Someday my prince will come. Or not.
January 5, 2006 2:40 PM   Subscribe

How much has your own attractiveness or sense thereof determined with whom you are or have been romantically involved?

Are you aware of feeling that you've settled for someone? That "she/he's not so attractive but neither am I and at least I'm not alone?" This may be one of those questions for which anonymous responses would be a welcome pony, but nobody reads these things anyway so don't be shy. Since we're sharing: I'm very unattractive and, at the moment, alone.
posted by TimeFactor to Human Relations (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My own level of unattractiveness led me to look at people's kindness, honesty, emotions, and maturity instead of just staring at gorgeous breasts and a great ass.

I'm sure that if I was a great looking man I'd be much more shallow. And therefore I often assume (and am rarely proved wrong) that attractive people I meet are likely shallow.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2006

Frankly I was never much attracted to conventionally handsome men, myself. I can think of quite a few folk who probably think they are unattractive who would be attractive in my view. (I mean, when Welcome Back Kotter was on tv, I liked Horshack.)
posted by konolia at 2:55 PM on January 5, 2006

I am, I think, pretty average looking and I have dated stunningly good looking men, and reasonably ugly ones. I don't *think* my perception of my attractiveness informed my decisions. Of course, I always thought that the men had something going for them looks-wise, otherwise the superficial interest wouldn't have been there. But that something was more interestingness than attractiveness.
posted by gaspode at 3:03 PM on January 5, 2006

And therefore I often assume (and am rarely proved wrong) that attractive people I meet are likely shallow.

(bolding mine)

I can't speak to your experience, but this isn't the case for me. Perhaps the people you are thinking of as "attractive" tend to spend more time pursuing a conventional aesthetic -- admittedly, many of these folks have attitudes that most people would consider "shallow" because their tastes are typically derived from the most mainstream of options, so at the very least, they're culturally shallow.

It's also worth nothing that there are tons of attractive people who don't initially appear so because they dress poorly or have bad hair ("poorly" and "bad" here being determined by deviation from a mainstream aesthetic).


That said, while attraction on a whole is definitely derived, in part, from the physical attraction talked about in the question, I would say that I've only ever felt that I've "dated below my league" occaisionally, and only briefly while I'm inititally getting to know someone. After I become attracted to the things about that person that I love, it ceases to be an issue. I'm not saying that YOU are shallow if it's an issue for you, but possibly there's something else at work.

As far as feeling it's your unattractiveness that's keeping you single, well, there's some things you can't change (short of plastic surgery, say), but some you can that definitely count:

1) good hygiene. important! i'm sometimes get lazy about but when I'm single you better goddamn believe I'm clean. Just washing your face regularly will make you feel better, which will make you look better.

2) Enrich your own life first. One of my friends once told me that you should never rely on someone else to complete your life, because then you look desparate. You should live a complete life and be happy alone, AND THEN people will naturally be attracted to you. I've found this true, and I believe this is why everyone always says "Yeah, i met X when I wasn't even looking for anyone".

3) Style. Find a style that looks good on you and work it. That may mean a new haircut and a new wardrobe. If you're not the type of person who cares about fashion, have a friend who does help you. They'll appreciate being asked.

anyways, i don't want to derail this into a "how to make friends and influence people" thread, but it's always a good idea to focus on what you actually have control over, rather than obsessing about those which you can't alter.
posted by fishfucker at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2006

i don't think "settled for" is the right word (or attitude), but i would say both pauli and i are about the same percentile on the attractiveness scale. but then i thought that was a well known phonomenon - strangers can pair off couples in photos by ranking attractiveness.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:14 PM on January 5, 2006

I can't rate my own attractiveness; I really can't. I'm completely baffled by the whole question. I think in part because A) I never had the greatest self-esteem, looks-wise, and B) I had to have both jaws broken and reset last year (and consequently look like a different person than I did for the first 35 years), I don't (yet) truly have a good, solid, appreciative sense of my looks.

