The One That Got Away

Here’s another installment in an occasional series looking at how the culture actually sometimes does communicate truth about intersexual dynamics.

Katy Perry’s song The One That Got Away is about a woman looking back at a whirlwind romance of long ago. The video shows an elderly Perry at home with her handsome, devoted, and rich husband in a stunning modernist home in the mountains. Yet she’s miserable, and even decades later can’t quit thinking about the exciting artist with whom she had a summer fling when she was a teenager.

As the lyrics put it:

Summer after high school when we first met / We’d make out in your Mustang to Radiohead
And on my 18th Birthday / We got matching tattoos


All this money can’t buy me a time machine / Can’t replace you with a million rings
I should’ve told you what you meant to me / ‘Cause now I pay the price


In another life / I would make you stay
So I don’t have to say / You were the one that got away

The reality is that our past relationships and experiences do have an impact on our current ones. Particularly today when people marry late, they can have lots of “exciting” sex with people in their 20s, then settle down to something more boring. This can breed dissatisfaction. 

Remember, there are two set of characteristics women are interested in: those that make a man attractive and those that make him good marriage material. Ideally, a man is a good mix of both. But when young and single, and hooking up or in a casual relationship, attraction is weighted heavier. Conversely, later in life, particularly for those who feel the proverbial lock ticking, when seeking a husband, the marriage material set will be more highly weighted than it was and attraction thus somewhat downplayed.

This means that in a number of situations, women can marry men they find less attractive than Sheryl Sandberg’s “bad boys” that they dated earlier in life. And that can generate unhappiness in marriage, a sense of having settled for less than she believes she could have had. 

Or as another song put it, maybe there’s an old flame burning in her eye

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