October 16, 2009

Looking Good, Babe! (At Least To Me.....)

Dennis, the guy behind the counter at my local chicken shop is large. Very large. He’s also what my mother would refer to as a ‘rather plain’ young man (my mum is nothing if not diplomatic). He is, however, a lovely person and I enjoy having a chat with him when I come in to buy dinner for the kids (using ‘dinner’ in the sense of ‘hot chips’). Frequently, Dennis’s sister is in the chicken shop with him. She is equally large and equally plain and remarkably similar in appearance. Except that she is not his sister at all. She is his girlfriend, and – apart from the fact that his parents deny it – they could be twins separated at birth.

Now, Dennis and his girlfriend fascinate me, because they are clearly in love, and clearly extremely physically attracted to each other. I know this because I’ve seen them fondling, which – until I was alerted to the fact that they were not actually related – made me more than a little uncomfortable.

What interests me about Dennis and his girlfriend is the evident synchronicity of their appearances. Now, obviously there is no such thing as a universal scale of attractiveness, otherwise how can I explain the fact that not everyone in the world finds my husband irresistibly gorgeous? However, I think it isn’t too far a stretch to suggest that on a scale of One to Ten - where Brad and Angelina are a Ten, and your ancient ex-history teacher with the bulbous nose and yellow teeth is a One – then Dennis and his girlfriend both score around a Three.

Now this is clearly not a problem for them, as they are totally hot for each other. But if Dennis was an Eight or Nine - if he had been blessed with a fabulous face, went to the gym occasionally, and stopped eating all of that fried chicken - in other words, if he looked more like Zac Ephron, and less like Homer Simpson - would he still be as madly in love with his obese girlfriend?

I know this is going to be a contentious issue, because we all like to believe that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that looks just aren’t important. Really beautiful women ‘want to be loved for who I am, not what I look like!’, and less genetically blessed women want to be found attractive for the same reason. We all want to think that Dennis would have chosen the same girlfriend even if he was gorgeous himself. But the proof is in the pudding.

I know there are always exceptions, but very frequently people end up with partners who are remarkably similar in appearance – either in their degree of attractiveness, or quite literally in terms of facial structure and features. In fact, looking at photos taken of a recent dinner party with seven couples, I can see that five couples could have passed as brother and sister, and the remaining two would certainly have been rated as good looking (or not) as their partners. I would guarantee that, had I shuffled the pictures of each of the 14 participants, a stranger could have matched each woman to her correct spouse.

Now, we can all think of examples of exceedingly stunning women married to remarkably unattractive men. Generally in these cases there are compensating factors, like money, fame, and…. well…. just money or fame, really. And when we occasionally see very plain women with really attractive men, no doubt the same pattern is at work. As an acquaintance commented to me recently, ‘When my friends meet my husband, they assume I’m really rich’.

Now I know some of you are going to be squealing about how cynical I am: “Love is blind!”, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”….. but come ON! How many couples do you know where one partner is incredibly attractive and the other incredibly plain, with all else being equal? REALLY????

And why is this? Why are we attracted to what is similar? Was my husband’s face comforting because it reminded me of my family of origin? Was it a narcissistic attraction to myself in male form? Or was it an attempt to continue my own genetic line in my offspring? You know, so that even if they looked exactly like their father (which they freakishly – and, quite unfairly - do) they’ll still end up looking a little bit like me?

Well, I’m sure these factors do play a part, but certainly not consciously. Consciously, I fell in love with my husband because he shared my love of West Coast Coolers and looked cute in a white suit (not, mind you, the criteria I would have today).

But why did I fall in love with him and not the captain of the varsity basketball team? Well, firstly because it wasn’t High School Musical, and if there was a basketball team, I didn’t know the captain. But even if I had, I suspect he would have been off kanoodling with the head of the cheerleading squad (if there had been a cheerleading squad, which there was not, given as it wasn’t… you know.. High School Musical) instead of giving his attention to me.

You see, when it comes to the game of love, I think a very large part of our choice boils down to access.

I don’t mean to be cynical because there are always people who love others for who they are no matter what they look like. But the reality is that most people are conscious of looks when meeting potential partners, which means that a good looking person simply has a wider pool of potential mates from which to choose. In other words, I – with my slightly daggy looks and great personality – had to compete with the totally stunning girls with great personalities. And my husband - with the white suit and West Coast Cooler – had to compete with… well… guys with even greater assets.

