Cartoon: The Woman I’ve Been Waiting For


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Sorry for the relatively short post this time, but I don’t think this cartoon would be enhanced by a big discussion of what it’s about.

This one is pretty unusual in tone for me. (Don’t worry, we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled snark next week.)

I’ve been working hard to up my game when it comes to drawing environments, and to using smaller, full-figure drawings rather than relying on close-ups. And although I have a long way to go, I’m pretty confident that I couldn’t have drawn this as well a few years ago.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

A man and a woman stand on a fancy pedestrian bridge over a stream, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. Both are smiling.

MAN: I’m so glad I found you. You’re the woman I’ve been waiting for! You’re always supportive, always cheerful.

PANEL 2

A closer shot of the two of them, walking while holding hands. They’re still looking fondly at each other.

MAN: You never think about your appearance or diet, yet you look like a model. You’ve got a career, but it never interferes with time for me.

PANEL 3

A long shot shows them walking side by side down a path in a park. He’s looking ahead, smiling as he talks; she’s turned to face him a bit, smiling, with an “explaining hand” gesture.

MAN: You insist on doing the cooking and my laundry. You’re eager to hear about all my hobbies..

WOMAN: But don’t forget, honey – I’m also imaginary.

PANEL 4

The same setting and shot as in the previous panel. The man has come to a stop and is looking down a bit, expression sad, one hand reaching out a bit as if to grab onto something that’s not there. He is completely alone.

MAN (in a thought balloon): I always forget that part.

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29 Responses to Cartoon: The Woman I’ve Been Waiting For

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    I’ve actually known a guy like this. He predictably ended up with failed relationships. A long time family friend, too. Terrible to see, actually.

    What do you think the one where a woman has completely unrealistic expectations of a potential male mate would look like?

  2. 2
    Mandolin says:

    I haven’t had female friends who were as … caught up in the … specific trait ideas as this is. It seems like the unrealistic ideals are more amorphous. Present, but more amorphous.

    Height seems to be really important which is weird.

  3. 3
    Harlequin says:

    Height is important to men, too, I think. Cis men are taller than cis women to a pretty significant degree (it’s one of the biggest mean differences of any kind between cisgender people), so you’d expect *most* heterosexual couplings to be between taller men and shorter women. But the fraction of the time that that happens is even greater than the distributions would predict: people are clearly self-sorting into couples where the man is taller.

    (Of course, heightism is prevalent elsewhere too. My career has a reasonable amount of social cachet and my coworkers are noticeably taller on average than is typical for their race & age, for example.)

    After some thought, I think the unfillable fantasy for straight women may be some mix of traditional “chivalry” in lots of interpersonal areas, but complete egalitarianism in other areas, in the exact pattern wanted by the woman in question. Those two behavior patterns tend to arise from different mindsets, and even when they occur together, the balance between “chivalry” and egalitarianism may not be the exact one you want.

    I’m also wondering what the queer versions of this are like, if any…

    I do think the version of this thought pattern by straight men is probably the strongest, though, just because societal narratives expect some kinds of everyday self-abnegation from women that we just don’t expect from men. (Among the women I know in relationships with men, I’d say women having expectations that are too low is a bigger problem than women having expectations that are too high, although both occur. But I may be biased, in that I tend to be friends with the female halves of heterosexual couples. :) )

  4. 4
    Görkem says:

    @Harlequin: “I’d say women having expectations that are too low is a bigger problem than women having expectations that are too high”

    Could you expand on that? It sounds very interesting.

  5. 5
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I’m really lucky to have had a a really mixed gender group of close friends growing up, and when it came to minimum standards for attractiveness (both personality and looks) I’d say the standards were about equally rigid for a long term mate, but that my guy friends have much lower standards for casual sexual activity. One difference I noticed was how specific the tastes in women were compared to men. Most of the men I know appreciate a pretty wind range of “looks,” whereas I’ve heard women say that a guy has to be tall, dark complected, muscled, etc. I even knew a girl who was really into the shape of men’s noses. Every girl who’s been in a long relationship with me had a pre-existing thing for redheaded men. I do know quite a few guys who are only into petite women, but I know more who appreciate a really wide variety of shapes faces and complexions. Im pretty sure that studies of dating apps have shown the women are indeed choosier than men when it comes to appearance- which isn’t at all surprising from an evolutionary perspective.

    When it comes to personality, I don’t even know how to think about differences in standards for prospective mates, because I really don’t know how to measure these things, but I’d imagine it would work out the same as physical attractiveness, and that again, women are choosier for evolutionary reasons.

