Friday, 2 December 2011

Type Versus Reality

I had a hilarious conversation with a married friend the other day. For some reason we were talking about boys. You would think that married ladies over thirty would get tired of talking about boys, but we haven't. At least, I haven't, and maybe the other married ladies over thirty are just humouring me.

But anyway we were having this hilarious conversation in which the subject of Our Type came up. If you have lived more than twenty years, you know what I am talking about. Perhaps you have even said (for example) to a friend, "You know, My Type is six-feet-tall-or-over, dark-haired, blue-eyed, athletic but also intellectual." And your friend may have said, "Oh, well, I don't really care about height, but My Type is dark-eyed and muscular."

These do not, by the way, approximate Our specific Types. I can't tell you what Our Types are because of the next part of the conversation, which was when we fell about laughing because in the end we married men who didn't look at all like Our Types.

I wonder if this is a sweeping phenomenon, this being attracted to One Type and then happily falling in love with another. And I wonder if it is related! (A sudden look of existential horror has passed over Auntie Seraphic's face.) What if the very fact that we are attracted to Type A gives us the exact right amount of indifference towards Type B that makes Type B go to vast lengths to impress us?

And since the more attractive examples of Type B doing the human version of the blue-footed booby dance are demonstrably more lovable than dumb ol' hot-but-haven't-noticed-we're-alive Type As, could it be that our psyche gives up on Type A and just falls in love with this highly attractive example of Type B? Or is it that our psyche knows that Type A is fun for dreaming about, but that this particular Type B guy is the real eligible deal?

I don't know. I haven't done any social-scientific research on this. I almost never do any social-scientific research on anything I write here, poppets, which I hope you remember. I work from instinct, curiosity and memory, like Miss Marple.

By the way, when I talk about forgetting about Type A long enough to fall in love with Type B, I am not talking about settling. I am never talking about settling; I hate the whole concept of settling. This is the 21st century, and you shouldn't have to settle. In Western cultures, you either marry in an exuberant spirit of friendship-on-fire or you don't marry.

I once spoke to a deserted husband who said "I've known for some time that I wasn't the kind of man she wanted" and I felt so awful for him. No woman should marry a man with whom she is not madly in love. It is not fair on him, no matter what he says beforehand. He can't love enough for two, and I wonder who came up with that particular bit of nonsense.

No, all I am saying is that we women may have certain Types that we recognize when we see them, but that they have little to do with the flourishing female life as it is actually lived. And thank goodness that's true, or English-speaking men under 5'10" would never get married. I have never in my life heard a Canadian, American, Australian or British woman describe her Type as "of small or medium height." Yet men of small or medium height can make great husbands, as I happen to know first-hand.

And don't write in saying "But what about men?" because men aren't women. I believe, and this is based not on science but on hearsay, circumstantial evidence and personal experience, that men are much less likely to fall in love "out of Type." Nope. When Type B starts doing his blue-footed booby dance, it is because his psyche has perceived his Type A before him.


Anna said...

So true. My Type A is tall, lean and Scandinavian, but I end up in relationships with guys who are around my height and slightly pudgy. However, they are the ones that put in the effort to chase after me and try to impress me, so of course I am interested in (some) of them back.

The Scandinavian types that have made an effort to pursue me wanted one thing (I'll let you guess what that was, not that they got it). And now I'm wondering if I made it too easy for them because it was obvious I thought they were hot.

theobromophile said...

I used to not mind dating men shorter than I am (and I'm almost 6' in heels!), but grew to loathe it. It wasn't the "I'm taller than he is when we are dancing at a ball," but the amount of @*^&$Q@ unleashed on my head that didn't happen as much with taller men. The dreaded "i" word - intimidating - comes from them a LOT more than from tall men.

I might have mentioned the eHarmony guy who claimed to be an inch taller than me, but, when he showed up, barely came to my nose. He then blatantly lied to my face about his height when it came up in conversation (he said something about being 5'7, and I looked up with raised eyebrows), and he quickly amended to his "online height". Yuck.

Anyway, that's my "tall woman" experience - and a lot of it is the reason why I remind women that a little bit of pickiness or "type-iness" is a good thing. Not loads of it, not so as to be the female equivalent of the man who will only date supermodels, but it's about having some standard, and some knowledge of what you like physically. Eighteen-year-old chocolate-lover had no requirements. Not good.

On a side note, women might date "out of type" because we are wired to be able to sense men's immunological make-up, and choose the men who are best suited to make healthy children with us. Men's sense on that is a lot less attuned than ours is.

Sarah said...

