High Maintenance Women 2 - Defining Terms

joe helps alec find the plug to his oil pan by Kendrak

High maintenance women are like high maintenance sports cars. They're lots of fun when you're out on the town together, but for every hour of showing off, there are another 10 spent on upkeep and repair behind the scenes. After hours of polishing the headlights in your garage, you might ask yourself -- is this really worth it, just for a couple of rides?
[from Are High Maintenance Women Worth It? by Madeline Murphy]

Distraught over my poor finish in New York and busy with my upcoming Astrogation and Biosphere exams, it still behooves me to bring some clarity to the discussion on high maintenance women.

Why me? While the other ESI lads have had experience with high maintenance women, there is general agreement that if one of us is truly an expert on the topic, it's the Dwarf. (Although it could be Coyote. There are unexplained gaps on his curiculuum vitae if you catch my drift. And for all that he's a semi-mythical prairie creature, he's the one you'd ask to fix your Volvo.)

CĂ©line Dion at her wedding, in 1994.© La Presse ; Bernard Brault, photographer

Let's get precise: Agatha, if you conclude that all women are high maintenance, the term has no meaning. Similarly, Bob, if you conclude that no women are, the term also becomes useless.

I've gone to the web and surveyed the attempts others have made at defining "high maintenance".

There are definitions on Urban Dictionary, a number of lists with titles like "Four signs she's high maintenance", as well as the comments from the Chair, Coyote and the IO. There is no universal definition, but we can identify qualities that appear on most lists:

  • Extremely Self-absorbed - focussed only on her own needs (Coyote coupled this with narcissism and sociopathy, however, I 'd say other personality disorders could also lead to the extreme self-absorption of the high maintenance individual.)
  • High HBA factor (HBA: Health, Beauty & Accessories)
  • High emotional needs
  • Controlling - outrageous or irrational demands, wants constant presence, etc.
  • Communication difficulties - misinterprets positive and neutral statements to be insults, cannot understand statements about others needs.
  • Unfair: She will blame her partner for things that are not his fault, like a sudden rainfall; or hold him to expectations that she does not expect herself to meet.

The Chair says there could be a woman with a high HBA factor and low emotional needs (or vice versa) who would qualify as a high maintenance woman; while Coyote and the IO seem to think high HBA can be missing, but high emotional needs are a mandatory part of the definition.

In my review of the literature, I'd say that while most experts agree with Coyote and the IO, some suggest that a high HBA factor is a strong indicator of high emotional needs. Others say a high HBA factor should only be a concern when it is a problem for the man, for example, if it means she is never ready when she says she will be ready, or if she can never be kissed or touched because it will muss her makeup or hair.

Corollary factors: Several lists mention big money problems as a sign of the high maintenance woman. It all depends on the cause of the money problem. Out of control spending to fill emotional needs? or simply not earning enough money to meet basic needs?

Some writers link high maintenance to low intelligence, others to high intelligence. In my experience, high mainenance cuts across all IQs, but the more intelligent, the more attractive and the more diabolical they can be.

Aren't there also High Maintenance Men? Of course there are. We usually characterize them differently. First of all, the HBA factor is often completely absent, or is expressed very differently. Also, while it's cute for a man to be with a controlling, self-absorbed woman; women with controlling, self-absorbed men are referred to spousal abuse experts.

So this High Maintenance business is sexist crap, right? Yes and no.

When it's used to refer to the ordinary maintenance that any woman needs, it is sexist crap. (For evidence that this happens, read this news article about a massive sexual harassment and sexist hiring practice lawsuit.)

But maintenance isn't a bad thing: Right. Every intricate mechanism needs ongoing and emergency maintenance. Without it, the most reliable machine can become high maintenance or just stop working.