    I think the point of this cartoon is to describe a certain kind of man, a kind that definitely exists, who sabotages his own chances at finding love. I think there is a feminine version of this same phenomenon, but the failure mode is different. Choosy women will still find mates. The women I know who are attractive, but who have struggled to find love, mostly have a conflicted desires in what they want in a man. All to common is something like “I want a jerk who isn’t a jerk to me.” These women also exist, but like the overly choosy man, aren’t most women.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    I say the height thing is weird, but I also have never dated a guy shorter than me.

    I mean, I don’t have anything against the idea — and I’m relatively short myself so there aren’t that many guys shorter than me — and I have definitely dated (and am married to) amab people who are less-than-average height for cis men — and the count of men I’ve dated is in single digits — but still. I mean, I haven’t.

    (can we make afab and amab into words you can plural? I’ve dated amabs who are less-than-average height for cismen?)

  7. 7
    Kate says:

    I’m significantly above average height for a woman (90th percentile), which is at just about the average for a man. I dated lots of men who were shorter than me, but did wind up married to someone taller (actually, at the 90th percentile for men). And, I for sure have a physical type – balding, glasses w/ broad shoulders.

    All too common is something like “I want a jerk who isn’t a jerk to me.”

    It may look that way from the outside. I did date quite a few jerks. A lot of it is, most people don’t start off dating being a jerk. They’re funny and fun and nice to you. The jerks only morph to be a jerk to you slowly. It’s hard to even see its happening, because you’re focused on all of his good qualities.
    Another part of it is, I don’t want someone who is going to be a doormat. But, I want someone who is going to be fair and reasonably flexible in relationships. That’s sort of a delicate balance.
    It’s not really a contradiction to say that I want someone who is strong, but will be gentle with me.

  8. 8
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I hear you, Kate, WRT men as doormats. I’m talking about women who will actually admit they are into jerks. It’s not so prevalent as PUA dickheads would have us all believe, but it’s a real thing, and they will talk about it as openly as the men who must marry a super-model who will do their dishes and listen to them talk about the appropriate shot-gun choke for hunting ducks.

  9. 9
    Mandolin says:

    I’ve definitely known women who were really attracted to this type of guy:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw9j1aK8plM

    I’ve done it. It makes you feel special because you’re the “but” — and you make him not want to hate everything anymore! and believe love conquers all! — and meh.

  10. 10
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Possibly one more for the woman: “I really like sex, but only with you”.

    It would probably be a better world if people’s nonsensical daydreams punctured themselves.

  11. 11
    Saurs says:

    It may look that way from the outside. I did date quite a few jerks. A lot of it is, most people don’t start off dating being a jerk. They’re funny and fun and nice to you. The jerks only morph to be a jerk to you slowly. It’s hard to even see its happening, because you’re focused on all of his good qualities.

    Right. They become a “jerk” when it dawns on you that this relationship needs to be over. I don’t entirely understand the preoccupation with “women and jerks” because it’s so often framed as victim-blaming, where single het men resent women in relationships and decide their partners are jerks apropos of nothing. Is that anything like “men and crazy women,” where every ex-girlfriend is conveniently a lunatic?

    it’s a real thing, and they will talk about it as openly as the men who must marry a super-model who will do their dishes and listen to them talk about the appropriate shot-gun choke for hunting ducks.

    Those don’t seem remotely comparable. Women want to be abused and men want a perfect unicorn? Both of those sound like male fantasies to me, with the first being total projection.

  12. 12
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Saur, I don’t think most men hold out for love for a perfect unicorn, I’ve only ever known a single guy like this, and yup, he’s still single. I also don’t think most women seek out jerks, and I’ve known several including one of my closest friends, who’s not shy at all in admitting that she’s attracted to jerks. Have you seriously never met a women who admitted to some degree that she’s attracted to jerky men? Have you met more men who hold out for unicorns? Are you applying equally strict selection criteria for inclusion in both of these categories? I mean, I’ve never actually listened to a man describe his unicorns-only deisre explicitely. With my old roommate, it’s something I had to infer over time through mostly observation, but I’ve actually had women tell me over beers that they’re into jerks.

    (As I write this I notice some commonalities among my friends who are women that may be skewing my perception. This is probably happening to all of us who look to the people we know in order to compare group differences between men and women)

    I think there are all kinds of “failure modes” of certain attitudes towards finding love, and they are distributed throughout the sexes differently but with some overlap. I’m sure plenty of women also hold out for unicorns, and I could make a similar cliche-based cartoon to describe the phenomenon. I’d maybe replace “I need a man who will listen to me talk endlessly about my hobbies” with “I need a man who listens to me talk endlessly about the drama in my workplace,” but otherwise it would work fine. I have a high school friend who spent a drunken night in a bar booth who started crying as he told my brother about his attraction to women who mistreat him (that guy actually had a happy ending, though). He’s the kind of guy who wanted to be a “doormat” and I think that’s a real thing too, basically “men who fall for jerks.”