So it’s not a deliberate decision to seek a partner at your own level of attractiveness; it’s just that the field is narrowed down for you. Which is helpful, really. If I’d been bombarded with all the fabulously wealthy, famous, and gorgeous basketball stars, I would not have noticed my future husband in his lovely white suit. (Well, actually I probably would have, the thing was practically fluorescent. But you get my drift.) And I’m glad I did. My husband may only be an 8 (okay, 7.5), but he’s MY 7.5. And one woman’s 7.5 is another woman’s 10. Just as one man’s 3 is Dennis’s 9, and clearly the love of his life.

Unless she really is his sister. I’m still not 100% sure.

originally published in TRIBE magazine

24 comments:

  1. Yes, yes and yes! When husband and I first started going out we were asked if we were brother and sister on more than one occasion. And at my engagement party in Perth (where my parents are) all my parents' friends laughed at how much husband looks like my dad. And I look like my dad....you get the picture. Gosh it sounds weird to verbalise this.
    Anyway husband and I have often discussed our similar levels of attractiveness (or lack there of?!). He used to insist my number was higher....but I think that wad part of his approach to courting. Now he likes to compare us feature by feature as we compose a pretend perfect child who gets the best of both of us. And yes, there are features that we both think our own is the better option. But I always win on hair.....by default.
    Now that i have exposed our sick litle marriage secrets....farewell!

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  2. I totally get it, and have done exactly what you write of Kerri! My husband is similar in stature and build to my brother and my dad. When people don't know him they comment how much like my side of the family the kids are, when they meet him though it is clear they are all the image of their dad. Wierd and a little icky. One of my husbands friends once said to him at a party (in front of me) Oh you've married up! Then looked me up and down and added, not by much, but definitely up. CHARMING!

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  3. You. Are. So. Right.

    Mind you, I have about as much experience doing this kind of fieldwork as a Prada shoe does being cheap. But I can tell you that myself, not exactly a 10, am attracted to people way out of my league. I would, if I had the chance, bat above my average.

    I don't, I haven't.

    Having said that, personality is a massive factor for me if I've known someone a long(er) period of time and I find attraction creeping in with awesome personalities where it otherwise wouldn't.

    Good God, maybe love really is blind? And not only blind, comatose and being fed liquids through a tube.

    God help me now.

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  4. Sadly i have to agree with you, why sadly you ask well the person who is my soul mate and also looks enough like me that even my mum sadi if she didn't know beeter she would swear she dropped another kid. Which is great i have some i love dearly in my life who loves me to, one down side kids he is gayer than Christmas
    Bummer!

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  5. My hubbie and I met quite young and he was (and still is, well I think) quite hot, in a menacing, italian sort of way. Completely different to my reddish, hard-drinking, scotsmen family. As he did then, he still completely rocks my boat. Our interests have always been very different but during my 'hot' moment many years ago I think we would have been the same number. This being said we have a friend and he is easily an 8 and his wife maybe a 4, but he has always been totally infatuated with her (she really is great) right from the day they met. Go figure??

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  6. Weird isn't it?

    I would say that 95% of couples are very evenly matched but there are times when you get miss matches and they are really jarring.

    Like someone i know who is extremely attractive and very successful in her career yet, she always seems to pair up with guys who can only be described as "punching above their weight"!

    Does this say more about her or him? Or, do some people just not "fit the norm"?

    Perplexing

    Having said all that, clearly my husband is gorgeous - ergo so am I? oops, maybe not!

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  7. The first time my mum met my boyfriend, she said "Oh, he looks just like your cousin Peter..." Gross, thanks Mum. Then the kicker, "... before he had the surgery." My cousin had plastic surgery on his face and my mother was basically calling my new boyfriend the before shot!

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  8. I still remember a friend of my boss seeing my wedding photos and making the comment "geez I hope he stays with her, he's such a good looking man". Um thanks bitch. But probably true. Like the story above, am prob a 4 with hub, I reckon (well in our days) an 8. We look nothing alike. Him a tanned blond with controlled hair, me pasty and curlied haired. I certainly won out of the partnership that's for sure.


    The union of Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts still stumps me but.

