How did this change for you?
February 15, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Are you a woman who used to be invisible to physically attractive men, and now gets a lot of attention and approaches from them? What changed?

I see physically attractive men around, but they never approach me or even look at me. I do get a lot of attention from unattractive men.

I'm wondering about women who used to be in my situation, and turned it around so they are now often approached by physically attractive men even though they weren't before. What changed? I understand "physically attractive" is a matter of opinion, that's fine, just go with your own opinion on their physical attractiveness.

I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny," and if that made a difference. Did it make a difference?

I understand this is a question that might make people want to offer other advice, like suggesting I approach the attractive men myself, or suggesting I care less about physical attractiveness. I understand that but request we just stick to the narrow question.
posted by Sock of Silliness to Human Relations (65 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Confidence, confidence, confidence.

And, regardless of size, wearing clothes that fit well and in which you feel beautiful. That's it. No other secret.
posted by Leezie at 12:45 PM on February 15, 2012 [21 favorites]

I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny," and if that made a difference. Did it make a difference?

I am a woman and my weight (throughout my 20s) has varied from average, to very thin, back to average.

When I was very thin and very unhappy, I got little to no attention from men at all - I think that they must have sensed my lack of confidence and my unhappiness. Simply being thin does not, in my experience, make a difference in terms of the amount of male attention I get.

When I was very thin and relatively happy, I got approximately the same amount of attention that I get when I am average-weight and relatively happy.

When I'm average weight and very unhappy, I also get very little attention.

So, in my experience, how happy/confident I am makes a relatively significant difference in how much male (and female) attention I get. My weight doesn't make much of a difference at all.

For what it's worth, I am queer and was never seeking male attention, but I get a pretty significant amount of male attention anyway (being hit on frequently, sometimes being asked out, men checking me out, etc).
posted by insectosaurus at 12:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The only thing you can do, other than appearance, is improve your approachability; posture, attentiveness of the eyes, what direction you're facing- how busy you look, how focused you are on your surroundings (the here and now) versus whatever you're on your way to do/are in the middle of doing. These may be byproducts of confidence but are certainly not necessary

If you are currently attractive, the reason only unattractive, or otherwise undesirable men may be homing in on you is because your approachability is not a factor to them - they may mistake it for introversion and hope to exploit a lack of boundaries in order to connect w you
posted by MangyCarface at 12:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I go in phases when attracting a lot of male attention, but it hasn't been correlated at all to where I am in the seeming 50lb range I have inhabited in my adult life. From a trim 6/8 to a full 14, men have been all over me. What increases the attention:

Being Single, probably owing to the fact that I was very open to attention
Making lots of eye contact/having a quick smile
Awesome shoes (boots-heels, who knows, probably the confidence part above)
Actively engaging in AND initiating light banter
Showing a little skin (remember boobs or legs, but not both at the same time)
Looking Healthy (shiny hair, gleaming teeth, bright skin)
Being "around", walking or biking around the city, just being where people are
Strong, confident, and slightly hip swinging gait.

and last but not least,
Red hair never hurts.

I guess I've never been skinny skinny, just athletic trim to full and curvy, but that spread didn't alter the attention ratio, truly it was the stuff that embodies confidence and availability.
posted by stormygrey at 1:00 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Male speaking:

Only two ways I've seen this happen to girls I've known. One is some appreciable physical change with age. I'm speaking of adolescence to adulthood, not, say, from the age of 30-40. Usually involves someones face fully developing, but can also be from a physiological change in figure (usually in the areas that the superficial man appreciates, if you know what I mean).

The other thing is weight loss. Here I'm speaking of fat to not fat, not "average weight" to skinny. Skinny will appeal to a certain subset of guys, if I'm being honest, but it's not going to change the entire way a woman is perceived by men (speaking generally, of course).

This being metafilter, I expect no fewer than 70 responses along the lines of "act confident!!!" That will definitely make a difference in how many guys a girl "gets" but it can only do so much. This is not the main distinction between girls who are approached and girls who are not, as we all know.
posted by Patbon at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can you define "approach"? Because there's a huge diff between being attractive (and approachable) to men in places where it's OK (parties, etc), and being "harass-able" by strangers in public. For the latter, I don't care *what* they look like, they can just go away.
posted by cyndigo at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny,"

I lost weight from "overweight" to "average" and it made a huge difference. It was ridiculous (and depressing). Among the behaviors I noticed were that men passing me on the sidewalk or in a store or street made eye contact with me, where when I was heavier they quickly looked away as if to discourage further contact. They smiled more often and spoke to me more often. They offered help (picking up dropped stuff, holding doors) more often.

I might have given it the benefit of the doubt, but markedly, I gained some of the weight back and all this disappeared again. Quite interesting - I can pretty much pinpoint the exact weight point at which I crossed the line from 'invisible' to 'attractive'.

By this I don't mean that no one treats me as attractive at the higher weight, but that random numbers of men treated me as attractive much more often at a lower weight. Noticeable and probably quantifiable difference, had I kept track.

So you are never invisible to everybody, and yes, there are plenty of exceptions where men have individual tastes and respond uniquely to everyone they meet and don't conform to a stereotype. And I would not go to the mat saying women react to men of different sizes much better, either, so I don't think there's a big double standard here though perhaps some. But there is clearly a large swath of men to whom women of the wrong size, age, weight, proportions, face, or whatever are essentially invisible and with whom they seek to minimize or at least narrowly structure their interactions with. I feel, based on a life experience with a few rounds of weight up and downs, this is incontrovertible despite my not actually wanting it to be true.

My confidence is not super externally based and remains quite steady regardless of weight so I really reject that as the trigger, despite how often you hear it. There is something that people often confuse with this sort of confidence, which is actually doing behaviors that signal availability - dressing to impress, initiating flirtatious interactions, etc. If you don't signal availability you probably also get less attention, but that's not the same thing as confidence (as in the I have self-esteem, I'm beautiful and a great person sense). The very fact that there's a stigma, but that you can overcome it by 'acting confident' (when you really mean using attention-getting behaviors that signal availability) sort of proves the case.
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [27 favorites]

A friend of mine lost 50 lbs last year and yeah, every single guy we know noticed. She's not skinny but she's in great shape and has a great figure.

I find I get a lot more attention when I wear my hair down and curly than I do otherwise.

