Rebecca Wiegand: The guy who just blew you off is obviously a painful member of the gaggle. The reason he’s in the gaggle is because you keep wondering if he’ll text you again or what you did wrong. The more you can be reflective about that in a non-neurotic way, the better.
The super horny guy is the guy who’s wasted and hitting on you at the bar. You’d never in a million years go out or hook up with him but he thinks you’re fine. You should carry that with you, see that as a fun and positive thing.
What about the ex-boyfriend who’s still around – isn’t that called settling?
JM: Exes fall into two clear camps. There are women who were really, legitimately close to their ex-boyfriends and they’ve gotten over each other and are in different relationships. It’s great to have someone in your life who’s known you for that long. Of course, there are women who pretend they’re out there exploring other options but are really texting their ex at the end of the night and compare every guy to their ex. That’s unhealthy.
Why is the ego booster not also the boyfriend prospect?
JM: Women still want the best relationship of all time; it’s a very millennial, entitled way to look at it. The boyfriend prospect, you want to be romantically excited about him. The ego booster is an almost-boyfriend who is treating you well but there are other guys who excite you more.
So the ego booster is the nice guy.
JM: Exactly! We all have people in our lives who, if were smart, we’d recognize as a good partner, but we want to find love.
Why not just stick with the boyfriend prospect? If he’s “the one to watch,” why bother with the rest?
JM: Having a gaggle actually leads you to a different boyfriend prospect than you would have previously thought of. Also, having a gaggle and a boyfriend prospect helps move it at a pace that makes sense, instead of trying to push things. You’re going to the farmer’s market with your accessory or talking to your ego booster; it allows you to be saner .
Who do guys have in their gaggles?
JM: It’s more based on attraction than a female’s gaggle: Is she out of my league; is it only sexual, a short-term investment; am I attracted to the whole package, the girlfriend prospect; am I attacted but it’s too intimidating and she’s my “(maybe) one.” Guys also have their work wife: that’s a woman they’re not sexually involved with but is their No. 1 support at work.
What happens when all the men in your gaggle marry? Some of them will marry women who weren’t at all ambiguous about what they wanted.
JM: We’re aware of [the dating books] Why Men Love Bitches and He’s Just Not That Into You, which are about not settling for less than you deserve. The gaggle is not about wanting things from guys but being afraid to ask for them. The girl who had 10 ego boosters and is now in a relationship, she knows now that she needs strong love and support.
How did ambiguity come to rule the love lives of 20-and-30-somethings?
JM: One reason absolutely is technology which lets us test waters in more ambiguous ways: you can ask someone on a date or e-mail them a YouTube video and chat about it. Technology lets people test connections and avoid rejection.
Changing gender roles have also made a difference. I’d have guys tell me they work all day with women in an office where they treat them as equals and compete for promotions. Then they walk out of the office and all of sudden they feel like that girl wants them to hold the door open, or to pay. The roles are switching back and forth everyday and men aren’t not sure how women want to them to be.
Many people also talked to me about their parents’ relationships: divorces or committed marriages that just didn’t have the love the kids would have wanted to see. Their children wanted a different framework for their relationships.