“There’s just something about him,“ my friend Nan muses. “Something sexy about the way carries himself. That nonchalant come-hither look he gives.”
“Not traditionally good looking.” I add, “Inarguably on the chubby side. Like a sweet comforting teddy bear you can’t help but squeeze.”
“I know what you mean,” says Nan, “I’ve always been a sucker for that salt-and-pepper aesthetic.” “If only he weren’t…you know…”
“… a cat?” I venture.
We slowly turn to look at each other. Mouths agape, eyes wide in disbelief as it dawns on us that it isn’t a man we’ve been describing at all but rather, a cat. My cat Petie.
Nan, not the biggest feline-fan, looks like she might be sick.
Had we reached a new all-time low? Not at all, but in describing this attractive “being” (let’s leave it at that) it came to my attention that what we forgive in cats, we also forgive in men. Women frequently overlook physical imperfections in potential mates. Or better, see these in a positive light – the portly man is sweet and cuddly, the bald man confidently sexy, facial scars deemed rugged and manly.
Do men share the same gift of oversight, I wondered?
I set forth to find out.
From the Horses Mouth
I started by asking my friend E_____ how he evaluates the attractiveness of a potential mate, reassuring him that I wanted the honest truth. “Look,” he said. “Men are simple. It’s like this. There are two types of women. Beddable and not.” (Note: beddable was not the exact word he used, but in effort to keep this blog PG-13, I leveraged creative license.)
Okay, so, men are visual. Looks matter. Looks are even more important than the innate fertile cues some women exhibit. For instance, I’m willing to bet an unattractive woman with large mammary glands, wide birthing hips and luscious lips still isn’t making E’s “beddable list”.
The more I thought about it, the more it started making sense. A man must cast line after line before he gets even one nibble. It’s a numbers game and the most efficient strategy is to cast a wide net first to see who bites. But where to cast in the first place?
A man must narrow down the field to begin the expedition. The most time-effective means of evaluation is the superficial. Personality, intellect, morals take longer to ascertain. No sense in investing time when you might be fishing in the wrong pond to begin with. Overlooking the physical at the early stage isn’t beneficial to the hunt.
Does a ring change things?
“A woman might forgive physical imperfections at the start, but once you’re married, all bets are off”, said my friend G____ who’s been married for three years now. “When we were dating, she never said anything about my back hair, and she swore my paunch was cute and gave her more to love. Now, she’s trying to get me to eat healthy, and work out, and seems to find something new wrong with me on the hour. But am I allowed the same free expression? Ha! Good forbid I say anything about her appearance, I’d never hear the end of it. Can you imagine what people would say if they heard me criticize the body of the woman who bore my children?”
Ladies, it seems there might be an up-side for us down the road. While men might be more critical with physical evaluation at the start, it seems we become more critical and men more tolerant as time goes on.
Stringing the Catch Along
According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men not only base women’s attractiveness on physical features, but also agreed on what they consider attractive and unattractive more so than women did.
As a group the women had some preference for men with desirable physical attributes (thin, muscular), but how they judged overall attractiveness isn’t as tightly linked to the physical. They did not agree on which men in the study were attractive.
“Ah,” interjects my cat-loving friend Barbi. “That explains why I was crazy for our yellow tabby growing up while my sister settled her affections on the Persian.”
Perhaps. Attractiveness to women is more subjective, less predictable. Therefore, they might encounter less competition from other women for the men they find attractive.
Men, on the other hand, have it tougher. If we agree that the women they find attractive are also found desirable by other men, a guy is going to invest more time and energy in attracting and then guarding their mates from other potential suitors.
Back to the cat. Nan and I agreed that not only had we anthropomorphized him, but we willingly overlooked his un-overlookable flaw—a giant belly.
“He’s like one of those toys—the kind you unzip at the belly and stuff your pajamas in,” I said lovingly.
Nan looked down at her stomach. “Do you think there’s a man out there who’d say the same about us?
“According to the polls, not at first. But once they’re hooked you can grow all the belly fat you like.”
“I can’t wait,” she said.