When playwright Wendy Wasserstein passed away recently, the media looked back on her career. We noted how her distinctive voice reflected the conflicting emotions of feminism: the desire for equality and the recognition of the sacrifices that inevitably follow '- particularly in relationships. In The Heidi Chronicles, one of Wasserstein's most well-known plays, the lead character asks her on-again, off-again boyfriend Scoop to explain why he chose to marry Lisa, someone notably less ambitious, instead.
Scoop: Let's say we married and I asked you to devote the, say, next 10 years of your life to me. To making me a home and a family and a life so secure that I could with some confidence go out into the world each day and attempt to get an A. You'd say, "No." You'd say, "Why can't we be partners? Why can't we both go out into the world and get an A?" And you'd be absolutely valid and correct.
Heidi: But Lisa...
Scoop: Do I love her, as your nice friend asked me? She's the best that I can do. Is she an A+ like you? No. But I don't want to come home to an A+. A- maybe, but not A+.
Has anything changed since Wendy Wasserstein wrote these words nearly two decades ago? Do men still prefer the A- over the A+ woman? We asked the Love Council to weigh in.
"Plenty of men want the total package"
Everyone has different goals and expectations in terms of long-term love and marriage. There are plenty of men out there who would rather marry the BabyTron 5000 Birthing Machine Housewife who smiles and nods and says the casserole is ready '- as opposed to a woman with strong enough goals, opinions and personality traits for her to be head-of-household material.
But there are also plenty of men, myself included, who wanted the total package: Brains. Looks. Mommy potential. Earning potential. (I'm a writer/comedian. There are going to be rough patches.) I ended up with a woman who fit that bill, not because I set out to find a certain "grade" of woman '- but because I set out to marry for the reasons people marry for in romantic comedies.
"Sooner or later the question may be, do women prefer A- or A+ men?"
Dan: Most men I know love women who are smart and ambitious. But when that A+ package includes a type A personality that makes her significant other feel more like a browbeaten flunky than a lover, some men may yearn for the less powerful A- or even B+ woman. But I'm convinced that the choice between A- and A+ women won't exist for long anyway. Colleges are pumping out far more women than men these days, and the ratios are also changing in law schools and business schools. So sooner or later the question may be, do women prefer A- or A+ men?
Cathi: There's no question that a man with a career-woman wife will sometimes have to put his family first -- whether it's taking time off to be with a sick kid when his wife can't or making dinner once in a while (if not every night). But he gets things in return: a chance to know his children intimately and an intellectually equal wife who feels fulfilled '- and grateful to him.
Some guys think that sacrifice is worth it. Others don't. I'm not sure if that's changed in the past 20 years, though if it has, it's for the better. Guys today '- many of whom grew up with working mothers themselves '- seem far more enlightened than their predecessors.
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