in any case, I will say that I have rarely dated conventionally "handsome" men -- the whole "movie star good looks" thing just doesn't do it for me. (Unless Clive Owen walks through my door, of course, in which case all bets are off.) I'm just more strongly attracted to men with unconventional looks, quite possibly because I grew up crushing on punk/alt/indie musicians, most of whom aren't really going to show up in the pages of GQ anytime soon.
posted by scody at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2006

I have never been aware of settling for anyone. I think that one of my exboyfriends was just amazingly hott (objectively physically attractive), in a way that I do not imagine myself to be. It really depends on how you're defining attractiveness, though. For the most part, physical (nude) appearance factors very little into my lust. Cultural factors play a huge role though. I'm attracted to cultural types rather than physical ones, and I'm looking for ones that match my own (I want someone who looks like me because they can think like me, if that makes sense). So, yes, in that way, I'm looking to match my own attractiveness level.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:28 PM on January 5, 2006

If you let your own sense of attractiveness or lack thereof determine or limit you, then you are playin' yourself.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:39 PM on January 5, 2006

There's actually good research on this question, which thepinksuperhero already mentioned. People tend to date people who are about as attractive as they percieve themselves to be. So, if you think you're ugly, you'll probably go after less-attractive mates.

As for attractive people being shallow: I don't think there's any evidence of this at all. In fact there are excellent data that suggest that more intelligent and talented people also tend to be more attractive (I know that intelligent and talented aren't exactly mutually exclusive with non-shallowness -- but it seems like a good bet).

As for me, I'm definitely average. My problem is that I'm as skinny as hell. However, honestly I have dated a couple of extremely attractive women (one of them I married). I wouldn't have felt confident enough to go after either one of them though. We were friends first, in both cases.
posted by crapples at 3:41 PM on January 5, 2006

I consider myself reasonably attractive but I know it's my self-esteem that lets me down, and on occasion I have come across as too needy. I'm well aware of it so I don't actively persue it. I can honestly say I have previously been in one or two relationships with women I'd consider to be very attractive and perhaps out of my league.

That says more about my self-esteem though!

I did see someone I considered to be not-attractive enough but it became clear quite quickly that I wasn't comfortable settling for less.

So for the moment I'll be alone but I am having a massive amount of fun with my friends so it isn't all bad!

I do agree with fishfucker's second point heavily though - I'm working on it as we speak!
posted by rc55 at 3:44 PM on January 5, 2006

I seldom consider people "that way" who aren't "out of my league" in most Attractiveness scales. I'm lucky some who are (at least close to) "supermodel material" have different standards.
posted by davy at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm a pretty attractive guy and I receive quite a bit of attention from both girls and guys. With that said, I'll make a few important distinctions. First, there's a big difference between dating somebody and doing the whole relationship dance and sleeping with somebody. Second, living in Manhattan, I find people (both women and men) to be far more shallow and obsessive of their "look" or "style." (I consider this a good thing.) Third, I will gladly admit to being shallow. My whole life I've been singled out because of my looks and praised because of my looks so, naturally, I consider looks to be important. I will flat-out judge another because based only on his or her looks. I find this to also be true of my more attractive friends.

That being said, I'll date pretty much whoever. I don't have high standards at all. This has led to me receiving a number comments of disbelief (or suspicion) from friends and partners alike. While I may be very aware that I'm dating somebody not as traditionally attractive as I am, I really just don't care. Either the person does it for me, or, heck, I just enjoy her company. So, while I pride myself on my own looks, I don't consider it so important in any prospective partners. I also find this to be true of my more attractive friends though I think it's a general feature of people who are comfortable with their appearance.
posted by nixerman at 4:04 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm a funny case. I'm quite fat, thus utterly out of the running by typical standards of attractiveness. But for a fat guy, I think I'm pretty cute, because I've been told I'm cute all my life, and have had a series of astoundingly attractive lovers over the years, even by typical standards. So I guess I'm the hot ugly dude, or something.

As I get older, the number of people who find me attractive that way seems to be falling off -- but that happens to everyone as they get older. I have never "settled" for sleeping with an unattractive person because I thought I couldn't do better, but being fat has probably encouraged me not to be such a looks fascist, and to find the cute aspects of people who aren't conventionally hot.

