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The attraction of political apathy

Late January spells hot and hideous weather, the TV full of rubbish and the saddest of legacies left behind by Little Johnny Howard: stores full of flag crap and bastions of hypocrisy like Dick Smith vying to control definitions of “Australian”. (For the record it involves making a fortune from selling imported electronics and later becoming a bitter patriot flogging counterfeit Vegemite).

January also means it’s slow news time. Really slow news time. And slow news means that craptastic nonsense like boobgate gets traction and a story about the most desirable traits in men and women piques my interest.

Firstly, given that roughly 72% of my income gets spent on shampoo and conditioner, obviously “presentation” exists as permanent whitenoise for me. There have however, been occasions when that niggle has become a cacophony. I’ll recount three.

One. I was 24, writing my PhD, and stumbled across some research that reported that 24 was apparently the age that women were most attractive. That stat of course, was far less devastating than the 24-year-old woman quoted in it: she realised that she looked as good as she ever would and yet she still hated herself.

Two. Just before Christmas last year the Fairfax Beauty Beat blog ran a post that included the line “any woman over 30 worth her hard-earned disposable income has had it done.” It being Botox.

Three. Last night a female friend and some bloke I’d never met shared a table. We were talking about age and he asked me mine. I answered, and chirpily he volunteered that I “looked really good for 32”.

So last night’s failed compliment and waking to this morning’s Dick Smith horror movie meant that reading the research on desirability could have proven my downfall.

On the list of attributes that men are apparently looking for in a lady friend, I don’t have any. Not a one:

  • No strong political beliefs
  • Blonde hair
  • Green eyes
  • Social/occasional drinker
  • 170cm tall
  • Works in advertising/PR/media
  • Non-smoker

Okay, so I don’t really smoke: but reading that list and I desperately wanted to start.

I could lie and write that it was my copious quantities of self-love that ended up rendering that whole piece of research laughable. Alas, I’m as insecure and self-loathing as the next academic. Rather, it was the list of traits most desirable in men that truly neutralised the nightmare:

  • Swinging voter
  • Grey hair
  • Green eyes
  • Social/occasional drinker
  • 190cm tall
  • Works in real estate
  • Non-smoker

Once upon a time I was 29. I had just slept with him – that exact “most desirable” man, right down to him being nearly a foot taller than me - and I remember watching him reattach his cuff-links and realising that I bloody hate swing-voting real estate agents; if I’m ever to sleep with another then I damn well want to be paid. That way I’d at least feel less politically compromised.

I’m never visually seduced so grey hair and green eyes are irrelevant to me: I’m stuck on the voting business. Men want women who are politically apathetic and women want men who are politically fickle.


And that’s the nugget of gold that’s keeping me buoyant.

Who the hell are these people?

What kind of man wants his partner not to have any strong political beliefs?

What kind of woman is happy for her bloke to be so void of values that he’ll vote for just about anyone?

Who would have thought that such questionable-quality research could make me so happy?

Sure, the social scientist in me could highlight all kinds of sociological explanations for the findings - if not also spotlight the obvious methodological flaws - but I’m only interested in the takeaway: that men who I don’t like don’t like me. Yeah, I think I’ll live.

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