Sunday, December 31, 2006

Everybody's Got a Market Value, Baby

During a heated argument, a man I once loved snarled at me, "Everybody's got a value on the open market, baby." I was appalled. How crass! How could he see people as commodities, especially
Page 107somebody he said he loved? What a repulsive way to look at relationships! To me, love was beautiful. Love was pure. It was the source of the most intense pleasure known to mankind and had no parallel in human experience. To me, love was sharing, trusting, total giving of self. The words of Robert Burns had reverberated in my heart since childhood: "Love, 0 lyric Love, half angel and half bird. And all a wonder and a wild desire." To hear my lover liken his loved one's qualities to pork bellies or soybeans on the commodities market was too much. I stormed out of the room. And, soon thereafter, out of the relationship. Now, many years later, older and, some few could argue, wiser, I wonder, "Was he right?" Not in his manner of presentation, certainly. But in his facts? It surprises no one to hear, "Everyone wants to get the best deal possible in life." Nor are they shocked when they learn about the law of supply and demand in business. People don't even flinch when sales gurus preach that, in all human interaction, the big question is WIIFM —(what's in it for me?) Why do we recoil when researchers tell us the same natural laws apply to love? Recently, the scientific community, not content with the theories of love proposed by Sigmund Freud (sublimated sexuality) or Theodore Reik (filling a void in oneself), set out to get the real skinny on love. Conducting numerous surveys and laboratory experiments, scientists peeled back a deeper layer of the human psyche. Did they uncover some ugly facts? Did they confront a monster? Some might say "yes." Others would laugh it off and say, "Of course not." Whether you see their findings as the abominable snowman or the archangel of truth, the result is quite simply this: Studies do indeed support the thesis that everything and everybody has a quantifiable value on the open market. And everybody wants to get the best deal possible in love as well as in life. Researchers christened their findings the equity (or exchange) theory of love. It's sort of like the old horse-trading principle. Why Is Finding Love Like Horse Trading? The equity theory of love is based on the same sound business principles of barter and open market value. Everything has a value. Everything has a price. As with that of a product, a person's value can be subjective. Generally, the world agrees on what's a good catch and what's a shoddy one. In the world of horse trading, there are top-grade champions or nags (horses ready for the glue factory). At a horse auction, buyers look for qualities they describe as pretty movers, good disposition, no bad vices, and even flashy. Are humans really so different? All these horse qualities affect the sales price. If you are trading a registered horse for one without pedigree papers, he better have some of the other superior qualities to make it a fair barter. Studies show that the more qualities you bring to the bargaining table, the better you will do in love. The more your assets even out, the more apt you are to make someone fall in love with you. Equity theorists tell us the more equitable a romantic relationship is, the more likely it is to progress to marriage. 38 What Currency "Buys" a Good Partner? Proponents of the equity principle list six elements which are assets on the "open market" when lovers go husband or wife shopping. 1. Physical appearance 2. Possessions or money 3. Status or prestige 4. Information or knowledge 5. Social graces or personality 6. Inner nature Researchers tell us that, in the happiest relationships, the partners are more or less equal in each of the above categories. If not, their qualities balance each other out across the board. As an example, let us take category number one, physical appearance. Studies all over the world (the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan) show that men and women usually wind up marrying people who are just about as attractive as they are. A group of psychologists observed young couples at social events and rated their appearance on a scale similar to the now-legendary 1–10 rating scale popularized by the film 10. 39 They found that 60 percent of the couples were separated by only one point on the scale, and 85 percent were separated by two points or less. I decided to put these findings to my own informal test. For several weeks, everywhere I went—to the movies, to the mall, to parties, to restaurants—I watched husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. On a scale of one to ten, I rated their appearance. Never were they more than two points apart! Try it. Researchers tell us if a couple is not equal in the same category, usually their assets across the list even out. For example, how often, walking down the street, have you passed a stunning women on the arm of a pinch-faced, much-older man? What was your first thought? Admit it, you probably said to yourself, "Gosh, he must be really rich." You see a handsome man walking with his arm around a very plain woman and you muse, "Gosh, she must have a great personality." That's the equity, or horse-trading, principle at work. It can't be denied. Good looks, lots of money, and high social status are definitely legal tender in the acquisition of love. Back in the 1930s several Oakland, California, educators observed fifth- and sixth-grade girls cavorting on the playground. They rated the little girls according to their looks. About twenty years later, a sociologist got hold of the results of the old study and tracked down the young women to find out what kinds of husbands they had married. The researcher found that the prettier the girl, the "better" she had done in securing a mate. The more attractive girls had gotten richer and more powerful husbands. The less attractive girls had not done so well. Does this mean our face is our fortune? Well, with minor changes we must go through life with the same mug. Fortunately, that's not the only currency with which we buy love. A pleasant personality, courteous social graces, and knowledge or information that your partner can benefit from also give you points. Throughout this book you can find techniques to magnify the qualities that make your Quarry fall in love with you. In the cases of those attributes that can't be genuinely greatly enhanced (such as your looks, your money, and your prestige), I offer you techniques to enhance his or her perception of them. Before exploring methods to manipulate perceptions, however, let's get a reality check on how beautiful, how rich, or how powerful you really want your partner to be if your goal is, as I assume, to find happiness in love. Here is a surprising truth—all the studies support it. Your chances of finding and keeping true love are even better if you don't marry someone drop-dead gorgeous, filthy rich, or a prince or princess. Why? Because balanced benefits make happy campers, especially in the long run. People are happier when their assets equal out. Let's peel back a few layers on the equity principle and get a reality check on how much you want to manipulate it. Then, if you still do, I'll show you how.

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