Linda MacDonald explains why it’s all geek to her in matters of the heart.
When I was a teenager, there were two types of boys: the edgy, dangerous ones and the industrious, sensible ones. The dangerous ones grew their hair long, went out with girls and elicited disapproval from parents. The sensible ones were polite and courteous and steered clear of the party scene, at most indulging in a beer at the pub and a game of darts. They might have been geeks – except in 1970s Cumbria, we didn’t use such a word.
I suspect my mother would have been very pleased if I had brought home a geek – so long as he was of the socialised variety and not permanently attached to whatever electronic fad was prevalent at that time. This is because mothers know that geeks are often more reliable and are less inclined to lead their daughters astray. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that geeks are less likely to be philanderers.
In my novel A Meeting of a Different Kind, Edward Harvey’s wife tells her children that he was a geek when she met him and that, ‘Geeks are very marriageable’. And Edward’s former classmate, Marianne, assures her best friend Taryn that Edward is not the philandering type. But Taryn doesn’t believe her. She thinks all men have the potential to philander.
So who is right?
From an evolutionary perspective, men have more incentive than women to philander because they are easily able to spread their genes far and wide and then escape any further responsibility. Women have at least a nine month time-investment in every child, and usually much longer. It is in their interests to settle down with a man who is not the philandering type, as he will be more likely to stick around and help her to support the family. So how does she choose?
Research suggests that the biology of the typical philanderer is different from that of the geek. Masculine-looking men with their square jaws or prominent brows, their sloping foreheads and their angular profiles, produce more testosterone, both before birth and at puberty. And it is the excess of this hormone that is thought to give them the desire to chase many women. They are the Super Hunters of the masculine world; handsome guys who attract attention with their confident charm and their fool-proof dating strategies. Young women are captivated (and some older ones too). They fall in love and then suffer a rollercoaster ride of emotional angst because he’s a Player, treating them badly before moving on to the next one.
On the other hand, the less masculine-faced men, those with lower testosterone levels, are more likely to be monogamous and they become an attractive target for women who want to settle down and have a family. Consciously or sub-consciously women are drawn to them: even those who might once have been geeks. How often do women have their hearts shattered by the love-rat, only to end up with someone who is not the philandering type?
But some women never learn. They repeat the pattern of destruction and wonder why they never meet someone to love them back.
Is there no hope when dating the Players of the world? Of course there is. Some day even he may want to settle down. He may meet a woman he doesn’t want to lose; he may even fall in love. But even then, he is a riskier option. Romantic love is a fickle construct, thought to last only an average of twenty-two months. When the magic wanes in the marriage game of chance, the odds of stability are much more favourable with a geek.
When archaeologist Edward Harvey’s wife Felicity inherits almost a million, she gives up her job, buys a restaurant and starts turning their home into a small eco-farm. Edward is not happy, not least because she seems to be losing interest in him.
Taryn is a borderline manic-depressive, a scheming minx, a seductress and user of men. Edward and Taryn don’t know each other but they both know Marianne. To Edward, Marianne is a former classmate from whom he seeks support with his relationship problems. She is Taryn’s best friend, always telling her how wonderful Edward is and that he is not the philandering type. Taryn sees a challenge and concocts a devious plan to meet him during a series of lectures he is giving at the British Museum. When their paths cross, issues of friendship, love, loyalty and betrayal are acted out against a backdrop of mental-fragility and the destabilising effects of a large inheritance.
Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, on the edge of the English Lake District. She now lives in Beckenham, in south-east London. She has a degree in psychology and a PGCE in biology and science. She retired from teaching two years ago in order to focus fully on writing. Her first two published novels Meeting Lydia and A Meeting of a Different Kind can both be read independently but are the first two parts of a trilogy with The Alone Alternative being the final part.