Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Boyfriend Test: Don't Knock the Ale

While at my parents' house for the holidays, I found a book on the dining room table called The Boyfriend Test (Wendy L. Walsh, 2001). "Oh, cool!" I thought. "Because I'm not attracted to anyone, how would I ever know who to date? Wouldn't it be great if I could just decide by giving people a test?" I dug into the book eagerly. I even withstood the author's personification of my egg cells (I mean, how can anyone who's ever had a period argue that egg cells are passive?). But when I got to this point, I had to stop, in the name of love:

"If the man is over twenty-five, he should have had at least one long-term relationship under his belt. I define long term as three years or more...one three-year relationship should have happened by the age of twenty-five."-- 201
"There are two ways to avoid human intimacy: to not stay long enough or to stay away all together. Your boyfriend candidate should employ neither of these behaviors."-- 202

Folks, the world today is scary enough without introducing even more terror tactics. And this idea, outlined in the quotes above, terrifies people. All kinds of people; men, women, and otherwise. I still remember a female friend from college telling me in hushed, fearful tones: "I need to have a boyfriend while I'm still in college, or it'll be a red flag!" And this friend was a perfectly lovely person, not a paranoid commitment-phobe. My point is that this idea-- that we somehow have an expiration date for relationships, or an age of no return-- is more widespread than one silly book. What if, say, someone realizes, at age 20 (apparently, a prime dating time), that they aren't the sexual orientation that they always thought they were? (Raises hand.) Or what if your prospective date, until recently, was a monk? I think I'd like to date a former monk. They make good ale, train German Shepherds, wear robes, and if they were already willing to embark on at least one life-long relationship, they must be very passionate people.
Ex-monks and later-life asexuals want to know: Who's making these guidelines? Who says relationship-virgins over 25 are untrustworthy? Is there a book of the bible that I missed? The Boyfriend Test gives anecdotal evidence, but that isn't enough to doom a whole category of people. In many areas of our lives, we won't believe anything without evidence. So why, in the case of relationships, do these strange urban legends hold such sway?


maymay said...

On my blog and elsewhere, I'm fond of saying that otherwise smart people consistently behave in very stupid ways when it comes to two topics: education and sex.

The Impossible K said...

Reminds me of the book I read back in middle school, "Are You There God? It's Me Margaret"...
The main character in this book is so obsessed with getting a boyfriend by seventh grade because of this idea (that something must be wrong with you if you don't date)... Ugh. I hated it then and I hate it now!
I haven't had a boyfriend and I'm approaching 26- does this mean I'm approaching my expiration date? Books like this irk me.
Thanks for posting this!!

Ily said...

Trudat. Although, you'd think something as illogical as "I must have a long-term relationship before the age of 25!" must be something decided in the heat of the moment. If it was, I'd find it much easier to understand-- but of course, it isn't.
Impossible K:
You know, I enjoyed that book...maybe because I first read it as an adult. Poor Margaret, things haven't really changed that much. Come to think of it, any universal claims like "you must do ___ by a certain age" irk me. Life is just way too complicated. Thanks for your comment!

Lynn said...

Damn, I don't even have time to have had that long of a relationship before I'm 25. Clearly, I'm a failure. And my eggs are not people.

Ily said...

Wow, I didn't even think about it that way-- but I'm in the same boat, Lynn. And upon further thought, a 3-year relationship before 25 just sounds...oppressive. Whatever happened to "sowing your wild oats"? Go forth and sow, my children! (Responsibly, of course ;-)

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