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Which Sex Is More Self-Absorbed?
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January 07, 2010, 03:24 PM
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I`ve been reading ESPN columnist Bill Simmons` humongous The Book of Basketball. Does this guy ever know a lot about the NBA. And, despite his Celtics bias, he really does work hard to come up with fair judgments.

You might well wonder why did he bother learning so much about the NBA? And, it`s easy to come up with Psychology 101 explanations: for his whole life, all his relationships with other men — his father and his friends — have centered around watching and arguing about spectator sports.

But, ultimately, I suspect, Simmons just really likes knowing a lot about the NBA.

I was reminded of Simmons` very male brain while reading this prototypical post by Erika Kawalek on the Washington Post`s XX, where female journalists let us know what`s really on their minds:

The Dating Secrets of Canadian and European Women Lauren, I agree with your take on the New York Observer`s trend piece about New York women seeking, as you put it, "natural commitment-phile" European men. The women who were profiled were indeed young. Like you, my friends who are paired off but not married are not waiting for the guy to pop the question. It`s an annoying article.

I want to emphasize something about the difference between the state of affairs for women in America and in the rest of the civilized world. The competitiveness people bring to "dating" and "closing the deal" here is underpinned by intense economic competition and the desire—increasingly, the necessity—for basic social and physical security. There is a secret amongst the Canadian and European women living in the Big Apple. I know this because I am Canadian and my closest girlfriend is French, and when we resident aliens get together we really tear up this country and how it treats its women. (Our dating lives are fine and always have been.) When we talk about dating or the possibility of having family, with a man or on our own or with—gasp!—a coven of like-minded women (why not?), the conversation is framed entirely by the fact that we can count on our native countries to look after us should we—for whatever reason—not be able to make ends meet stateside. Now, we should be able to secure decent futures for ourselves, with or without male partners: We have Ivy League degrees, speak multiple languages, are savvy and entrepreneurial. We are also a lot more calm about dating and mating than the American women we know, who seem plagued by contradictory forces.

The New York Observer article briefly mentions the benefits of social democracies:

But what makes the European hunks so commitment-happy—a phase that typically takes many New York men until their 40s to reach? ... Maybe it’s the surplus of E.U. benefits—free day care, health care, and tax benefits even for unmarried couples—that makes the possibility of contented m?©nage a more realistic proposition at an earlier age.
I`m always baffled that women here don`t demand the same benefits on which we Canadian and European women rely. It would make dating and mating a lot easier, that`s for certain. American family values? Where are they?

The calculus of long-term committment is just different when your country guarantees the basic necessities of an advanced civilization. When your government provides you, as they do in Canada and in Europe, with health care that is unlinked to a job or "productivity," subsidized prescription drugs, child care, free education through graduate school, and, finally, old-age pensions with visiting nurses if you need them to retain your health and a modicum of dignity. Marriage, ultimately, is about family, however you shape it. I sometimes don`t blame men here for being lame or commitment-phobic. They`re probably terrified of failing as providers or co-providers.

Erika Kawalek is a New York-based journalist and author of the forthcoming fashion chronicle, Ragpicker.

There`s a germ of an interesting idea in there, but it`s very hard to come to grips with it without getting distracted by the humorlessness of Ms. Kawalek`s self-absorption and subjectivity.

From an evolutionary point of view, I suspect, unmated women pretty much have to be self-absorbed and subjective. Choosing a mate is so crucial to the female sex that giving yourself all these undignified self-esteem booster shots and avoidance of self-awareness could be helpful for a New Yorkerette like Ms. Kawalek in closing the deal for a high-value New York husband.

Granted, it`s hard to take humorless women seriously. Yet, Jane Austen had a sense of humor, and she died a spinster, so who`s laughing now?