shallow.

by Liz on 09.21

Recently, a discussion surfaced on Twitter regarding how many gorgeous girls are paired with guys who are…

Erm.

Ugly.

Shallow, sure. But no one said it wasn’t.

Partially brought on by my own (possibly prejudiced) wonderings aloud about my friends- all of whom are flawlessly beautiful, and many of whom are dating/marrying straight doofs.

Maybe we all each THINK we’re marrying Adonis, what with our love-goggles and all. Possible, right?

But, there definitely is an objective measurement of attractiveness- “eye of the beholder” notwithstanding. Symmetry and golden ratios have been found to be more attractive. Certain features having prominence over others, too. And so on. You may be more of a George Clooney than a Brad Pitt girl (and why wouldn’t you) but you’re never a Steve Buscemi girl. (or am I wrong there?)

I know that speaking for myself, I dated tons of ugly guys. (well, not tons… I’M NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, THANKS) And not just in the sense of retrospective wondering, “Wow, what did I see in that guy?” but the straight on, while I’m dating him, thinking, “Well. There are more important things.”

Those relationships weren’t successful. One of the many reasons (Oh so many. So so many), I’m sure, is that I just wasn’t attracted to these guys. Sure, “there are more important things.” But that’s still pretty damn important.

This is where I get to sound even more shallow. I think looks are important. Maybe “looks” isn’t the right word- but attraction. Attraction is important. And that’s why my heart hurts a little bit for my friends- I worry that they’re settling. And I worry that it’s a problem.

So. Do you think attraction is important to the success of a relationship? Do you notice lots of beautiful women paired with ugly guys? And if you do, do you think it’s because of love goggles, or settling?

And here are two articles saying that couples are most successful when the male is less attractive.Which I find weird and appalling and kind of gross.
Psychology Today
NY Daily News

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Your Comments | Add a Comment

d-day says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:22 am

I think attraction is very important, but I think attraction is a really personal thing, so just because you see a guy that's not as attractive as your friend, your friend may see qualities beneath the surface that are irresistible to her. I think personality has a LOT to do with attractiveness, as much as or more so than physical attributes.

there have been times in the past when I was worried a friend was settling, but it was more personality issues than looks.

but who am I to talk about personality, clearly I married for looks. ;) also I guess my marriage is doomed because I think Zach is way cuter than I am.

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The Sentimental Suitcase says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:22 am

Oh Liz I have often thought about this too for my friends! Because I did the very same thing. Settled for an ugly guy. (ouch sorry to my EX) but anyways thank goodness he dumped me and now I am married to a hottie. He's even hotter than me!;)
But now you've got me thinking. Maybe he's not hot, maybe I have love goggles on and then what does that say about how hot I think I am?
Xo
Sam

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Kerry says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:23 am

I personally think attraction is very important in the "foundation" phase of the relationship. I was super hot for my husband, physically, when we started out. I don't feel that tingle so much anymore, but honestly I don't need it so much anymore – I'm hot for so many other things about him now.

And as far as the disconnect in attractiveness between partners…the conversation I always hear about that involves the money factor. Do we take into consideration Steve Buscemi's bank account?

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Rachelle says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:26 am

My husband is very conventionally attractive. One friend described being blinded by his good looks when she first met him. It's a big change from dating only "attractive to me" guys before. Sometimes I feel more self conscious about how I look in comparison, especially when I gain weight. Mostly I feel damn lucky though.

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:27 am

@dday yeah! that's what i mean about "love goggles" i guess. i think josh is way way super hot. but maybe you all are going, "em. srsly?"

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Shannon says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:29 am

Attraction is definitely a necessity for a successful marriage. As is a healthy sex life. I don't think a person has to be conventionally handsome to be attracted to them, but you better like what you're kissing at night, or your relationship will flop.

I'm very attracted to my husband. The first time I brought him around my family, my mom thought I could do better. Pffft. He's my hottie and I love him.

