Saturday, February 14, 2015

Barcelona market value UPDATED

Whenever I read a real-life account of romantic-comedy style pursuit, I can only hope that what I'm look at is a revisionist history of the early days of the relationship. That is, one that casts the man as the stubborn suitor, the woman as the gorgeous-but-passive object of his affections, rejecting his romantic advances until finally deciding to give the guy a chance. This is the most generous way to read such narratives. If you take them literally, they're at best objectifying (in that one-sided, woman-as-object way) and at worst borderline frightening. But if you read them as partial truths - presumably the man would have shown some interest along the way - they make more sense. For whatever reason, it's seen as insulting to a woman to speak of her relationship as having emerged from mutual attraction.

That is, at any rate, the best I was able to come up with re: UPDATE Arthur (thank you commenter Peter!) Brooks's op-ed intro here:

She was 25. I was 24. We spent only a couple of days together and shared no language in common. But when I returned to the United States from that European music festival, I announced to my parents that I had met my future wife. 
Of course, I had to convince Ester first. So I tackled the project as if it were a start-up. I began by studying Spanish. Before long, I’d quit my job and moved to her native Barcelona — where I knew no one except her — in hot pursuit. The market pressure was intense: Men would shout wedding proposals to her from moving cars. But I pressed on, undeterred. It took two years to close the deal, but she finally said yes, and we married.
As some of the commenters to the piece gently mention, what he's describing sounds like stalking. But I doubt that's it - I think it's about the narrative. A lot is left out - did he move to Barcelona for a woman he found attractive, or for one he'd already formed an intense relationship with (i.e. Ethan Hawke would play him, Julie Delpy her, in the movie version)? Were two years spent chasing her down, proposing daily, or, you know, dating her, during which time they probably both realized they were serious about each other, even if he's the one who eventually proposed? 

Then, of course, there's the rest of the op-ed, which is about how everyone needs to put down the smartphone and live in the moment (generic if sound advice), but also how one should apply the principles of entrepreneurship to romance. But I don't think the advice is aimed at women, entrepreneurial or otherwise: "This Valentine’s Day, don’t be a risk-averse wimp. Be bold. Treat love as if it were a start-up that will change the world. When you find your target, focus mindfully, and push through the fear." No one would ever refer to a man a woman was interested in, but who had yet to reciprocate, a "target." I might go so far as to say that no one of any gender should be referring to love interests as targets.

The narrative is meant to flatter women. Maybe some find it flattering. I can't decide whether I find it more creepy, patronizing, or silly, but I guess I'm not its target audience. 

At the end of the piece, in a final shout-out to outrage-prone feminists (and I'm including people who became thus halfway into his piece), he adds, of his pursuit: "Believe me, it’s worth it. After 23 years of marriage and three kids, men still shout to my wife from cars when we visit Barcelona." A marriage, you see, is a success if your wife doesn't let herself go, and if she continues to be catcalled in middle age.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your read. I was just thinking about how I can tell the story of how I got into my current relationship with him making all the first moves or with me making all the first moves, depending on what story I want to tell.