Responses to my previous blog post about Bettina Arndt have prompted me to consider just how people see relationships and the politics surrounding the choosing of a partner. It struck me that what Arndt and many other writers of her type are writing about is a transactional relationship. That is, that the chief reason for women to go to university, get a “high status” job and therefore a big salary is to ultimately gain a similarly trained and salaried mate. Using statistics about pay scales and university education feeds into this concept that relationship construction is about financial status, not other factors.
This idea is hardly new – there was a time once where women of “high birth” were good only for increasing the status of the family that produced the daughter, or keep the status quo. Jane Austen addresses this in her work, where she is advocating a slight move away from the transactional relationship, towards one where people of marginally different social status – ie. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Lizzie Bennett – can defy social convention and pressures find other things in common. In Arndt’s world, Anne de Bourgh would have married Mr. Darcy.
The article from an increasingly detached social observer – just see how much credence she places in American bloggers – demonstrates how much is not understood about the changes education and technology are bringing to the development of people and relationships. Her example of the “Alpha Male”, who I called Dr. Malcolm Franklin – Hamm – going for a girl in her 20s – eliminates the possibility that the girl in her 20s could be a sparkling conversationalist. Or that they could have interests in common. I have found in my interactions with women in their 20s – especially on Twitter – that there are many quirky and engaging women in their 20s – which would come as a shock from people who are older who see them as “competition” or some such. These are women who pursue their own interests and adventures, whether it pleases men or not. I think of @superhotmel, who has an abiding interest in Lego minifigs ; Keira Nightingale – @bambiandthejets – who has a profound love and knowledge of AFL and has taken that and applied it into making an excellent collection of supporter stories ; or @erinrileyau and @nicolacastleman, with whom I have had many long conversations about politics and football ; then there is the most under followed Tweeter I know, @tollplaza, who applies a very funny and unique slant to life and television. Especially Psychic TV. Seriously, people should follow her. There are many other examples, such as the spark for all this, @rubywildflower. It is entirely possible that someone in their 30s, 20s, whatever, from whichever background, would find great joy and companionship with such people who have their own interests and passions. It is a mistake to look at two people in a room, in love, and assume that it is a relationship not built on love and mutual interests – instead, that it is purely transactional. This whole point can be made about women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond who also possess a dazzling array of experiences, knowledge, passions, interests that make them interesting, intriguing, attractive, fascinating. These people all defy the stereotyping that articles like Arndt’s so easily adopt. That is because they have chosen to be interesting and wonderful on their own terms – not terms deemed by those who wish to think society is a system of games and transactions.
The example provided in Arndt’s article from the 30 something journalist – “and those who remain are leering by the cheese table” has struck me as fairly symbolic of the absurdity of the world Arndt is writing about. It is one aspect of transactional relationship theory that one thing a “high status” person would not do is enjoy food. Such people, in my experience, talk of food as being a burden, not a total pleasure. They speak of it having to be restricted in diets, as food needing to be entirely healthy. As such, they would always refer to things like cheese as a pleasure and pain – “ooooh, I love cheese, but it goes straight to my hips”. Personally, it doesn’t bother me if it does – that applies to men and women equally. I love cheese, craft beer, good food. I like sharing it with people who are similarly inclined. If I was at that party, I would be seen as a man leering by the cheese table, because I would have seen a particularly nice bit of roquefort, blue or Wensleydale. I probably also would have been trying to avoid a journalist who seems to be rather judgmental and dull. People who think of people from the opposite gender as a “goal”, “target” or “person of similar status” are generally boring people who talk of their latest diet / exercise regimen – certainly not good TV programs, music or cheese. Talking of leering at cheese – here is some champion cheese leering – for more examples, visit my tumblr peoplewholeeratcheese.tumblr.com – I thank @miss_shiny for the name. Blessed be the Cheese Leerers – for we will enjoy our lives and relationships.