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petitechablis says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:38 am

My theory about attractive women with unattractive guys is that women are, on average, better looking than men. We are conditioned to think more about our appearance and trained to spend more time on it than guys do, thus raising our gender's average attractiveness (frequently at the cost of sanity and self-esteem, but that's another issue). Therefore, in a heterosexual relationship, it is statistically probable that the female partner will be better-looking than the male. If you want, I can draw a chart ;-)

In all seriousness: I do think attraction is important because attraction is often not just about "shallow" physical stuff. I also dated a guy who I didn't think was that good-looking. I told myself that wasn't so important and felt guilty for even thinking it. In retrospect, my lack of physical attraction to him was a signal that things were off emotionally — my real problem wasn't his looks, it was that he didn't respect me or treat me well. A total stranger would probably put my ex and my husband on roughly a par looks-wise, but to me, my husband is infinitely handsomer and sexier!

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anna and the ring says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:42 am

Is attraction the same as attractiveness? Bean is probably more attractive (in looks) than me.

I am incredibly attracted to Bean not just because I think he's hot but for a variety of reasons. I guess because I'm not hot I care more about the other bits?

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Beth says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:54 am

I remember overhearing a conversation between my mom and dad after I'd gone to bed one night. I was probably 15. Being a nerdy and somewhat chubby teenager, he was suggesting that I'd probably marry an engineer, a guy who likes to hike but not hunt, and who was somewhat of a nerd (knowing my dad I know this to mean "nerdy looking").

I was a little saddened by this but it did all kind of make sense. And enter Forrest eight years later. I was attracted to him but had kind of assumed that I was the only one who thought he was good looking. I remember showing a couple aunts pictures before they met him and my Aunt Lori said (I won't ever forget this): "Damn Beth" with nodded assents from around the circle of women. I guess I was wrong…

Now we just have to tackle the issue about me getting my hackles up when he suggests I "dress like a girl." (Ummm…to be fair to him…he's usually pretty justified…)

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Laura says:
Sep 21, 2011 8:56 am

A co-worker of mine has a theory that there is always one good looking person in each couple, and asks people on meeting them whether they are the good looking one or their partner. Um, yeah. I don't think this theory has undergone rigourous testing TBH.

My husband is the only person I've dated who I think is straight up HOT. But, I was still attracted to exes even though it was more of a 'beauty in the eye of the beholder' situation.

I think it's chemistry that is important, and that can be found in the most unlikely of places. The attraction must form part of the chemistry though?

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Novice Wife says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:03 am

Very, very early in my dating life I tried to not be superficial and date a guy because he was nice. That went spectacularly badly. And, in retrospect, I think it was unfair to the guy as well – everybody deserves to find someone who is going to be totally hot for them, whether it's because of love goggles or something else.

So, yeah, I think it's fine to be shallow but I also think somebody's personality or their way of interacting with you may boost the way you see their looks. To be honest, I think I would take Steve Buscemi over Brad Pitt because he seems more interesting. But, of course, George will always have my heart.

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:11 am

@novice wife back up. george is MINE.

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Maddie says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:22 am

My best friend's boyfriend is ugly. And I also don't like him. But sometimes I wonder if how much I don't like him is affected by the fact that I think she can do so much better, in both the looks and personality department.

Then again, another friend is dating a guy who isn't traditionally good looking. But I think he's adorable because he's also a good person.

So who knows? Maybe personality taints looks and makes someone EVEN UGLIER than they would be if they didn't suck?

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Maddie says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:25 am

Although… have you heard about the study that suggests that couples fare better if the girl feels that she is better looking than the guy? Or maybe that was about weight and relationships faring better if women weigh less than their partners (in which case I'm screwed. Michael is 6'1" and 150lb. NEVER GONNA HAPPEN).

In any case, I think there is something to be said about self esteem in here.

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Ariel says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:30 am

The first thing I noticed about my now-husband was that he looked like a young Rowan Atkinson (of the Black Adder years) and that made me look twice. I have a thing for Black Adder and now I have my very own. It is a very particular taste and I don't know if people think my husband is ugly but when I meet him at work in a sea of suits, his face makes my heart leap every time, especially if his hair is getting a little long.
I don't know if that answers your question, but there it is. Maybe it really is in the eye of the beholder and no one really knows what goes on in a relationship except the people in it.
In terms of the Steve vs Brad vs George question, there is something about 'Sexy Ugly' that intrigues me.