    BTW, I never said “women want to be abused.” I literally said the opposite:

    “I want a jerk who isn’t a jerk to me.”

    Don’t put words in my mouth uncharitably, please.

    Relatedly, you misunderstand or at least paint an incomplete picture of my interpretation of the cartoon. I don’t see “man ends up alone because he’s holding out for a unicorn” as a “male power fantasy.” I see it as a tragedy. I see a man who is delusional, pathetic, and destined to miss out on one of life’s greatest joys.

  13. 13
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    I think that the success among women of Fifty Shades of Grey (which itself is almost the same as Beauty and the Beast) is very interesting in this context. The man is extremely successful and wealthy, has an inability to be loved and was damaged by a harsh upbringing causing him to be abusive to others, which he keeps a dark secret. The man locks up the woman whom he can’t resist. The woman then manages to break through the rough exterior, healing him with her love. The woman then ends up with this still very dominant and powerful man, who is careful not to hurt her.

    I think that the success speaks to fairly common female desires/fantasies: healing a man through love, being so irresistible that the man goes beyond all reason to be with her (note that many women have fantasies of being forced into sex), being rescued and being provided for.

    It seems to me that this fairly closely matches a man who is dominant, or even aggressive, but uses that to benefit the woman that he loves, sacrificing for her, rather than taking from her.

  14. 14
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Is it possible to rescue a flawed man through love? I wonder. My wife definitely helps me be a better version of myself, so it’s not hard to imagine a man who’s inspired to take a hard look at himself on account of his love for another. I don’t know who has changed their personality out of love, but I’ve known men who have overcome things like addiction, or were finally convinced to do something about depression so they could be a better companion to their loved one.

    On another note, Amp, do you see the man in your cartoon as alone because of his unrealistic expectations? Or do you see a man who is alone possibly for other reasons but justifies his alone-ness by convincing himself that he’s holding out for a unicorn? The only example in my life looks like the former, but it’s not hard for me to imagine the latter, it kind of reminds me of the whole “imaginary Canadian girlfriend” trope.

  15. 15
    J. Squid says:

    I think that the success speaks to fairly common female desires/fantasies: healing a man through love, being so irresistible that the man goes beyond all reason to be with her (note that many women have fantasies of being forced into sex), being rescued and being provided for.

    Is that the only option you see? I ask because I think it’s very possible that a lot of people have sex fantasies that involve non-consensual elements. And since those are just fantasies they’re safe in the same way that 50 Shades of Gre(a)y is safe. Safe in the way that so many non-consensual elements in the Romance genre are safe.

  16. 16
    Mandolin says:

    I feel like I want to say, given the general shape of the conversation, that I think women’s lives are far more aversely affected by the structural social support for fantasies like these than men’s are by the turnabout is fair play issues that straight women sometimes project onto men.

    In other words, I have enjoyed “What about the men’s– ing” on this topic, and am happy to continue to chat about it because it’s interesting; I just feel like it’s useful to note that we did actually recenter the conversation.

  17. 17
    Mandolin says:

    (Men also have a lot of fantasies about being forced into sex. Is there data on the percentages there? Because I know there is for women, but I wouldn’t be surprised if no one had bothered to ask the question about men. For one thing, I don’t think people take the idea that “men want to be forced into sex with women” seriously in the same way that people take the opposite proposition as fact.)

  18. 18
    J. Squid says:

    Men also have a lot of fantasies about being forced into sex. Is there data on the percentages there?

    Judging by what can be found online, I’m going to guess it’s a pretty high percentage.

    I think the important thing to keep in mind is that there are big differences between fantasy and reality. People may have fantasies about being forced into sex, but those who want it to happen in reality are few and far between.

  19. 19
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I did see this cartoon as one about men, I mean, the last panel is a man standing by himself, and the image is rather stark and stands out to me more than anything else about the cartoon. The only drawn woman isn’t even real. (it would be interesting if an actual real woman was walking the other way by the pretend couple, and was still visible in the last frame)

  20. 20
    Mandolin says:

    It’s like violent video games and horror movies — it’s a self-indulgence in service of a basic emotional drive.

    Most people don’t want to really go kill hordes of brightly colored demons with spiky maces, and most don’t want to find they’ve been dismembered by an evil ghost.

    Or sad things, too. We evoke sadness in ourselves for catharsis and other kinds of satisfaction where that sadness is in a specific, controlled, and manageable context. Or I’m sure there are examples in cooking also — most people who watch intense gourmet cooking shows are indulging in a bit of fantasy (what if I were the kind of person who did this?), not expressing a sincere desire to chuck it all for culinary school, or even a sincere desire to eat all the servings of all the food.