Really, just ask some guy friends. They will not be shy about telling you what they think you could change! whether or not you take their advice is up to you.
posted by fshgrl at 1:10 PM on February 15, 2012

In my experience, wearing clothes that "hang right" makes a huge difference.
posted by Melismata at 1:13 PM on February 15, 2012

once i went from normal weight to skinny and unhealthy and unhappy within a few weeks. I got tons more attention from attractive males, but I felt the attention was much more slimey than the attention I got when being normal weight. Attractive men who were giving me good positive attention did not increase but attractive slimey men more quickly gave me slimeball attention, increasing the overall amount of attention i got from attractive men.

when i go from overweight to normal weight, i get much more attention from attractive men overall. (as you may be able to tell i've been many different weights)
posted by saraindc at 1:14 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm a guy. Confidence is every thing. Believe me, I found that out when I started crushing on my married, overweight, flirtatious boss who had elephant man's disease.

I kid you not. She flirted so much and so confidently that I was attracted to her. I was young, in great shape, and quite attractive then.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, I just wanted to add that last time I was getting all the extra attention I was not by any means "skinny" and never have been - I'm on the short side, more muscly than willowy, and never lacked some body fat. Perversely what the up/down experience taught me is that you definitely do not need to be "skinny" as women usually imagine it to be attractive, though there is an upper limit to the most commonly "attractive" range.
posted by Miko at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2012

I felt the attention was much more slimey than the attention I got when being normal weight

Oh totally, me too. It revealed all sorts of full-of-shit-ness.
posted by Miko at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Much like how they say it's easier to find a job when you've already got one, I get heaps more attention from guys when I already have a boyfriend. I think this is probably because I talk to them like potential friends instead of potential dates, and am just generally more relaxed and chill.
posted by phunniemee at 1:16 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's funny you posted this, I have been considering posting a question from the opposite perspective (why has improving my appearance made me more neurotic?) I decided several years ago to take various concrete steps to try to become more conventionally attractive (weight loss, braces, grew out my hair and took good care of it, learned how to dress better and do my makeup and hair better, etc.) To my amazement it actually sort of worked- I'm definitely more attractive now than I was, say, 5-10 years ago. And I get hit on more. But I'm not sure I'm happier. Things seem to have only gotten more complicated.

To answer your question, yes, losing weight will probably make a difference in how many people approach you. BUT, the problem is that the people you attract this way are probably more likely to be shallow because they like you for your looks and not your personality. I know it sounds so trite but I found it to be brutally true. The attractive men who hit on you when you're skinny and hot may just be trying to get laid, or are insecure themselves and need a trophy girlfriend to validate their worth. The other thing to keep in mind is how comfortable YOU will feel with your new identity. I can attract more men now, but it feels fake. I've cut out eating a lot of the food I like, and I miss it and often wonder how long I can really maintain this weight that doesn't feel natural to me. I also get exhausted by the effort of always trying to do my hair and makeup perfectly (which I now feel like I HAVE to do now that I've invested so much in the rest of my appearance- you feel guilty covering up the body you worked so hard for with bum-around clothes, or putting your long, perfectly cut hair into a sloppy unbrushed knot. Did I mention it's exhausting?)

I am single now after getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship with a very attractive guy. And every time I think of dating a new guy, I either think to myself that he's out of my league based on how I used to look, and that I shouldn't do it because it's only a matter of time before I give up and gain the weight back and get lazy with the rest of it. Or I think maybe I'm out of his league, and what was the point of trying so hard to be attractive if I'm just going to date a guy I could have gotten five years ago? If you're neurotic like me, you can't win. I wish I could just get to a place where I don't care at all about my looks OR theirs. Deep down I think I'm already over it, but some of us have been so heavily conditioned to care about appearance that it takes a lot of force to shake it off, especially if our parents (hell, especially our fathers) were the ones doing the judging. I vividly remember comments about my (not abnormal, but I didn't realize that at the time) weight from my dad as young as 9 or 10 years old.

Anyway, I think it's also an age thing. In my late teens and early twenties I saw how important appearance was, and was desperate to catch up so I could compete in that stupid dating pool. Now that I finally have caught up (in my late 20's) people don't seem to care as much anymore. Or more specifically, they care a lot more about your personality, likes, dislikes, values, etc. Whether you're a nice person. That sort of stuff. Even though I initially attract plenty of guys, it keeps failing to work out for me. I suspect it's a combination of attracting the wrong men by trying to be sexy (they just want sex) and probably the obviousness of my insecurity.

Confidence IS one of the most important things. Appearance is important but I guess what I'm trying to say is after a certain level of attractiveness (and age, probably) you get diminishing returns. Like Patbon mentioned, I think the difference between overweight and average weight makes a much bigger difference than average vs skinny. Other than that, as long as you dress in a way that suits you and are confident and not like an insecure, attention-starved dope like me, that's the best you can do. I think it's better to be a happy, well-rounded 7 or 8 than trying to strive to be a 9 or 10. It's too time and energy consuming and only amplifies insecurity. (I know you said you didn't want advice saying to care less about appearance. But you also asked about experiences from women who have done this, and what changed. For me, the most important change was realizing I simply didn't WANT to care about appearance this much. Mine or theirs.)
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 1:19 PM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

There's an important distinction to be made between men who approach you after seeing you and men who show interest in you after talking to you, and I think some of the answers here are conflating the two. It is much easier to demonstrate 'confidence' when you are actually talking to someone, and yes, it is a very attractive quality. But if I am understanding your question right, then you are asking about attracting men who you are not engaging with otherwise, but rather simply are in the same vicinity as them. If that is the case, then 'confidence' is not really as relevant, and so physical appearance will be the dominant factor, whether it is through an attractive figure, sexy clothes, a stylish haircut, or what have you.

But even if you can get men to approach you by virtue of your physical charms, you still need to develop the other things too in order to get them to stick around.
posted by modernnomad at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

One man's opinion - confidence only goes so far. A change in looks go a lot further.

In the order of most attention-getting:

-weight loss, by far
-a better, different hairstyle
-attractive clothes of the times
-wit/intelligence you did not know existed

Confidence will make a bigger impact after you have some of these in play.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

A lot of people are answering this as "get more attention from guys" and not as "get more attention from attractive guys." This is a pretty crucial distinction, I think.

First, attractive men hit on women less often than unattractive men - because they don't have to. They exert less effort to get girls because generally, the girls come to them. Less attractive men are hitting on girls more overall (even very hot girls get hit on more by unattractive men than by attractive men).

Second, people tend to date partners who are of relatively the same level of attractiveness as they are. I think this generalization is even more common for men - they want to date girls who are at least as hot or hotter than they are (whereas women are more likely to date men who are less attractive than they are).

This means that in order to attract very good-looking men (if that's what you want), you have to be your very hottest. This takes work. Get in the best physical shape possible (diet and exercise), bleach your teeth or get dental work, fix any skin problems, get highlights and learn to style your hair, learn to dress well and do your makeup. You can still be your smart, interesting, funny, charming, kind self under that exterior - very attractive men have a lot of women to choose from, and they generally pick someone who has the whole package, inside and out.

