Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Fantasy Girlfriend - The Template

I've always been disdainful of the notion of having a "type", a kind of woman that I could expect to be habitually, inevitably attracted to.  It seems unnecessarily limiting.  And whenever I try to isolate particular features or characteristics I think I find attractive, in practice I usually seem to find more exceptions than reinforcements for any such rules.  In reviewing my chequered romantic history, I find I have gone out with - or been attracted to -  women of widely differing ages, heights, hair colour, ethnicity, social background...

However, I've racked up quite a few entries in this 'Fantasy Girlfriends' series in the just over three years that I've been running it, so I thought it might be worth reflecting on what the most common features in this collection are.  

Well, of course, one of the most notable things about this list is that a sizeable proportion of them have been fictional.  And the rest - actresses, singers, etc. - are hopelessly out of my league.  I fear that 'unattainability' has always been an unfortunate aphrodisiac for me (one of my female friends here teases me that it is a self-destructive tendency, a species of commitment avoidance; and I fear she's right - but it's not a conscious choice, and I do battle against it); I noted in one of my earliest posts on here that I was far too often attracted to women who were dead, mad, or married; to those categories of 'unattainability' I might add barmaids, another common source of crushes (well, one every few years or so, anyway); and people who live on a different continent (or are about to; in China I've had a bad run of falling for people who are shortly to leave the country, or 'just passing through').

Anyway, doomed exercise though it's likely to be, I will attempt to come up with a list of what I tend to find most attractive in a woman - using the fantasy girlfriends as a reference point, but focusing more on what I might be (should be, AM) looking for in a real-world partner.

So, where to start?

1)  Quite tall
I am a tall guy - nearly 6'3" - and I don't like having to bend down too far to kiss a girl.  And I don't like a girl having to teeter along on ridiculous heels in order for her eyeline to be above my shoulder.  So, this is probably one of my more rigid and essential criteria.  I don't really have any upper limit: I don't think I'd feel awkward about having a girlfriend taller than me - but it's never happened, and is statistically pretty unlikely!  My only reservation about very tall girls - based on my experience of having twice briefly gone out with girls who were 6' tall, or very nearly so - is that they tend to develop hang-ups about their height, fretting that guys feel uncomfortable around them, and that it thus limits their dating opportunities; this self-consciousness can lead to social awkwardness, a reluctance ever to wear heels, and even to bad posture (stooping or slouching to try to play down their height!).  Not good.  When I think back on the girls I've gone out with, I think the majority of them have been around 5'9" or 5'10".  I'll consider a range 2 or 3 inches either side of that, but not more, I don't think. [Unfortunately, this lets out about 98% of Chinese girls.  Average heights for men in China - at least in the well-fed urban population - have shot up in the last 20 years or so; but the girls don't seem to have kept pace.  I'd guess the average height for a girl here is probably still only 5'1" or 5'2"; and it's very, very rare to find one taller than 5'4" or 5'5".]

2)  Not too young
Oh yes, girls may be in their finest bloom of prettiness in their late teens or early twenties - but they don't usually have very much to say for themselves at that age, not much life experience to draw on.  I was always more attracted to women in their late twenties or early thirties - even as a teenager.  These days, as I progress into my forties, even that is starting to seem a little indecently young for me.  I've always been a bit sceptical about that "half your age, plus seven years" formula for the ideal age of a marriage partner (is that a Muslim tradition?  I'm sure I first came across it in The Autobiography of Malcolm X...); I feel moral qualms (or perhaps just social discomfort - what would we have in common?) with an age gap of much more than 10 years.  So.... I'm looking for someone in their thirties, probably mid-thirties; late twenties (or early forties, at the upper end) would be pushing the envelope dangerously.

3)  Intelligent
Not that I would equate 'intelligence' with level of education or specific high-functioning skills like being good at crosswords or sudoku.  I'm not much impressed by things like that.  I found at Oxford - supposedly one of the most intellectually rarefied environments in the world - that the majority of students there were actually relatively dull people, people who had prospered in the education system through a happy aptitude for academic study or simply an obsessive work ethic, but had no spark of 'genius' about them, no flair, no creative fire at all.  The great love of my undergraduate days was not a student (although her A-Level results were plenty good enough to have got her into a decent university) but a girl who was enrolled at one of the city's secretarial colleges; her passion was acting, and she was set on getting into RADA; so, she had taken a 'gap year' to prepare, immersing herself in the vibrant drama scene at Oxford (I think the secretarial course was just a sop to her parents, to persuade them that she wasn't spending her year frivolously).  Intelligence can express itself in many different ways, and may flourish despite - or sometimes even because of - an attenuated formal education.  Many of the brightest people I know didn't go to 'good' universities, or didn't go to university at all.  The kind of intelligence I'm interested in is a liveliness of spirit, a quickness of wit, a restless curiosity about the world.

