In response to yesterday’s Keep Trying post, reader Mary H asks:
On the one hand, posts like this suggest that you should always keep reaching, always keep trying to get someone better. On the other hand, books like Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” suggest that reaching too much is problematic. So how should a girl go about reconciling being discerning in who she chooses to be her boyfriend with being realistic? How should she navigate the two ends of the spectrum, one of which is being too picky and the other of which is being too desperate?
My intention in writing the post was not to suggest women should succumb to Hypergamy Insanity, but to communicate that rejection and failure are inevitable in mating. If we respond to it by shutting down, we get stuck and our dating lives grind to a halt. That’s a waste of time, but there’s also the enormous opportunity cost – a guy who would be great for you is out there looking!
However, Mary H does raise an important question. What if your failures are a result of your aiming too high, as was the case with Ms. Gottlieb? Yesterday, I suggested in a comment thread that if a woman is getting zero attention from men she likes, there are two possibilities:
1. She needs to up her Game.
2. She needs to lower her standards.
In both cases, her goal should be to find a man of the same level of attractiveness. We frequently use the term SMV, or sexual market value, when discussing this issue, but the concept has limited value when discussing relationships because it just means “how hot you are.” A more robust concept is MMV, marital market value. This comprises your value to a potential mate based on all the traits you bring to a committed relationship, included your physical assets.
In this era of casual sex, or hookup culture, more focus is given to SMV, but even here the concept falls short. Actual SMV and Effective SMV may diverge. For example, a guy with an SMV of 9 will usually be willing to have sex with a girl whose SMV is 7 or higher. If he’s wearing beer goggles, who knows how low he can go! This girl essentially gets two free points for easy access to sex, bringing her effective SMV to 9, at least for that one night. Over time, this 7 begins to see herself as a genuine 9, despite the fact that no male of that value would ever consider dating her. We’ve all seen this in real life, and certainly on facebook. It’s a form of self-delusion.
It works in the other direction as well. The female 9, unwilling to sell herself short with a ONS, wants the male 9 to be her boyfriend. Yet time and again, the male 9 chooses to hook up with the 7. Although the beautiful girl deserves her SMV rating of 9, in this market she pays a penalty for being choosy, reducing her SMV a couple of points. She may elect to date a guy with an SMV of 7, who gets a bump for his interest in committing to her. This too is readily observed on any college campus.
The most important thing you can do in dating is reach a valid assessment of your own SMV. Disregard all male attention you’ve received that indicates sexual interest. Include all male attention that constituted attraction plus a desire to spend non-sexual time with you. The average SMV of the males in the latter group is probably a good estimate of your own. (Keep in mind that if you’re in a sorority or spending a lot of time with douchey guys, you may have no guys in the latter group even if you are attractive – that’s a characteristic of that particular market niche in college. You can branch out or wait out the college years.)
Once you have a clear idea of where you reside on the spectrum, you have two choices, as mentioned above.
Up Your Girl Game
- Achieve and maintain physical fitness.
- Dress to flatter your body shape and use makeup to enhance your features.
- Aim for a vibe in your appearance that says “girlfriend” rather than hookup.
- Cultivate a friendly demeanor and pleasant personality.
- Recognize that guys will care about your sexual history, and behave accordingly.
- Indicate interest in a relationship to filter out cads and attract like-minded guys.
Once you have reached the point where you feel confident you look your best, get out there and see whether you get a different level or type of male appreciation. If you are still attracting men primarily for sex, you’re doing it wrong.
If you are attracting men for relationships whom you do not find attractive, and you have done everything in your power to maximize your own MMV, then comes the unpleasant but necessary task of facing facts.
Lower Your Standards
I know, this does not sound like much fun, but you’re aiming too high. Somewhere, somehow, you got an inflated sense of your market value. This is not easy to fix, but it can be done.
I’ve seen women effectively reset their attraction triggers and work harder to find the MMV in men, rather than focusing strictly on SMV. They were able to attract and form relationships with men who were a close match in terms of values, education, and physical attractiveness. Other women, like Ms. Gottlieb, were not able to make this adjustment, or made it too late, when they were forced to compete with younger, wiser women. These are the women who get to 40 and wonder why they never met “the one.” They provide their own answer – they used a funnel so narrow to filter guys that only one could make it through, and he didn’t work out.
In the end, people do marry others with similar MMV. Don’t price yourself out of the market, or you’ll wind up remaindered. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but there it is.
The silver lining is that if you work hard to increase your MMV, you may be able to punch above your SMV weight, which is what I managed to do regularly before I was married. For that reason, I’d recommend putting all your energy into Girl Game first, and compromise later if necessary.