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lizzie says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:38 am

first of all – i worked with a chick that was OBSESSED with steve buscemi. she wanted to have his babies. her desktop wallpaper was his face.

also – i'm with you, largely. attraction can't be overlooked and i feel like it is sometimes. sometimes chemistry is overlooked as well – everytime you hear someone saying, "well, i need to stop being so picky, he's a really sweet guy," romance dies a little bit.

but.

i had this FUGLY boyfriend once. really. now that i'm removed from the situation i took a drastic, devastating step down. but when i was with him (and for a while after) he was irresistible. he had swagger and that something that draws you to someone. confidence.

i also tend to look at people through a lens of their personality – if they're dicks, i look for every potential flaw in them. if they're sweet, you overlook a lot and you see the best possible version of that person all the time.

anyway, i'm glad isaiah judges me by my daytime face, not my nighttime/morning face.

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LPC says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:46 am

Chemistry, I have found, is different from looks. Chemistry is non-negotiable, the assessment of looks really varies from person to person. For example, I so do not get the whole Ryan Reynolds things. Nor Ryan Gosling, for that matter.

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:53 am

@lpc i don't get the ryans, either.

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Maddie says:
Sep 21, 2011 9:55 am

@LPC @Liz You can have George if you leave me Ryan Gosling and the young Paul Newman. I think the allure is that you *almost* believe they don't know they're good looking.

Swoon.

Reply

Maggie says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:08 am

I really disagree. And this is going to be really ramble-y and disorganized. ;)

First of all, despite findings on the biological attractiveness of symmetry, looks are still VERY subjective, very much based on the culture in which you grew up, what you/your family looks like, etc. (also- biological attraction, e.g. virility, waist-to-hip ratios, no disease, etc. might be the starting point, but it's not the entire basis for how we choose life partners, since most of us plan on doing more than just procreating and moving on).

And sexual attraction is related but also separate– pheromones, smell, humor, charisma, how they move, etc.

I wouldn't call George Clooney or Brad Pitt ugly at all, but… they don't do much for me. I'm not into pretty-boy conventional types. For the longest time, I had a massive crush on Adrien Brody. Specifically, in The Pianist. Yeah, he's still an actor and not quite Steve Buscemi, but he's not "typically handsome." My sister is gaga over teddy-bear-type men, like Seth Rogen.

I swear, name a male celebrity– even the strangest looking guy ever– and some straight female has a crush on him. See: Justin Bieber (ewww). Even Danny DeVito's married.

Sometimes I have wondered if a friend was settling, but never over looks. I think people tend to choose mates who are relatively on the same "level" as them, looks-wise. Maybe one person is slightly higher or lower, but usually the match is fairly even… or there's a good explanation (e.g. $$, fame).

I think at times some women appear to be w/less attractive men because a lot of women (definitely not all!) don't rank looks as important as other qualities… humor, personality, how the guy treats her, how he is in bed. ;) Whereas looks usually seem to be #1 or #2 for most guys (my husband says smart was more important than looks, whew ;)).

B's looks grew on me (by the 2nd date). Now I think he's incredibly hot… but I don't really give a d*mn if anyone else does, or if they think I could "do better." But I do agree that I it's important that the person's SO find them attractive… but then, looks will fade, even on George Clooney. So I think there's GOT to be more than just looks.

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Maggie says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:09 am

@LPC: I don't get the Ryan Gosling thing AT ALL. Ryan Reynolds either.

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Maggie says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:13 am

@Ariel: "there is something about 'Sexy Ugly' that intrigues me."

yes! Jolie laide! Pretty-ugly: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/style/tmagazine/t_b_2122_talk_jolie_laide_.html?pagewanted=print

I like to think I can work this angle myself. ;)

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:14 am

@maggie yes! looks fade. and as you grow to love someone, perhaps the love for them counterbalances the sag and paunch, and you're able to maintain that attraction. but to marry "potential"- with the hopes that eventually the other stuff will make you more attracted- that's what scares me! because i DATED people with that thought. do people MARRY with that thought?

i think we're definitely all uniquely attracted to different people. i just wonder if that's ALWAYS the cause for the apparent disparities.

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Maggie says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:24 am

@liz I have come across women (mostly in online forums) who say they aren't physically attracted to their bf, but maybe they can overcome that, because they really want to be married by 30 (or whatever). That, to me = bad news.