My friends and I have noticed this. For the longest time-- like most girls, I think-- I would have said that I liked tall, muscular men. And then the two men with whom I had the most serious relationships ended up being of average height (both of them were 5'8" or 5'9"), and just a little on the squishy side. They both went to great lengths to impress me and of course, I would find myself surprised to be head over heels for them.

I always marveled at the fact that despite my "type," I always ended up with a pattern of being with men who didn't at all fall into it. But never thought of the possibility that it might have been because I initially didn't give them much attention specifically because they weren't what I thought I was attracted to.

Anyway, after noticing this pattern, I realized I really do like men closer to my height and of soft-and-cuddly (though not overweight) build. So now, does this mean I'm going to end up attracting the tall, muscular type?

*throws hands up in aggravation*

Fortunately, I've become pretty seraphic about the single life lately, (it's true that relocating to a foreign country definitely helps with that) and it's a good thing, or this realization would be more boggling.

Claire Christina said...

I don't know if this makes me count as the exception that proves the rule, but my type has always been light-skinned, dark-haired, and skinny - but either particularly tall OR particularly short! (Men between 5'8" and 6' need not apply!) The tall ones catch my eye more categorically, but there have been so many short exceptions that it just became part of my type.

And yet none of the people I've dated have quite been that. Surprise! C'est la vie, I s'pose...

Seraphic Spouse said...

@ theobromophile: Oh dear oh dear. You raised your eyebrows because a man told you fibs about his height?

Listen, no man is perfect, and one of the most harmless ways in which men express their inherent imperfection is by lying about their height. When they lie about where they went to school, that is truly messed up. But when they add a few inches to their vital stats, that is simply masculinity as it is.

I know wonderful, highly truthful men of about 5'9" who, when asked if they are 6', say "About that."

Men are in constant competition for men, and they are terrified of showing weakness, and for some messed up reason, being under six feet is a weakness in the parts of the world featuring Anglo-Saxons. Taller candidates for jobs get the job, and taller candidates for office get the office. (Obviously this is not true for Latin countries, like France.)

Society can be very tough on shorter guys, including guys who are 5'7". There are men in my family shorter than that, so I know whereof I speak.

I think the only nice thing a woman can do about a man who tells fibs about his height is to behave as she would wish him to behave if she fibbed about her age: with charitable suspension of disbelief.

The raised eyebrow might have felt lie a blow for truth for you, but it may have felt like castration for him.

Domestic Diva said...

I've never written a guy off initially because he was "not my type," but my mom teases me when I tell her about a new guy: "Is he another one of those tall, skinny things you always go for?"

But once when I did date out of type, in looks as well as some more important ways, I really did not like how he smelled. Not that he had poor personal hygiene, but just "his smell" did not appeal to me. I felt dumb breaking up with him because "I didn't like how he smelled," but as our relationship progressed I started to see a number of other factors that made him Mr. Very Wrong For Me.

I've wondered & speculated if women have a sort of "spidey-sense" to identify Mr. Wrong. What are other people's experiences this way?

theobromophile said...

Listen, no man is perfect, and one of the most harmless ways in which men express their inherent imperfection is by lying about their height. When they lie about where they went to school, that is truly messed up. But when they add a few inches to their vital stats, that is simply masculinity as it is.

Oh no you didn't!

The real men that I grew up with don't act that way. They do not have the following conversations with the women they take on dates:
Man, regarding sports or somesuch: Being 5'7....
Woman: [looks up with raised eyebrows]
Man: I mean, 5'10.
Woman: Really?
Man: Yes.
Woman: C'mon, how tall are you really?
Man: I got measured at the doctor's office. I'm 5'10 and 3/8ths exactly.
Woman, to herself: get me out of here.

Woman's mother, later: It doesn't matter whether or not he likes his height; it's a fact. It's measured by a ruler. If he lies about that, to your face, he's going to lie about other things and expect you to believe him.

Being rooted in reality, I want a man who is as well. Having been brought up by scrupulously honest men, I would like that in a partner. Failing to understand YOUR problem with that.

Maggie said...

I hear you about the tall girl blues, theobromophile. I'm 5'11", and the blunt fact is that I am simply not attracted to me shorter than me, no matter how handsome or charming they may otherwise be. I once dated a guy precisely my height, and it was still a bit weird for me, since I usually wear heels.

Something about feeling like a lumbering Paul Bunyan makes me feel decidedly unfeminine. Blame it socialization or Disney princess syndrome, but that's the way it is.

But other than height, I don't think I have "type."

Maggie said...

that should be "I'm not attracted to *men shorter than me..."

Seraphic Spouse said...

