If you’re a single woman, there’s no doubt you’ve heard enough advice from well-meaning friends and family about how to meet Mr. Right. The money made on dieting advice only rivals the amount of money made on dating advice. Both aim to convince us that everything else we’ve read is wrong or that we can trick our bodies and brains into wanting something better than what we’ve had in the past.
As in politics, many of us are guilty of confirmation bias by gravitating toward advice with which we already agree. Our girlfriends reinforce our beliefs by telling us not to settle or make us feel good by reinforcing whatever standards and deal-breakers we’ve created in our minds.
Recently, Washingtonian Magazine told DC-area women exactly what they wanted to hear: you’re single because you’re too educated. Washingtonian wrote, “There are 49 percent more college-educated women in DC, age 24 and younger, than college-educated men. Americans typically marry within their same educational level, so it’s no wonder dating can be downright awful for women.”
To the chagrin of women like me who don’t give a lick about degrees (and even prefer so-called “blue collar” men), the Washingtonian’s expert concluded, “The long term solution is to get more men to attend college. This is a labor, economic problem.”
When I read this horrible advice, I couldn’t help but think of “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe and his crusade to get people to stop thinking of career success in such a limited way. Rowe often talks about the fallacy of the four-year degree.
On his website he says, “We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career?”
Using this common sense logic, why would we encourage men and women down a path that may not lead to success, just to even out percentages? The advice single women should be getting is to throw away a must-have list based on stereotypes about certain jobs. Rowe told NPR that 40-50 of the 300 people he interviewed on his former show, “Dirty Jobs,” were multimillionaires. Yet many women would more enthusiastically accept a date from lawyer with a six-figure student loan debt than from a plumber with his own business.
There’s a Skills Gap and Women Are Part of the Problem
Rowe often talks about the “skills gap”—the millions of jobs that can’t be filled because Americans just don’t have the necessary skills. Often I’ve heard women complain that there are no “real men” left, men who hold open doors, can change a tire or fix a leaky pipe.
Granted, there may be fewer of these men in the DC area, but what gets left out of the discussion is that the women complaining aren’t exactly exceling in their traditional roles either. Last summer I had an intern who told me her worst nightmare was to have to cook dinner for a man every night. She wasn’t a feminist, just a young woman who didn’t know how to cook. There’s still hope for her, but too many women bemoan the absence of traditional men while ignoring that they may not have the skills that appeal to these men.
Passion Isn’t Everything
We all know or have been the girl who didn’t go on a second or third date with a perfectly suitable potential love interest because there was no “spark.” As a male character in “He’s Just Not That Into You” told the chronically single female character, “The ‘spark’ thing is bullshit. Guys invented the spark so they could not call and treat you kind of badly and keep you guessing and then convince you that that anxiety and that fear that just develops naturally was actually just a spark. And you all just buy it. You love it. You all thrive on it because you all love drama.”
It’s true that many women have convinced themselves that uneasiness or drama constitutes passion—a supposed must-have for any relationship. While passion is wonderful, it’s not necessarily the most solid foundation for a successful relationship. Often passion gives us tunnel vision and we don’t notice the potential long-term problems in a relationship. For example, that excitement when he shows up on your doorstep after not hearing from him for days can make you forget he doesn’t care enough about you to answer phone calls or texts for a couple days.
In a PragerU video, Rowe had a little bit to say about following your passion. “But when it comes to making a living, it’s easy to forget the dirty truth: just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’ve earned a degree in your chosen field, doesn’t mean you’re gonna find your ‘dream job.’ Dream Jobs are usually just that—dreams.” Rowe concludes the video, “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”
In relationships, bring passion to a healthy relationship rather than hold on to an unhealthy relationship because there’s passion.
Throw Away Your Must-Have List, Even Location
Unfortunately, the adage about women dressing for other women is also true when it comes to many women’s must-have list for men they’ll date. Often their lists are crafted to impress other women in their lives, rather than truly represent the kind of partner they want. Their list might include the type of car he drives, his job, how much he makes, or even how tall he is.
Prevalent on many women’s must-have lists is Mr. Right’s location. He must live within a certain radius of her neighborhood or be willing to move to wherever she sees herself in five years. Absent from the Washingtonian’s advice to women was… move. While I’m not suggesting that finding a mate is the most important goal for every woman, many think it is. If the city you’re in doesn’t have any good prospects, then you should entertain the idea of moving.
For job searching, Rowe says he often gets the most pushback from people when he suggests they move to where jobs are. He wrote, “Now, there’s an added obstacle that many employers talk about with real concern – a profound resistance to moving to where the jobs are. Not just a resistance – but a kind of indignation at the mere suggestion. Many people now believe a ‘good job’ is a job that exists in one’s current zip code. This to me, is the most jarring thing. A nation once defined by a pioneer spirit and a willingness to keep moving, now seems stuck in one place.”
Likewise, Rowe wrote about a similar conversation with Claire, a friend lamenting her single fate. After suggesting she try a new city with new bars, new theaters, and new museums with new prospects, she incredulously asked, “Why the hell would I do that?”
Rowe wrote, “Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the ‘right’ man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!”
We need to drop our limiting views on how to find a partner or a career. Often these thoughts leave us unfulfilled despite an abundance of great options. After all, expecting relationship success from a man just because he’s more than six feet tall is just as ridiculous as expecting financial success from a six-figure degree.