I have gone out w/guys that I didn't find attractive (as in, was actively UNattracted to them, the thought of kissing them made me feel sort of blehh), just to be nice or give them a chance to grow on me, because they were smart and interesting people… thank goodness I didn't keep that up, though. Would've been so unfair to them (one is now w/a girl who thinks he's a dreamboat, so to each her own, I guess).

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Anonymous says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:28 am

Well. At least you admit you're shallow.

If one of my friends ever suggested I was settling cause my husband isn't up to her standards in the looks department, she wouldn't be my friend for too much longer.

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:47 am

@anon yes. that's exactly what i do. typically at the wedding. during a toast.

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Naurnie says:
Sep 21, 2011 10:53 am

attraction = SO important. of course, as you said, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. however, why would you want to be with someone you weren't attracted to? that would put a damper on the sexy time. which we all know is an important part of being hitched.

like this post, liz. like it a lot.

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Nicole says:
Sep 21, 2011 11:03 am

@anon maybe to clarify what Liz is saying…she would believe a friend was settling if she was not attracted to the person she was dating/married to. not if it's a person that Liz finds unattractive. Si?

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Lauren says:
Sep 21, 2011 11:11 am

I TOTALLY dated kiinnnndaaa ugly guys. It became a joke. Not that I'm a model or anything. But I just truly preferred INTERESTING people. That was my line "but he's so INTERESTING." Besides, pretty boys stress me out. Why would I want to be with someone who had girls flinging themselves at them all of the time. NOTHANKYOU.

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nikki says:
Sep 21, 2011 11:45 am

It's certainly nice to hear other people say the person you've chosen to spend forever with is attractive – when I hear it about Brian, I find myself smiling like the grinch with this deliciously smug pride in my heart.

But, it's not necessary, of course. One time, we were at a restaurant with a bunch of friends and the men's and women's bathroom mirrors kind of looked into each other. I was washing my hands and caught a glimpse of the back of a guy washing his hands in the men's room and thought "mmm, hot stuff" and was absolutely delighted when he turned around and it was my husband.

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A Los Angeles Love says:
Sep 21, 2011 12:37 pm

I think attraction is imperative, but I have to agree with Maggie that attractiveness is so subjective. I can't stand the pretty boy blandness of Brad Pitt or the smugness of Clooney but Buscemi is totally ugly-sexy to me. Intriguing, if you will. And intriguing – that spark of personality and edge – absolutely matters in my attraction. When I met Jason, he was… cute-ish. He was 30 pounds heavier, had a bad haircut and terrible clothes. But there was a major spark nonetheless. I started our first date with a "good enough, let's see where this goes" and ended it feeling "Yes, he's cute and I totally want to make out."

Since then, we've BOTH grown into ourselves and look a whole lot more attractive, objectively speaking. It sometimes strikes me that I'm now married to a genuinely cute guy (not hot) and I sometimes get a surge of possessive pride. But I've always seen it in him. And he's always seen it in me. Even when other people ignored our online dating profiles because we weren't hot enough to date (yep. true story.)

So, speaking from the average end of the looks spectrum, attraction is a whole lot different than attractiveness. The eye of the beholder, individual sparks, all that. I've dated way above my attractiveness level and been bored an unattractive. I've dated "down" and been compelled and devastated when dumped. And now I'm dating someone cute, who I think is the hottest man in the world. And I thought that when he was chubby and silly and I'll think it when he's old and wrinkled. Because the spark is pretty much unrelated to how he looks today.

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Sharon says:
Sep 21, 2011 1:17 pm

I think chemistry/attraction are super important. I used to feel bad about refusing to date guys that I didn't find attractive, but then a friend made the point that "Dude, you have to sleep with the person you marry. Don't pick someone who repulses you physically." So there's that.

At the same time… I sometimes feel that I have no right to say that, since I never gave the whole "let's date and see if I grow to think he's cute" thing a chance AND because I married someone whom I think is, objectively, super hot (to the point that I'm pretty convinced he's the one who married down, lookswise) when I was 23. If I were 40 and really wanting to get married/have babies and my only options were guys I wasn't that attracted to, would I feel differently?