4)  Creative
The kind of intelligence that most inspires and fascinates me usually manifests itself in a creative impulse.  I think just about all of the women I've been attracted to over the years have been actresses, dancers, musicians, sculptors, photographers, writers & co.  Yes, I have a particular weakness for a woman who can write well.

5)  Humorous
A sense of humour is another key manifestation of intelligence, I feel; and a key element of a vivacious spirit.  I'm not thinking of people who are relentlessly making jokes, or people who laugh easily at almost anything.  I like someone who really appreciates humour, understands how it works, and can find it in places that most people overlook; someone for whom humour is an ever-present consolation, a condiment to life.

6)  Vivacious
Oh, yes, vivacity can be overdone; it can be too self-conscious, an affectation (a particular vice amongst some of the creative types I am drawn to).  But, in general, a person who projects high levels of positive energy compels the attention.

7)  Passionate, idealistic
It's good to believe in something.  It's good to care A LOT about the things you believe in.  So many people never seem to feel, or to express such strong emotion about anything.  [Unfortunately, I think this tends to be a major stumbling block for me in relationships.  Some people find my enthusiasms a bit overwhelming.  And I can be intolerant of people who don't share my tastes or opinions in key areas.]

8)  Kind, considerate
This might seem a rather obvious attribute to add to my requirements; but I find it depressingly rare to meet a person who expresses these qualities to a high degree.  My passion for my last great infatuation, "Madame X", cooled dramatically when she once made a mean remark about her sister (I tried to make as much allowance as possible for intimate family dynamics, for certain varieties of language and behaviour becoming 'acceptable' between siblings; but even so, it seemed to me rather cruel, spiteful, or at least grossly insensitive); unfortunately, I was so hung up on her that it didn't quite kill my obsession; but it did weaken it, and I find it useful to focus on this incident now if ever I feel myself backsliding into that fixation.

9)  Appreciates music
Doesn't everyone?  Well, unfortunately, NO - not outside of a familiar niche, anyway.  Music is one of the great passions of my life, and my tastes are fairly catholic.  It's difficult for me to have a relationship with someone who doesn't share this passion.  I know - have known - too many people who, for example, would glance at this stunning performance JES posted the other day and shrug and flip past it, because it doesn't fit into one of the narrow genres they choose to pay attention to.  I try to be tolerant of - and welcoming of - difference, but... there are at least two likely deal-breakers for me in the sphere of musical preferences.  I revere Tom Waits as the greatest songwriter of our times; and while I accept that he is somewhat quirky, a cult performer not well-known - nor always very readily accessible - to everyone, and thus not someone I can realistically expect a girlfriend to like or even to have heard of... well, she should be willing to give him a chance; someone who dismisses him out of hand, I don't think I can live with.  It's like refusing to listen to Bach - there must be something wrong with you.  I confess, though, that my own openness to varieties of music knows some limits: I am stubbornly resistant to rap/hip-hop; I find it to be a genre entirely without merit.  Alas, its prevalence in the mainstream of US popular music over the past couple of decades means that my rejection of it is likely to render me incompatible with most American women (my last great American ex, "The Poet", had a schoolgirlish enthusiasm for Eminem - which I'm afraid I found just risible, although I wouldn't ever tell her so).

10)  Likes to cook
I'm not looking for someone to cook for me all the time.  And I don't require that a girlfriend should be a particularly good cook.  But I don't understand people who don't cook at all, or who do so only out of necessity and take little pleasure in it.  People who feel no sense of connection to this most joyous of activities - they have blighted souls.

11)  Poise, elegance
One of my major dissatisfactions with British girls is that most of them walk so badly.  I like people with good deportment, people who move well (although I'm certainly not claiming any prizes in this department myself!).  I've commented before on how I think this is the main reason for my attraction to dancers (along with them showing their legs off, obviously).