    Relevant Pratchett quote, misquoted because I haven’t looked it up — Vimes had found that sex was like cooking. When people were hungry, they concocted vast feasts of the imagination. When it came down to it, mostly they were happy with a nice fried egg.

    (It’s actually chips & something, I think, but I can’t remember what.)

  21. 21
    Mandolin says:

    Or imagining the nice parts of being famous — people thinking you’re cool, having accomplished something cool, doing things that are cool — and not the bits where you’re sobbing and drunk and the gossip magazines are accusing you of killing your own brother who drowned when you were thirteen…

  22. 22
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    There is this study, which found that 21% of men and 36.4% of women fantasized about “being forced or overpowered into a sexual relationship.”

    Also interesting is this NY Times magazine article. While I agree that fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean that people want the full scenario, I do think that it affects people’s sex lives. For example, I think that the fairly popular feminist demand of affirmative consent conflicts with what quite a few women in particular tend to consider arousing. To quote from the previous link:

    She recalled a patient whose lover was thoroughly empathetic and asked frequently during lovemaking, “ ‘Is this O.K.?’ Which was very unarousing to her. It was loving, but there was no oomph” — no urgency emanating from the man, no sign that his craving of the patient was beyond control.

    I’ve heard similar stories from men, whose experiences were that female sex partners responded much better to dominant behavior in the bedroom. For one of them this was very hard to do, which tended to cause reduced interest in sex by his long term partner over time. He would occasionally force himself to be very dominant for a period to make her more sexually interested in him again.

    In general, I think that a major area that is underexamined, not just for dating/sex, is the influence of female preferences/desires on society.

  23. 23
    Görkem says:

    “In general, I think that a major area that is underexamined, not just for dating/sex, is the influence of female preferences/desires on society.”

    That is for the very good reason that female preferences and desires, in the context of patriarchy, have very little influence on society. That’s basically the definition of patriarchy, dude.

  24. 24
    RonF says:

    “The woman then manages to break through the rough exterior, healing him with her love.”

    This, it seems to me, is a standard theme and one that explains the “why do girls always go for the bad boys and not the nice guys?” It is certainly prevalent in literature, is it not? I believe – and no, I don’t have any studies or objective evidence to back this up, I’m stating it as a personal belief and not presenting it as an established truth – that there is a feminine urge to make over/change/fix/heal/civilize men. They don’t go after the bad boy because they want to spend their life with a man who acts badly. They want to take the bad boy and change him for what they at least see as for the better. In romantic novels the guy changes and everyone lives happily ever after. In real life the crash comes when it turns out the bad boy has absolutely no intention of changing and makes that clear at some point.

  25. 25
    RonF says:

    Mandolin:

    “When people were hungry, they concocted vast feasts of the imagination. When it came down to it, mostly they were happy with a nice fried egg.”

    An actual feast takes a lot of hard work and skill to create, and you have to make sure that the guests will show up … hungry, and that they’ll like the food. Whereas a fried egg is easy and dependable.

  26. 26
    Mandolin says:

    Dudes seem to like bad girls, for the record. Leather skirt, spiked heels, walks around the pool table to take an unasked for sip of your whisky, leaving red lipstick residue. Etc.

    That kind of thing can be sexy, even if my personal type runs toward people who say things like, “oh, sorry… uh, excuse me…”

    Ron – Yes, re egg. Are we disagreeing?

  27. 27
    Mandolin says:

    (FWIW, a rape fantasy would be super hard to replicate, like a feast. There would be a lot of planning involved! Who, what they’re gonna do, how to read you, etc. Do you like (by analogy) spicy peppers or are you more a citrus person or are you allergic to shrimp? People do play out this shit, and the more complicated it is, the more prep time it takes.

    I used to report on paintball so I’ve watched people prep scenario paintball games so they can pretend to be in wars or adventures; that’s a huge amount of work, too. People have safe fun, though.

    Excuse me, I have to go pretend farming is relaxing in Stardew Valley.)

  28. 28
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Görkem,

    That is for the very good reason that female preferences and desires, in the context of patriarchy, have very little influence on society. That’s basically the definition of patriarchy, dude.

    I fundamentally disagree that traditional gender norms are designed around male preferences and desires.

    Of course, if you define patriarchy to be just the elements of traditional society that benefits men, then the claim that patriarchy benefits only men is true, because it is a tautology.

  29. 29
    RonF says:

    No, we’re not disagreeing a bit, Mandolin. I was just extending the analogy a bit. And yes, dudes do seem to like bad girls. But I don’t see dudes trying to change the bad girls.

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