But be forewarned that even at your hottest, attractive men are less likely to overly hit on you because they don't need to overtly hit on women.
posted by amaire at 1:26 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I got a lot more attention in the US when I had long hair. The decrease was noticeable when I cut it short in my late 20s. However, the attention I got with long hair was mostly unwelcome (e.g. harassment from strangers). So while the quantity of men approaching me shrank when I chopped off the hair, the quality improved.

I also saw a very clear Sundress Effect when I used to contra dance. If I put on a certain form-fitting sundress, the same men who every week danced with me with normal amounts of enthusiasm suddenly really, really wanted to dance with me, booking me ahead and everything. It was a little pathetic. I was an average weight then, not skinny.
posted by ceiba at 1:26 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was quite big from 18-22 and not very attractive at all, but was deeply unhappy and life sucked at the time... Later on I lost all that weight/life improved, and at 27 was suddenly REALLY attractive... I think the factors were that my facial structure really came out, I had my teeth fixed and whitened and got a great hair-cut and I had fun shopping for clothes......and felt I looked great and smiled a lot more.

But its weird to suddenly get attention like that...
posted by misspony at 1:26 PM on February 15, 2012

Another thing I haven't seen mentioned, but along the lines of Argyle_Sock's comment above: I have noticed that "doing up" your hair, face, and wearing the trendy boots, or skirts and dresses, or just really going all out often really does makes a difference- but I suspect it's because it's obvious you're trying. Women with straightened hair and eyeliner look like they're trying to impress, which makes men think they're available. This is not entirely due to any actual difference in objective attractiveness, but is more about signaling. The downside is that appearing to have gone to great efforts, or appearing too available, also makes a negative difference in the quality of the attention you get. The best balance I've found is to try to look good in an effortless, subtle way- a difficult balancing act.
posted by stockpuppet at 1:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

I was always chubby. Always. I rarely got any male attention. I never really tried, either. Right before my 21st birthday I had a rather bad incident happen that put me in the hospital for two weeks. When I got out, I was 50 pounds lighter. In two weeks. That put me at my ideal body weight for my height. I didn't recognize my own body. Immediately I was being hit on by men I'd always labeled as out of my league. It was amazing and sooooo weird at the same time. They'd never talked to me before. For a while I fricking loved it. Then I started to feel like, "Why would these guys never talk to me before? Surely it can't just be a weight thing?" Then I started to notice that just because they were hot didn't mean they were great guys. Going from no attention to a lot practically overnight is strange. I wanted to be left alone after a while. I started to understand why some pretty girls were so mean to guys.

Anyways, since then I've aged about ten years and slowly chubbed out again. Not as much though. I'm 20 pounds over my ideal weight and I've found now that "better" men respond to kindness and a warm smile. I wait tables for a living and some days I just go through the motions- no eye contact, rare smiles, no chit chat just "What'll you have?" Then some days I just decide that I want some attention so I'm going to get it. I talk a lot more, smile, make eye contact and joke around with men. Men, in general, love that shit. Like a lot. I've sort of made this into a game at work when I'm in the right mood and it really works. If I decide I want to flirt with a man, then damn it, he's 90% likely to flirt right back. I'm gonna have to say confidence has a lot to do with it. I think men just like to flirt in general and if you're willing to do that, they're probably not going to pass up any fun female attention.
posted by smeater44 at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2012

I went from overweight to average and got significantly more attention - I dress very well 99% of the time and get a lot of attention compared to the 1% of time I don't. When I make eye contact, show interest and smile I get heaps more attention. Hilariously when I'm more off in my own world not really giving a crap about how others see me I get even more attention.
posted by mleigh at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2012

I went from obese when I was 17-18 to overweight when I was 21-22 to normal weight now (26). There is definitely a big change in the way men treat me in general, but I can't say that the quality of my romantic relationships changed greatly. I think I've always been pretty particular about how men treat me, and in a way the overweight was a good way of weeding out extremely shallow guys -- instead I got extremely sincere, sweet guys.

But I did find that I could attract more attractive guys (which to me means physically fit, pretty skinny, muscular guys) when I lost the weight -- which actually I can understand. One of the big reasons I broke up with my last boyfriend was because I wasn't physically attracted to him after he put on quite a bit of weight. So I'm just as guilty of being shallow, and I want a physically fit, sexy partner.

I still don't get hit on with much regularity (and in fact, I'd say the random street harassment has reduced from when I was overweight), perhaps because I wear glasses, had short hair until recently and generally don't give out many signs of being available. In general, I find that I don't attract the majority of guys, but that the ones who fall for me fall for me really thoroughly, which I guess I'm ok with.
posted by peacheater at 1:37 PM on February 15, 2012

I might be in the minority, but I don't think losing weight is always going to do it. I used to be slender/athletic and got zero attention. Now I am on the fairly overweight side (enough that my doctors give me grief about it) and I get tons more attention than before. Crazy!

I don't think it's because I gained weight. The other big difference between skinny-me and fat-me? I grew out my hair and lost the bangs. HUGE guy-attention-grabber. Short sassy hair is awesome but, in my experience, the kinds of guys I'd consider attractive tend to be drawn in by the girly-girl look and long, nicely blown-out hair is a great way to achieve it.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2012

I agree with Miko and Patbon and mleigh. For awhile I gained weight and was completely invisible. There is a certain point in going from chubby to average where there is a huge increase in attention.

After that, there is a subset of men who go for the extremely skinny and/or extremely petite look and are not really interested in average. This is a generalization of course, but I am mostly speaking for experience from my knowing male friends who are only ever interested in this type.

If you are average or skinny, then dressing well, hair, makeup makes a huge difference. Sadly I do not think dressing well matters as much if you are overweight. It is kind of ridiculous the difference in attention if you are wearing a skirt and heels vs. pants.
posted by seesom at 1:44 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny," and if that made a difference. Did it make a difference?

I went from basically a little above average to a little below average and the difference was remarkable. Of course I was also dressing somewhat better and probably had better esteem about the whole thing, but yeah this made a huge difference.
posted by jessamyn at 1:49 PM on February 15, 2012

Had a girlfriend who ate very healthily, and was always quite thin and flat. Then, she started taking a drug regimen that put on weight.

At first she noticed the attention her boobs were suddenly getting, from both sexes.

Then she noticed strangers noticing her less, and making fewer hold-the-door/random greeting sorts of kind gestures, as she became more obese.

She got off the regimen, lost the weight, and began wearing VicSecret's padded push-up bras (which are much more common now than they were then). All of this happened over a few months, and she & I both believe it had more to do with physical appearance than any self-conscious attitude changes.

