Anastasia Harrell

The View From Venus

Trading Roses for Weeds

Figuring out what women really want may require ignoring what they actually say.

Posted Jul 29, 2010

Your boyfriend makes fun of you for crying during The Notebook, even though you have already seen it twelve times. He criticizes your lack of culinary expertise (hey, even the great and powerful Paula Deen must have burned a few pots of spaghetti in her early years!). He even forces you to sit through both Transformers, ("No, no, I don't think Megan Fox is hot. I'm just really into robots..."). Thinking back on the injustices we endure due to of our significant others, sensitivity always seems to be high on the list of attributes women find most attractive in a potential boyfriend. We say we want someone who surprises us with daisies just because it's Tuesday, serenades us with his acoustic guitar, and bakes us brownies when we desperately need a chocolate fix. However, when brought face to face with a man who is truly devoted to romanticism, we quickly dismiss him. No longer considered swoon-worthy, his antics evoke discomfort and sheer terror in the hearts of women everywhere.

His sincere expression contrasted with her obvious panic.

If Monday's episode of "The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All" has taught me anything, it is that taking on the persona of the "sensitive male" is the quickest way to get sent home sans rose, not to mention become the butt of countless jokes among your fellow dumpees. For those who have been keeping up with the latest Bachelorette (i.e. those of you who lack any semblance of a social life) know that Kasey will forever be branded as the creepiest contestant the show has ever seen. During his time on the show, he spewed cheesy lines like, "You look imaginary," performed an impromptu (off-key) serenade after a helicopter ride, and even got a tattoo to prove his dedication to and his vow to "guard and protect (bachelorette, Ali's) heart." He has every characteristic we say we look for in a man, yet we cannot help but cringe with pity and embarrassment as we watch poor Kasey pour his heart out to the frightened Ali.

Why do women find the reality of the "romantic" so unattractive when the ideal is so sought after?

One possibility is that we have not yet fully developed the social scripts regarding dealing with this Shakespeare-reciting, man-purse wearing, Josh Grobin-obsessed sensitive male. Men have evolved to provide for their spouses. In order to survive, cavemen spent more time tracking down and killing antelope than they did writing sonnets for their beloved. However, antelope hunters are hard to come by these days, meaning modern man has a lot more free time on his hands to explore his emotions. As they begin to embrace their historically newfound sensitivity, women are unable to adjust to this new male. A husband knows that when his wife cries, he should comfort her by putting his arm around her, rub her back, and tell her everything will be okay. A wife is less sure of what to do when her husband cries. Instead of a complete role reversal, women tend to feel awkward watching their husbands or boyfriends in such a vulnerable state, and men tend to withdraw and feel emasculated when their significant others pat their heads and say, "Poor baby." Although the idea of a man in touch with his feminine side seems perfect, the reality is too new for most women to fully accept.

Not only are men changing, but women are as well. Growing up in the age of Disney princesses, I learned pretty much everything I know about dating and marriage from these movies.  Countless studies (like USC's Stacy Smith's analysis of top grossing G-rated films) have been conducted and numerous blogs (like the entertaining "Princess Propaganda") have been created to explore both the prevalence of certain characters and themes in Disney movies as well as the pervasive effects this Disney culture has on young girls.  We have spent our lives watching movies where the dashingly handsome prince rides around on his white steed (not to be confused with just any old horse, a prince must ride a steed), and sings a ballad to woo his princess. Everyone then lives the clichéd happily ever after. The problem is that women are becoming more independent.  We do not need or want a guy to be completely consumed with being devoted to us. Though the idea of being surrounded by a gaggle of scantily clad men with a Zac Efron physique all waiting on me and fulfilling my every whim may provide me with a few moments of bliss, the reality would be uncomfortable. Despite the fact that we do not actually want this romantic man, this is what years of Hollywood and Disney have told us we want. We continue to believe and thus proclaim that Prince Charming is our ideal, but we continue to dump every boy who shows just a little too much doting compassion.

The Disney Heartthrobs

Perhaps the answer to this puzzling phenomenon is nothing more than a simple case of "grass-is-greener" syndrome. I could spend all day looking forward to a relaxing evening on the couch catching up on my reading, but as soon as I see my roommate ready to go out, my book which was once enthralling becomes tedious and all I can think about now is how much I'd rather be going out than stuck at home. If you have straight hair, you want curly hair. If you're tall, you want to be shorter. We are never satisfied with what we have, and maybe this same principle holds true when it comes to boyfriends. In any case, I leave all of the Kasey's of the world with this one final word of advice: Dry your tears, replace all turtlenecks for muscle tees, and trade the roses you were about to purchase for weeds because apparently this is what women really want.

About the Author

Anastasia Harrell graduated from USC in 2011 with a degree in psychology and communication, and in 2013 she earned a master's degree in clinical psychology.

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