12)  A good voice
Particularly a fine singing voice.  My mum used to sing to me a lot when I was very young; I don't suppose her voice was anything remarkable, but I found her joy and unself-consciousness in singing inspiring, and I think that was probably what predisposed me to fall in love so regularly with female singers.  Even with non-singers, a woman's voice is always a key element of attraction (or of passion-killing) for me.  A few years ago, I found my ardour for a woman wilting rapidly when I realised how strident, how shouty her voice could be (especially on the telephone; and we were attempting a 'long-distance relationship').

13)  A single mum
Not that this is something I actively seek, but it's not something I shy away from either.  And, given my target age range, I must expect that a good number of the women I'm likely to be attracted to will have one or more children already.  There is something very, very appealing, I find, about watching a woman mothering.  And I'm soppy about children.  Moreover, I worry that I've left it a little bit late to have children of my own, so the idea of getting a headstart in building a family probably has a special attraction for me.  Of course, there are all sorts of special difficulties with this: becoming a surrogate dad is a far bigger undertaking than becoming a lover, so I've always tended to proceed very tentatively - too tentatively (my problem with "Madame X", perhaps?) - when I find myself attracted to a single mother.  And if such a relationship doesn't work out, the loss of the child can be brutally hard to take, a far keener pain than the loss of the woman (I've only experienced this once, but I am just a little wary of facing the risk again).

14)  A uniquely appealing feature
I like to profess to be indifferent to physical appearance, but of course that's untrue (though I really do think that some of the attributes of character and personality I've alluded to above are far more important to me than looks).  I have a tendency, though, to fixate on one particular body part (and not the most obvious ones): the eyes most commonly (especially if they are well spaced!!), but also the arch of an eyebrow, or the nape of the neck, or.... any number of odd little details of the physical form which may charm and entrap me.  With my Ex of Exes, "The Evil One", it was her hands[Unfortunately, the flipside of this is that I am rather too keenly observant of, and inclined to obsess about, potentially off-putting features.  It's difficult to tell a girl you don't want to see her any more because of the shape of her earlobes...]

15)  A good kisser
I like kissing.  It's a make-or-break thing for me.  It's strange, terrible that all of this far more important stuff above can be reduced to irrelevance by some failure of 'chemistry' in the meeting of the lips.

Well, that's quite enough to be going on with.  And I didn't even get on to hair colour this time (I have a hierarchy - with red/auburn at the top, just ahead of light brown, and blonde and black at the bottom; but it's a secondary consideration, not a deal-breaker... I have gone out with women of almost every conceivable hair colour).


Hopfrog said...

Quite a list Froog! After reading that list, I suspect you may end up an old bachelor. Finding a girl who would fit those requirements here in the states would be a tall order. I imagine it nigh impossible in China.

Good luck though! Should you find her, thats gonna be one heckuva catch.

Hopfrog said...

Also, quickly, that was an excellent piece from JES's site. I'm amazed at the music that comes out of instruments such as that one, the sitar, the pipa, etc..

There was an outstanding performance by Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock at the Hu Jintao dinner the other night. Check it out:

I close my eyes and swear Art Tatum must still be alive.

Froog said...

Well, I hope it's not a completely hopeless task. I have met a number of women who check nearly all the boxes. The major problem I find is that all that intelligence and creativity is too often allied with mental instability. The two great loves of my life were astonishing women, amazingly talented, but.... impossible to live with.

Thanks for the link, HF. I was hoping we might hear some jazz numbers with Herbie's band, but it seems he was just performing solo classical pieces. Do you know what else he played?

I'm not really a fan of Lang Lang - he seems to epitomise the common Chinese failing (in music, and other areas too) of being all technique and no heart, over-the-top showiness. And he's increasingly cheesy in his public persona, almost a new Liberace. A new Art Tatum?? I think not. Fine performances, but some way short of genius.

Hopfrog said...

lol, not comparing them to Tatum in that sense. Tatum was well known for being able to play pieces that were arranged for duets...... solo.

Jazz musicians are famously known by their royal nicknames. You had your Dukes, Counts, Kings, Lords, Princes, Priests, etc... Tatum's nickname among jazz musicians..... God.

Will agree with you on Lang Lang's going over the top. I think your comparison to Liberace is spot on and hadn't put that together before. However I think Lang Lang plays with a lot of heart and, for that matter, Liberace did as well.

JES said...

About the list: not sure if I've recounted this story before, but here goes:

In the summer of 1990, I suddenly had the opportunity to relocate anywhere in the USA I wanted. I would't be able to live lavishly, and I wouldn't be able to live there indefinitely, but during that time I'd be able to write 24x7 if I were so inclined.