I'm now married to someone who is conventionally goodlooking, and finds me very attractive as I am, so... a complex issue.
posted by digaman at 4:07 PM on January 5, 2006

For most of my life I pretty much accepted that the reason that I was unable to find a boyfriend or really date anyone was solely due to my (average, overweight) looks. I'm 35 and have really only dated about 5 guys, longest relationship 3 years. I'm like kryptonite to men (straight ones, that is - I'm a complete fag hag.)

Recently I've been starting to realize that it's probably not 100% looks, 'cause there are some goddamned ugly mofos who hook up all the time...however, I really can't discount that my lack of "typical American" beauty is a pretty big factor in my unsuccessful love life. Sounds horrible but it's true.

(That said, I've lusted after guys who most folks would consider completely butt fugly...I couldn't care less about "typical good looks".)
posted by tristeza at 4:07 PM on January 5, 2006

My attractiveness or lack thereof has contributed in part to the attractiveness of women I have dated, but the most important factor was always my confidence and self-esteem. Part of my confidence may be derived from my looks, but most of it comes from other things like my personality, intelligence, sense of humor, knowledge, etc, etc. If I was better looking, I think I would have have attracted a lot more 'bimbos'.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:13 PM on January 5, 2006

I don't think it's quite that simple - other factors besides sheer looks can make someone attractive as a s.o. I won't think twice about a man, no matter how hot, if he's stupid. Or a jerk. Or has no sense of humor. A republican I'll think twice about, but usually not date. One variable, e.g. good looks, can someowhat comensate for another, e.g. low intelligence.

But yeah, I think it's basically true.
posted by Amizu at 4:13 PM on January 5, 2006

Compensate, I mean.
posted by Amizu at 4:14 PM on January 5, 2006

There was a man I dated once who made me feel attractive. He wanted me, and he let me know it. Always. And since then, I've carried that with me. It has helped me to feel like I really am attractive, and if someone in particular isn't attracted to me, it's only because we weren't meant to be together.

As I've gotten older, I've noticed this with other people: I might look at a guy and think, "Whoa ugly!" and one of my friends looks at the same guy and thinks, "Whoa hot!"

I just don't think that anyone has to "settle" for anyone else, because no matter how "ugly" you are by "conventional standards" (if there really is such a thing), there's someone out there who's gonna think you're hot. Really, really hot. And they'll let you know.
posted by eleyna at 4:23 PM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

My attractiveness is a subject of great debate with myself. I see photos from about three to five years ago and think "Damn, I was hot!" but I clearly remember looking in the mirror most days and thinking, "Meh." I have to agree with jasondigitized above -- I dated the most guys and had the most fun when I thought I was one helluva man-eater. Like a lot of things, dating is about 75% moxie for a good portion of the time.

The thing about whom you date is that you're probably always going to be strongly attracted to a certain set of things. For example, I have never been able to find men with weak facial features attractive. I want a chin, dammnit. And cheekbones and eyebrows. Of course, it's usually really subliminal - I didn't figure it out until I'd met my husband, at which point I had a conversation with my best friend in which she observed that I never dated men without chins, so to speak. And of course, there are then the other deal breakers -- and everyone's got them. I'd say a big dealbreaker on MeFi would be "stupid," for example. It doesn't matter how good looking someone is, if he opens his mouth and stupidity pours out, he's not making it up to bat, much less making any base hits.

Odds are there's someone out there with whom you will click. With internet dating, you've increased your odds of finding a suitable person. Hell, some redneck is going to end up with a gorgeous amazon of a wife out of one of my friends, and she's so far out of the redneck league she actually has trouble finding them.

Oh, and fishfucker covered the other stuff really well. I can't emphasize how important it is to be clean, smell clean, and look like you care about yourself. One of my friends is the geekiest guy EVAR, and thought he was unattractive; then he discovered that he had, you know, shoulders, and that he wasn't really all that overweight, and started wearing clothes his size. Hey presto! Less than six months later he's dating a hot chick. (And I'm not making this up, but I do take partial credit for the geekformation.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:01 PM on January 5, 2006

I really think that one's ability to "get with" someone is way more tied to sense of self than appearance. Granted there are lots of people who are completely tied up by appearance, but I think those people are fewer than you might imagine.

