Monday, April 19, 2010

The Little Prince And Grand Ideas

The Little Prince. Yes, the book by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry. Maybe some of you read it as children, others as adults, and if you’re really impressive, maybe you read it in French (unless of course if you’re French, which would then make it not as impressive). If you haven’t read it, I urge you to stop by the book store on your way home from work and pick up a copy. It’s a quick read - you can polish it off in between your workout and your nighttime t.v. shows. And it is, after all, a classic - one of the best selling books ever, with over 80 million copies sold and translated into 180 languages. Ok, you may be wondering is this a book review or a blog on dating? Well, maybe both… The Little Prince leaves you with unforgettable characters (e.g. the Conceited Man who is lonely and craves admiration from everyone but cannot hear anything that is not a compliment and therefore lives alone on his planet - or the vain, coquettish and foolish but loving rose who drives the little prince to leave his asteroid) as well as the profound and endearing reminder that “On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."

Translation: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

A profound piece of advice to searching singles trying to assess what qualities are really necessary in another human being in their quest for love. Of course, Saint- Exupéry didn’t set out to write a book on dating in Manhattan, but single New Yorkers would be well served to read (or re-read) this little gem offering insights on the human condition that are as relevant here on the isle of Manhattan as anywhere else on the globe (or any asteroid, for that matter).

As a professional matchmaker, I am constantly listening to people’s descriptions of what they are looking for in members of the opposite sex: Intelligence. Got it. Kindness. Certainly important. A good sense of humor. Yup. But then there is: A full head of hair (preferably not grey), at least 5’11”, very handsome face, not too much older, must be in great shape AND intelligent, kind, with a good sense of humor, a solid job, wants a real relationship and is basically all around perfect). Or … it may go something like this with the guys: VERY attractive, young, thin, blond, C-cup... smart, cool, really fun, sweet, oh, did I say hot and young? Um, ok. (Actually, in all fairness, I have only had one guy mention to me a requested cup size, so thank goodness there’s actually flexibility there).

Sometimes, I feel compelled to ask the rhetorical question: are you marrying someone’s hair (you do know, they could lose it in 10 years, right?) or his character? And, really ladies, aren't bald guys sexy? Guys, are you marrying a girl’s killer body (yes, that can change too after one kid) or her character? Look around you – if you take a glance at most older couples, typically neither side is looking like a spring chicken. Yes, I know it’s been said before, but at the risk of throwing out platitudes – LOOKS FADE (anyone been to a reunion lately?). Ok, ok, for the smartasses out there, height doesn’t change but you get my point. By focusing so much on the exterior as New Yorkers tend to do and expecting everyone to be perfect (ok, we’re apparently not as bad as LA, I’ll give us that, but many of us are guilty of being unforgiving imperfect perfectionistas in this city) we often stand in our own way of actually having what it is we seek and what would ultimately make us happy.

Please understand, I get that there has to be chemistry – you have to be physically attracted to the other person on some level, you have to want to kiss him or her or it’s simply not gonna work. And we all know that you can’t manufacture attraction no matter how much you try (wouldn’t that be great, though, if there were an attraction manufacturing plant somewhere…).

But the real question that needs to be asked is what makes you want to kiss someone? Just a hot body or an attractive face? Can the qualities that are found below the surface make someone physically attractive to you if you’re in the right mindset to find those things attractive? (i.e. actually heeding and internalizing the above advice offered by the clever fox to the little prince). Let me elaborate.