So: attitude counts for a lot, but attractiveness is more than just attitude. And can be "augmented" - the bra (obviously), but also: a better hairstyle, kicky glasses, a change in wardrobe, etc...
posted by IAmBroom at 1:58 PM on February 15, 2012

Sadly the only thing that ever made a difference for me was plastic surgery. I got a nose job when I was 22. My nose wasn't that bad to begin with -- I just had a bump removed from the side. But after the surgery I got a lot more attention from guys, and I wouldn't say I was really any more confident. It was a bit depressing to me to see firsthand how superficial men are.

Also it was only a temporary effect because I lost some baby fat on my face in my mid twenties (I'm 28 now) which made it more angular and probably less attractive, so I went back to invisible again after a few years.

My conclusion was the only way to consistently get attention from attractive men is a never-ending cycle of body modification and maintenance to fight against the effects of time unless you are genetically blessed.

I'm already thin and in shape so improving my body isn't really an option.
posted by timsneezed at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I went from overweight to average (and back to overweight), and I noticed a difference. I didn't suddenly have a surge of confidence overnight, I've always been a fairly confident person. A few years ago I lost a bunch of weight (exercise and eating right). I was going out with the same friends and doing the same sort of stuff both before and after losing weight. I don't think I went through any really huge stylistic changes during this time (fat slouchy hippie chick to average slouchy hippie chick), either.

I remember being surprised by people coming up to me and striking up conversations. I remember being kind of weirded out by people smiling at me from across the room...did I have something in my teeth? I remember feeling kind of uncomfortable because, after years of being in the background, I felt like I'd been shoved on stage. Well, it wasn't THAT dramatic really, but yeah, it was kind of a strange new world.

Now, as to whether or not the attention was being showered upon me by people of QUALITY? I'm not sure. Now that I've chubbed up again I can't say that men show as much interest as before. Then again, I'm older now and have a boyfriend, so maybe that scares off the hordes of would-be Romeos.

Short answer: yes, I noticed a difference. Despite what I've been told by well-meaning friends and elders, I don't think that it was all about confidence. I think that, all things being as equal as they could be given the passage of time, average sized Elly V got more attention than chubby Elly V.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:02 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's my experience with weight fluctuation. I was always "healthy", but I tend to get more attention when I have more curves. As such, I think I echo a lot of previous poster's view.

At BMI 20 (couldn't eat for weeks as I struggled through my first heartbreak): Guy friends hit on me - but not for anything serious. Guys I found attractive didn't really seem to notice me (I tend to be attracted to guys who give out an aura of stability). I was a bit of an emotional mess (see heartbreak) and will never really be able to figure out if it was my mental state that had me attracting unavailable men or my "skinny" look.

At BMI 24 (on the cups of a healthy one): I get a lot of attention from guys who "like a woman with curves". I usually like these guys as they tend to know what they like and pay less attention to societal pressures. They're often very attractive men.

At current and most easy to maintain BMI (22): I find it harder to get noticed - unless I go out of my way to smile a lot, flirt and be approachable. Because I do "the picking", the guys tend to be attractive, at least to me. I think it's harder for me to get attention at this weight because it's the weight where I'm really in the "average", body type wise. Even I can recognize that I look sexier with a bit more weigh on.
posted by Milau at 2:02 PM on February 15, 2012

How's about the perspective of someone who has experienced the opposite: I used to get attention, almost never do now (doesn't matter to me now, though, because I'm married now). I know what happened; it's depression, so I'm with insectosaurus who talked about happiness. It translates into a brightness in the eyes and a certain animation in interactions with others. I'm skinnier now than I was back then, and I was always about 10 pounds or so overweight.
posted by kitcat at 2:08 PM on February 15, 2012

I also want to add that thanks to the magic of makeup and a wider variety of clothes and accessories and all that, I think very attractive women significantly outnumber very attractive men, who rely more on winning the genetic lottery to be gorgeous. Furthermore (based on my experience interacting with gay male friends and seeing what their dating life looks like, and I'm sure there are many exceptions) but it does seem that gay men on the whole are putting more effort into their physical appearances than their straight counterparts are. So if you imagine the pool of physically attractive men, then whittle it down to the straight ones- well, that pool's already a lot smaller. Then compare that pool to the pool of very attractive women- the ratio is not in our favor. Attractive single men don't seem to have a shortage of women to choose from, and more and more my experience is they are already either dating or married to a gorgeous woman, or if they are single it's a deliberate choice and they're not looking to change it anytime soon. What I'm getting at is what a few others have mentioned already- if you become more attractive, you might get hit on by MORE guys, but not necessarily more attractive ones. And when you do get hit on by an attractive single man, chances are it's just for sex. Not to be harsh or anything. But this is an extremely depressing lesson to learn firsthand, putting a bunch of time and effort into your appearance and not getting much quality in return.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I went from chubby (invisible) to average (still invisible.) It was when I lost weight within the realm of average - from around 133lbs to 123lbs - that I suddenly became visible. I have never gotten much attention from attractive men in the way that I think you mean, but at that lowest weight I was simply more visible to ALL people: men, women, young, old, in any and all situations. Of course all people includes some amount of attractive men, as well. They weren't asking me out in droves but they would smile and converse with me like a normal person in service type situations, for example. I have since gained wight back to chubby and lost some of that, back to the high end of average. I am currently invisible again, like the human version of a see-through glass door.

My observation about confidence is that in my case it can't have made a difference. Like Miko, my confidence is not very looks-related, and tends to stay about the same all the time. If it wavers it's because of something other than looks, and I've never noticed any attention to me change based on whether something has happened to briefly inflate or deflate my confidence. Even so I could accept that there might be some appreciable difference between me at 125 and 155 lbs (perhaps nicer clothes and ease of walking gives a person a more confident air.) But there is no way in heck that I get more confident inwardly or outwardly between, like, 127 and 123lbs. I barely even notice that change, it's just the point where suddenly the valet returning my car or the sales clerk handing me change or the friend-of-a-friend I'm being introduced to looks at me as if I'm there.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2012

Depends upon your definition of "attractive" men. If you're talking drop-dead gorgeous hunks, aka the Johnny Depps, the Roger Taylors (more my era of single-ness and wishing I could attract such a man), the Bryan Ferrys, well, even in my heyday when I was slender and dressed stylishly and had my hair cut at a high-priced salon I never randomly attracted the attention of such a male. Tons of other males, from the average-looking (nothing wrong with that, IMHO, mind you) to those lacking in personal hygiene and downright sketchy, definitely approached me. But I was never the one whom the high school football star or the cutest guy in the office chatted up. I wore/wear glasses (can't wear contacts) and my nose is somewhat akin to Princess Diana's (that is, it's not button-cute), which are appearance minuses apparently, but I do have naturally blonde hair and pretty blue eyes (I've been told many times), for whatever that's worth. The only time in my life that truly poster-boy beautiful men openly approached and courted me was when I was in a position of power, running a fan club for a rock band and having close proximity to the band member and also access to rare videos and such. However, there is something to that whole having confidence thing, because during that period even though I knew these guys were just kissing up because of who I knew and what I could get, it still made me feel good and made me strut a bit prouder and more aggressively, to the point where for the first time in my life I could smile flirtatiously a bit when dealing with vendors (caterers, printers, transportation providers, etc) and get discounted services and other "perks".
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:32 PM on February 15, 2012

I went from basically a little above average to a little below average and the difference was remarkable. Me too. It was amazing. I slid into the "slightly skinny" category from the "normal" one and it's ON. It's a bit disheartening, but there you go.

