly in every other situation. It also implies that the guy has a tendency to really blow things out of proportion. As against the ‘excited’ type, guys who are ‘considerate and extroverted’ are often more distinguished, and accordingly more compatible. These are guys who do not throw their weight about and do not under normal circumstances behave like the sky is about to fall on their heads. I do agree with most of this assessment. But on some finer points I think I differ. One is the fact that mostly people are not so easily distinguishable. What may seem considerate and extroverted may in fact only be a tendency to ‘play the part’ in all social situations. People who talk more in groups are not necessarily the people whose thoughts and feelings are more empathic. Some prefer the use of the word genuine, but it’s slightly presumptuous to designate one or the other as being genuine, and the rest as more ‘artificial’. To do that, it would require not only a very intimate knowledge of the other person, but also a profound distaste for his or her ways.

The best and the worst thing a girl can say about a man is that he is, indefinitely, a ‘quiet type’. I would be qualified to elaborate on this one. A quiet type is either preferable as a potential boyfriend, or more suitable as a friend. It’s either of the two. I say ‘potential’ boyfriend because the potential eventually sometimes never really materializes, because they do not move forward. As a friend on the other hand, he is companionable and worthy of your deepest affection. But even the latter is sometimes not realized, because the ‘quiet type’ somehow manages to drift away and detach himself from the proceedings of your life. All in all, this one is fraught with ifs and buts, but the outcome is usually the same.

When you actually think about all these responses, you will be stuck by a remarkable thing about the present. People do not usually mention, even if they think it, the archetypal job profile of the man they would love. So, as some kind of a redemption from the past, when people often stuck to their matrimonial ambitions of marrying either a company man or a doctor or an government babu or whatever when asked about their preferences, people today need real human beings. All the other peripheral things suffice.


Snobster said...

Either you dont accept comments or else this page is lesser known..
Stupendous...(hope I get my spellings right)

Snobster said...

Thanks for a visit.Yes I wrote a full blown piece on etymology for my school magazine.Being in the editorial board doesn't ensure that all of "your" stuff gets in it.Afterall ,"no-no my child,this can't go,probably the 12 graders won't understand all this and think of the 1 graders.."..Sigh!
Err all that ranting was not required but guess this is how the things work here.