07 November 2019
Finding a Partner
More choice or less?
By Lynda Goetz
At first sight, you might think it is easier to find ‘the one’ these days than ever before. After all, no-one is limited any longer to those in their town or village or indeed their own social circle (as they were say in Jane Austen’s day). The possibilities are endless, surely? All you need to do is find the right app, log on and a world of choice opens before you. Someone to share your interests, or with different interests, someone local or someone at the other end of the country or even in a different country; someone of a different sex; someone of the same sex; someone for whom your sex is irrelevant. Initially, this all sounds very liberating. Unfortunately, human beings themselves have not really changed that much over the last few thousand years.
So, you have chosen the app and are scrolling through the choices; as a footloose and fancy-free male, you want someone who is attractive, pretty even; probably younger than you are and who is not going to be too clingy or too demanding (at least to start with), someone happy to watch you playing soccer/rugby/polo. As a modern woman, you are looking for a man who is not over-focused on your looks and certainly not on your domestic skills; someone who will appreciate you for who you are, for your independence and your ability to function in a number of different environments; someone, in short, who will respect you for the person you are. So how can you tell any of this from the profiles which appear? Whatever anyone says, the first thing is going to be appearance, the photo; followed by what that person says about themselves. But how do you know how much of it is true and how much is self-delusion and wishful thinking? How old is the photo? How much has it been photo shopped?
Maybe it would just be easier to meet someone through work or through your interests? Seemingly, not always possible or allowable these days. This week Steve Easterbrook was sacked from his position as chief executive at McDonalds over a consensual relationship with one of his junior colleagues. McDonalds have a policy expressly forbidding relationships between those of different pay grades and Mr Easterbrook acknowledges he fell foul of these rules. He admitted it was ‘a mistake’ and has resigned. No-one knows how the object of his interest feels about this, as she remains unnamed and unidentified, at least to those outside the couple’s immediate acquaintances. Mr Easterbrook himself will not suffer too much from walking away from his job for this ‘error of judgement’, as some press reports suggest he will leave with half his basic salary and retain shares and options worth some £40 million.
It is unclear when these regulations were put in place by McDonalds, but the board presumably feel justified that they exist in the light of the #MeToo scandals in the film world last year. Is this really the right way forward? As Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary pointed out in an interview on Sky’s show Ian King Live “I really get very worried when companies start having policies on people’s private activity”. He added that they don’t have such policies at Ryanair and compared the idea to the Catholic Church trying to impose celibacy on its priests ‘for 2,000 years’.
Policies restricting dating are far less common in the UK, where many expect ‘the workplace to provide a social life and an environment where they can meet people’, according to Curley Moloney, of Moloney Search, one of the UK’s recruitment consultants. However, it does frequently seem to be the case that what happens in the US tends to follow over here within a few years. Are such restrictions really in people’s best interests when such a lot of time is spent within work? At a time when work/life balance is much discussed and yet many spend a great deal of time in work or in work-related activities, does it make sense to discourage relationships which arise within the workplace? Unless the power imbalance is so great (as in the ‘casting couch’ scenarios about which we have heard so much over the last year), is it really the responsibility of companies to police relationships? Surely, as adults we should be free to make our own judgements on such matters?
In many ways, it could even be argued that workplace relationships are in some ways favourable to companies as employees are enjoying spending time in the workplace with those whose company they seek. Others argue that if there was more transparency in workplace relationships it would be less easy for colleagues to put forward claims of favouritism. Whatever the arguments, it certainly seems to be infantilising us all to try to dictate consenting behaviour between adults.
This week was also the week in which the term ‘self-partnering’ hit the mainstream press when it was used by the lovely Emma Watson to describe her single status. Should you not be sufficiently ‘woke’ to have come across the term before, there is a very wordy description of it in this blog. According to the writer, Melanie, it basically comes down to loving yourself enough to be able to love another and not putting up with abusive or controlling relationships. This is in itself a healthy idea, but whether it is what Emma Watson means or whether she is simply trying to be accepting of the fact of currently being single as opposed to viewing it as a negative, is a moot point.
That many women tend to feel anxious about not having ‘settled down’ by 30 is not entirely ridiculous. Given that female fertility is known to peak in the early to mid-twenties and thereafter to decline slowly, with many sources suggesting a more dramatic drop at around 35, it clearly makes more sense, if at all possible, to have children, if you want them, before it becomes more difficult to do so. At the same time, modern, independent young women do not wish to appear desperate, nor to become objects of pity because they have not managed to find the ideal sperm donor by the time they are 30. Being positive about life as they are currently living it is thus an incredibly sensible approach and good for mental well-being. There is a lot which can be enjoyed with friends and family or indeed alone. However, to pretend that being single is somehow wonderful, when most of the world aims to get paired off and probably start families of their own, flies in the face of several thousand years of human history. The problem which remains is the age-old one, as identified by Ms Austen, of where and how to find the perfect partner. The age-old answer is probably the same – there is rarely such a thing; and as for finding them, more choice (in theory, at least) does not necessarily make it any easier.