Having lived nowhere other than New Jersey my whole life to that point, this was an interesting challenge. So I picked up a book called Places Rated Almanac. It scored -- objectively, as much as possible -- something like 200 metropolitan areas in the US, on dozens of scales: economics, culture, crime, education... Of course the authors had done the work of not just scoring the locales, but also RANKING them, so that there was a "best" city, a "worst" city, and everything in between.

But I found this awfully unsatisfactory. Why? Because the authors assigned exactly the same weight to every category.

So I went through the book, page by page, and laboriously transcribed every city/category score into a spreadsheet cell. (Almost ruined my eyesight in the process.) Then I set up a separate section of the spreadsheet where I could assign relative weights to each of the categories. For instance, I didn't care -- not one bit -- if a city scored 0 on the sports category. So that would get an ultra-low weight, while something like culture (movies, museums, and such) would be weighted more heavily.

It was quite exciting to press the Enter key when the whole thing was done, because what it did was calculate WEIGHTED TOTAL SCORES for each city. At which point it was easy to re-sort the whole spreadsheet, draw a line at (say) the top 20, and ignore those below that.

Some places I discarded for other reasons: too close to NJ, too far south (because I hatehatehate hot weather, haha), I had too many online friends who lived nearby (was feeling very asocial at the time).

And after visiting a half-dozen of the places on the list, I finally made my choice. (Richmond, Virginia, area.)

All of which is a roundabout way of asking if you've assigned weights to all these criteria in this... this impressive list. For example, maybe "appreciates music" you can take a pass on, as long as "sense of humor" is off the charts. Etc.

I don't expect you to key this all into a spreadsheet, however. Or if you do, promise me that you will never show it to a woman you're considering. Or if you do THAT, promise me that you'll keep my name out of it. :)

Froog said...

I think you have mentioned that tale of spreadsheet OCD-ness before, JES, but I can't recall where. And I'm not sure if you mentioned that Richmond came out on top. Was it the true winner, or just what was left after all your idiosyncratic exclusions?

Having spent some time in the place myself, I find the choice rather surprising. Can you remember what the other front-runners were? I suppose things might have changed a bit in 20 years.

Did Richmond really edge out DC (and Alexandria)?? How much was 'cost of living' a prime factor in your weightings?

I would have thought Chicago or San Francisco would have come out way on top for 'culture' (well, after NYC; but not too far after - and a much safer distance away from NJ!). San Diego, San Antonio, Austin, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Savannah, Boston?

But Richmond??? The mind boggles.

I can't envisage any weighting for the girlfriend requirements. Apart from the single motherhood - which is optional, but strangely attractive - they're all pretty essential; but beyond an acceptable minimum level... well, it's all just icing on the cake. Below that crucial minimum, though, I think they'd all be deal breakers.

I suppose I might allow a few exceptions for someone who 'scored highly' in most other areas; e.g., I have once or twice gone out with quite short girls, or girls who had very questionable taste in music...

Hopfrog said...

My hand to any holy relic, I've done almost exactly what JES did when I was in a similar situation. Spreadsheet, weighted scale, livability indices, the works. My city, Lake Tahoe. Never made the move though.

Froog said...

Well, that is an uncanny coincidence, HF.

Honestly, I never realised Lake Tahoe was a 'city'! I mean, I knew it was a community and not just a lake, but I had the impression it was fairly small - not much there apart from a mid-sized gambling resort.

How long ago was this? Are you still tempted to give it a try? Or have the indices - and your personal weightings - changed too much now?

Hopfrog said...

Not a booming metropolis to be certain. The Lake Tahoe area is actually two small cities, errr towns. South Lake Tahoe in California and Tahoe City in Nevada. I had all of my belongings in the back of my pickup and decided to take a tour of the country, hitting the cities on my short list along the way. When I got to Tahoe, I really loved the area and wanted to make it happen, but I wasn't in a position to go without employment for a long stretch and the opportunities were more sparse than I had anticipated.

I settled on my second choice, San Diego. I lived there a whole 3 months. Looking back I gotta laugh at all the effort I put into doing something wild like that and all the effort to come up with my ideal city only to live there..... 3 months. Short story, I accepted a job in L.A. and then Vegas. A brief stint back to my homestate of Florida, 6 months hiking the Appalachian Trail, and then back to Vegas where I've been the past 9 years.

Sports and outdoor activities were weighted pretty heavily for me, when I broke it all down, and I was an avid skier at the time. Pretty sure thats why Tahoe got the nod.