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I’m Done With Pretty

Enough With The Gauntlet of Hot or Not

The other night I stood listening to the familiar logic of a forty-something man explain to me that he needs to feel intense physical attraction to a woman to even think about dating her. The thinking being that the eventual and inevitable decline in physical chemistry means that the attraction has to begin at the highest level in order for the expected decline to settle at a tolerable level.

As I listened I wondered yet again (spoiler alert: I’ve heard this revelatory philosophy before), what of getting to know a woman? Letting her charms unfold. Being drawn closer to her by virtue of who she is. There seems to be little room for the maturation of attraction based on the delights of discovery.

The crazy part is that this has become an accepted philosophy of mate selection in our culture. I say crazy because in my dating life I have met many of these men on the other side of divorces. Nearly all married the prettiest woman they figured they could reasonably secure and were surprised when the physical attraction didn’t sustain the relationship. It turned out to be a poor indicator of what kind of mates these women would be, value alignment, common interests, even sexual compatibility. All things that can flourish with a better match. And yet, they divest themselves of wife number one (or two) only to run out on the dating scene and subject the rest of us to this hotness rating regardless of similar interests, good conversation or interesting life pursuits.

We all have an innate response to beauty but it mystifies me that even as adults men rely on this sole barometer as a gate-keeper for romantic interest. I feel the intense scrutiny on the most casual of dates. It’s a bummer, even when I am judged favorably. What I see reflected is an exageration of my good qualities. So smart! So successful! So sexy! I am pressured to be the fantasy woman they are envisioning, not my fantastic but highly flawed actual self.

‘Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female’ Erin McKean

For my part I am putting an end to the question of being hot or not. Here’s my answer: I don’t care. It’s subjective and unhelpful. I am exhausted with the idea I have to measure up to some instant fuckability rating to be considered as a potential mate or dating partner.

None of this means I intend to stop exercising or consider how I present myself. It does mean that whatever self-care I do is entirely for me. I prefer my hair short with a natural, tomboyish look. To me, this is the height of sexiness. If my dating partners don’t agree, I can live with that.

Holding our ground on what we consider to be womanly and attractive has the effect of teaching men (those we are raising and in our lives) that how we present ourselves is how we expect to be evaluated. Otherwise we risk being swept up in a race to the bottom. One need only to look at the effects of porn on the modern aesthetic to see what happens when we stop paying attention to our influences. It has exaggerated beauty conventions and made us all believe our hygeine is improved by being hairless (no).

If men and women are convinced the the only path to romance is to be conventionally desirable there is no end to the cosmetics, workouts and surgery we can be manipulated into purchasing. To boot, it distracts us from the qualities that we need to see more clearly. The kind that create a lasting connection.

Humor is sexy, grace is sexy. Being good, giving and game is sexy. Touch is sexy. Being considered and appreciated is sexy. How someone walks is sexy. Ideas are sexy. What you do with your life is infinitely more attractive than the wrapping. I prefer to live in the erotic space of the mind.

Beauty is the shallow end of the pool, the whole person is the exploration of an ocean.