Monday, February 7, 2011

The Mating Market and Internal/External status.

When we select a lover, whether we like it or not, we're in a market.  We choose among alternatives, and we choose based on some criteria--and here's the fun part: we are also simultaneously chosen.  Unlike a product, a watch, or a car, for example, there's a binary process in the mating market, which makes it interesting, to say the least, because half the time we're hedging our bets--we accept what might be a safe choice because we might be fearful of rejection if we chose someone else that has a high status relative to our own.  What's high status?  The ability to attract (and reject) many potential lovers.  Go hang out at a bar on a friday night and watch this market play out.  It is weird, but it is true.

Having rare traits in this market can make you more attractive, and therefore have more power.  In our society, we seem fairly obsessed with celebrities, partially, I think, because we think that they constitute the upper stratum of this mating market, one that we average people cannot touch, or have access to--so it is fascinating to many of us what those folks are up to, and great to notice that their lives are, gasp, full of drama.  That, or we secretly wish we had the command or power high status on the mating market brings.

What's all this got to do with drinking?  Well, probably a lot more than I can see, but for one, a lot of the mating market happens around the consumption of alcohol, and for another, one way to "puff" in this market is to get drunk and act a way that you know you are not--and then to convince yourself that you are much higher status.  Because, sensitive people of the world, we don't like the fact that people are more important than us, damnit.  And drinking allows us to feel as important as other people, even when we really are not close. 

We all intuitively care about status, but the important thing to note is that status does not care about us.   Having status does not guarantee anything except for an illusion of power.  At the end of the day, we'll slowly slip off of the "top" of any game that we used to have, and we'll be forced to recognize that we're never quite at the top of the demand curve--we never quite commanded the highest price, and with this extra pudge, or this wrinkle, we have to come to terms with the our own relative status and still go forward to live another day.  The answer, or part of the answer, is not to confuse high external status with high internal standards.  Those internal standards don't have to be fully informed by the mating market out there, though a lot of times they are.  As uncomfortable as it might be to think about mating as a market, to the extent that it provides truths, we can actually use those truths to see that our price on the market is just one marker, not the marker.  In other words, we don't have to pretend that, since we command a low or average price on the mating market, we are a premium commodity in some other social market.  We can never be the best. If you're trying to feel better about getting rebuked in some way, and you're drinking to do so, consider the idea that your opponent was right: you did fuck up, you are ugly, and you are not going anywhere.  Accepting those insults, however much they might hurt, and trust me, they do, is a way to, you know, get closer to your imperfect self. 

The really hard thing to do, once you are either removed from the mating market, or feel sufficiently ugly, is to accept a bigger truth, one that has driven better men than me to drink their lives away--and that is simply to see that happiness, if it exists, is temporal, and perfection, if it is out there, happens for seconds at a time, nothing more, and that our lives, so long, so boring, so grandiose and important, will, simply, end.  They'll end regardless of how shiny our feathers are or how intensely joyful and hurtful they might be.  Which is to say this: there's no such thing as beauty without pain, and I meant that sincerely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really nice post!