Theobromophile, we may be in "Email me" territory. I sympathize utterly with your desire to find a truthful man. But the poor guy would have carried on talking from his 5'7" reality if your raised eyebrow handed reminded him of his profile fib.

And maybe he's discovered the hard way that he generates more interest if he writes 5'10" instead of 5'7" on his profile. Poor man. How I loathe dating websites.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Er, not "handed" but "hadn't".

healthily sanguine said...

I find it slightly hilarious that this combox has devolved into a conversation on men's heights, because after years of not really knowing what my "type" was, I finally figured out it boils down to one thing: tall. Yes, that's it, he MUST be tall! If the guy is tall, Catholic, and can make me laugh, we have something to work with . . . otherwise, I am already thinking about which (short) girl friend I could set him up with. :)

healthily sanguine said...

Oh, and for what it's worth, I side completely with Theobromophile on this one. Either you're a truth teller or you're not. I would NOT lie about my age, no matter how old I was, though I might change the subject. I would expect anyone to have the same reverence for the truth, no matter how insecure they feel about the reality. Lying is NOT cute and it is not harmless, either. It's sinful, pointless, and disrespectful to others.

Jam said...

In re: height, to me there's a difference between adding an inch or two and adding four but that may be hairsplitting. Anecdote! I went out once or twice with a guy who was my exact height. He made this observation at some point and I replied by asking how tall he was. Instead he made us stand back to back so he could confirm it:

HIM: Wow, we're exactly the same height.
ME: Well, I'm 5'9" so that's not really surprising. 5'9" is average for American men, I think.
HIM: (sheepishly) Well, I'm *cough* 5'10"... but that might be... rounded up...

Haha! (Oh, he was cute in the early days.) I don't have a problem with guys "rounding up". But: while it wouldn't be an instant deal-breaker for me, I would look askance at a guy who was blatantly adding *four inches* to his height and refusing to admit it. That's a little more than "rounding up".

As for Types: I wonder if there's not a lifestyle/culture component, even in a physical Type. It's cliche but true that women think a lot about what things Mean. For myself, at least, I think my Type has more to do with what characteristics like "slim but not muscular" mean (i.e. not a jock but takes care of himself), so that someone who is a little chubby, say, would still fit the underlying bill. And then of course there's a distinction between your Type, as in the type of man you'd conjure up for yourself, and your Type, as in every man you've ever fallen for had red hair.

Athanasius lover said...

I have never dated, but I'm already quite sure I won't end up with a man of my "type." That's mostly because my type tends to be men who fit the stereotypically attractive profile to such a degree that there are few real men who look like that. Muscles are my big thing. A man with well-defined muscles is what I find very attractive. But most of the men I know have too many other priorities to spend the time in the gym it would take to look like that.

And I might be that rare woman who does not like tall men. I'm 5'5" and tend to be attracted to men who are only a few inches taller than I am. I don't like craning my neck to look someone in the eyes. I presume I'll feel the same way about kissing, if I ever get into a relationship that goes that far.

Little Mary said...

I think they should switch the height thing to "average" (shortish) "tall"
(averageish) and "very tall" (tall)-- that way, we could figure things out fairly well, and guys wouldn't have to fudge...

I think you're on the money from what I've seen among my married friends... I wouldn't say I have a "type" -- I have been attracted to a variety of guys, although smart, funny, confident, seem to be pretty good predictors... my ideal man is on the shorter side since I am small.... does lead to dating dilemmas sometimes, since it's hard to weigh "am I wasting this guy's time vs. maybe I'll be attracted to him after awhile..."

Athanasius Lover said...

Also, I have to say that when I saw the title of this post I thought it was going to be a post on Biblical typology.

Elspeth said...

6' is slightly shorter for men than for women. I thought that was well known. I can think of a few men I know who have a fairly-obvious-to-me type and have married outside it, for better or worse.

Just Another Catholic Girl said...

I am also a tall woman at 5'10. I do prefer guys taller than me, or at least my height (Flats it will be with those men. *sobs for her heels*) for a few reasons. One being that bending/leaning down to kiss a guy, makes me feel like his mom or something. And also, as theobromophile pointed out, I don't want to come across as intimidating. A gent shorter than me would have to be super masculine and confident in himself to make up for my reserves.

And why are we all mostly attracted to the dark and handsome? lol What about the poor sandy haired ones?

The Sojourner said...

In high school I claimed that my type was the handsome Scandinavian farm boy (you know: tall, blond, muscular, not overly fond of beating me in theological debates...).

Then I married a guy who's average-to-short (about 5'9", which seems short to my 5'7", but is nice because we can walk perfectly in step), slim, dark-haired, brown-eyed, and 100% intellectual. He KILLS me in theological debates. Nicely, but still. Am dead.

