Bear wanted to know if I thought he was alpha enough.
The thing is, women don’t like beta guys. Women want a man who’s an alpha.
I’ve been running into these words a lot. They are used to describe men in articles, in research papers, casually, in conversation.
“He’s totally beta, y’know? He has, like, no self-confidence.”
There’s all that Pick Up Artist stuff out there, floating around on the internet, being inhaled by guys who already suspect they don’t fall into the sexy category. I read a little of it, once, when someone mentioned negging to me. Negging, for the uninitiated, is when a guy gently lowers a woman’s self-esteem through expertly subtle jibes. And then she sleeps with him because her self-esteem is lowered. “I love tall women. Nice heels…What are they, five inches?” GET IT? HE’S SAYING SHE’S NOT ACTUALLY TALL. (Clearly, I’m no Pick Up Artist– the ladies already love me).
Most of the literature I ran into during my brief foray into the world of the PUA focused on acquiring the highest number. The near-mythical perfect 10 was, obviously, the ultimate goal (they’re out there, gentlemen! And if you sign up for a PUA boot camp TODAY, you too can have a chance to sleep with one of them! Maybe more than one! Just imagine!). In the world of the PUA, it seems like women always have numbers instead of names, and I left infuriated, quickly retreating back to the safe space of Jezebel to recoup and be comforted.
But sometimes I start to see the PUA everywhere. Or at least trailing bits of his worldview. An article in NY Mag about “alpha” women who marry “beta” men is a profile of several Manhattan couples with a hopeful, increasingly common dynamic– the women earn a lot more than the men. How does it work out? Very badly. The reporter doesn’t seem to spend much time talking with the husbands, but he learns from the wives that they don’t have very much respect left for their partners. They think of their partners as children, because they are providing for them, the way one provides for a child, and their husbands are lazy and unambitious and aren’t even attempting to make money. Or they are attempting, but it’s kinda pathetic (the article’s tone, not mine). It’s a mess. One of the only couples in the article that appears to be OK– Barbara Corcoran and Bill Higgins– has survived only because Bill, in Barbara’s words “… forces me to be a partner rather than the boss. It’s what keeps our marriage healthy. He won’t give me an inch of satisfaction. He won’t acknowledge my superiority.” Bill, in other words, is an alpha. Phew.
So occasionally alpha women (defined here mostly by their ability to make a lot of money) marry beta men (defined here mostly by the fact that they don’t), and it’s generally bad. Because it upsets the natural order and stuff. Unless the guy is a badass who won’t give you an inch of satisfaction.
It also turns out that women don’t like men who smile. OKCupid found that guys who look away from the camera and don’t smile got more responses from women than happy looking dudes. Another, more official study that Bear was talking about last night showed that women prefer guys who look “proud” to guys who look “happy.” Smiling is beta. Being stern and mysterious is alpha.
Alpha is an attitude, it’s explained to me by a guy friend I decided to get some answers from. It’s not really about making money or being talented or anything. It’s about really believing in yourself, all the time. It’s about not caring what anyone thinks. Chicks can sense that. It’s about not getting dependent on a girl. You have to show you don’t really need her. Then she wants you more. You can’t get mushy. You can’t, even for a second, let yourself look desperate.
“What about being vulnerable? You know, like falling in love?”
“Nah. I mean, I guess you can fall in love, like if you need to get married or whatever eventually. But don’t let her see you cry. Like, ever.”
In the world of alpha and beta males it seems like every guy at least has a chance. Hipster dudes can be alpha, guys with bad teeth can be alpha, really heavy guys and old guys and extremely young guys can be alpha– with the right attitude. But women have very few options. We are either hot or we’re not. And if we want an alpha, which supposedly we all do, we’d damn well better be hot. If we want a beta, I guess we can have a high powered job, but we shouldn’t expect to be happy. Actually, I’m not sure where the happiness is in any of this. Because either you’re with a man who comes off as a jerk all the time, or you’re with a guy who has no self-respect and sits on the couch picking his nose all day.
Is it more complicated than that? Probably. There are a lot of theories and a lot of PUA related sites and a lot of scientific research and a lot of guesses about what exactly it means to be alpha or beta and what exactly women like or dislike about these modes of being.
But I am so, so tired of people trying to figure out what women want, while women remain a blank canvas— or a two dimensional portrait in a sexy little dress.
And I’m also pretty sure I have never wanted an alpha male, for the record. I like guys who smile. I like guys who are happy, not edgy. I like gentle guys who feel things and show their feelings. It was Bear’s sweet bashfulness that attracted me. I like being married to a man who cares a lot about me, all the time. A man who is dependent on me, obviously respects me, and wants my good opinion. I am also in favor of his broad shoulders, fantastically logical mind, ceaseless work ethic, and ambition. But that doesn’t mean I want him to be an alpha– it means I want him to be a whole person.
“Do you think I’m hot enough?” I asked Bear back. “Am I a perfect ten? Because that’s what you’re supposed to want. That’s the only thing you’re supposed to care about.”
He was caught off-guard.
“How about neither of us fits the rules of that game,” I said. “How about I’m not a perfect ten and you’re not an alpha male and we’re both just people, who love each other.”
He smiled. “That sounds good. But you’re a perfect ten.”
“You’re my perfect ten.”
“You don’t think you’ll lose respect for me, for being too nice?”
(What a thought! Oh my god, internet! Stop it already! You’re messing with my husband’s head!)
“I promise I won’t.”
That promise is totally going to be kept.
* * *
Thoughts on alpha/beta guys? Do you think of guys that way? Are you, in fact, more attracted to guys who fit the alpha profile?
Unroast: Today I love the colors of my skin.
P.S. I’m starting yoga today! Wish me luck!