Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Prior to receiving a perfect-for-me set of Curious George themed scrubs to relax in post-surgery from my best friend, the word "scrubs" only conjured up the TLC song "No Scrubs," an insanely popular, catchy late-90s hip/hop song about a girl who won't date poor guys, i.e. scrubs. I'm not sure of the origin of the label "scrub," but perhaps it refers to a man so lazy that he needs to clean up his act before he's suitable to date.

In any case, the song is one of my favorites to use in my evolutionary psychology of mating classes. It expresses so perfectly, and explicitly, the idea that men need to show evidence they can provide material goods to a potential mate in order to be competitive on the mating market. The other major way men can woo women, besides offering "good genes" (healthy, masculine face and physique), is to offer quality caregiving. The "good parent" strategy has not received enough attention from evolutionary psychology, but the sentiment can be found easily enough in pop songs if one extends it to include expressions of love, emotional attachment, and commitment.

In fact, there are several songs that can be used to jumpstart discussion of What Women Want. I am particularly fond of P!nk's song "Most Girls," Madonna's Express Yourself," and Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle," for which I have always wondered whether the line "If you wanna be with me, baby there's a price to pay... You gotta rub me the right way" is meant to be taken literally or figuratively. We groom all sorts of people in all sorts of ways to get what we want out of them. It's the primate way; why would it be any different when it comes to achieving mating goals?

As an evolutionary psychologist, I wonder how a girl's experiences with parents and peers during childhood and during her fledgling attempts at dating influence how much priority a woman places on those three male commodities of genes, resources, and caregiving. I'd have to say that's my main research interest, but being a broad one, I had to start somewhere. So, naturally, as a primatologist and an EP and a maverick, I chose the perfect topic: human mutual grooming.**

Was that wise? Who knows. Right now, I could care less about whether my topic is timely, whether it will get funded - let alone a tenure-track job, or even whether it will receive any press, but I have to stay focused on what really matters right now. I have to find enough enthusiasm for the topic to successfully defend my dissertation. It's coming. I can feel it. Realizing the multitude of metaphors for grooming and references to cleaning in artifacts of everyday life really helps. So, too, does being on the receiving end of a lot of grooming over the past week. Thank you Mr. Right!!


Holly said...

** It's a topic that no one else has studied emperically which means I can't just go ask some "professor von dodo" what he found out; I am the "Professor Von Dodo." I have to invent the wheel, but I can say whatever I want about the subject! Thank you Jon Walters, and Mr Wonderful, for pointing that out and reminding me monthly. I'm still waiting for that t-shirt though...

Alasdair said...

I'm still conjuring on how to make a shirt that says "I'm Professor Von Dodo" without people thinking you're a dodo... That's a pretty funny thing to say about someone. What a dodo!

Holly said...

Well, that is the obvious problem with wearing such a shirt in public. We both know I'm not a dodo, but maybe there's some clever way to say it without saying it (dodo bird drawing?) and without implying my idea is doomed to extinction. Maybe the implication is apt given the dodo did not cause it's own demise. I like dodo birds; they remind me of blue-footed boobies ;=) and you know how much I adore them! You, daddy, and Margot can all get together to think of some clever phrasology to accompany it. That would be the coolest got-your-PhD gift ever... aside from an all expense paid trip to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda!!