originally published in the Sunday Telegraph
I’ve had a revelation. All that primping and preening we women do to impress the men in our lives? They don’t notice. And when we’re having a bad hair day or we’ve gained a couple of pounds? They don’t notice that, either.
In fact, when it comes to women, men don’t notice much of anything.
The other day my husband and I bumped into P, a female acquaintance. I’ve always considered P to be very attractive, but on this occasion she looked – to put it subtly – considerably less ravishing than usual.
“God, P looked crap today!” I remarked to my hubby as we moved on (I don’t bother with subtleties when I’m with my spouse).
“She looked the same as always,” my husband replied. “She looked good.”
“But her face was puffy!” I protested. “And her hair was frizzy! And didn’t you notice that pimple on her chin?”
My husband bestowed upon me the exaggeratedly patient look he usually reserves for explaining number concepts to our eight year old daughter.
“Kerri, P is hot.”
“But she looked terrible today!”
He rolled his eyes. “Only a woman thinks another woman looks good one day and bad the next. A man decides if a woman is hot or not. If she’s hot, she’s hot. If she’s not, she’s not. Whether P is frizzy or pimply or has a horn growing out of her ear, she’s hot. End of story.”
I thought about what my husband said as P disappeared into the distance. (Her hair really was a mess.) If it was true – and a far reaching survey of my two closest male friends has since confirmed it – then a lot of male behaviour began to make sense.
So that’s why men don’t appreciate celebrity magazines. They don’t look gleefully at shots of J-Lo’s cellulitic thighs and think “Ah, I see! She’s fat and ugly after all!” They think “The girl is sex-on-legs. Stop wasting my time.”
And that’s why men don’t notice the nice features in a woman they find unattractive. (“She’s got such lovely eyes!” I’ll say. “She’s still a shocker,” my husband will reply.)
And that’s why men can’t recognise when a normally plain woman scrubs up beautifully for a special occasion. (“She looks exactly the same,” my husband says. “She’s just got mascara on.”)
Men – heterosexual men, anyway - don’t notice details. They don’t see a couple of extra kilos, or a couple of wrinkles, or bulge around the tummy. They just see hot or not. As my friend J says, “We women notice when someone is looking tired or washed out, but a man is just appreciating her bum and boobs.”
Women will focus on the good features of people we like, and hone in on the bad features of people we don’t. Men, however, aren’t influenced by such piffling considerations as personality. As my husband has said, completely without guilt or irony, “Yes, M is a horrible person. But she’s hot.”
Understanding this about men can be very liberating. Clearly there is no need to expend all that effort on hair products, clothing and makeup. If a man thinks we’re hot, he’ll think we’re hot no matter what we’re wearing or how long our eyelashes are or whether we’ve been on an eating binge for a week. And if he thinks we’re not, then no amount of Pantene or Maybelline or Lemon Detox will change his mind.
Still, it’s not like we can relax and completely let ourselves go. We still have to present ourselves nicely to other women.
Because we women are each other’s worst enemies, and our own and everyone else’s harshest critics.
And let me assure you. We notice everything.