This coming Sunday is Valentine's Day, the popular, informal holiday on which people reconfirm their affection, often with a lovely card and a small gift, such as a box of candy.
But it might not be the day you'd want to spend with Linda Lindsey. She's a lovely and loving person. You might even call her the love doctor. But she is also the expert who says that a lot of American ideas about love are myths, and that love is in fact a pretty rational undertaking.
For more than 30 years, Linda Lindsey has studied romance as a professor of sociology at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri. She even wrote a book to prove that love is almost preordained by men's and women's roles in society.
Professor Lindsey says Americans think of romance as a bolt of bliss that strikes the most unlikely couples, overwhelming logic, problems, and cares. In truth, she says, love is quite structured. One can almost predict who is going to marry whom, and which marriages will last, by the friends they have. While people may be briefly attracted to their polar opposites, she says, the vast majority end up settling for those who are a lot like themselves.
Nor, she says, is love by any means blind. Most potential life-mates go into a relationship with their eyes wide open, carefully checking out likely candidates. Men, for instance, almost always marry women who are shorter than they are.
And here's a shocker: Linda Lindsey says, despite the TV shows and advertisements that depict women as the starry-eyed gender whose eyes are blinded by the sparkle of an engagement ring, it's men who are the romantics, especially at the beginning and middle parts of a relationship. Women are more cautious, she says. A woman may dream about marrying a good-looking 'hunk' of a man, but most often she ends up with an average-looking fellow who can bring home a good income.
So sing along with the Beatles' lyrics, "All you need is love/Love is all you need", if you like. But don't necessarily believe them.
[Linda Lindsey's book, Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective - now in its fifth printing - is published by Pearson Education.]