Annotated bibilography:

  • Top 10 Signs She's High Maintenance by Shawn Croft: I think Croft has dated one high maintenance woman for a couple of weeks and thinks he's got the field covered.
  • Lists: A High Maintenance Woman by Tintin: this blogger hasn't been out with any high maintenance women, but he's watched Paris Hilton on TV and thinks he's got it figured out.
  • MensHealth forum on the topic: a bunch of wankers like us flailing away at the topic without the benefit of illustrations and HTML formatting.
  • EveryThing2.com's article: a fair compare and contrast that gives the flavour for the term without being definitive.
  • Wikipedia's definition: a nice, neutral definition. Clearly influenced by women with expensive tastes who like the idea of being considered "high maintenance" or by others who want to dispel the stigma of the term.
  • MSN's Four signs she's high maintenance by Marcia Jedd: A well-researched piece that goes to the core of the issues.
  • Blog Quiz Are You High Maintenance? A set of lame hypotheticals that leads to obvious results with the mandatory pros and cons of whatever personality type you turn out to be ("... while it's good to aim high - you're scaring Mr. Perfect away.")
  • Are High Maintenance Women Worth It? by Madeline Murphy: Murphy also tries to balance the pros and cons, but she does it in an insightful way and has makes some excellent points. ("Do you let her pick out her own gifts on her birthday and at Christmas because she's so picky that you don't want to bother giving her something she'll only return anyway?")

Now then, Aggie, you were asking about the positives and negatives? I think maybe we fellas are more interested in discussing how to avoid ensnarement.


coyote said...

Amen, Short Guy. I believe you have scribed a definitive screed on the topic, at least with regard to Y chromosomes.

However, I note that many women who are nothing of the sort would like to think of themselves as high maintenance. It seems to make them happy to do this. I'm not sure Y... er, why... but it may explain why Aggie was approaching the discussion like high maintenance was some kinda good thing...

Conch Shell said...

Okay -- I have some thoughts on this. One point that hasn't been brought up here, but was by our new-age expert, is that very low-maintenance women die earlier deaths than HMW, because their hidden anger eats away at them. So with this logic, low-maintenance women getting in touch with their high-maintenance needs is a good thing (although -- I suspect, the high-maintenance side evens out).

Next, pulling from a year ago's thread, it seems clear to me after reading all these definitions that high-maintenance is positively correlated to "borderline personality disorder" -- which is something like a 3 to 1 female disorder. And borderline P.D. types do have high narcissism levels (for the remedial class: true narcissists, most of whom are male, have better control of their emotions than the borderline hysterical types.)
So, perhaps the reason there are so many high-maintenance women compared to men is because it is a trait of this mostly female disorder.
Next: which comes first -- are high-maintenance women such because of their beauty? Did society create them by treating them as princesses since birth? Or, is it their high-maintenance selfish gene that has made them: dye their hair blond, work-out 5x a week, eat nothing with carbs, spend big bucks on wardrobe, and basically polish themselves into a social beauty that they know they can work to advantage?
Another point. I read once that average looking women, however that is measured, tend to have happier marriages than beautiful women.

Conch Shell said...

One more thought:

Perhaps some to many women are labeled high maintenance, when in fact they are highly competent, busy, strict with themselves, achievement oriented, as well as romantic and giving (to the worthy)and looking for an equal partner.
They are in fact among the near-perfect few, who cannot just hang around with a bunch of lazy poorly-hygiened, narrow-minded others. But alas, it's so hard to find the other super-human, that they get the bum rap.

coyote said...

Conch, that's really very ingeneous. The flip side of the coin, though, is that if all of those HMWs are fully self-actualized, then the men they're with would necessarily die earlier deaths. Oh waitaminnit, most men already die earlier deaths than most women, statistically! Coincidence?

I wish to refer our discussion back to the Independent Observer's pithy analysis: "(the HMW) is a taker, not a giver. And that's a bad thing, because relationships are all about give and take."

Can we not safely say that neither sex, as a rule, wishes for relationships in which they are used up and sucked dry like so many gin-soaked lemon zests? And can either you or Aggie perhaps explicate the reasoning behind your apparent idealization of HMWs? Is this discussion disconnecting because of sex-based definition dissonance? (Say that three times fast....)