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The allure of the knuckle dragger

September 17th, 2008 · 3 Comments

They say you learn something new every day and last week the expression ‘knuckle dragger’ was introduced into my vocabulary.   My partner Julian and I had returned from visiting a girlfriend Alex, who had been entertaining us with disastrous date stories.  Julian announced that Alex would never find the right guy if she continued to date ‘knuckle draggers”.

“Hu, a knuckle duster?” came the reply from me.

“No” he replied “although a knuckle dragger is likely to wear a knuckle duster. You know a guy who walks on his knuckles, like a cave man who grunts here and there and has no brains- your friend dates gorillas.”

The image of a caveman waving his club over a struggling screaming woman while dragging her back to his cave hovered in a little cartoon-like white bubble over my head.  Intrigued about knuckle draggers, I punch the term into my good friend google and courtesy of wiktionary find the following definition:

“A reference to a man’s state in the process of evolution in an attempt to show that they have either regressed or did not progress to walking upright.”

Oh the horror it’s true, my friend along with many other intelligent women share this seemingly incurable infliction. Why do women date knuckle draggers?

The contradiction

If you have read my platitudes or vanilla article you will know that I like to look at history as a starting point to help explain my theories.  Well folks this time I turn to a different source – my friend Alex who is 35, single and still lives with her parents.

Let’s examine Alex’s dating profile.   Alex claims to be most attracted to the quirky, George Costanza type – men on the chubby side (and or bald) with a sense of humour.  She also claims the standard line that looks aren’t really important, it’s the personality and brains that count.   Yet its fascinating because her wish list seems to be quite contradictory to the type of men she actually dates, in fact she has never dated or shown interest in anyone even approaching this description.  Every man she has dated has been a knuckle dragger.

Take John the gardener for example.   John and Alex met 10 years ago and had gone out once – ultimately unsuccessfully.  John never returned Alex’s call and that was the last she heard from him.


Coincidentally 10 years down the track, Alex’s father had decided he had enough of cutting the lawn and decided to call a random mowing company he found in the local paper. Who should turn up on Alex’s front door, yep you guessed correctly -it was John.

When I caught up with Alex she had told me that she had been home when John had first turned up to cut the lawn. She could hardly contain how excited she was to see that John’s manly forearms hadn’t changed in muscularity over the last 10 years.  I found my eyes glazing over as she recounted the way his forearm hair was glistening in the sun and then it hit me.  Since when was muscular forearms on Alex’s wish list, what happened to the quirky chubby funny guy?

A year has passed since the glistening forearm hair encounter and what has unfolded to date?  Well it depends on who you ask.  If you ask me, I would say not much, but if you ask Alex she would tell you a different story.  Here are the two versions.

Alex’s version

There is a sense of mystery lurking around John – he was married once but it lasted only five months, he doesn’t really talk about this much though.   It doesn’t matter because Alex is getting closer to solving the mystery of John by breaking down and dissecting John’s personality in minute detail.   According to Alex his time in the army has stripped him down and built him up again so this explains why John doesn’t really let people in and explains why he gets defensive if he is forced into doing something he doesn’t want to do. The fact that he doesn’t share his thoughts and feelings or engage in simulating conversation is all part of this defense mechanism. Alex is certain that John has depths to his personality that need to be plumbed and by god she is on a mission – to find a little sensitive gem buried deep inside him.

My version

Alex is clearly delusional.

Alex is convinced that there are great hidden depths to John and believes that she has developed an accurate psychological profile of him  – the like of which would impress Sigmund Freud.  The truth of the matter is very simple, there are no complex thoughts in John’s head, Alex creates the mystery and then wants to figure the mystery out. As Julian says, “there aint no mystery here sweetheart”.

Alex is obviously confused and while thinking she wants a quirky smart guy she is actually most attracted to the knuckle dragger type who while holding some initial allure ultimately fail to satisfy her in the long term.

Is there any hope for Alex? Can she escape the knuckle dragger curse? Why do women like Alex continue to date knuckle draggers when these liaisons invariably end in disaster and disappointment?

Perhaps it’s simply a phase that needs to be grown out of – date enough dullards and gorillas, you learn to love the George Costanza when he comes along?

Or Is it the gamblers fallacy? Put enough coins into the slot machine they might actually hit the jackpot (i.e. an actual conversation).

Maybe, it’s just simply biology – these women themselves are knuckle draggers and like attracts like?

For Alex and other women who find themselves single and dating the knuckle dragger, its time to take a long hard at who you date and why otherwise its TV dinners for one for a lot longer yet.

Tags: musings

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anonymous // Sep 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Maybe it is that Alex is responding to woman’s instinctive nature to have a mate that can provide and protect. A short skinny fat guy, George Costanza, does not fit her bill no matter how intelligent he may be. Think about it……

    From a proud Knuckle Dragger…

  • 2 kimbakat3 // Sep 23, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Interesting point anon, but playing devils advocate… While the biological desire to be “protected and provided for” is still hard wired, any woman who turns to the knuckle dragger for that service in 2010 has probably made a mistake. Brawn and the ability to beat someone up, while damn useful one million years ago, doesn’t pay the bills in modern times, in fact it’s more likely to result in a jail term.v The modern day “provider protector “is most likely the short, fat or skinny guy. George Costanza anyone… um hello anyone??

  • 3 Pax // Nov 24, 2010 at 12:17 am

    I read an article about this years ago and the short and dirty version is women very often like the John’s of the world, or her high school football hero to breed with but then finds her way to the more stable ‘nerd’ types with good humor, good jobs, good child rearing and life skills. The biological imperative is strong sperm, the intellectual imperative now being an option means far too many John’s are disposable. Do I see where the anthropologists were coming from? Well, the evidence I see daily suggests they were all too right.

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