Friday, April 11, 2008

Eligible bachelors, perfect men and the like

Slate attempts to explain the Eligible Bachelor Paradox:

The problem of the eligible bachelor is one of the great riddles of social life. Shouldn't there be about as many highly eligible and appealing men as there are attractive, eligible women?
Actually, no—and here's why. Consider the classic version of the marriage proposal: A woman makes it known that she is open to a proposal, the man proposes, and the woman chooses to say yes or no. The structure of the proposal is not, "I choose you." It is, "Will you choose me?" A woman chooses to receive the question and chooses again once the question is asked.

It was quite hilarious reading the article because a friend and I were discussing the exact same thing yesterday night over dinner. (How we got around to this topic I have really no idea!) And then last week a couple of us were having drinks with a professor of mine from college and in the midst of some really random conversations and revelations I would have been much happier not to have known, the same topic (again I have no idea how) had come up with my professor saying that it was always the woman who makes the choice and that men really didn’t have much say in the matter. On the whole he was wondering why his wife had chosen him and mostly marveling at his luck.

The idea of the woman choosing expressed in the proposal is a resilient one. The woman picking among suitors is a rarely reversed archetype of romantic love that you'll find everywhere from Jane Austen to Desperate Housewives. Or take any comic wedding scene: Invariably, it'll have the man standing dazed at the altar, wondering just how it is he got there.

Anyway, this is what I found interesting:

In this auction, some women will be more confident of their prospects, others less so. In game-theory terms, you would call the first group "strong bidders" and the second "weak bidders." Your first thought might be that the "strong bidders"—women who (whether because of looks, social ability, or any other reason) are conventionally deemed more of a catch—would consistently win this kind of auction. But this is not true. In fact, game theory predicts, and empirical studies of auctions bear out, that auctions will often be won by "weak" bidders, who know that they can be outbid and so bid more aggressively, while the "strong" bidders will hold out for a really great deal.

TAP and I were having one of our mad conversations a while back and had a good laugh over the article. (He thinks there’s an eligible bachelorette paradox which is being ignored here). I don’t even want to bother paraphrasing so I’m just going to channel TR here.

[4:13:04 PM] Szerelem says: you know I fit the behavior of a strong bidder totally
[4:13:28 PM] Szerelem says: only you know its a catch 22
[4:13:33 PM] Szerelem says: what if im not???
[4:13:41 PM] Szerelem says: then im not over bidding and am screwed
[4:15:35 PM] TAP says: or, you're *not*
[4:15:38 PM] TAP says: which is worse
[4:15:53 PM] TAP says: so you think you're conventionally deemed more of a catch, eh?
[4:16:52 PM] Szerelem says: no
[4:17:15 PM] TAP says: but you just said...
[4:17:17 PM] Szerelem says: im saying i behave like one
[4:17:24 PM] TAP says: ah
[4:17:24 PM] Szerelem says: even if im not
[4:17:32 PM] Szerelem says: so if im not - which im not - im screwed
[4:17:49 PM] TAP says: OR
[4:17:53 PM] Szerlem says: ??
[4:18:03 PM] TAP says: you're just thinking too much about the double negatives
[4:18:09 PM] Szerelem says: whatever

Whatever is right. I’m happy enough with all those men with chiseled features and intense brittle personae and of course that other fellow who I told TAP (only like half joking or something - I mean Pamuk is really cute also) is my ideal man. Only to get the snarky reply “So your idea of the perfect man is a 55 year old, preferably with moppy hair, old fashioned glasses, who lives in his mother's house, is dreamy and writes in long hand, and has preferably won a Nobel prize?” Duh. Yeah. Who needs real people anyway?


Tabula Rasa said...

you know seinfeld's done this theme to death back in the last century. in two words: george costanza.

Falstaff said...

Hmmm...the phrase winner's curse springs to mind.

bint battuta said...

Pamuk's all yours - just keep away from Umberto Eco...

Szerelem said...

tr: Ummm okay I really don't want to end up with anyone remotely like George Costanza

falstaff: yeah, you bet.

bint battuta: Oh, you can have Eco. (Admittedly the only Eco I have read is Baudolino which I thought was okay but not great...have you read it??)

Anonymous said...

Hi, reading your post brought another to mind:


bint battuta said...

Actually Baudolino is one of Eco's
books I haven't read. I'm in love with him not just for his fiction, but his academic writing too.