Dating Dissection 0.5: Leagues & Standards
"...Out of my league',
Is a phrase that we hear all too often. Like with many facets of life, we place ourselves into pigeonholes, and these dictate our romantic relationships; whether we feel that we're 'punching above our weight', or 'too attractive, accomplished or cultivated' for prospective partners, we can't help but compare their social or physical footing to our own. And, of course, we don't just play this game of 'who's the better half' with ourselves - we do it with our friends, family, acquaintances, celebrities, the couple opposite us on the train, etc. It's a seemingly natural way of rationalising a relationship, that is, however, only when viewing the veneer.
It goes without saying that relationships are an intricate patchwork of serendipity, dependency, convenience and (with risk of stating the obvious) compatibility, and this final factor can be partitioned into multiple categories; temperament, interests, physicality, age, etc. However, when we think in the inclination of leagues the earlier factors are ill considered and all we see is a beautiful man with an averagely attractive woman, or a particularly 'cool' woman with a seemingly uncouth man. In popular culture we're taught that the cheerleader dates the jock, and if the protagonist of a narrative is a nerd, he or she gets the chance to share a lingered look with the beauty, or perhaps a fully-fledged romance. This is the oversimplified set up that dictates how we select our perspective partners.
Flicking through Tinder, Bumble, Hinge (take your pick) women rule out men because they're 'too good-looking'; which equates to probably a jerk (this ties in with Dating Dissection 0.4), or 'too cool'; which means he'll only be interested in a kind of model-DJ-fashion blogger-academic-philanthropist hybrid, or ’too nerdy’ ‘or not handsome enough'; which means he doesn’t qualify for flaunting on social media. Men turn down women for the same reasons (though I suspect that they are swiping right 90% of the time, as studies suggest that men are less selective, but this also opens another aspect of leagues and standards; gender). The standards that many men set for themselves for a prospective partner is higher than that of women simply because that society has indoctrinated men with the concept that they deserve a ‘hot’ (a word I loathe in this context), girlfriend. Men don’t require plain old good looks to fall into the same league as a physically beautiful, interesting woman, wealth and status will elevate him to her level. Whereas, women are made to feel that in order to be in any league worthy of a man of whom may be in popular demand they must be pretty. As Erin McKean states,
"Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’."
Yet it seems to be the rent you pay in the realms of dating as a woman. And this accentuates the sheer redundancy of leagues as a method in which to navigate through the romantic aspects of life. But if you reject the notion of leagues don’t you neglect your standards?
Well, leagues and standards are not two of the same. Standards are the foundations of which we set our aspirations. We need standards in every aspect of life, including relationships, without them we’d be frivolous with who and how we spend our time. We’d deem it ok for our date to arrive two hours late or not arrive at all, or to text back after three days, or to eat with his/her mouth open. Standards are the guidelines for which we navigate and direct our lives. Everyone’s standards are distinctive and this is where standards deviates from leagues. They’re objective and personal, and of course, society and culture may be an influencing factor, but more often than not standards are a reflective patchwork of the multitude of quirks and circumstances that mould our ‘ideal’ partner, and in order to find someone relatively close to this, we set them.
Another point here, of course, is whether we chose to neglect or reject old standards and develop new ones with time, age and experience. Our standards for physical attraction may seem to lower, whilst our standards for how we’re treated is cultivated. Standards are a concept for what’s right for us, whereas leagues are the idea that we’re too precious or not worthy of someone. They can work simultaneously but when the notion of leagues is rejected standards become a different kettle of fish altogether. We no longer fret about how our relationships look from the outside, or whether a person is compatible with our self-image, but rather whether the person is right for us, full stop.