Monday, 1 March 2004

What women want

On the Attractiveness of the Eligible Bachelor


A man writing the one article in a men’s magazine that would be better written by a woman. Except possibly the one that helps you understand why the woman in your life needs so many pairs of shoes. Or the one that lays bare for your feeble male understanding the pleasures of a day spent shopping without buying anything.

Ah well. Here goes.

First things first. “Attractive,” “eligible” and “bachelor” are not synonyms. Being one does not imply you are both the others. Or even one of them.

Now that we have that straight, let’s continue.

My research involved focus group discussions and media analysis. (Sorry. Force of habit. More than ten years spent in advertising, you see. It means i dredged a rather faulty memory for past conversations, and checked out magazines.)

Scour the matrimonials, a wise journo friend tells me, when i confess i have no idea what eligible means in this day and age. So, leaving out the religion and community bit, here’s a quick “what’s hot” list, based on the totally random scanning of three Sunday newspapers and several web sites.

One definition of eligible is “someone you can take home to Mama,” so let’s start with what the parents of the to-be brides seem to prefer: well-settled (preferably doctor, engineer or professional, even more preferably in the USA); cultured; fair, or even wheat-complexioned (someone explain this to me - is it ripening stalks swaying in the breeze, wheat grains, aattaa, maida, bread or chapatis?); between 25 and 30 (stretchable to 35 in exceptional cases); good family background; tall would help, but it’s not essential; widowed is ok, just about, just no “encumbrances”; divorced is fine, as long as you’re an “innocent” divorcee, whatever that means.

And the boys’ folks, what do they think will get their pride and joy the right bride? The buzzwords are: any post-graduate degree; well-settled; USA; good family; with car and house, own or company-provided, doesn’t matter; below 35 (or if older, then “looks younger” or is “very well settled.”). And all of them seem to want “homely” girls. Which, if they knew what it meant, would be truly liberated and refreshing. But those are rants i’ll save for another time.

Ok, enough of the Situations Vacant. Pick up a women’s mag, and it’s pretty likely that there will be a poll in it. And that poll will say the highest points in the eligibility stakes go to A Sense Of Humour. Ha ha. And there’s Broad-mindedness. And Caring. And Should Understand Me. Sneaking into that noble list you’ll also find many PC-speak aliases for well-settled. Which also figure in conversations i’ve had with women friends over the years. Some lasses confess to being impressed by swank cars, great clothes, cool apartments, elite degrees and other status symbols. And Green Cards. The sophisticates who would not admit to such material desires use terms like Security, Makes Me Feel Special, High Achievers, Good Taste and Appreciation For The Finer Things In Life.

Which, Gentlemen, brings it down to this: If you want to be considered eligible, you better have trophy value.

Where does this leave me?

The women who seem to place my eligibility score highest are the wives and girlfriends of buddies. One cynic’s theory (no, not me, certainly not me) is that they want all seemingly carefree bachelors safely settled down and domesticated, because that way, their men won’t go all envious and wishing they were single. But i digress.

Technically i am a bachelor. i can’t deny that i’m demonstrably single.

As to the attractive, well, my dearest friends will go no further than to say (now and then), “Hey, nice shirt.” Or, when i look in major need of cheering up, “Ah, you shaved?”

Eligible? Since i passed the age of consent, which was a long time ago, i have spent roughly 75 percent of the intervening years being also unattached. Some of it was voluntary, i admit. You know, the normal thing: you see your madly in love friends getting married, and proceeding to either live unhappily ever after or getting divorced; and you think, not me, never me.

But i’m no misogynist. Quite the contrary. Since my voice broke, there’s always been at least one woman occupying disproportionate amounts of my mindspace. And i’m not anti-relationships either. But i’ve never quite figured out what women want.

The much-trumpeted Sense Of Humour? Doesn’t work. They’ll complain that you can’t take anything seriously. The ones that admit to liking money will complain about the inordinate amount of time you spend earning it and seek consolation with toy boys. The ones that say they like a well-toned body will cringe from the sweat worked up attempting to achieve it. If you’re possessive they’ll call you jealous and insecure. If you’re not possessive, they’ll condemn you for not caring.

Er. Yes. i know. i’m ranting. Sorry. But you get the picture.

And despite all i’ve said so far, i’m a romantic at heart. No, really.

Where was i? Ah yes, my eligibility.

Going by the wish lists, i’m screwed. Or rather, i’m not going to be, not in the foreseeable future.

My bank balance has seen better days. My butt is the kind Botticelli liked. Plus i’m over the age limit, don’t have a 9-to-5 job, earn a decidedly irregular income, drive a battered 800 when i’m not taking the busses, don’t even have a passport, live in a rented flat that’s so far away from the city centre it’s in another city.

But perhaps there is hope. A dear friend - a woman, i hasten to add, and she was consoling me after the last jilting, and she’s happily married - said to me once, “Single women above a certain age, go sour. Single men get better with age.”

So, by that reckoning, if i get that post-grad degree, save up for a house and get a job in an MNC, i’ll be just oozing with eligibility by the time i’m about seventy. And women will throw themselves at me as i hobble down the street. i had better start stockpiling the Viagra.

Hopefully, all the women i know would have forgotten this article by then.

Published in It’s a Guy Thing (GT, for short) the Times of India Group’s Men’s magazine.


1 comment:

suniti said...

What can I say ! Absolutely delightful article Peter :)
I am almost tempted to share with you all the letters ( 65 in all ) I got in response to a matrimonial ad I had placed in TOI,just for fun. My friends used to do public reading of those letters and photographs a few enthu grooms had sent were made into darts targets.
All I can advise is- be very careful whose ad you answer. It could be mine.
And contrary to what you and many may believe, I think sense of humour is rated way above money- or money making ability. Really it is.
I just felt like stating the girl's point of view here.