I also get WAY more attention when my hair is long than when it's in a bob. And I don't even have good hair. You'd think a cute bob would get more attention than stringy long hair, but no. The hair is even more clear-cut to me than my weight. Stringy long hair = dudes love me. Cute bob = they could not care less.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:35 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My weight is subject to immense fluctuations based on my stress level and enviornment. For me it's very contingent on stress hormones and exercise. So I do have a lot of experience with both being fat and very slim. Standing at 5' tall I can range from size 00 to size 12.

I have noticed that when I am slimmer, I do get way more attention from attractive males, yes. That said, I met the most physically attractive and decent male I have ever had the good fortune to have a relationship with when I was still in the process of losing weight after a very stressful period. I think I weighed around 130 and wore a size 8 at the time. He didn't love me any more than at the start after I rocketed down to 100lbs a size 0 in the course of a half a year. One caveat to this is that I have been told that I have a very unusual but attractive face which is always present, no matter how thick my thighs are. So I suppose that helps some in the physical attractiveness department.

In any case, I think as long as you're somewhere in normal range and you're confident, the good guys will not care too much. I got seriously lucky with the one I have (he could really be a model if he wasn't already a postdoc in physics) and I am sure that you will, too, someday. They are rare but they exist.
posted by telomere at 2:58 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny," and if that made a difference. Did it make a difference?

I lost 80 pounds and it made a big difference. I was totally unused to it. I was in my mid-20s.
posted by jgirl at 3:05 PM on February 15, 2012

I went from a healthy bmi of 21 to an underweight bmi of 18 (from 104 to 93 lbs but I'm short) due to way too much running. It only lasted a few months but the attention I got from guys went through the roof. Guys on the street, in bars, at the grocery store, etc. However, I will point out that I had huge boobs at 104 lbs with a big butt too, and at 93 lbs I still had, uh, extra large boobs and my butt stayed put. I think a lot of it has to do with the shape you are at different weights.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't signal availability you probably also get less attention, but that's not the same thing as confidence (as in the I have self-esteem, I'm beautiful and a great person sense).

I think this is an excellent point. I tend to act pretty reserved in public because I take the train every day and I get suspicious of strangers who try to talk to me. As someone who was never really hit on when I was younger I tend to assume that any man talking to me probably has a buddy waiting around the corner who is going to snatch my purse, so I try to look kind of bitchy or busy so the more unsavory types I encounter on my commute won't try to strike up a conversation with me. Anyways, I find that I get a lot more male attention (with varying degrees of attractiveness) when I project a more open attitude. This can be as subtle as standing with good posture (i.e. not hunching my shoulders, crossing my arms, or looking down at my feet) to more overt signals like making eye contact with random people who catch my eye or even smiling at them (don't tell my husband). These kinds of things give off a signal that you are potentially friendly and at the very least won't bite a dude's head off if he comments on the weather.*

*this one time i was a huge bitch to a guy who made some benign comment about the weather while i was waiting for the train, only to find out that he was the new post-doc in my department. i really thought he was going to steal my purse. whoops.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 3:11 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'm pretty sure I used to be one of those very attractive men (I'm in my 40s now and I'm past my prime - gay men have stopped checking me out, which seems pretty conclusive). I'd been described as "pretty".

And amaire is right - I *never* used hit on women. Women always approached me. I would often be asked to dance. Women would come stand by me at bars. I once had stranger grab me and start kissing me in a club. Women would beckon me over to them. Not all the time, by any means, but enough that I never learned how to approach women. My ex-wife tracked me down on the internet after meeting me at a gathering of friends.

I never learned how to approach women, and I wouldn't risk the rejection. I was actually painfully shy.
posted by bonecrusher at 3:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't underestimate the superficiality of men (and that isn't to say there aren't lots of superficial women as well), ESPECIALLY very attractive men. In my experience very attractive men are almost universally very superficial, because (depressingly) they can afford to be. So if you want to attract more of them you should focus more on improving your appearance than your personality. I agree with others that most very attractive men are either taken or highly superficial perma bachelors. Occasionally I've encountered a fluke, a gorgeous guy who isn't aware of how good looking he is or simply doesn't care, but he's almost always nabbed by some aggressive woman. I knew a gorgeous, brilliant British guy who had a plain looking but sweet and smart wife. Guys like that are rare and usually don't stay on the market long.
posted by timsneezed at 3:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking a lot about this topic lately and I really think that projecting overall happiness trumps looks and confidence. I've noticed it in me over the years and in others recently.

If you think about the types you attract with the opposite it becomes blatantly obvious.
posted by neversummer at 3:41 PM on February 15, 2012

I have to agree with neversummer right above me. Right now I am the biggest I've ever been (aka certainly bigger than the other commenters who were invisible at size 14, which is nuts to me because size 14 is hot). I also get the most attention from men that I've ever gotten, more than I can remember ever having gotten when I was smaller. Granted, I am lucky to have an hourglass shape with proportionally-sized chest and hips. But I really think the change has come from the fact that now I am happy and I love my life and it shows, whereas when I was smaller I was miserable and that showed too.

The men who hit on me are usually not conventionally super attractive. I also wouldn't call them ugly. They are rarely even overweight (which doesn't equal unattractive for me, anyway).

Contrary bit of anecdata: Last week, I went with a skinny friend to a bar where a DJ was playing. This girl is adorable, bubbly, never has had trouble getting dates and has bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend. She danced all around the bar all night by herself, trying to get someone to dance with her. No takers. Meanwhile, I got up from our table to go to the bathroom and had two guys in two separate groups try to dance with me on the way just while I was walking across the room. This is not a rare bar experience for me either -- every time I go and socialize with anyone other than my friend, it's me some guy hangs on, and not my universally skinny, pretty, also confident and outgoing friends. I don't really know why. But it's what happens.
posted by houndsoflove at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2012

I think one can definitely be "too thin" to get lots of male attention, so don't think weight loss is necessarily going to add to your appeal. I'm another person whose weight fluctuates wildly, so I have been all over the map. For me, the peak attention zones were "slightly plumper than average" and "slightly thinner than average."