I am a lesbian. I have been a fat lesbian. Even when I was fat I still had *very* attractive girlfriends. Head-turning girlfriends. Outside of the time that I was working in lesbian bars I never had an easy hook-up. All of my girlfriends became my girlfriends from getting to know me in social situations first.

Today I am significantly thinner and some would say more attractive. I think I'm relatively attractive and as a complete package my friends consider me a "catch". I find it easier to "make time" with someone more attractive, but I'm less inclined to do so now simply because I question why they are interested. It's quite bizarre for me to be in a bar or social setting and get "cruised" by a girl. Stranger still was last summer when I got cruised by a guy! Whoa.

So, no, I don't *settle* for anyone based on looks.

ps - Anyone else feel like MeFi has become the latest Hot Or Not today?
posted by FlamingBore at 5:08 PM on January 5, 2006

On a somewhat related subject, I will judge other people by how attractive their mate is. If I meet a friend's mate, and said mate is ugly, I will look down on my friend, if only for a moment.

In the same vein, if a friend's mate is way more physically attractive than the friend, I start to wonder if said friend is shallow.
posted by nomad at 5:37 PM on January 5, 2006

I think I'm beautiful, but I'm a big fatty fatso, so other people may disagree. Quite often, when people meet my husband for the first time or see his picture, they're reaction is an astonished, "He's cute!" and that always makes me chuckle a bit. If you removed the body issues, I'd say we're on the same level though. That being said, I've always dated men that were pretty conventionally attractive. I'm usually the shallow one in the relationship, I guess.
posted by ferociouskitty at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm an attractive woman. However, I'm typically not attracted to conventionally handsome men (in part because of the personality I've found to come attached). I've had a few moments in past relationships when I'd step back and realize that my mate wasn't all that good looking (leading to the thought of well, what am I doing with him? only to realize that, for me at least, personality is a huuuge factour in how attractive I find someone.

Part of the reason I know I'm attractive (besides turning the heads of strangers) is because my partner makes it abundantly clear to me how sexy he finds me, which was something I didn't hear in past relationships.
posted by hopeless romantique at 6:05 PM on January 5, 2006

It's been said before, but it's totally a matter of self-esteem. Because of a very unpleasant high school experience, I had very low self-esteem most of the way through college. As a result, many of the girls I dated were not very attractive (physically or otherwise). It was definitely a case of settling for something because I didn't think I could do any better.

Over time I got more self-confident, more outgoing, et cetera, and there was a corresponding upswing of attractiveness on the part of the people I dated. Again, not just physical attractiveness... but intelligence, sense of humor, creativity, et cetera. To be honest, I've dated several gals who I thought were way out of my league (which I suppose is actually that low self-esteem raising its ugly head again).

You call yourself "very unattractive," which is something I would have said about myself not too many years ago. I didn't magically get better looking. I just stopped thinking about it and became more relaxed in social situations. You're probably a lot more attractive than you think, but you close yourself off from a lot of people because you think you're below them.
posted by brundlefly at 6:20 PM on January 5, 2006

How much has your own attractiveness or sense thereof determined with whom you are or have been romantically involved?

If you look at only the physical aspect, very little. It's much easier to hook up with a stranger if you are conventionally attractive but as far as long term relationships go, forget it. As ridiculous and new age-y as it sounds, just reverse the Crystalian phrase "if you look good, you feel good." I would much rather meet someone new when I'm feeling confident, funny, and ready for a good time than after a few months of doing nothing but work -> gym -> sleep -> repeat. My most successful relationships were founded when I was in decent but not great shape; the worst, bar fucking none, were founded when I was in really good shape, if that helps.

You don't say why you think you're unattractive, so I can't speak to that, but let me repeat something I heard once and never forgot: no matter how gross or boring or whatever you think you are, there is somebody out there who wants to fuck you more than you can possibly imagine. It's a pretty good morale booster.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:31 PM on January 5, 2006

It was definitely a case of settling for something because I didn't think I could do any better.

