Reachers and Settlers - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity

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Reachers and Settlers

I came across this interesting idea: In any romantic relationship, there is a "reacher" and a "settler". That is, one person must rate higher in romantic desirability than the other. The one who rates lower is therefore dating or marrying "above them" and is the "reacher". The one who rates higher is dating or marrying beneath them and is the "settler".

One could argue that mathematically, it is provably true. Suppose we rate each person's romantic desirability. Perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10, or however we score it. Then we can compare the two people's desirability, like we could compare the length of two sticks. Inevitably, one stick will be longer than the other. If they look like the same length, we could use a more accurate measuring device. If ncessary we could study the two sticks under a microscope. One must be at least a few atoms longer than the other. In the same way, for any two people, one must be at least slightly more romantically desirable than the other.

But in practice, there are at least four catches to this idea.

1. Romantic desirability is very subjective. Different evaluators would give different ratings to the same subject. Just for example, I think tattoos on a girl detract from her appearance -- like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Other men thing they're sexy. Some women like men with beards. Other women prefer their men to be clean-shaven. Etc. And that's not even getting in to differences in politics and religion and social attitudes.

2. What makes a man romantically desirable is not the same as what makes a woman romantically desirable. At it's simplest and most stereotypical, men want a woman who is pretty, while women want a man who is rich. Even when people are not that simple -- shallow, if you prefer -- women generally want a man who is strong and responsible. Men want a woman who is caring and agreeable. Etc. So comparing a man's romantic desirability to a woman's is like comparing the length of a stick to the weight of a rock. Would you really say, "This stick is 9 inches and that rock is 8 pounds, so the stick is longer than the rock is heavy"? That's a meaningless comparison.

3. That leads to a second problem. In real life people are not so simplistic that they rate someone's romantic desirability by only one factor. Even if we could all agree on a universal scale to rate how pretty a girl is, if every man in the world agreed that Sally is a 6.3 while Mary is a 5.4, most men care about things besides a girl's looks, and most women care about things besides how much money a man has. So maybe Sally rates 6.3 on looks, but only 2.4 on cooking, but she's 7.5 on being a good conversationalist, 4.3 on courtesy, 8.2 on laughing at his jokes, etc, etc. How do we combine all those things into a single score? We could average them all together, but that assumes all are equally important, which they almost surely are not.

4. Even if we could agree on a single rating, yes, it's true then that for any given pair of people, one would rate higher than the other. But if the difference is small, who cares? If I'm building a flight of stairs, I usually want all the steps to be the same length. But they don't have to be exactly the same down to the atomic level. If one is 48 inches and another is 48 1/16 inches, that's probably close enough. Likewise if one person is a 6.02 and the other is a 5.94, yeah, the 6.02 rates higher, but it's so close that, given the inherent fuzziness of any such rating system, for all practical purposes they're the same.

I think, in most relationships, people ultimately choose someone who is roughly as desirable as themselves. As I say the standards for men and women are different, so it's not uncommon to see ugly men with beautiful women or poor men with rich women or smart men with dumb women or whatever. But generally, both think that the other is giving as much as they are. Again going to the stereotype, a beautiful woman might match up with an ugly man, but she thinks she's getting a "fair deal" because he's rich. Or an intelligent man might match up with a dumb woman, but he thinks its a good deal because she is affectionate and attentive. Etc.

I didn't have a profound point. Just chatting. :-)

© 2020 by Jay Johansen


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