At "significantly thinner than average" I got tons of compliments from other women, but not so much attention from guys; at "significantly heavier than average," I got attention from a smaller percentage of guys, but the ones who were attentive were really attentive.

Showing skin makes a huuuuuuge difference, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:42 PM on February 15, 2012

I've been medium weight, obese, and all the stages of chub in-between. My experience has been that at a medium weight, I get hit on like crazy, but beyond a certain weight (say 170) the frequency decreases until it hits close to 0 when I am obese.

It has exactly nothing to do with how much I've done myself up, how confident I feel, etc. When I was not fat at all I got hit on when I was in glasses, not wearing makeup, wearing sweatpants, totally engrossed in a book, etc, etc. When I am obese I barely ever get hit on, regardless of what type of mood I am in (including confident and happy), how well my hair and makeup are done, or what kind of clothes I am wearing.

When I was average weight, I got attention from all sorts of men of all levels of attractiveness.

I can only think of one time I got clearly hit on by a very attractive man when I was fat.

I've had long hair for all of my adult life. I regularly get compliments on it both from males and females, even now that it is starting to go grey. So I think that growing your hair out would probably lead to more attention, which could spark a conversation with that attractive guy you want, even if he's not actually hitting on you to start with.
posted by parrot_person at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel that confidence is necessary but not sufficient.

The biggest thing for me was dressing in a way that got me attention in a good way. Nothing over the top, but not blending into the crowd either. Wearing a dress, wearing some sort of statement jewelry, heels, boots, you want to stick out in the crowd, but because you look so great, not because you look weird or attention seeking. Great coats and jackets get the job done too. This can be a delicate dance and it's honestly just easier to try new styles when I'm a little thinner and in better shape. The heavier I get the more I'm constrained by sticking to styles that flatter the extra weight and that can lead to very repetitive outfits. I'm not saying you can't be larger and really stylish, but it's far harder, especially because getting the right fit is just that much more crucial.

In my experience really attractive guys don't really throw themselves at anyone. They aren't the guy usually chatting you up at the bar. Actually the hottest guys who have ever hit on me were friends of friends who I met in social situations and got to talking to over a few hours. We're they hitting on me? Yeah, but they weren't yelling at me on the street, making awkward conversation with me in line for coffee, or yelling at me in a loud bar. And almost evey time, except one that i can think of, it's happened I was dressed to the nines and probably looking just about as amazing as I ever have.
posted by whoaali at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2012

Wear clothes that fit and that you like and feel good in. Keep yourself groomed in a way that you like - good haircut(this goes a looong way and a good haircut can be very low maintenance) maybe some makeup, get eyebrows waxed/threaded.

I started getting my eyebrows threaded in high school and actually get people(always women) coming up to me in public to compliment me on them. My eyebrows!! I get them done approx every 6 weeks and a coworker made fun of me for doing it for awhile, but then I convinced her to try it and the next day no one could quite tell what she changed but everyone noticed that she looked "fresher" - she doesn't wear makeup at all - someone even thought she was pregnant because of her "glow."

The most important thing is that you are doing any and all of these things for YOU. When you like yourself and you like how you look, you will project confidence.
posted by fromageball at 6:36 PM on February 15, 2012

No one has really mentioned body shape, but that makes a difference. Like, the whole waist-to-hip ratio thing, which is not always related to how much one weighs. I think the weight at which women look their best varies according to their body shape, which might affect the weight at which they get hit on- women with curves can look better at higher weights (well, in my opinion). So a weight loss or gain will affect different bodies in different ways, and the same clothing size on different women can mean very different things.

That aside, I experienced the invisible-to-visible phenomenon. When I was 30 or so pounds heavier, I did feel invisible to men. Now I exercise regularly and while I am not skinny, I am at a healthy weight. I notice a lot more men looking at me and kind of regularly, they will approach. I don't know if they'd fit your definition of "attractive"- some of them are, some of them are just average.

Also, my grooming and dressing habits got better with the weight loss.
posted by bearette at 6:40 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

People tend to approach people that they perceive as being in the same league. It kind of sounds like you are not in the league you think you are in.
posted by w0mbat at 6:52 PM on February 15, 2012

No one has really mentioned body shape, but that makes a difference.

Frankly, so does the face. I do know a number of women who are overweight but have the "vivacious" personality and approach and it works well for them - uniformly, though, they were gifted with conventionally pretty features.
posted by Miko at 6:58 PM on February 15, 2012

Yes, you're talking about me.

I'm not going too much into the changes personality-wise I made, other than I basically grew up and stop being so freaking nice to people. Making men work for my attention empowered me, and being selective as opposed to over-eager was a critical shift in my behavior.

The physical break-down is easier to sum up.

I've never been ugly, I don't feel I'll never be beautiful but I've had some fine boyfriends who were models, etc. and it's because I've REALLY made the most of what I have, looks-wise.

How did I do it? I lost like... 30 lbs... going from a size 6-8 to a 0-2 did a LOT to make me more attractive to the opposite sex. I'm 105 lbs now, and I feel great about my body, which is a quality that's pretty attractive to men, in my experience.

Also, I got a nose job.

Also, I grew my hair out from being like 4 inches long to past my shoulder blades, and I straighten it when I want to feel really pretty. This is a huge factor. Getting rid of my bangs was a great move, too.

And I now have really expensive, beautiful clothes and accessories which I prefer to the lounge wear I used to favor. It's a big confidence-lift to feel exceptionally well-dressed-- one less thing to wonder and worry about if you're trying to get dates and have to dissect post-mortem why Interesting Date X didn't call back. Wearing bright colors makes a BIG difference when you're trying to look attractive and approachable. Especially red and pink.

I wear high heels and short-ish skirts and dresses when I want to look sexy. This turns heads, and if I was single again and on the look-out, I'd dress this way as often as possible, especially on dates.

It's crazy how much of a difference this made for me. Fair, unfair, if you're a woman trying to attract handsome straight men, looks matter SO MUCH and you should NEVER underestimate how many more and superior options being as beautiful as you can possibly be will bring you.

And I know attractive is kind of subjective, but if you mean did the quality of my dates go up? You decide, here are some superficial stats: sample bf's before I gave myself the big overhaul: ok-looking dj who was kind of meh, a couple of average, boring, nice-guy graphic designers, a video game designer who was on the fence about me... afterwards I dated several tall, dark, Ivy-League lawyers, a doctor who looked kind of like a Persian Joe Jonas, and an investment banker who just gave me the kind of Valentine's Day you think only happens in rom coms. Also worth noting: many of the guys I dated after the makeover who got nexted by me or who weren't too sure about getting serious at the time later tried mightily to win me back-- many more than in my sparser "before days". The difference in choice I have now is INSANE.

