Superficiality

I had lunch with a friend at work today.  I’ve only known him for about 4 months (virtually my entire time here in San Francisco) but this was our first lengthy one-on-one discussion that managed to not involve any work discussion.  So, of course, we talked about the only interest we really have in common: dating.

I consider myself something of a hopeless (hopeful?) romantic.  I don’t necessarily think I’m anyone’s prince charming or a guy who’s completely devoid of sexist notions — though I do my best to avoid them.  I do think, however, that I’m in the minority of guys who likes all of the following: romantic comedies (When Harry Met Sally & You’ve Got Mail among others), holding hands, kissing in the rain, dancing at weddings, wine bars, a girl who gives good mind, cooking together (in a class or at home), sending her flowers, supporting her dreams and snuggling on the couch watching a movie or TV.  Okay, maybe none of that makes me a hopeless romantic, but it does make me cheesy.  Regardless, I tend to like girls who are smart, ambitious and compassionate.  While I’d be lying if I said that someone’s empirical attractiveness is not something that catches my eye, I simultaneously don’t need a girl to be cover-girl-gorgeous to fall for her.  In fact, I love getting to a point where it’s the minor flaws that I find most attractive about a person — eventually you don’t see empirical attractiveness, you just see the girl.  And seeing that girl will make your heart flutter even if she isn’t about to walk the Victoria Secret runway.

Okay, so back to lunch: my co-worker and I were discussing past longer relationships and girls we’d dated recently or flirted with recently since moving to San Francisco.  Out of no where he said something interesting, “I hate it when you find the perfect girl — except she’s just not attractive enough.  You know?  So close.”  I’m paraphrasing a bit, but it was something very close to that.  For him, a girl not being absolutely gorgeous is a big enough flaw to not be interested in them.  I clarified with him that she could be “average” looking and that wasn’t good enough.

In my interactions with this co-worker outside of the office, I’ve seen him be somewhat of a ladies man.  He’s managed to bring three different girls to four of the parties I’ve seen him at, which I suppose implies he’s charming or at least persuasive.  I’m an awful judge of whether or not a man is attractive, so I can’t really comment on that but I don’t think he’s particularly handsome (take that with a grain of salt).  He’s also not a “bad boy,” in that he’s an analyst at a tech start-up who doesn’t come across as a jerk when you first meet him.    So, I wonder, do girls realize that he’s prioritizing their looks above all of their other qualities?  I also wonder that if he were to ever marry a beautiful woman and then her looks faded if he would divorce her or cheat on her because her “most important” quality was no longer there?

I also think that part of his ability to pick up girls is just playing the odds.  If you approach enough girls you’re bound to get some yeses in the sea of nos.  And I wouldn’t say “he’s got game” either.  I’ve seen him try to pick up a girl in the bar and be literally pushed away for being too aggressive.  He was drunk at the time, so maybe he was just unaware of what he was doing, but I once saw him lean in to kiss a girl in a wall-to-wall crowded bar of 20-somethings and the girl had to push him away to make sure his lips didn’t make contact.  It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever seen a guy try to kiss a stranger so aggressively.

After he told me about his requirement that a girl is attractive, he expected me to sympathize with him.  “I don’t think I’m quite so superficial,” I replied somewhat baffled.  I couldn’t think of a more euphemistic word than superficial.  “Superficial?  I’m not superficial.  But you know what I mean,” he chuckled back.  I didn’t know what he meant.  He spent the rest of lunch showing me a dating app that I hadn’t seen in person called Tinder.   He showed how he carefully swipes through pictures of girls and only messages the attractive ones.

I suppose this is probably somewhat typical of both genders — to judge by looks first.  But I think both genders also have the ability and civility to rise above looks when looking for the right partner.  Our ability to be attracted to people’s physique or attractiveness is largely biological.  Our primal ancestors had to judge mates by physical cues that suggested fertility and longevity.  Today, we don’t need those cues, but the biology remains.  What makes the human brain so great, though, is our ability to reason beyond the biological to make better decisions.  When I look for Ms. Right, I look for the girl who I think best compliments my thoughts, feelings, interests and goals.  The girl that makes me a better me, or at least makes me want to be a better me.  Attractiveness is nice, but if it’s the #1 thing you’re looking for, it just seems superficial.

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