A recent study of baboons found that, contrary to popular belief, being the alpha male is not all it’s cracked up to be. Alpha males face physical threats posed by rivals gunning for their mating opportunities, which can lead to injury or even death. But even worse, researchers are now learning that alpha males experience higher levels of stress due to the rigors of defending their status.
Still, it’s better to be the alpha male, who leads a risky life but has access to lots of babes, then a lowly bottom feeder baboon who fights less but can’t get laid. However, research indicates the happiest baboon may be neither the alpha male nor looser baboon. It may be the beta male.
Being number two, it turns out, is a pretty chill gig. Unlike the alpha male, you don’t get unlimited baboon poontang (or “baboontang,” as I call it). But you still get some, and you don’t have every horny bachelor trying to challenge you constantly. And the overall effect of getting a little baboon babe action, but not suffering the rigors of violence or looserdom that the guys at the top and bottom experience, makes the beta male the lowest stress male of any of the baboons.
I really related to this study. My senior year of high school, I decided to run for student office. I was Senior Class Vice President. That suited me just fine. Important enough to get noticed, but not too much responsibility.
My favorite character on The Sopranos wasn’t Tony, but his number two, Silvio. Let Tony get shot at. I’ll be with the strippers over at Bada Bing!
My favorite Looney Toon was never Bugs Bunny, but Daffy Duck. Favorite Saved By the Bell character was Slater, not Zach.
Turns out I’m just a natural beta male. I think the term has come to be incorrectly associated with finish-last nice guys and lower status men. On the contrary, the beta male is superior to many other males. He just isn’t the top dog. And in a society where the #1 killer of men is heart disease, it’s tough to understate just how valuable the low stress lifestyle of the beta male really is.
And what about women? I believe there is such a thing as a beta female as well. The alpha female is always going to have a major problem with the alpha male…he’s constantly getting into fights, and when he isn’t, he’s running around town with other chicks afforded to him by his alpha male status. Who needs that headache? I bet that in the same way certain males have evolved to occupy the lower stress, but still pleasant beta male niche, there are women who have done the same. Happy to “settle” for second best—a still perfectly handsome and successful guy—who has less of the drama and infidelity that frequently comes with an alpha dude. No doubt the shared preference for low-stress lifestyle not only makes them very compatible for each other, but also helps them fight less, cheat less, and live longer.
I put together a list of some high-profile alpha and beta relationships to help illustrate this point. Keep in mind that while everyone on both lists is famous, that does not mean they are all alpha males and females; some are just really successful betas.
I’ve intentionally chosen these super hot female musicians because they represent the conventional alpha female…beautiful, voluptuous, and of course, high-maintenance and slightly insane. It’s not hard to imagine the likes of Madonna, Jessica and Britney being the most sought after babes in the clan, be it 2000 A.D. or 10,000 B.C. And what do they get for pairing up with macho alpha males like Sean Penn or JT? Heartbreak. And in some cases, rapid weight gain and psychiatric illness.
Yes, I know Barack Obama is the leader of the free world, but the guy is not an alpha male. He and Michelle are total betas…not a violent, aggressive bone in either one’s body. And don’t they make a nice couple? Ditto Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, one of my all-time favorite beta couples, who prove that nice, goofy people can become famous gazillionaires too. And I intentionally put Mr. Affleck on both lists to highlight the awesomeness of becoming a beta. Remember how miserable Ben always looked on the cover of US Weekly back in the day, dealing with the constant headaches of his lackluster acting career and annoying super-famous girlfiend J-Lo? And note how happy he is now, his high pressure acting career successfully segued to a lower profile director/actor hybrid, and his wife the less-famous-but-still-hot Jennifer Garner. The guy made the best decision of his life when he “downgraded” himself from miserable A-list alpha male to blissful B-list beta celebrity.
So here’s to you, my fellow beta males and females. If social status was a drug, the alphas would be cocaine…high highs, low lows…and we’d be marijuana, providing a mellower, but in many ways more enjoyable buzz. We might not be quite as exciting, but hey, we live longer and get fewer nose bleeds.