By: Mario Canseco
For years, the notion of the impossibility of finding a love partner in Metro Vancouver has been the subject of countless features and columns. Most of them have been narrow in scope, focusing on the views of one or two residents who expressed dissatisfaction with their situation, to later claim they would have better opportunities in other cities. From a research standpoint, these were clear cases of poor sample selection, with eye-catching quotes taking the place of carefully constructed research.
In December, Insights West worked with Vancouver Magazine to develop a unique survey that looked at love and sex in Metro Vancouver. One of the themes that was appealing to me personally—and the reason for this column—was to test whether the specific stereotypes that reporters (especially those in the East) rely on to describe who we are, what we like and what we do actually materialize when a representative sample of Metro Vancouverites gets a chance to have a say.
Millions of dollars in advertising—on everything from trendy restaurants to exercise garments—are spent in trying to create the ideal situation for people to start a relationship and fall in love. These ads have effectively typecast the uniqueness of “some” of our residents, and made other Canadians believe that residents of the West Coast are one and the same.
We are regarded as a metropolitan area where a bearded man locks up his bicycle to hold hands with a fitness-oriented woman clad in yoga pants. Yet when Metro Vancouverites are asked about who they would date—if they needed to, wanted to or could—the results are extremely different.
When Insights West asked women in Metro Vancouver about their ideal mate, only nine per cent said they would select a man with a beard, and just one per cent expressed a preference for a bike rider.
Other issues are decidedly more important for female residents. Three-in-five (74 per cent) said it makes no difference what job their prospective male partners hold, but two thirds (65 per cent) want a man who owns a car. And while more than a third of Metro Vancouver women (36 per cent) said that their prospective date’s income “makes no difference”, 64 per cent acknowledged that they would rather date a man with a “medium” or “high” income.
When the same question was posed to men, some trends held, with 77 per cent saying it does not matter what job their ideal female mate has. Half (49 per cent) stated they would like to date a woman who owns a car. And while 44 per cent acknowledged that the income of their prospective female partner “makes no difference”, 54 per cent would prefer it to be “medium” or “high”.
Only 10 per cent of Metro Vancouver men said they would want a fitness-oriented female companion (in fact, 58 per cent chose “down-to-earth” when it comes to style), and just six per cent selected “yoga pants” as their garment of choice for their prospective date.
So, what doe the findings tell us about the state of affairs when it comes to love and sex in Metro Vancouver? The first insight is that life is expensive, and dating somebody who could conceivably become a “mortgage helper” is more appealing to both genders than antiquated concepts, such as a high-earner becoming a provider for a partner with no job and little income. In addition, both men and women would prefer getting to the first date in a car, preferably one that can be parked anywhere.
Other considerations—such as age, ethnicity or hair colour—are not primary motivators when Metro Vancouverites are asked about ideal partners. The notion of an alluring companion goes far beyond the stereotypes that have long dominated perceptions about our metropolitan area and our province. Being able to figure out a way to thrive here is more important than style. Earning power as a couple is a more powerful motivator than beards or yoga pants, but that—of course—would lend itself to dull advertising campaigns for restaurants and shops.
The survey does provide confirmation of an issue that has been discussed for decades: finding a partner here is not easy. Judging by the five words used the most by those who have experienced Vancouver’s dating scene recently—difficult, hard, tough, bad and boring—those with a spouse or steady guy or gal may feel relieved not to be out there.