Sometimes it is a follow-up to compliments on one's appearance: "How come a gal like you is still single?"
They don't mean, "Why is a gal of your intelligence and wit still single?" They mean, "Why is a gal who spends enough time in front of the bathroom mirror making facial contortions while applying paint still single?"
There seems to be a misconception floating about that the bird with the prettiest plumage (although, in the natural world, it is the male) gets snapped up the fastest. But look about the jungle. Are the all the "older" singles physically unappealing? Are all, for that matter, the married or betrothed individuals so incredibly stunning?
It is one of the hard truths of romance: Desirable people attract other desirable people, while the rest of us — lacking in attractiveness, charisma or success — settle for the best partner who is willing to consider our overtures. In the scientific literature, this idea is enshrined in the concept of mate value, which determines who gets to mate with whom. In popular culture, it is reflected in the choice of comely contestants to vie for the equally comely spouse-to-be on TV shows like “The Bachelor.” Pairing off, it seems, is just one more example that life isn’t fair.
But is this cynicism justified? In a paper that we published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we offer evidence for the seemingly naïve notion that in most romantic contexts your unique appeal is more important than your mate value.
Ah, thank ye, Paul Eastwick and Linda Hunt: "So You're Not Desirable." Yes, physical attractiveness is rated by an initial meeting. But that's not all that is rated.
During an initial encounter, some people generally inspire swooning, others polite indifference and others avoidance. Desirable qualities like attractiveness, charisma and success — the features that differentiate the haves from the have-nots — are readily apparent.
Yet alongside this consensus is an equally important concept: uniqueness. Uniqueness can also be measured.
When asking a long-married couple what is the secret to their marriage, do they ever say, "He aged fabulously, keeping his looks. After all, that's what makes a relationship."
Personality affects the physical rating. From my perspective, personality really affects the physical rating. Some guys sashay into the initial meeting, oozing charisma, but I pull back. I don't care for oozing charisma. Even though he may resemble a male model, he has all the charm of an unwanted cockroach.
But that's me. To another female, he will be irresistible.
. . . it is crucial to keep in mind the obvious (but underappreciated) fact that most people do not initiate romantic relationships immediately after forming first impressions of each other. One recent study of a representative sample of adolescents found that only 6 percent reported that they and their partners formed a romantic relationship soon after meeting.
It seems most likely that it is the consensually desirable people who pull off the rare feat of quickly leveraging an initial positive impression into romance, while a vast majority of us get to know our romantic partners slowly, gradually, over time. Most of us have networks of opposite-sex friends and acquaintances. And even though we would never consider many of them as romantic partners, for a handful, all it would take is the right moment and a spark. These are the contexts that produce most romantic liaisons — and as our recent work shows, these contexts reveal very little consensus with respect to mate value.
In my case, it has happened that my date can't stop smiling when he initially picks me up, but then a few hours later can't wait to unload me. Even the gal who spends a lot of her life shopping, weight maintaining, cleansing, exfoliating, tweezing, makeuping can't catch a break.
Perhaps I've always known this, and that is why I have never thought or said, "Golly, no wonder she's single, she looks like she just fell out of bed." Singleness and shlumpiness are two separate things. I've also never understood it when single girls complain, "I can't wait to get married; then I won't have to blow my hair/get my nails done/have to be dressed up anymore."
|When I can look more like the image on the right I'm just happier. Men aren't in the equation.|
Yet again, "Whatever you do, you do for yourself."