On what we say we want versus what we really want…

July 5, 2006

I was thinking of writing something soulful about meaning and value – you know the difference between what we say we value and what we actually value and how that translates into relationships at work etc? Anyway, between thinking about it and hitting the keyboard I managed to devour Freaknomics (a couple of train and plane trips provided ample opportunity). Apart from being one of the smartest and funniest books I’ve read all year, it’s also one of the most relevant. And lo and behold on page 82 Levitt and Dubner do just what I had been planning to do but in a much more readable and witty way. They’re talking about internet dating and the differences between what people say they want and what they actually want based on advertisements placed and emails sent:

For instance, men who say they want a long-term relationship do much better than men looking for an occasional lover. But women looking for an occaasional lover do great. For men, a woman’s looks are of paramount importance, For women, a man’s income is terribly important. The richer a man is, the more e-mails he receives. But a woman’s income appeal is a bell-shaped curve: men do not want to date low-earning women, but once a woman starts earning too much, they seem to be scared off. Men want to date students, artists, musicians, veterinarians, and celebrities (while avoiding secretaries, retirees and women in the military and law enforcement). Women do want to date military men, policemen and firemen (possibly the result of a 9/11 Effect….), along with lawyers and financial executives. Women avoid laborers, actors, students, and men who work in food services or hospitality. For men, being short is a big disadvantage (which is probably why so many men lie about it), but weight doesn’t much matter. For women, being overweight is deadly (which is why they lie).  For a man having red or curly hair is a downer, as is baldness – but a shaved head is okay.  For a woman, salt and pepper hair is bad, while blond hair is very good.  In the world of online dating, a headful of blond hair on a woman is worth about the same as having a college degree – and, with a $100 dye job versus a $100,000 tuition bill, an awful lot cheaper.

Food for thought eh?