14 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

My favorite scene in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is Marilyn Monroe's big musical number, "Expensive and inherently useless courtship gifts presented as tokens of one's ability to acquire and accumulate resources and the willingness to invest said resources in a woman and her children are said girl's best friend"; Dr. Helen Smith helpfully explains the psychological basis for that memorable scene just in time for Valentine's Day:
I never understood the whole concept of a woman wanting jewelry from a man, especially diamonds, until I read the book Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. In the book, two evolutionary psychologists explain why people do what they do. Why are diamonds a girl's best friend? The authors conclude that women have to discriminate between "dads" and "cads" among male suitors. In order to find the guy that will stay with her and help her with children, she looks for two qualities: "the ability to acquire and accumulate resources, and the willingness to invest them in her and her children."

A good way to screen for men who are both willing and able to invest is to demand an expensive gift--known as a courtship gift or nuptial gift in evolutionary biology. Not just any expensive gift will do. A Mercedes or house does not usually fill the bill--for these might have intrinsic value to the man if he likes European cars or is interested in real estate. A courtship gift, according to the book, must be costly and lack intrinsic value and be useless.

Ah, romance!


Anonymous said...

"costly and lack intrinsic value and be useless"...like pug dogs???

Colin Samuels said...

Especially like pug dogs, yes!