“So you’ve given up on the i-a-n?” Rouben asks, referring to the unspoken pre-requisite of all Armenians wishing to find a mate.
“I’m surprised women stick to it for as long as they do,” Dickran interjects before Talar has a chance to respond. She’s surprised by Dickran’s candor and says, “Odars (non-Armenians) appreciate us more than Armenian men do.”
“You’re right, the odars would see that Armenian girls are much more exotic, … ,” he says, his voice trailing off with the implied hint of other advantages. “Armenian girls have a lot more to offer than Armenian men have to offer. There are more quality Armenian girls than there are quality single Armenian guys.”
“I’m surprised you, as a guy, just said that,” Talar says with a laugh.
“I go to these events and it’s the same quality girls looking for these guys, but there aren’t any quality guys,” Dickran explains.
The three friends are having lunch at the local Zankou Chicken restaurant. Somehow their conversations always veer towards the current state of Armenian singles in their closely knit community. Even though they live in the largest Armenian community in the Diaspora, their search for a life partner has been difficult.
“What makes a quality guy?” Talar asks.
“Education, the right values, maturity,” he begins listing the traits, “and a sense of self and introspection.” He believes that an educated, mature, well traveled woman of his generation will have a hard time finding an Armenian man for a mate. But he has hope that it would be different for the new generation of 20-something-year-olds who are more westernized than his generation.
“I had a conversation with a man the other day who has daughters working on her PhD’s. He said he was very proud of her but was worried because he didn’t think she was going to find an Armenian man since she was going to be too educated,” Talar recounts the story.
“What’s happened is that within three generations we went from a peasant society to urban, in the Middle East, and from urban to transnationally urban,” Rouben says offering his analysis of the current state of affairs.
“I don’t know. Most Armenian men I’ve met so far in L.A. I wouldn’t introduce them to my sister,” Dickran says. “Or maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong crowd,” he adds trying to make light of this heavy topic. Although he attends a many events and is involved in a variety of social circles, he’s amazed at the Armenian women who come to events with the hope of meeting Armenian men. “They know what’s out there, why are they still trying?” he asks, incredulous at their persistence.
“Why is it that we’re so cosmopolitan in our lives but we become so conventional when it comes to this very basic human need to connect with other people?” asks Talar.
“The problem is that Armenian men, as westernized as we’ve become, there’s still an attachment to the old relationship dynamic,” Dickran says, referring to the power dynamics in a relationship and the education level of a woman.
“Would you consider getting involved with a woman who is more educated, makes more money, is more successful and better known than you?” Talar asks.
“That part doesn’t bother me at all,” Dickran responds but Talar doesn’t look convinced.
“I’m not talking a power structure. I want a complementary relationship,” Rouben adds.
“So when it comes to forming a meaningful relationship or family unit, men want the conventional dynamic; the same one their fathers and grandfathers had, where the man is the head of the household and earns the income,” Talar says. In the past, men were more educated than women and provided for their families, giving them an automatic position of power within their family unit. “If you get into a relationship with a woman who makes more money and is better educated than you, then doesn’t that automatically give her some power within the family? Maybe more so than you? “ she asks Dickran.
“Therefore that means that you would not be comfortable with a woman who makes more money and is better educated than you,” Talar says trying to clarify Dickran’s earlier statement. “Is this why men are afraid of commitment?”
“In general there are two types of men: there’s the babies who have undergone arrested development and have never married. Then there’s guys who have gotten burned and want to be careful in their choices,” Rouben says, “and a choice after forty (years old) is a lot more difficult.” He believes that when someone is eighteen years old and less experienced they are more likely to take chances on people without knowing the others’ future level of success. “To me that’s as unconditional as love gets,” he says. “After forty you can’t make an emotional decision. You have to make something rational with it, and when you add too many boxes to check off (in the list of requirements in a mate) you become hesitant in your decision making.”
“We live in a post modern society where the roles have been completely convoluted, everything is transient and there’s no clarity in determining ‘this is the one,’ whereas I have seen that clarity in simplistic societies where life is a lot less complicated. Fear is a natural outcome of the complexity of the societies we live in,” Rouben says with finality.
“I think the search mechanism or the matching mechanism is broken,” adds Dickran. “I haven’t been to one social function that actually gives results. The informal mechanisms are not working as well as they should. Instead, you have the formal ones and they suck,” he says, offering an analysis of the current matchmaking process in the Armenian community. It is exactly for this reason that many are turning to the resources, such as dating services and social clubs, available outside of the insular world of our ethnically cohesive group of family and friends.