Love, sweet love — it’s basically a transactional agreement between two people who believe that they’ve successfully traded upon their skills and abilities to find a suitable mate. No? That’s not your definition of love? What about if you’re really, really pretty? And maybe you think you could find a richer, more successful man by trading on your looks? Meet Dear Prudence letter writer “Sincerely Shallow,” who asked the advice columnist just that. Here’s her question:
“I’m recently engaged to the most honest, thoughtful, and loving man I’ve ever met. He has supported me through many hard times, including losing my job and being assaulted. Here’s the but about him: He makes no money. He has ambitions, and he’s smart, but will likely only bring a middle-class income at best. I have an OK job and I’m self-sufficient. Now here’s the but about me: I’m really, really pretty. My whole life people have told me I could get any man I want, meaning a rich man, and are shocked that I’m engaged to my fiancé, nice though he is. I’ve never dated a rich man, but it does make me curious. So part of me thinks I’m squandering my good looks on this poor man, and the other part of me thinks that I’m so shallow that I don’t even deserve him or anyone else. Am I a fool for thinking that a poor man can make me happy, or an idiot for believing a sexist fantasy?”
Before you say I’m bashing her just because she has high self-esteem, give me a sec.I have no problem with a woman saying she’s pretty. It’s great to feel pretty (as well as smart, capable, caring and all the rest). What’s not so great is that this woman thinks her looks deserve a richer mate. Nevermind that she loves her fiance and finds all of the rest of his qualiites wonderful — she believes she can trade her looks in for a better model.
And that’s just sad. No, it’s pathetic. At least (at least!) she knows that broaching this is terrible — that it’s not only shallow and self-absorbed, but also plays upon the misogynist trope that women need men to provide for them. Maybe, due to her upbringing or background, she’s prone to worry a lot about money. In that case, as Prudence notes, she should be a bit more realistic and honest about what she’s getting herself into (or out of). Writes Prudence:
“It’s fair to want a fully contributing partner in life, but if you think the bulk of a couple’s earning should come from the man, you either need to re-examine your assumptions, or clue in your fiancé. You and he need to discuss what kind of life you’d both like to lead and how each of you can map out career choices that will make this possible. Of course there are no guarantees of financial success, just as there are no guarantees that good looks will lure a guy with a bulging wallet (or that he’ll stick with you into middle-age).”
Because the problem isn’t her fiancé’s lack of fiscal wealth at the moment (who knows where he might be in a few years?) — it’s that she wants to ascribe a monetary value to the way she looks. And that almost seems like a metaphorical prostitution arrangement to me.
[Woman in mirror image courtesy Shutterstock]