My best girlfriend and I are competing for men

We're playing the Man Game. I'm concerned about the implications -- and I'm concerned about losing!

Published March 23, 2007 10:57AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I have a best female friend who is making me doubt everything I ever believed in. BFF and I are two single working moms in our 30s, and we look great. Better than great. We are smart, well-educated and well-employed. We attract men with money and men without money. We have great kids and nice ex-husbands. In this arena, we are highly competitive. I do something, and BFF will do the same thing. BFF buys something, and I buy something similar. BFF gets a promotion at work and I get a raise for a job well done. It's been like this for two years.

Then I got a boyfriend, so BFF got a boyfriend. And herein is the problem. It has never been a secret between us that while BFF was on the lookout for the wealthiest man around, I was on the lookout for true love. Obviously the men we desired had to be smart, handsome and rich, but while these three criteria were "must haves" for BFF, I was more interested in someone who was nice and liked being with me. Secretly I figured that BFF would soon learn her lesson that true love trumps money.

So we each found what we were looking for, sort of. My boyfriend is nice but poor, and her boyfriend is wealthy but weird. Regardless, BFF suddenly has the "holier than thou" attitude toward me as if she "won." She is the type of superficial girl for whom it matters that her house is bigger, her car is hotter, her clothes and jewelry are more expensive, and her husband has the most money. And for some reason this is starting to bother me. I, too, want a rich husband. I look at my lovable but poor boyfriend, and I start thinking, "Why am I settling for this when I can have that?"

What the hell am I thinking? I would be just as shallow as BFF if I dumped my boyfriend in the mere hope of finding someone wealthier. I know that rich does not always mean nice. But what if BFF gets a rich boyfriend who is also nice? (It's like winning the lottery. I want that too!) BFF's boyfriend could be a total asshole to her. She could be rich but miserable, and I could end up poor but happy.

This is all conjecture, of course, because neither of us is engaged, but if it were real, who wins? Is it fair that superficial people live happily ever after with loads of money? Is there a way to stop her shallowness from rubbing off on me? Do I really need a rich husband to be secure and happy and admired? Honestly, if I just didn't have a friend like BFF, then I think none of this would really bother me and I would be happy in my ignorance.

In a Race -- Stuck Between a Rock and a Bag of Money

Dear Stuck in a Race,

The game, as I understand it, is: Who can accumulate the most Man? Money counts as Man. Personality counts as Man. Looks counts as Man. Intelligence counts as Man. So if Man A, her man, has $1 million in the bank, an IQ of 135, is 6 feet 3 inches tall, and is, by consensus, judged to be a 7 out of 10 on the face scale, 5 out of 10 on the body scale, and 4 out of 10 on the personality scale, then you compute a Composite Man Score for him and compare his Composite Man Score to the Composite Man Score of your man.

The woman whose man has the highest Composite Man Score wins.

But it gets tricky. When is the game over? Does the capture and comparison of one pair of men constitute a round, after which you jot down your scores, toss the men back in, and continue on a second round? Or is it all-in, one round, winner marries and moves to Woodside?

This is a most important consideration.

And what is the true goal of the game, aside from the prize? In a game of strength, like weightlifting, the goal is to determine who is strongest. In a game of mental skill, like chess, it is to determine who has the most powerful mind, memory and imagination. What is the power you are measuring here? What is determined by the contest? Is it your power of seduction, pure and simple? Is it the power of seduction plus personality plus the intangibles of taste? Is it who is the most desirable woman, as measured by her ability to attract the most Man? And does the man have to agree to marry her to certify her desirability, or is his agreement to accompany her in public and make love to her in private sufficient evidence of his desire?

Furthermore, if proving your desirability is the goal, then many will ask: Is the ability to attract the most Man an adequate measure of a woman's desirability?

Finally, about the prize: What do you actually win, if you win? In the games that I like, you get a prize for winning. In your game, however, it seems that you do not get a prize for getting the man. Rather, for getting the man, you get the man.

Since the man is both the medium of competition and also the prize, it is important that you not win something you do not want to keep. Isn't that so? It's important not only to get the man you want, but also to want the man you get.

That seems to be your concern -- that, caught up in the competition, you will get yourself a man you do not want to keep. It's a very real and common concern for both men and women -- the joy of the contest does not always carry over. Play is fun, but as we discovered in childhood, some games get boring. And if one person takes the game too seriously, it isn't fun anymore.

It's fine to play this game, but I suggest you figure out what constitutes winning, what the prize is, and how you know when the game is over.

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