In my case, I think I was in denial about being attracted to guys at all and so picked a fantasy "type" that I wasn't actually attracted to. (Not that I wanted to be attracted to women or something; I just wanted to live in my happy cerebral bubble where physical attraction didn't enter into it.)

amlovesmusic said...

Domestic Diva...I am SO glad I am not the only one who notices that men have "smells"!! It's not just cologne I am talking here either....just a personal body odor unique to them. Could be pheromones? I have the same issue as well....there are just some men who smell "off" to me. Maybe it means we are just not compatible?

All this talk about height is funny, because I was just talking with some girlfriends last night about height. So many of them have tried dating short guys, and it just didn't feel right to them.

I love tall men....however, the men I have been going out recently have been on the short side. I don't mind it so much. It makes holding hands a lot easier.

Irenaeus G. Saintonge said...

As a guy I'm really interested in the idea of 'types'. I had the strange experience of thinking I had a good idea of what my 'type' was, and then finding myself proposing to someone quite different.
When I thought about it I found that I'd never actually been in a relationship with someone I thought was my type. I had tried once, very hard, and it never worked. I was young and didn't know what I should have been doing.
I forgot where I was going with that. Anyway, I either never understood what my type was, or I fell for someone out of my type. I don't know. Either way, I'm happy now, and in hindsight I don't think I ever could have been particularly happy with [what I thought was?] my 'type'.

I'm thinking about it a bit more. This reply has taken me a while to type up. I think I've discovered something, at least for myself. What I thought was my 'type' was always a product of my own mind. The type was never a real person, and in all likelihood was not realistic either. It would be an idealized picture of a person that doesn't and never would exist, which is why relationships with people who I thought were my type couldn't ever work.
I had to get surprised out of my comfort zone to see what I should have known already.

Thanks for this post, Seraphic. Really made me think. :)

Sheila said...

I guess I'm rare -- I always thought my "type" was short and blond. I am short and blond and my whole family is short. A guy who is 5'7" is taller than my dad or brother and feels tall compared to me.

Then I went and fell for a guy who was 5'11". My tall roommate wailed aloud, "How come all the short girls always take the tall guys?!" But the one thing he does have going for him is that he's skinny. Tall guys with big shoulders and muscles are VERY intimidating to me. Being short, slight, and unfamiliar with men, I just can't stand that much masculinity. I tried not to disqualify anyone, but I just never could feel comfortable with big guys.

I'm pretty sure the smell thing is true. I've known other girls tell me they broke up with or never dated guys because they didn't smell right. I myself am always mooning to my guy, "You smell so nice." It's one of his big attractions. I've heard that there are two smell types, and that women naturally pick men of the *opposite* smell type. BUT, women on the Pill end up picking men of the *same* smell type, only to find out when they go off the Pill that they can't stand the way the man smells! It was one of those "pop science" articles, but I wonder if there's truth to it? I know I start hating the way my husband smells when I'm pregnant.

Seraphic said...

Yes, I have read about how the Pill can really mess around with the chemistry of attraction. I have two anecdotal stories of women whose marriages hit the skids after they went off the Pill.

Given the popularity of the Pill, I really wonder how responsible it is for the current state of social mores, I really, really do. I don't just mean women feeling "more free" and "safer" to have sex outside of marriage, I mean women doing things they wouldn't normally do, or men avoiding women they normally would approach, or women getting involved with men they would normally avoid.

Juventutem London said...

Can I just confirm that Auntie Seraphic understands us men 100% lol. I don't know how, but she does.

Seraphic said...


Andrea said...

I have never had a type. I wonder why not...seems like many of you do? I have dated accordingly... short, tall... dark hair, blonde...

but in all honesty, I couldn't say I'm attracted to one kind of man. I just know what I find to be good looking when I see it, and, as so often happens, that can often change when you get to know the person.

Andrea said...

Perhaps I should add that while I don't have a type, I have never dated a guy who was way shorter than me. Shorter than me, yes, but only by an inch. Way shorter than me does indeed make me feel like I'm the guy's mother.

JC said...

I, at least, am sure that if I could articulate "my type" (which I never really have tried), "of small or medium height" would make it in there. At five-foot-one, I think I would find it hard to be attracted to someone if I always felt like I was talking to the soup stain on his tie.

I've found that one of the fringe benefits of being married to a guy who's 5'6" is that we each finally have someone who will sympathize when we complain about how the sleeves on off-the-rack clothes are all unnaturally long and how trousers all seem to be made for stilt-walkers. ;)