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east side bride says:
Sep 21, 2011 1:21 pm

I'm with LPC. It's about chemistry. Looks are totally subjective.

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Rob says:
Sep 21, 2011 1:49 pm

I'm shallow too, Liz. I'm ok with that. However, my opinion of how attractive someone is changes as I get to know them.

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lyn says:
Sep 21, 2011 1:58 pm

I know I'm supposed to be discussing the weird discrepancy between hot girls dating ugly guys, but I'm gonna let my vague insecurities take over here because I genuinely WORRY about the fact that I don't think my husband is an Adonis.

Don't get me wrong; I do find him attractive. Cute. I call him cute often. But he's not at all hot in the traditional sense. He's short (we're the same height), and he's got a slightly thick middle, and he's built like a little Greek statue from years of wrestling and rugby. His feet are uglier than sin, and his calves are short to the point of looking slightly silly. He's got a kind of piggy nose that he inherited from his mom, unfortunately. But he's also got great curly hair and blue eyes and juicy lips, which I like. Basically, he's an amalgamation of attractive parts and less-attractive parts. But it BOTHERS me that I notice this, and that I can rate his features. I see other guys and I'm like DANG, that guy's HOT. I see mine and I'm like, aww, he's cute! There's a difference, and I wonder if this is should be an issue? Should I just think he's plain wonderful in the looks department, bar-none, top-notch?

I know, though, that I'm goofy-looking. I've got my own body issues, and I'm incredibly lucky that my husband doesn't seem to notice mine like I do his. But I do think we're well-matched, in that sense. We're not really that hot, either of us. People don't usually see us on the street and want to get in our pants, you know? And I'm happy I at least got well-matched, in the end. I was in a long-term relationship with ugly guy I wasn't attracted to, and I still kick myself for that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Reply

liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 2:05 pm

@lyn i think the question is- do you wanna do him?

also, josh's feet are uglier. i guarantee it.

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Engineer Baker says:
Sep 21, 2011 2:25 pm

Lyn, that's totally the guilt that I have. At the same time, I've had people say that me & J make sense because we're of similar attractiveness (ouch? thanks?). Then there are moments where he gets a goofy grin or does something ridiculously adorable and there's nothing I can do about it. I melt.

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Sarah says:
Sep 21, 2011 3:04 pm

Good lord, what a loaded subject.

I consider my husband to be extremely attractive. To the point where there have been times were I feel like I look worse standing next to him. That being said, there are things about his looks that I can step back and objectively see aren't the classic definition of "attractive".

I've always been most attracted to guys who were slightly outside the norm in some way or other. Maybe it's because I think that's pretty much right where I sit. I don't like feeling like my partner is prettier than me, but at the same time, I HATE feeling prettier than my partner.

I dated guys who were all over the map looks wise, but (to my great embarassment) if they were someone I found unattractive I always felt like I was doing them a favor. It was shameful. Luckily for everyone involved, we usually didn't date beyond that point (I mean, how could we?), and there doesn't seem to be any lasting resentment.

At the same time, there was a guy who was probably the most attractive of men I've met in real life. In a very conventional way (Latin conventional at that). It registered on everyone we met's faces when they looked at him. Which was fine … I wasn't dating him because he was hot. But it started to wear on me. He was clearly used to being the "pretty" one (had a tendancy of dating very insecure mousy girls), and I threw him off when I wouldn't stand for it. The longer it lasted, the less attractive he became to me.

I am definitely guilty of judging people based on their partner's looks. And yes, I fear my friends have settled by who they end up with. It's shallow, since I know first hand how personality and chemistry can affect how attractive you perceive someone to be, but I still do it. And honestly, I'm not yet sure it's an urge I should be trying to resist.

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Evie says:
Sep 21, 2011 3:22 pm

I think my hairy, balding, big-nosed husband-in-four-days is incredibly handsome. I don't suspect my friends agree, but I don't need them to. I dated a really really hot guy once. He wasn't very funny.

Like Ariel said, when I see his five-o'clock-shadowed face in a crowd, my heart lifts.

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liz says:
Sep 21, 2011 3:36 pm

for the record across the board- i don't think it matters what anyone else thinks. if my friends think their men are hot, AWESOME. i'm just concerned that maybe they don't.

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