If you’re at a stage in your life where you are seeking a true partner (someone who gets you, who makes you feel valued, whose company you treasure, who you respect, who’s going to be there for you in adversity, who’s going to be a great mother or father to your kids), then some true soul searching about what really makes you happy might result in a change in priorities and who/what you’re attracted to

So, if a person on a date is great company and shows a window into a soul that is GORGEOUS to you, you might metaphorically “see” with your heart a gorgeous human being (yes, I know you’re thinking, they made a movie like this it’s called Shallow Hal). Actually, I can think of a story of this actually transpiring when I was just a young‘un. All of the kids in my sixth grade class decided to conduct a poll to see who everyone thought was the prettiest girl in the class. As we all read the names aloud, certain prepubescent girls’ names came up consistently in the folded notebook paper squares (where was our teacher? must have been during recess…) and then all of a sudden the name Mary Jane Smith appeared in one tiny square. Everyone knew that the only person who could have possibly put her name down was Leonard Beane as Mary Jane was the farthest thing from what you would call a seductive Lolita and it was common knowledge that Leonard had a huge crush on Mary Jane (names are being changed to protect the innocent). There was something very impressive to me about this even back in sixth grade.

Ok, back to 2010. If you’re looking to fall in love, get married and have a family with someone, let’s say that means spending the next 40 or 50 years of your life with your partner (I mean who’s going into these things anxious to get divorced). When you seriously consider what that means in terms of years and time together, certain physical qualities that you may have put so much stock in back in your younger days might just become less important ... and certain qualities that speak to a person’s character may become more valuable (yes, even serving to make someone more physically attractive to you). So, if your true priority is to meet someone who has all the inner qualities that make for a great partner in life (and for a great parent to your children), then someone who shows signs of integrity, honesty and kindness on a date might in fact get you more than a little hot and bothered …

[1] It’s interesting to know that Saint-Exupéry actually wrote The Little Prince in the United States, while renting The Bevin House in Asharoken, New York, on Long Island. See

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  1. Marni,

    A wise lesson which many adults, including me, find difficult to learn. But I think I've made strides.

    Last year, on a blurb you wrote on Internet dating & honesty, I mentioned meeting a woman whose religion was the same as mine and who claimed that high ethics and morals were priorities to her, yet she turned out to be a selfish, judgmental, and b/tchy brat. This new blurb reminded me of her because she was good-looking - she had a decent face and a fine body.

    But as time passed, her attitude and personality proved to be totally repulsive. Being w/ her became so unbearable that the physical attraction dissipated quickly.

    I certainly don't demand a perfect 10, Marni. As I keep in shape, I do have some expectations - I don't find women who let themselves go attractive.

    But I'm seeing more and more that the inner person is what one will deal with in the long term. It doesn't matter if she has Megan Fox's face and body ... living with a nagging, ungrateful, petty, cruel, inconsiderate hottie is hell.

    Marni, not to make this long, but I know you're Jewish, and I imagine you've been exposed to the Tanakh. I'd like to share two verses from the Book of Proverbs:

    "It is better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman." 25:24

    "Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman." 21:19

    Many men have learned about the wisdom of these ancient texts the hard way - the smoking-hot women they married turned out to have deplorable character. After a while, and oftentimes a short while, having an incredible physical specimen by your side in bed becomes woefully inadequate a compensation for a woman whose personality is nothing short of contemptible. Indeed, given all this, I wonder how many men have immediately regretted marrying their wives even during the honeymoon.

    And of course, it works the other way as well.

    - Ex-Syosset Brave, Class of '91

  2. Love the blog AND the comment above. Bravo to both of you for pointing out absolute truisms in the dating world! Marni, loved your life lesson wrapped in one of my favorite childhood books. Commenter, your comments on the absolute horror of a nagging woman are spot on. Marni, please expound on this point for the benefit of your female readers.

    - L

  3. Great blog Marni! One critique / observation though: men are inherently visual beings. This is a product of millions of years of evolution, not a character flaw. For example, with respect to your comment about one man's request for c cups, according to "ivillage", "Breasts hint at a woman's ability to nurture and sustain life. They also point to a woman's capacity to breed, as they signal the onset of puberty." Don't hate the playa, hate the [evolutionary] game.