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  9. you know what - I think that instead of doing this far healthier and actually if I look at my family members and friends who have the least emotional baggage - true - thesis, I have gone the 'girls fall in love with some version of their father' route - unfortunately my father was shall we say not QUITE the nicest person in the world...so i'm waiting to progress through this stage and get to the point of falling for guys who are like my step-dad, who came along when i was 15 (figure I should be at about this stage now - first bf at 16, 31 now) - hes normal and solid and nice...wish me luck
    Or then again - maybe its just because I think i'm hideous...

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  10. My husband, his sister & myself went to a family wedding (his side) quite a few years ago. They are distant family and we didn't know anyone else on the table. It was assumed that I was the sister and his sister was his wife- I've never really quite got over it!!

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  11. Zac EFRON kerri, EFRON lol.

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  12. A friend of mine was teaching English in foreign country, and a little girl told her "I am ugly so I will marry an ugly person."

    How sad is that?!?!

    The same friend's partner was at a job interview where the interviewer told him after shaking hands "you are very good looking so I think we will hire you" !!!

    Hilarious!

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  13. I agree, I think most people do end up with similar looking partners... same goes for people and their dogs!

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  14. I fell in love with my husband cos he was hot...does that make me hot too? Ba ha ha ha. Well 12 years ago we were, now we both resemble the marshmellow man on Ghostbusters.

    So true on all accounts!

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  15. Great article, found you via Mia, thanks! I remember Psych studies 'proving' that people are attracted to others with a similar level of attractiveness (this was a loooong time ago, so, not sure how credible). I'm pale with strawberry blonde hair and have always gone for darker guys so that I could breed out the red (no, seriously, red heads are no turn on for me)! No one else in my family has my colouring. However, my husband (Italian - gorgeous) has a thing for actress Monica Belluci (dark hair, big ruby lips like his etc...) and I just call him narcisistic - hoping to shame him out of his pale girl aversion. So, he really isn't (only) attracted to me for my looks - should be reassuring huh!?!?!?

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  16. hmmm, so that INCREDIBLY CUTE guy I've been chatting to... I should just give up now.. cos he's waaaaaayyy outta my league!!!

    That being said, I do have a thing for guys with red hair, not ugly nerdy types, but u know like seth green... he's DELICIOUS!!!

    sooo, still undecided on the cute guy... I am sooo attracted to his personality!!!

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  17. We studied this phenomenon in psychology at uni. There's no way Dennis would be with this lady if he was more attractive

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  18. great story.
    Is it possible, do you think, in the scenario when a gorgeous woman goes out with an ugly guy, it says something about the level of attractiveness the woman perceives she has? Ie - some gorgeous women have low self-esteem and maybe that is why they end up with an ugly bloke (they probably don't consciously do it) my theory... great to discover your blog!!!

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  19. I'm not too sure if I agree with that. My current boyfriend and I are quite completely different. He's tall, blonde, blue-eyes and very thin. Not trying to be negative, but I am really quite fat, brown hair, brown eyes (although am still tallish...). Don't see the match.
    I see the match a lot more in best friends though. For example, a lot of people have seen photos of us and asked if we were brother and sister. There are a lot of girls at school who look identical to their best friend (usually after choosing to dye their hair and dress together but still...)

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  20. Tag http://wp.me/pF4hl-1l :)

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  21. I fell in love with my husband cos he was hot...does that make me hot too? Ba ha ha ha. Well 12 years ago we were, now we both resemble the marshmellow man on Ghostbusters.

    So true on all accounts!

    ReplyDelete
  22. My hubbie and I met quite young and he was (and still is, well I think) quite hot, in a menacing, italian sort of way. Completely different to my reddish, hard-drinking, scotsmen family. As he did then, he still completely rocks my boat. Our interests have always been very different but during my 'hot' moment many years ago I think we would have been the same number. This being said we have a friend and he is easily an 8 and his wife maybe a 4, but he has always been totally infatuated with her (she really is great) right from the day they met. Go figure??

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sadly i have to agree with you, why sadly you ask well the person who is my soul mate and also looks enough like me that even my mum sadi if she didn't know beeter she would swear she dropped another kid. Which is great i have some i love dearly in my life who loves me to, one down side kids he is gayer than Christmas
    Bummer!

    ReplyDelete

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