This girl I met on a dating site attends another college, three hours away, so we’ve only talked on the phone. I’ve experienced the online/in-person divergence before, so I’m worried. I’ve seen photos, but they’re blurry face shots or half-body shots. My friends and family say I’m being shallow, that I should focus on how good a person she is. I’m not bad looking, but I could lose 10 pounds, so I see their point. But I’m a smart guy with a promising career ahead, and I really desire an attractive woman (at least better than average).
— Fearing Big Bertha
Careful what you wish for. If this girl’s true to her pictures, she’ll show up on your date with a blurry face and a body that ends where they cropped the photo.
Ignore your friends and family, who won’t be the ones sleeping with your girlfriend (well, presumably). It’s anything but shallow to make sure a woman has the looks you need to be hot for her. In fact, one of the unintentionally crueler things people do is tell themselves they’ll work up an attraction simply because somebody is kind, funny, and tells the cashier when she gives back too much change. These are lovely qualities, but if you aren’t already attracted, the XXX-est you’ll want to get with a woman is xoxo-ing her — as written in pink cursive in “To Grandma!” Hallmark cards.
But, does a guy who could stand to depork a little get to be picky about a woman looking just like her photo (give or take 20 pounds)? Actually, yes. Less so in college, when women aren’t worrying about how they’ll pay the mortgage and tend to go for the cutest boyfriend they can get. But, as I’m always pointing out, countless studies across cultures show that male sexuality is looks-driven, while women evolved to prioritize money and mojo in men. That’s why it’s women asking “Do I look fat in these pants?” while the parallel question from men would be “Do I look unemployed on this couch?” (Answer: Even more so when it’s sitting out on the curb.)
Not surprisingly, in a recent University of Wales study, women found the same man’s face significantly more attractive when he was pictured driving a rich-guy car — a Bentley Continental — than a regular-guy car: the Ford Fiesta hatchback. The interesting thing about this study? When men hot-or-notted the same woman driving the two cars, they found her no more or less attractive in the Bentley than the Fiesta. Men, likewise, aren’t that compelled by a woman’s salary or position, or as author Alain de Botton tweeted, “Yet to be born: the man who slept with a woman principally because she had written a book he liked.”
So, what’s with going after the e-mail order girlfriends? That’s for the Rogaine generation: the 48-year-old guy who’s always either working late or working on convincing 28-year-old girls on dating sites that he is 35, really rich, and still has hair (and not just growing out of his nose). You’re in college. Never again will you be in a place so swarming with dateable women — women who’ll want to know stuff like “You goin’ to that kegger?” and “Oh, cool, you’re poli sci, too?” as opposed to “How do you feel about dating a single mother?” Grow a pair and lean over in class and talk to girls. Sure, it’s scary, but nowhere near as scary as spending a month falling for somebody’s “English/Irish looks” online, then looking across a candlelit dinner table at a woman who’s much more English bulldog.
Life is a gurney
I liked this guy I was dating until he started wanting to come over daily. When I said that was too much, he started using his son’s illness (sickle cell anemia) as a reason he needed to see me. Last week, I learned he has several chronic diseases. I’m a single mother with twin girls suffering from mood disorders. I really don’t have time or energy for two new sick people.
The guy does have a lot to offer — along the lines of “How ’bout I come over for a glass of wine and let you change my blood?” I can just hear him trying to smoothtalk himself into your bed: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” (Hmmm, that’s not working?) “Okay, my son’s also fallen!” This guy doesn’t so much care about you as he cares about your meeting his needs. You owe your time and energy to your twins, not some dude who winked at you on infirmpeople.com. Beyond that, it’s okay to want a man who’ll take you away from your problems; a man who might sometimes ask you to put your nursie hat on for him — but only when your Girl Scout uniform is at the cleaners.
Amy Alkon’s just-published book: “I See Rude People: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society” (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).