I have no idea how to rate my attractiveness as a woman, but I've honestly never consciously thought of my mate's attractiveness as the top quality I filter by. Obviously, physical appearance has something to do with who I'm drawn to in the first place, but I wouldn't consciously put it at the top of my list, nor would I ever consider myself settling if I was with a conventionally ugly person.

I fall in love, and then I love however they look. I've gotten incredibly fond of any number of conventionally unattractive features -- beer bellies, hairy chests (and I mean HAIRY hairy!) and birth defects.

However, I will freely admit to being overly impressed by professional achievement in men, which suggests the
conventional wisdom that women care about status and men care about looks is true (for me anyway).
posted by footnote at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: I will admit I was motivated to ask this question in part by today's earlier question about people's sense of their own attractiveness. And of course it's difficult to speculate on the relationships of strangers based on anything other than their appearance. So I I'm not surprised that everyone focused on physical attractiveness although I didn't explicitly mention that. (And I'm unattractive for reasons other than my appearance; I look fine.)

I'm really more interested, however, in the idea of "settling"; that there are others out there who are in some way "better" (smarter, funnier, kinder, richer, healthier, handsomer, whatever-er) than the person/people you've chosen to be with and how do you come to terms with that. Or do you? Are you aware of feeling "it's this or being alone?"
posted by TimeFactor at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2006

Yes what nixerman says. The problem I have, without any objective measurement, is determining how attractive I am. Rarely do people move on up a la the Jeffersons, those exceptions being riches, celebrity status or other things average joes do not have. So my question is, how does one find out their "look class"? Especially if one's romantic history is weird, varied and not mixed with a lot of one night stands.
posted by geoff. at 9:14 PM on January 5, 2006

One night stands, of course a good barometer of look class as all you go on is looks.
posted by geoff. at 9:15 PM on January 5, 2006

footnote: Like I said... attractiveness, physical or otherwise. I often found myself in relationships with people who were physically ugly and dumb. Physically ugly and smart as all hell. Physically attractive and dumb as a bag of hammers. But never, never physically attractive and smart. People who were attractive in all ways felt above me.

Nowadays, I would still feel comfortable in a relationship with someone who is conventionally unattractive physically, as long as they were smart, funny, interesting cookies. But back then, I really felt my romantic prospects were limited because of my own insecurities about my own physical attractiveness and intellectual attractiveness. I really thought I was dumb and ugly.

Once I stopped thinking about myself in that way, I found that I could get into emotionally and (yes) aesthetically satisfying relationships. It's not a matter of "moving up" some how on the physical attractiveness ladder. It's a matter of feeling completely free to pursue or be pursued by just about anyone. Not being limited by your own low self-esteem.
posted by brundlefly at 10:23 PM on January 5, 2006

honestly, i find this whole discussion baffling. people are throwing the word "attractive" around as if it were a mathematical constant.

and talk of "look class" is downright disturbing.

the value ascribed to any given mental or physical attribute is a socially created value, not a natural law. "look class" and the idea of certain body types or attributes being better than others is fostered by an advertising media which requires these things to be clearly delineated and given binary values so as to make mad fucking cash off of people's insecurities.

let me just mention - because i feel if i don't some people will write off what i'm saying here as sour grapes - i've never really lacked attention from my favoured gender. i'm just increasingly aware of how absurd this all is.

today, skinny women are considered "attractive" while plump women are not. in the victorian age, it was the other way around.

once i began to stop looking at people as body types (which i didn't even realize i was doing for many years), it became quite clear that the most attractive people are people who are comfortable in their bodies and confident in their approach to life. when they have certain attributes i like, they get extra points. those attributes i favour sometimes match those touted as conventionally attractive; sometimes they don't; and to be honest one "attractive" quality can look great on one person but look like shit on another.

if it was really so cut and dry, a very small minority of people on the planet would actually be having sex, let alone serious relationships. ultimately, none of us are "attractive" in the way it's being used here. i am, however, beautiful, and i'm willing to bet that the questioner and most of the respondents are as well.

