Slacker Guys and Striver Girls

When lazy men become projects for career women

Nonetheless, Amy is protective of her younger sister and keeps an eye out for the guys she brings home to meet the parents. The raver boy with "loser" actually tattooed on his neck (after he lost a bet) who briefly dated her sister was more than a walking red flag, she says; he wore "neon billboard identifying his character and goals." Her sister is now dating a great guy who runs his own business and has "much cooler" tattoos.

Gabrielle Revere, an accomplished celebrity and fashion photographer who has traveled the world doing philanthropic work, says she has no idea why she dated a more-than-decade-long string of slacker boys. It all started when she was in her early twenties and moved to the Bay Area to be with a San Francisco–based punk-rock musician, only to arrive and learn he'd started dating another woman. "I was a young and naive girl and I set my heart on something," she says. "He was a stupid punk rock guy and I was a romantic, and that's never a good combination."

Meghan says she was sucked in by the seductive "he'll change for me" notion that seems to help slacker dudes rope in strivers. She and her ex had an "excruciatingly dramatic courtship" following his breakup with another woman. She likens the thrill of winning him to that of a dog chasing cars. "You know, being elated," she says. "Wow, I finally got the guy. I never get the guy. I got the guy ... I have the guy, now what do I do with him?"

A common theme among women who date slackers is that they have an almost-maternal desire to rescue and rehabilitate someone they see as less together, perhaps even less fortunate, than themselves. Call it the White Knight Syndrome.

The White Knight approach to relationships should be familiar to anybody who's heard a fairy tale or seen a Disney movie. These savior stories have traditionally involved a male hero — a prince, for instance — rescuing a damsel in distress.

But Bay Area–based relationship coach Francesca Gentille says that during her 10 years of working with couples, she's increasingly seen the woman in the relationship taking on the White Knight role. Gentille suggests that cities like San Francisco and New York are national centers of female White Knighthood because they're full of nontraditional families. In the past, the knighthood role was traditionally male because men held more power, Gentille says, but this has been changing — especially in large cities — where women are finding success through career opportunities. "More and more women have the power, finances, and clout to imagine that they can save men," she says.

While Gentille agrees that stay-at-home dads can be a key part of a healthy family, it's unhealthy when the "female knight is trying to save the person in distress ... and builds resentment for the one who continually flounders in life." She calls it the "Beauty and the Beast" approach to dating, where the woman is determined that underneath a frog exterior there must be a prince. "She's looking at the Beast saying, 'I will bring that magical quality, and it will awaken, so suddenly rather than being drunk, my magical passion will bring clarity to him," she says.

Gentille adds that the "rescue relationship" (or "healing relationship") can be extremely compassionate and that it can work, especially if those in it are saving each other. Of course, that depends on both agreeing what needs to be saved, or at least agreeing that certain aspects of their respective personalities could use some work.

John Gray, the Bay Area–based relationship guru who wrote the best-seller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, is more skeptical. "It's a recipe for failure when women take on men as projects," he says, adding that in reality, these types of relationships are "the most vulnerable, and have the greatest risk of failure."

Sure, Gray can laugh at films like Knocked Up, and says they have some good points, such as the transformative power of love, and the attraction women may feel to a male "clown" who can acknowledge his mistakes. But he worries about the way these movies promote gender clichés and "misleading messages." Real-life women in these "kiss the wound" types of relationships, he adds, can easily end up overgiving and feeling responsible for their boyfriends' successes while failing to give enough back to themselves. It often becomes difficult for the man to continue feeling sexually attracted to a woman who's taken on the role of "his mother," Gray says. In other words, if a woman takes on a "wounded bird" boyfriend as a project, she may heal him only to have him later leave her for someone else.


Okay, so admittedly this reporter was the rescuer type for a long time. Literally. Even while growing up, I brought home stray cats, lost dogs, and pigeons struggling with broken wings, and even launched a "Save Orangey" petition campaign to rescue the tom who'd fathered two litters with my cat (he was on death row at the humane society, labeled as undesirable for adoption due to his age and wild ways). Some, like the chipmunk I found trapped in concrete who'd suffered a broken back, didn't make it — but many wounded creatures rescued by the Spicuzza family went on to live healthy, relatively normal lives.

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2 comments
140seconds
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I've lived in San Francisco for 13 years and the majority of women aren't attracted to intelligent guys. I think they find it intimidating or possibly not masculine.  I was having a really intelligent conversation with a woman at a bar once, she was very smart, she turned to me and said "I can see this doesn't work for you, does it?" Then she went of with a guy who looked homeless. The women in SF are bad, bad, bad, Run the other way, guys. Find a girl in SLO or Sonoma. 

tortue497
tortue497

"any man who's lucky enough to be with you needs to know that he's the luckiest man in the world."

to me thats attitude towards men is the main reason divorce rate are pretty high these days!! girls thinking of themselve as princesses and expect to be treated by a prince.

im a man and hearing that kind of bullshit makes me sad.

 
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