Woe Is Me! “I Want to Marry Someone Tall. Am I Shallow?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I am a 34-something, well-educated, single woman. My parents want me to have an arranged marriage. I don’t have a problem with that, but the proposals available on matrimonial sites don’t attract me. It has been more than three years, I just feel so tired. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to get married. But I worry that maybe I should not have these standards, that he should be taller than me and at least well educated in his field. If not these standards, what parameters should I have to select people? I just want someone to validate that it’s okay to be shallow or something.”
— Looking for validation
AS: In my opinion, we all are actually shallow — like most of humankind. We’re quick to judge people on superficial stuff and traits like physical attributes, qualifications, money, etc. do influence who we’re attracted to. But does the fact that we’re socialized to behave like this make shallowness okay? I don’t think so. So, while I’m not the one to validate this thought for you (because I would have biases of my own and moreover, who are we to validate each other anyway?), I do think that reflecting and recognizing it as a sort of negative thing is a good start.
But here’s the tricky bit — this whole being-a-non-judgemental-human thing kind of goes for a toss, because we’re talking of arranged marriage, a system that is based on forming presumptions and treating potential partners as job applicants. So if you’re judging someone on the basis of a metric or degree on their resume, you’re playing the game as it should be played, because others are judging you the same way. Maybe the whole thing can be made easier (on your conscience) if you just give more people a chance? Maybe you could speak to them, get to know them a bit more before making any decisions? In this case, the parameters would change from height/qualifications to — can they keep up an interesting conversation with you? Do they seem generally kind? Do you think you value the same things in life? This probably won’t make the search any easier or faster though, but you might be pleasantly surprised with what (or who) you find.
SS: Look, there are a million things we “should” or “should not” be doing. Maybe you count any shallow behavior as one of them. Which “should and should not” hill you want to die on is up to you. In my experience, it has never done well for anyone to bully their feelings into being something else. If you feel angry, telling yourself you “shouldn’t” feel angry is not going to resolve your anger. It will just fester and stay dormant and strike when it’s much much worse. Similarly, with this whole tall boy-short boy business. No one in the history of the world has ever successfully bullied themselves into being a “better” person. My advice is to accept what you want and be honest about it. Denial tends to be manipulative and it might end up hurting more than yourself.
DR: I want to answer your question (about whether or not you’re being shallow) in the affirmative. Now, the question is: to what extent is it okay? I get that people can absolutely have their “preferences” about what their ideal partner should be like. But, as we grow up, we do tend to move away from being fixated solely on the physical characteristics of potential matches — perhaps, because we realize these skin-deep parameters do little to contribute to a healthy marital life. They just seem like Disney-esque ideas we bought into as children when we didn’t understand how relationships work. Maybe, this is just something I’ve noticed playing out in my limited social circle. Maybe, not everyone feels this way. But, to me, it makes sense to start appreciating human beings for their personalities, characters, and value systems — arguably, all traits that are relevant for a life-long partnership. I’m not downplaying the importance of physical attraction in a relationship at all. Of course, in sexual relationships, it holds significance. But to reject a man solely because he’s not taller than you, or not more educated than you, sounds kinda sexist to me — and not just shallow. And unfortunately, I’m not feeling up to validating that today.
RN: You know what, it’s okay to own your “shallow” standards. We’re all shallow in one way or another, and it’s okay to admit it. There’s no point trying to justify the preference as anything but shallow, and to own up to being shallow. We all are. And this wouldn’t be the first time in history that someone had shallow preferences for their partners in marriage — in fact, everything leading up to marriage is arguably very shallow already, anyway. Your parameters are your parameters — but I would still say that it is still worth talking to someone if you find them interesting even if they don’t measure up (pun intended) to your standards. You may find that they can be far more charming than someone who does meet these criteria but is obnoxious and overconfident about it. But all that said, do ensure that you’re not being unfairly discriminatory or prejudiced against someone for characteristics that they can’t help. Plus, also bear in mind that this is supposed to be a lifelong partnership, so you probably need to move beyond the superficial aspects of this and choose your filters more carefully for your own sake! You can be shallow but you have to also be prudent.
PR: Validation: if you’re choosing a life partner, then you have the right to have whatever criteria you want. The two you mentioned are simple, honest choices- a reasonable person cannot hold them against you. Let people call you shallow- but if you’re expected to spend eternity with this human being, well then- you get to customize your own expectations. Unless you’re eight feet tall and have won a Nobel prize, I’m on your side.