deep breath. heh, sorry. i'm going to answer the question as i interpreted it: when I am confident in myself and my appearance, I tend to attract more people to myself who I consider attractive.

i've become madly physically attracted to people once I got to know them better; similarly, I've become completely unattracted to people who I originally thought were scorching once I got to know them. I'm pretty sure most people can report the same experience.

i've gone through wonderful times of having insane numbers of people attracted to me, and loooooong dry spells. the former sometimes happens when i choose to look like a hairy freak; the latter sometimes lasts through periods of me deciding to accentuate the "attractive" physical qualities i was fortunate(?) enough to inherit. the only constant factors seem to be my health, whether i'm happy and engaged in my life, and my confidence level.
posted by poweredbybeard at 10:36 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm really more interested, however, in the idea of "settling"; that there are others out there who are in some way "better" (smarter, funnier, kinder, richer, healthier, handsomer, whatever-er) than the person/people you've chosen to be with and how do you come to terms with that. Or do you? Are you aware of feeling "it's this or being alone?"

"settling" shouldn't be about "it's this or being alone," instead I see it as being about reaching something approaching an optimal compromise. To use a stupid analogy, consider buying a car: for a given car, there is likely to be a car that's cheaper, another that's faster, has more storage space, better fuel economy, better looking, etc. But what drives (heh.) your decision is going to be which car has the best balance of those various factors for you, because no *one* car is going to be at the same time as fast as a lamborghini, have as much storage as a semi-rig, and still be as fuel economic as a solar powered hybrid electric thingy.
posted by juv3nal at 10:53 PM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Except the Homer.
posted by kcm at 11:06 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm probably average at best, but I have, in recent years, tended to date girls who are probably viewed as "out of my league" by strangers who see us together. I guess I have a winning personality.

What really killed me was being told basically (by more than one girl) "I never really found you attractive before we started dating.. but getting to know you, you grew on me" .. I suppose that's supposed to be a grand compliment about me as a person, but.. damn.. ouch.

I don't limit myself to only "hot girls" or anything.. it just tends to work out that way.. I think it's a risk versus reward thing... why bother talking to a stranger and risk rejection if she's not that attractive? I have, however, dated girls who probably aren't "hot", because I got to know them through other means. When it comes to approaching strangers, though, I suppose I'm more selective on appearance.
posted by twiggy at 11:47 PM on January 5, 2006

Attractiveness is, as has been said, a matter of taste. Some people's taste lies in traditionally attractive people, other people's taste lies elsewhere. Clearly, some people are attracted exclusively to classically beautiful people, and are thwarted in their attempts to get them, so must 'settle'.

It's reasonable to say that the people who are classically beautiful are deemed to be so because they represent a mainstream taste. The majority of people are are attracted to classically beautiful people plus a number of 'types' that are personal preferences. People who go out with a representative of one of their preferred types are not settling, they are just selecting.

Personally, I've gone to bed with extremely beautiful people, and also people that my friends were like, 'what the fuck?' I am not classically beautiful, but I fits some beautiful people's type. I found the people my friends were surprised by to be super super hot.

Some people may settle because they are both not classically beautiful AND their preferred type of person tends not be be attracted to them. But I think most people's attractiveness can be summed up by the phrase, 'There's just something about them that makes them hot.'
posted by pollystark at 3:15 AM on January 6, 2006

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

As I get older, women start to loose their attractiveness the closer in proximity they are. Let me explain: When I was in my teens, almost every girl that looked hot from 30 feet away was hot close up. Now, I'm in my thirties, and many 30' hot girls are not so hot at 10' or closer.

And, when they open their mouths, the hot number plummets.

I don't think about my own attractiveness much. When I'm in shape, women look at me more, but who cares about that? In shape or not, when I start talking, they start paying attention to me... what's attractive to most women is that your interested in them as people, and that you have some intelligence and humor... and that's what's important to me too. It should be important to you, Timefactor. If you are funny, and interested, and interesting, you could look like a horse's ass and you'd still have to beat them off with a stick.