PS No matter, the make-over, one must be realistic. Like, if he's a 7 you'd better be an 8+. It's the ruthless way nature generally works, unless the woman fulfills some fetish the man has or possesses an unusual quality he finds attractive and rare.
posted by devymetal at 7:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [17 favorites]

On preview, I just deleted my whole comment. What bearette said.

Body shape/type is so so so important. When I'm even a teeny bit above average weight my hip to waist ratio just goes to pot. My waist is where I put on my weight. When I'm thin, I have a great waist to hip ratio, I have sexy curves! My body goes out, in, and out again, and I get more male attention. But when I gain a little weight, I put it all around my waist, and even though I'm still objectively small (I've never been even been in the top of the healthy weight range for my height), I become invisible.

On the other hand, I have friends who get hit on less when they dip below a certain weight. Their curves become less pronounced with the weight-loss, and well, the attention diminishes as well.

Also, your face. I am not conventionally beautiful. I'm not. I have a big, bulbous, lopsided nose (and fanfuckingtastic hair, and pretty eyes and whatnot, I'm not complaining), and I figure there is probably a good chunk of conventionally hot guys whose heads I will never turn. Not much I can do about that. On the other hand, by not being conventionally beautiful, I tend to end up with guys who are specifically attracted to my type of face as opposed to guys who just want arm candy to make them look good.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2012

Being totally blind, I can safely say that the confidence and personality stands out. At the end of college, when I was losing my vision, my roomate and his other friends always wondered why I always had gorgeous women as my dates. A few years later, I came to a blind adventurers social outting only to be berrated by a member because I came in with four women. I explained that they were all just friends of mine, including one ex-girlfriend, but that did not matter to him. He said that if you come in with four attractive women, then you have to share. I have not seen a woman's face for over fifteen years now and have been told that my wife is attractive as well. I met her over the phone and got engaged in six weeks before we ever met in person! We have been married for thirteen years now. Personality counts more than you would ever think!
posted by strong persuader at 9:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

OK, I've been through this.

I went from being an average weight teenager to a borderline-obese uni student back to an average weight early twenty something to a very skinny recovering heart surgery patient. This is what I found:

When I was very big I too was invisible to 99% of men. And furthermore subject to random yelled insults for daring to appear in public if they did notice me. Men at this point were merely platonic friends. I did however, have maybe the best boyfriend I've ever had then and we were crazy in love, which stopped me from feeling too bad about myself.

When I was skinny (which I've been twice, once after surgery and once after a serious illness), the level of attention from men went down. The first time it may have been because I was obviously ill, not sleeping and finding it hard to breathe, etc. The second time apparently I hid my sickness better (make up is wonderful - and awful). My weight loss was rapid and led to many, MANY female friends exclaiming about the weight!! Look how skinny you are!! But men didn't care. I got slightly less attention than normal.

Now, I'm back to my normal range. I'm 5'6" with a very curvy hourglass figure (like my waist is more than 10 inches smaller than my chest/hips). My optimum weight for man-baiting seems to be around 140-147 - much bigger than Cosmo would have you be comfortable with - because then my boobs are crazy big and my waist is really small, I think. (Men that like stick-thin women do not go for me, obviously). Also, you know how everyone's saying you better be more attractive than the man in the equation? I am the exception that proves that rule. I'm pretty 'enough' and have a quirky (hate that word) dress sense and love heels and skirts, am outgoing, yada yada yada, but nearly everyone I have ever been out with or even hooked up with has been significantly more attractive than me. Models and fitness trainers are included in that list. I almost feel bad for not giving a shit and eating and drinking whatever I like when I see how much time they've spent chiselling their abs. (Then I remember brownies and wine and remember that I DO NOT REGRET).

FWIW, I do full-on feminine drag, and find that bright lipstick, bright clothes, heels, skin and approachability really amp up attention. I have to second what timsneezed and argyle_sock_puppet said upthread though: the utter sadness of knowing the true extent of human shallowness regarding looks is a heavy weight to bear. My worth as a human being to men is contingent on a lot of meaningless, petty things, none of which have anything to do with who I really am - who I always was (and eventually, who I will be).

Also, when the quantity goes up, the quality goes down. Wayyyyyy down. Just my experience.
posted by everydayanewday at 9:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm a woman who has been chronically scrawny since I was a toddler. I got a LOT more attention when, in my mid-30s, I put on a few extra pounds and was actually a bit heavy for my bird-like little frame.
posted by desuetude at 10:22 PM on February 15, 2012

I will weigh in as being someone who does much MUCH better at a heavier weight (at 5'9" 12-14 is way better than 8-10 and 16 still gets me somewhere). I think it's because my face looks less oval (though I do have pretty features) and my tits really fill out. I'm pretty athletic at any size and I think the softness is charming. I also wear glasses and have a short little fro, so maybe people looking for conventional aren't in line at any weight.
posted by dame at 11:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also want to add, in re-reading your question, that very good-looking, nice men don't spend a lot of time blatantly hitting on strangers in public places. I think the most they'd do is strike up a friendly conversation. Sometimes the men blatantly hitting on strangers, and possible invading the space of strange women, are men with few social skills or boundaries...or men who are somewhat desperate. Just to be blatantly honest from my point of view.

(I don't mean men flirting in public, or being friendly, I mean blatantly asking for strange women's phone numbers, etc. If that's what you mean by "being approached".)
posted by bearette at 1:04 AM on February 16, 2012

I lost a lot of weight in my early twenties (I put it back on in less then 2 years) and I did not notice that much difference in the way attractive guys treated me. I was invisible before and I remained invisible after about a 60 lb weight loss. I am quite pretty, and looked prettier after the weight-loss, so I don't think my continuing failure to attract guys when I was at a conventional weight had much to do with my looks. I think it was because I was awkward and lacked confidence both before and after the weight loss. When I did get attention it was of the sleazy type that I could do without.

I get attention from reasonably attractive guys now, because I am much less awkward; but I generally find I get meaningful attention from men (cute or not) whom I actually know. I am not very likely to get whistled at in the street.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:07 AM on February 16, 2012

> I'm most interested in women who lost weight from "average weight" to "skinny," and if that made a difference. Did it make a difference?

When I was really thin and very insecure back in my early 20s, I got a lot of attention from strange men--but it was shitty, creepy attention, like they could smell my insecurity and weakness and were preying on it. I was routinely frightened, like running to get inside my apartment and afraid of being attacked frightened. Might want to keep that possibility in mind.

