Saturday, August 21, 2010

Is being green sexy, well not if it's frugal.

Ron Lieber in his NY Times "Your Money" column asks How to Be Frugal and Still Be Asked on Dates which has sparked a bit of interest in that it's been emailed a bit and a few comments on the Bucks personal finance blog section of the Times.

I think it is a really interesting question, because it asks a lot about what people are looking for in a relationship, and assuming you are willing to establish a partnership with that person, what you want. The premise of the article is basically can frugal be sexy? And like a good deconstructionist text, the word frugal is pregnant with meaning, and much of that meaning can be tied to the same tenets that govern green living.

The general meaning associated with "frugal" for better or worse is cheap. And people don't want to date a tightwad or a miser. Which often are associations with frugal that can be negative. The other connotation with "frugal" in the dating game is that the date is "poor"

On the flip side, some other connotations of "frugal" are "simple" and "basic" which depending on your perspective may not be sexy or attractive. However these are less negative. Many individuals leave simple lives but are incredibly classy. There are basics that never go out of style. A good example of that is the Patagonia line of clothing, which are basic but incredibly well made. Now does that constitute frugal? In my mind it does, since it is a focused on value and sustainability.

Now what does being green connote. It does seem to suggest simple living, not being ostentatious, living within one's means. Saving and not being profligate, which oddly are the same things that being frugal entail. Yet green does not seem to entail the same negative connotations, but it does have others such as being "crunchy" and not showering.

What is interesting is that green and frugal both represent value systems, and dating is the pursuit someone with values that resonate with you (ok, and perhaps a nice set of legs too). So how does the negative perceptions of frugal relate to the dating marketplace values?

Looking at it from an economics or evolutionary standpoint, dating is an evaluation of signals of prospective partners. Frugal is an implicit inferred signal. It can mean poor or it can mean simple. People tend to take it as poor. (Which is odd since the people who I know who adhere to a simple lifestyle have the highest net worth). So frugality commonly signals poor, it can also signal self control but not usually.

So what is the opposite of frugal? Spendthrift is probably the most accurate linguistic opposite. This oddly does not have the same negative connotations. People who are spendthrifts tend to be looked at with some degree of sympathy, perhaps most people can sympathize with the urge to spend more that they have. People like nice things, so when looking for someone they can related to that. Very few people can relate to people who don't have the desire to go shopping all the time, and many can't relate to people who are in control with their finances. They can't imagine it for themselves, and perhaps fear that those who are in control are some sort of robot.

Spendthrifts tend to signal they have a lot of resources, which implies they are providers to the lower part of our minds. Again this is implicit and suggested. since the invention of mass consumer credit has made outward signs a very unreliable signal. It is amazing how much resource signaling is not very environmentally friendly. Think SUVs, constant changing of clothes to meet the latest fashions, huge houses that cost a lot to maintain. The act of waste is a positive sign for resources!

This concerns me, because there are few more power drives than the desire for companionship. The maxim is that in the course of human history, no sexually transmitted disease has been eradicated comes to mind.

So if green living overlaps so much with actions of frugality, and those actions manifest themselves with negative connotations. Will it be possible to get people to live more green because they feel it will put them at a disadvantage? Buying a $4 tomato doesn't signal well since a tomato is a tomato from the outside. That Whole Foods bag however does signal. Guess, greenies who want a date should start getting those Tesla Roadsters.

So if you need more space for your bike than a Roadster will provide, then perhaps the solution is to get a Prius and let's work to reclaim frugal to its original meaning "living without waste" and making everything you do count.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home