  4. Marni, great blog and love that you brought up Little Prince. It was one of my favorite books when I was a child:). I totally agree with you, I think often in our circle and in particular in big cities and among successful people the expectations run way too high on both sides. I find men and women guilty of the same. I think there are many reasons for that, but most important is that successful ppl living relatively privileged life have more choices and people are not well conditioned to deal with choices. Also people marry later when emotions fade somewhat and experiences accumulate, so they don't get as excited and have too many criteria. I know this about myself and all my friends almost without exception. I don't know if there is an easy way to change this dynamics. One way I see is to learn to compromise and maybe giving up this idea of marrying a wealthy man or a beautiful woman or having most amazing sex all the time all in one. Or realizing that if you chose this one thing (like wealth) the other like looks or personality may not be there. Also, perhaps marriage is not for everyone:(. About nagging comments above, I think for both men and women in their 30s and 40s, who are already molded by their life experiences, it's very difficult to find someone perfectly fitting. I can tell many stories of nagging men:). Living with somebody means sacrifice and disruption to the routine. It's challenging even to the young people. So this is one more thing to work on:(.

  5. Dear Ex-Syosset Brave,

    Thanks so much for the post. Your points are all excellent.

    First, I just wanted to address your comment about the importance of a woman being active, fit and taking care of herself. Men and women who make it a point to live an active and healthy lifestyle often value that in a partner and that is completely understandable and reasonable. But within that, the requirement that people have a perfect physique or face (along with all of the other laundry list of qualities people are seeking) is where I find people set themselves up for frustration and failure.

    Your point about someone soon regretting his or her choice once the person's less than attractive character is visible is a big one. If you consider what it means to be in it for the long haul, the Tanahk quotes really mean something! (applicable to both genders, as you said).

    Thanks for the comment - keep them coming!


  6. Dear L,

    Thank you for your comment as well. Yes, a blog on the topic of "nagging" and the value of just being easy going about things (when appropriate) is on the agenda. Will look forward to seeing your comments when it is done!


  7. Angelica,

    I really couldn't have said it any better! Let me know if you want to be a guest writer - you can choose the blog topic!

    You are totally right about the issue being particularly endemic in big cities and in social environments where people have a lot of choices.

    The irony is that even though someone might think he or she is holding out for the perfect combination of all the things that he or she must have (and anything thing less would ostensibly make that person unhappy), that person often ends up being much unhappier in the search for the perfect, but permanently elusive partner (or, as I often say, if that person were to actually find that "perfect" person who meets all of the exacting criteria, would that person be interested in them?).

    Thanks for the comment, as always!

  8. Dear Anonymous,

    I wish you could have made my lecture a few weeks ago on the science and psychology of attraction - I think you would have really enjoyed it as I discussed precisely the kind of issues you raise above!

    No doubt men and women are hardwired as a result of thousands of years of evolution to be attracted to certain phyical traits in the opposite sex (and some of these were discussed in my lecture...). And of course, among the secondary sex characterists that men can be attracted to in women are breasts as they can indicate fertility, as you noted. But the point that I am trying to make in this particular blog is that physical attraction is really only half the equation (though it is given the highest priority here in NY) and can potentially be influenced by the psychology of where you are in life and what your value system is.

    As I said in my lecture, while we know that science drives much of what we do and why we react instinctively to certain stimili, we certainly don't have to be a slave to science. Especially when our happiness is at stake!

    Thanks again for the comment. I think a follow-up and expanded blog on this topic will be forthcoming - there is much to say!


  9. What I found interesting in the section regarding what people are looking for is the one-sided, skewed view of the person doing the requesting. Like you said, people expect all these things from their mate, but hardly live up to this list themselves. A guy who is 5'5 and and has no hair wants a 6 foot model with C cup boobs (LOL!). Again, you can't help what you are attracted to, but some people need to be a little more realistic in the type of person THEY can attract and align their expectations with who THEY are....I am not saying bring down your standards or settle in anyway...but get over those outer barriers to find someone who is quality on the inside. Do you really think a 6' model is interested in a guy 5'5'? Guy, put the shoe on the other foot and give the 5' girl with glasses the chance that you would want given to you. Make sense? Fair?