Then I got some more confidence because I had a job where people really appreciated my talents and let me know, and I was fully on my own for the first time in my life (out of college and everything), and I felt more comfortable in my skin. This was the sweet spot, where I got hit on pretty much constantly, but for the first time ever in non-shitty ways that felt friendly and genuinely appreciative, not gross. One notable thing about this period in my life was the confidence I gained had allowed me to finally dress the way I wanted to--bright colors, cheerful, but not provocative or skin-bearing (wouldn't have been comfortable for me; if it is to you though more power to ya and work it, etc.; the point was I had found my style, not what I thought I was "supposed" to look/dress like) not subdued and ladylike the way I'd always thought I had to be. I mean, I wore bright green eye shadow and had crazy hairstyles with severe bangs, pixie cuts, a severe angle from front to back, etc. So it wasn't just dressing to please or be appealing to the most people as possible. I was finally comfortable expressing myself a bit. So there is that.

Now, I'm not tiny anymore at all. And I am married to a guy who thinks I am hotter than a habanero even when I am in pajamas. I don't wear make up hardly ever anymore, and I work from home so the opportunities dress-wise aren't as great. But I do still get hit on, and in a different way, like a deepening of that friendly appreciative thing that started a few years back when I dressed expressly for myself and all that. It's sort of depth vs. breadth I think, or quality vs. quantity as you age--I have fewer strangers hit on me (but some still do--usually in a shared-context way, like if I am buying a bottle of wine a guy will chat me up flirtatiously and we'll actually talk about wine, etc., or a band from the shirt I am wearing), but more acquaintances, and lots of friends let me know they think I'm really cool in a flirty appreciative way. They imply they're attracted to things beyond the physical too, which is great--they talk about how they love that I'm always there for a friend in need or how they love my physical strength or my cooking/baking skills or how I'm always reading awesome books, how I seem like an awesome partner for my husband, etc. I like this. It definitely beats having some leering guy on the bus tell you you have nice legs.

Maybe it's just getting older, but I have a sense it has to do with a subtle way one expresses self-assurance and all that. Creepy men hit on women in gross blind heavyhanded ways when women are young not because they're sexier (though given mainstream depictions maybe there's that, the whole creepy types would follow that more as a given, who knows) but because they seem more vulnerable and less like they'll call said creepy men on their shit, and because they think they'll get more of a rise out of younger, inexperienced women.

But that's just been my experience.
posted by ifjuly at 6:32 AM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've never been obese, but I've been stick-skinny, thin-but-curvy, and now that I'm menopausal I have to work hard to make sure I have some semblance of a waist. IME, men vastly preferred me with curves. Having a nice round butt is just as alluring (an ass-et? *badum-cha!*) as large breasts, or even more. It's the waist-to-hip ratio that really counts. I'm finding that having no waist (since that's where the fat goes now) makes me more invisible. So I'm working the exercise and diet angle (which is good for me anyway).

Clothes help a lot - not skin-baring clothes or expensive designer clothes, but something well-fitting, pretty and flattering, that makes you feel like singing and dancing when you wear it. If you have nice legs, wear a skirt. I've had my colors done and this has helped me find a range of colors that flatter my skin tone, eyes and hair. You want to wear a color near your face that enhances your coloring, not one that drains the life from your complexion. For me, the right shade of green (a jade green with bluish undertones) is IMMENSELY flattering and makes my eyes pop. The wrong shade of green (a yellow-toned kelly green) - same color, different undertones - washes me right out. Having my colors done helped guide me to my best shades of green, purple, brown and so on.

Something that hasn't been brought up is - where do you live? It's going to make a HUGE difference in how much effort you have to put out for noticeable results if you live in a city like New York or Los Angeles, where model-gorgeous women abound, or if you live in a mid-sized city where the standards for beauty and glamor are much less stringent, OR if you live in a place like Silicon Valley where men outnumber women (and yes, lots of geeks, but lots of CUTE geeks too!) and the standard of beauty encompasses the quirky and offbeat. Attracting handsome men in a city like Los Angeles is WORK, the kind of work that women spend thousands of dollars in plastic surgery and designer clothes on. Attracting handsome men in the more down-to-earth atmosphere of a mid-sized city away from the coasts, or a techie mecca where men outnumber women, is a different proposition. You won't have to work nearly as hard and you'll have more success.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:59 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

*even more than having large breasts, that is. Need more coffee.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:00 AM on February 16, 2012

You need to be sexual. Sexy. You want to be perceived as a woman. Yes weight loss is important if you are fat but also important is whether you come across as the "apologetic or over the top" kind of woman. Take a good look at yourself because beauty can easily be attained as there are many many factors that make beauty-(read up on any science journal and you will find that colors/symmetry/change/dimensions etc contribute to beauty). We are no different from other species and are attracted to the same things-look at nature-mating involves display of colors, an ability to stand out from the herd etc.

From experience, Yes, you will attract more attention if you lose weight (like i said if you are overweight) in this culture because here we idolize the concept of slim.
posted by pakora1 at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2012

I never got noticed by attractive guys. Ever. I lost a ton of weight being in a bad relationship. I'm 5'9" and went from 165 pounds to 115 (GROSS!) Then I dumped the crappy boyfriend and gained weight with the help of my doctor. I'm now 155ish.

I get approached by guys as a given whenever I'm out with my girlfriends and quite frequently when doing stuff on my own like grocery shopping.

What changed?

Confidence. Hands down. And being happy with who I am as a person and from the inside out. I think that if you're in a beautiful place in life and you know who you are as a person and love that you are beautiful on the inside, even with your own personal imperfections (hey, we ALL have them) and accept this, it radiates outwards. That is something that you cannot fake, and I think people not only pick up on this, but tend to flock to happy people. Most people tend to admire qualities like strength, motivation, happiness and serenity, and part of loving who you are and accepting yourself as you are and celebrating it demonstrates alll of those awesome qualities.

Smile, make eye contact and small talk and just love life. The rest will fall into place.

Also, unrelated, not taking crap from anyone helps too. :)
posted by floweredfish at 9:40 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with Miko and others who say that putting obvious effort into your appearance (nice clothes, hair, makeup etc) signals availability, and this is what garners attention. Or at least it signals "I've made myself look nice because I want you to look at me". I've always been thin and non-curvy (so I can't speak about weight changes), my face isn't pretty, and I don't make eye contact or interact with strangers, and usually I'm totally invisible. Which I absolutely prefer, thankyouverymuch.

But when I wear certain clothes that give the illusion of curves, and make an effort to look nice, suddenly I appear on the radar. Even men I worked with every day, who normally treated me as a respected but non-sexual colleague, would turn their heads to look at me walk past. And I wasn't acting any differently toward them, just walking down the hall lost in my thoughts as usual.

tl;dr: in my experience, you can get more attention by changing your clothes and hair without any change in weight or attitude.
posted by Quietgal at 10:08 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

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