Ayn Rand ruined my date last night, and here's why that's a good thing.
Like many of the men I’m attracted to, Paul was handsome, fit and sexy. During our first date we talked favorite authors — mine, Ayn Rand, he rejected on feminist grounds. So, instead of hooking up, I decided to hunker down for a critical re-read of Ayn Rand. Through this late-night, lovelorn lens, I formulated a radically new approach to dating that applies the principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy to women’s most common dating challenges. Who better to help us set standards, define boundaries and reject fantasy thinking than the woman who founded Objectivism?
Far from retro, Rand’s heroines were independent, sexually liberated career women who multi-dated, and multi-married, until they landed their Hero. You don’t have to read Atlas Shrugged to date like its heroine, Dagny Taggart, who runs a transcontinental railroad while capturing the hearts of captains of industry. You don’t have to understand Objectivism or ascribe to libertarianism to follow the simple, practical principles I’ve distilled from these philosophies and applied to real life dating challenges. These include:
Rule #1: Don’t date men you don’t admire. He can be the most handsome man, the most fabulous lover, the most attentive partner, the most witty companion, but if you don’t admire him (not his biceps or bank account, but him as a person ), the relationship is doomed to fail. Don’t know if you admire him? Ask yourself, would you be proud to introduce him at your college reunion? Do you listen to him recount his day and feel a warm glow of pride? Do you feel like you could point to him and tell children (yours or others) “grow up to be like him”? If the answer to any of these is “no,” or even “maybe,” then do your self esteem a favor and break up with him.
Rule #2: Don’t date men who don’t admire you. You don’t have to be beautiful to be admired by men — you don’t even have to be particularly skilled or smart. A man can admire your spirit, your qualities, your way. You can date men who want you and chase you, but admiration is a different thing altogether. To admire is defined as to “regard with respect,” or to “look at with pleasure.” Women often say that they don’t want to be “put on a pedestal,” but that’s exactly where they should be, held on high, off the floor, where they won’t be bumped into, overlooked, or stepped on.
So, date the guy who brags about you, who listens when you talk, who notices when you walk in the room, and who inspires you to cultivate your best qualities. Worried he’s in love with an idealized image of you? If that’s the worst of your problems, then count your blessings and be grateful. In The Fountainhead, Rand defines love as “a command to rise.” Let love elevate you — and your partner — to be worthy of each other and your ideals.
Rule #3: Don’t date men who surround themselves with losers. This includes both the men who need an entourage — and the men who make up the entourage. Men who surround themselves with sycophants have fragile egos belied by their wealth, power and celebrity. These second-handers simply cannot orientate themselves to the universe without gauging their relative status to others around them. The entourage itself acts like a reality distortion field, bending and warping the way men perceive things.
Explaining the fall of civilizations, economist Thomas Sowell describes how, “Typically there has been ... some method by which feedback from reality has been prevented, so that a dangerous course of action could be blindly continued to a fatal conclusion.” Similarly, the man with an entourage is subtly sabotaged by those who seek to benefit by being in his orbit. By flattering his conceits and sheltering his insecurities — they act to filter out the discordant feedback human beings to evolve. Marinating in this kind of sycophancy for extended lengths of time breeds boorishness and bad manners that no amount of money can make up for.
Rule #4: Don’t “go with your gut” — use your head! If you’re confused about a relationship — get in? stay in? get out? — a frequent piece of advice is to “follow your heart.” This is not a responsible piece of advice to give to someone who is having a hard time trying to sort fact from feeling. Better advice was given by John Galt to Dagny Taggart: “If any part of your uncertainty is a struggle between your heart and your mind, follow your mind.” Besides, in the throes of emotion its hard to distinguish what’s heart, what’s hormones, what’s hope, and what’s habit. Stick to the facts, don’t ignore patterns of behavior, and don’t engage in wishful thinking.
Rule #5: Go on strike if the relationship is not working for you. If you’re being taken for granted, then follow the example of John Galt, and the other innovators, entrepreneurs and artists he inspired to withdraw their creative energies from an envious, ungrateful, entitled society. The scale of your strike will depend on the scale of the behavior you’re seeking to protest and alter. Your once romantic, upscale Saturday night “dates” that have devolved into Netflix-and-takeout-hangouts? Micro-strike by being unavailable next weekend. He’s become the last to notice — much less compliment — how nice you look? Mini-strike by taking a trip with a girlfriend. He’s “not ready” for commitment, engagement, marriage? Mega-strike by spending less time with him, and consider dating other men.
Armed with this new outlook, I resolved to hold out for my own Atlas — and stop dating Shrugs. I started by “next-ing” Tall Paul, who now seemed small — another L.A. Peter Pan, without a grown-up job or a serious life purpose.
“Tell me what a woman finds sexually attractive and I will tell you her entire philosophy of life. Show me the man she sleeps with and I will tell you her valuation of herself.”
I’ve changed the gender from the above passage in Atlas Shrugged, because it offered me — and all women — the opportunity to take a look at how our sexual choices stack up against our fundamental convictions, and provides us the opportunity to reevaluate both. Critics revile Rand for defending selfishness as a virtue — but a less altruistic, more self-centric, more rational approach to dating is precisely what women need to date with less drama, less resentment, and less heartache.
Jennifer Anju Grossman is the CEO of the Atlas Society.