Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

Can we please put an end, once and for all, to the pernicious idea that New Zealand is in the grip of a “man drought”, with scores of frustrated women casting about for that rare and precious commodity – a nice, educated man.

I've posted on this previously. The journalistic beat-up of the original story was dumb and credulous. There's some doubt about the raw demographic statistics, and a good deal more about what they actually mean. There's also reasons – though I won't go into them here – why an equal number of men and women wouldn't necessarily produce the supposedly desirable system of one-to-one coupling.

But let's leave aside all that pointy-headed analysis and focus on the incontrovertible anecdotal evidence: in the most urbanised, highly-educated, feminised part of the country – central Wellington – there's not very many single women to be found. And certainly not in any semi-public setting where members of the opposite sex might actually see them.

As one guy interviewed last year said, when the meme spread from the print media to TV: “maybe they're all at home lighting candles and bathing themselves in lavender oil”.

This situation was established firmly the other Friday night, when four single young men found ourselves sitting outside a bar around 8:30, pondering on how hard it was to meet any girls. One of the two female members of the party had left ten minutes previously to join her husband. The other [engaged] woman had just departed rather hurriedly after establishing that, despite our articulate conversation and reasonable dress sense, none of us were actually gay.

All four of the males in attendance that night earn above the average wage. All four are in possession of that rare, and, according to the economist wonks, desirable quality – a postgraduate degree. None of us, on a good day, would be described as truly ugly. Two of us are even more than six foot tall (though I regret to say that I am not one of them). All four are capable of maintaining an interesting conversation on a variety if subjects (which, according to our female interlocutor, was probably part of our problem).

But we all agreed that, although some of us might have done alright in international settings (nudge nudge, wink wink), in New Zealand it was damnedly difficult.

A clue to the real state of affairs was to be found in yet another story on how hard it is to be a single Kiwi gal, which appeared a couple of months ago in that pillar of serious journalism, The Listener. Reading that article, I found it hard to get past the fact that the key “interviewee” was actually (I was privileged to know) the pictures editor of...The Listener. However, buried amidst the blather was an interesting nugget. An academic survey (at Massey? I think...) of single New Zealand men and women found that 50 percent of men cited “the person I like isn't available or is not interested” as the reason for their singledom. Just 20 percent of women gave the same reason.

This rings true to experience. My single female friends and acquaintances all tell the same “Bridget Jones”-style tale of woe: despite considerable male attention, and numerous encounters, liaisons, and semi-formed relationships, they can't find the right man. My single male friends and acquaintances also share a similar story: they pretty much can't get a date (or replace with a cruder expression, if you will).

So for one group it's like being in a clothes shop where there's some quite nice things on the racks, but you just can't find exactly the one you want. For the other, it's like being in the same shop and being told that the currency you have isn't accepted there.

The reasons for this are complicated, and I won't even begin to theorise on them at this point in time. What anyone can do about it, if anything, is even less clear. At an individual level, I have a strategy which I know others share: leave the country as soon as is practicable. I don't believe there's a “man drought” in New Zealand now. But if current trends continue, there eventually will be.


Kevin H said...

I am certain of one thing - if I were single and educated I would not be living and working in New Zealand.

How I yearn to be in your shoes, even just once. The freedom to be out there, responsible for no-one but yourself, high with the anticipation of what the evening may bring.

At the risk of contradicting the above, I also believe that Friday night in a bar is not the place to meet a partner. It might be the place to get drunk and/or a shag (so I've heard) but not meet someone who you'd like to spend the rest of your life with and be the mother of your children. Similarly, there is no point chasing after workmates and flatmates - it is generally accepted they are no-go zones.

Kev's recommendation is to join clubs and organisations e.g. sports club, book group, whatever interests you. You are likely to find someone who shares at least some of your interests and you'll immediately have something to talk about. But my number one hint for meeting girls (patent pending) is to get invited to as many weddings as possible (funerals and christenings are good alternatives). The idea is to understand that women are highly emotional beings, not to mention irrational, and a single woman at a wedding is like a ripe peach. It is a certainty that she will be in a highly-charged emotional state with strong feelings of "when will my turn come?". As an available man you will be the answer to her prayers - dance the night away and enjoy!

Of course, the downside of following this advice is that you may soon be in my situation - married for 19 years, mortgaged to the eyeballs, with 2 moody money-sucking teenagers, and yearning to be single again! Oh the agony of man's great paradox.

This is why I play golf - apart from being a great game it is also a day out in the fresh air away from the cares of daily life. A true sanity saver.

H said...

I think it's just that the men are not as desirable as they like to think.

soph said...

I never quite got the whole man-drought thing. Admittedly I got married to a much older man while still in my mid twenties. But I seem to remember the huge lack of any single men between 25 and 40 was because almost everybody I knew, male AND female had actually left the country. Funnily enough, many of them are back now and living in Wellington.
Most of my still-single female friends still primarily try and meet men in bars at the weekend but consistently complain that "all the guys are drunk".
I agree that weddings as a good pick up place. Also she's bound to be wearing a reasonably nice dress and be quite pissed.

Simon Bidwell said...

Phew...plugged back into the matrix. Didn't have internet for a couple of weeks there while moving house. And blogger.com is blocked at work, go figure!

Thanks for your comments. Kev, have you considered a second career as an agony aunt? Very good...

...but seriously, I wouldn't consider myself qualified to comment on the issue if I hadn't looked into the sports club / book group / etc thing. When I say "there's not many single women around" I'm not just talking about the bar on Friday night. Even at salsa classes (a supposedly very female-popular thing in the most urban, educated, feminised place in the country) there are a surplus of men some weeks (though I have to say, it's been pretty good lately).

But your response of "don't worry love, you'll find a nice one" slightly misunderstands - and thereby proves - my point, which is that if a)there really were a man drought and b)women realy were desperate to find a man, then *they* should be looking for *us* (yes, and even lowering their standards to include blokes with only minimal redeeming features, like us).

H: see above comments. I'm not sure that the men in question are thinking they're particularly desirable. On the contrary; they are being driven into ever deeper states of anxiousness (slight exagg.) by this hallucinatory image of hordes of desperate single women, while they can't get a date.


'Most of my still-single female friends still primarily try and meet men in bars at the weekend but consistently complain that "all the guys are drunk".'

Haha, very nice. Although, if the girs were friendlier, I think the guys would probably drink less. Bit of a vicious circle, isn't it?.

Weddings...definitely good in theory. Funerals have potential too. Although it must be remembered that although some of us guys may be able to behave as stupidly as Hugh Grant, we aren't necessarily as foppishly good-looking as him.

In reality, I've been to two weddings in NZ. Correct me if I'm wrong, Sophia, but I don't think there were *any* single women at yours...the other one was my friend Jason's, where there were also v.close to zero (clarification for female readers: I know you sometimes use "single" to mean "unmarried"; I am using it in the sense of "without a current boyfriend and therefore not apparently off-limits".)

Having said that, the other wedding I've been to was in Peru, which I was quite lucky to leave without actually getting married myself.