Selections.

I was chatting with a friend about her love life. Although she’s much younger than me, her relationship history is rapidly starting to resemble mine (google “train wreck”). I asked her why she doesn’t get her sister, who works in an office crowded with single, eligible men, to set her up with somebody. Her answer was that she did not feel comfortable with that sort of person. She would rather date “someone with a job than with a career”. Now, we could spend a few hours running through the underlying psychological and social issues that may cause her to feel like that, but it’d be both too easy and somewhat pointless, so we won’t. Instead, I’d like you to contemplate the wonderful ramifications of the unintended consequences of our choices, and how they can come to bite us in the ass. What are the implications of our selections?

My friend actively selects against people with a career as romantic partners. When she was a teenager, the implications were minimal. Most teenagers don’t have a career. Many haven’t even figured out what career they would like, if any. Selecting out those who do not only does not restrict the field of play overmuch, but also doesn’t select against people with the potential to have a career in the future. Now she’s in her twenties, though, and the consequences of her choice are becoming more serious. She is finding herself dealing more often with potential partners who are not only unwilling to or uninterested in having a career, but actually unable to do so. They haven’t chosen an alternative lifestyle in order to realise their dreams; they have just failed to achieve anything, in school and/or at work, and now they are floundering.

I’m not much better than my friend. I haven’t actively selected against people with a career, but I’ve also not selected for them. I was raised with the belief that women should be independent and not look for men to provide for them. Unfortunately, the flipside of that is that if you don’t look for something, you might not find it. I didn’t look for men who could provide for me, so I ended up with men who couldn’t. In fact, some of them couldn’t even provide properly for themselves.

Now, I’m not saying you ought to inspect someone’s bank records before agreeing to a second date. I’m not saying that a lack of career, intentional or otherwise, is necessarily a sign that someone is an unworthy partner. I quit a PhD to go planting trees, and then quit that to run off with the Circus, so I’m not particularly into the rat race. I’m saying that selecting for something, or failing to select against something, can have huge ramifications that we need to consider. Certain attributes or lacks thereof that may not seem problematic in themselves may be symptoms of a serious underlying problem. For instance, a lack of career can be a sign that someone lacks the determination to do anything that is hard, and that can impact most aspects of your life – relationships are hard; parenting is hard; illnesses are hard;…

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