Thursday, February 16, 2012

Intelligence is sexy

"College-educated women, once they do marry, are much less likely to divorce. ...And according to calculations by the economist Betsey Stevenson, an educated woman still single at age 40 is much more likely to marry in the next decade than her less educated counterparts."
-- Stephanie Coontz, The New York Times

There's hope yet, it seems.

But I was stunned when the same article told me that in 1956, men had ranked education and intelligence 11th among a list of desirable traits in a mate, whilst in 2008, education and intelligence had moved up to 4th place, "just after mutual attraction, dependable character and emotional stability". At first I thought, "What, only 4th?!" but then I thought, how can you rank these things on a scale? Are you saying I have to imagine whether I'd rather have an intelligent man or a dependable one, and choose accordingly? Ugh... but that's a totally artificial and unhelpful way of looking at things. If I had to choose between the two, I'd just not choose either guy at all!

A somewhat intellectual guy friend once told me I was "too intelligent", and then after marrying the girl of his choice, complained that she wasn't at all interested in debating or discussing the same topics that so deeply captivated his mind. "When I talk to her about it, all she says is, 'That's nice, dear,' he groused. And I thought, rather maliciously, that he deserved what he'd got.

The article above says that while it's true that some men are put off by women who are more highly educated or have professional success than they do, "scaring these types off might be a good thing. The men most likely to feel emotional and physical distress when their wives have a higher status or income tend to be those who are more invested in their identity as breadwinners than as partners and who define success in materialistic ways". See? I was not being all that idealistic and naïve when I said I don't want that kind of man!

On the other hand, the writer points out that women also seem to have a problem marrying men who are less highly educated or earn less than they do. I've never really thought about it (I always assumed I'd marry someone who would be more or less my peer, ie. a white-collar professional) but just a few nights ago a girl friend said, "I want my guy to be more knowledgeable than I am." Do I want that? Hmmm.

I've always looked up to my dad as the ultimate most knowledgeable person I know -- I swear, he's got the memory of an elephant, and can still recall his high-school chemistry and physics principles even now, while I struggle just to remember my multiplication tables. (Carrying a calculator around in my mobile phone has made me brain-lazy.) He is frightfully intelligent. And yes, I look up to my dad, but I don't know... do I want to look up to a husband in quite that way? With a touch of awe? And feeling ever so slightly intimidated?

"The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse," the writer says. Powerhouse men also tend to be highly driven and ambitious, and that sort of thing scares me to high heaven because I'm not highly driven and ambitious. I want to work at a job I love, earn enough to be comfortable and have a little extra for luxuries, spend time with people who matter, develop or discover my talents and skills, and pursue hobbies or interests that give me a sense of satisfaction. More money is always nice, but I'm not all that concerned about trying to make more or climbing up the corporate ladder.

But I'm sure there are intelligent guys who aren't either, or at least, aren't interested in making money for money's sake. Plus, being highly-educated doesn't equal being knowledgeable or even intelligent. I know quite a number of people who are highly educated yet neither knowledgeable nor intelligent, and I also know a handful who only finished high school or hold a diploma, yet are a veritable walking encyclopaedia of knowledge. I think it's about having a positive approach to life, an inquisitive nature and a desire to learn new things. I don't see why I wouldn't be able to look up to or respect someone who earns less or has had less formal education than I have, as long as he possesses those three traits.


Caedmon Michael said...

I complete my M.Div. in a couple months. At the least, I would want a wife who has a B.A., not because the degree is important, but because a college degree suggests someone who has the ability to communicate coherently, wrestle critically with ideas, and knows what I'm putting myself through when I dive into doctoral work in a few years.

I don't know how to rank the top few items on my "desirable traits scale." There's a short list of items that are all important, any one of which would stop a relationship from going forward. I'm not petty; I've grown up enough to realize where incompatibilities hide that people just aren't going to work through. Maybe this is a benefit of arranged marriages - elders who aren't thinking with their gonads are making decisions based on the traits that will build a strong marriage.

While I said a BA is a minimum, I have no problem marrying a woman with a higher degree (or better paying job) than I. Once you get post-baccalaureate, the question becomes, "Do we converse well?," which does not require the same degree. And, honestly, the smarter the better. I know I can use the help! :D

Some guys are definitely put off by women who are anything other than meek and docile. It's because we haven't dealt with our own hurts, habits, and hangups, our own shame and inadequacies. We want women we can control, not because we're "control freaks" or intentionally abusive, but because the alternative is to be led around by our ears. These men should be avoided by healthy women until they (the men) have grown up and found stable identity.

Sunflower said...

A college degree may not be indicative of all that. I know people who have gone to college who are unable (or uninclined to) wrestle critically with ideas, and definitely quite a few can't communicate coherently :p Especially when you read this article about getting papers ghostwritten... well... that says everything!

I actually do like some aspects of arranged marriages, such as people don't come to the table with such high or unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, I really can't imagine doing it! And I agree, being able to converse is vital.

It seems tough these days to find a man who's confident in himself and knows who he is, who doesn't feel the need to prove anything to anyone. The young urban professionals are all out to make more money or climb up the ladder and at the same time, attain a certain lifestyle. It's really tough to find a man of substance :\