It’s a high-stakes game, and only high rollers get to play.
Women and men were dealt very different hands when the cosmic dealer divvied up the deck. And while it wouldn’t be very egalitarian to make blanket statements with gender biases, we’d be lying if we denied that women and men are very different creatures. Now, power is something that is sexy no matter its gender, but all alpha males and alpha females are not created equal. In fact, they’re hardly cut from the same deck.
We’ve seen him in movies like Wall Street, or in the corner office with the view. The alpha male is cocky, domineering, aggressive; the suave egoist who cunningly plays his cards right (and probably secures some under-the-table partnerships) to win each hand. Alpha males play with black-heavy hands full of spades and clubs. Generations of tilling the fields (with the spade) and killing the game (with the club) have pre-disposed him to the notion that “might makes right.” And so, even as humankind began to socialize, civilize, and corporatize, alpha males clung to those most admired attributes in a leader-of-the-pack. After all, a real man can strong-arm his inferiors to get his way, or order them into line with unmitigated confidence. A real man molds his own destiny, and he does it with a powerful hand; bigger and bolder is always better. So with all the violence and vigor of club and spade, the mighty alpha male plays his game.
But when a true alpha female antes up, she’s ready to use more than just the cards in her hand to win the game. She sits across the table from her male counterpart, and peruses her red hand. Hearts and diamonds. Far from distancing herself from emotion and physical charms, the alpha female knows how to bring these attributes into play to her best advantage. She’ll use empathy, a knowing heart, a sparkling wit, and a killer sense of style. Rising from the ashes of 50’s house-wife-dom but mitigating the androgyny of the power-suited 80’s, the modern female faces a fickle challenge. She must find the line to walk that neither denies her femininity, nor uses it against her. So the alpha female is chic but not cutesy. She’s bold but only brazen when it will force somebody else’s hand. She can use sympathy, intuition, and kindness without seeming weak or fragile.
Yet the fact remains that the alpha female is playing a game at the men’s table. And in order to win the pot, she’ll have to be as cunning as her counterpart. She has to know the rules of the game, and play with the best of them. The alpha female doesn’t put her opposition in a stranglehold when she’s ready to raise the stakes. She smiles and negotiates until she reaches the best outcome. And the ace up her sleeve? Well, she’s got several. Sometimes it’s a cleverness that can read the tells of under-handed dealings and back-alley handshakes. Sometimes it’s a maternal mediating skill that keeps all the players at the table when someone’s in danger of cashing out. Sometimes it’s the perseverance that keeps her from folding when the game gets tough. And sometimes it’s just plain sex. The alpha female knows that what she wears when they watch her walk to the poker table can make all the difference in the world. If there’s a woman in the FiDi, amongst the ad men on Madison Ave., or in the Trump Tower offices, she’s wearing Louboutins: black and sleek at first glance, blood red underneath, with a stiletto that could stop your heart. The alpha female takes a hint from her friend, the femme fatale: Give them a wink and get them off their game.
No matter your metaphor, you cannot assume that alpha males and alpha females have the same basic qualities but just arrive with different parts. All alphas are not created equal. No, in the business world, a man who is overweening, domineering, aggressive and self-righteous can be a successful, prominent alpha male. When we find those same traits in a woman, we call her a bitch. But the polar opposite of the alpha male isn’t the right formula for the alpha female, either. A woman who is over-sensitive, gossipy, petty and flirtatious is an idiot. And there is nothing worse than a bitch or an idiot who has mistaken herself for an alpha female. So those of us who stand in awe of the natural-born alpha female try to replicate that royal flush of confidence, conciliation, empathy, cleverness and reason. And maybe, on a good day, we manage to play our cards just right. Still, when we pull up a chair at her table, we know we needn’t even try to read her poker face.