Wear khakis and nice shoes, my wife would say. Talk to them, all of them, in a relaxed conversational way, and you'll be fine. Also less lonely, and a better student of women in general. Women are well worth being students of... how many strangers have to started a conversation with today?

Personality is what makes people attractive as adults. There may be plenty of people who are still only interested in looks, but there are so many reasons to avoid them that "looks obsessed" probably won't make the top five.
posted by ewkpates at 4:27 AM on January 6, 2006

Re: Settling -- It only feels like settling when you're involved with someone with whom you do not really mesh. We are none of us perfect people -- the idea behind a relationship, IMHO, is that you compliment one another's deficiencies. When you're constantly struggling with just trying to get along with one another consistently, that feels like settling.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:53 AM on January 6, 2006

I can't rate my own attractiveness; I really can't.

I'm with scody: I've never known how to think of myself in terms of "attractiveness" as an abstract concept. But then, like poweredbybeard, I think the whole idea of some sort of objective "attractiveness" is silly. What's important to me is that the woman I'm with finds me attractive, and that's always been the case (or so they've given me to understand). Similarly, I don't give a damn how anybody else would rate the woman I'm with, I care how attractive she is to me. I've never dated a woman I didn't find attractive, and I don't see why anyone would. If you only find the supermodel type attractive, of course, you have a problem.
posted by languagehat at 5:42 AM on January 6, 2006

Well, I'm no oil painting (unless you count something by Pollock, I suppose) and when I was younger I was certainly aware of that as a significant confidence-limiter. But I've never been the sort of guy who can be very proactive in matters of relationships. I've never decided this or that person is for me when it comes to the big attractions. They just happen, or they don't.

My first serious girlfriend was something of a stunner. People used to tell her she looked a bit like Agnetha Fältskog. When I first met her I definitely thought "Yes, she's gorgeous so she certainly won't be interested in me", but strangely, she was. Since then I've been out with very different-looking women. Different hair colours, different body shapes and sizes, different heights... I found all of them physically attractive irrespective of whether or not they fitted stereotypes of stunnerdom, but that was never the major factor in why we got together (and obviously the same was true for them!)

I've never felt I've "settled for someone" and I never would. That's cowardice, not to mention deeply unpleasant. Everyone should develop the maturity and resilience to deal with living without a partner and not deceive people into thinking you care more for them than you do just so you can get a human-shaped comforter into your life.
posted by Decani at 7:29 AM on January 6, 2006

How much has your own attractiveness or sense thereof determined with whom you are or have been romantically involved?
I don't know, but I generally don't have a problem dating people I want to. Relationships are another story.

Are you aware of feeling that you've settled for someone?
These are the things I've settled for, from 6 wks. - 3 yrs., categorized by attractiveness of paramour (each category represents about 5 people). I am defining attractiveness in terms of height, build, hair, face and number of other people I've known who have wanted to have sex with them:

-insufficiently medicated
-no career goals
-would admittedly never stop sleeping with other people
-terrible in bed
-obsessed with ex-girlfriend
-drug/alcohol addict
-chronically broke / bad with money
-incredibly high maintenance
-insecure and looks-obsessed
-poseur-y and immature
-may have had a girlfriend (didn't know at the time)

-took me for granted / thoughtless
-did not want a serious reciprocally-supportive relationship
-emotionally stunted
-no career goals
-criminal friends
-obsessed with ex-girlfriend
-mama's boy

The longer relationships by far were with people my friends later told me were less attractive than I. But it looks like I've put up with more crap from the attractive ones. I guess my point is, you're always compromising on something. Unless you're single.
posted by Marnie at 7:59 AM on January 6, 2006

i think this is a different issue for men and women.

a guy might see having a GF who is not as attractive as his ideal as "settling" for less.

girls (might never admit it but) don't like their BFs cuter than them (just like guys don't really like their GFs taller/smarter than them) unless they have a superhuman healthy sense of self esteem. so most girls will find a too good looking guy MORE of a problem than a less attractive guy.

(women, please don't shoot me for it. i know it's true for me.)
posted by mirileh at 8:01 AM on January 6, 2006

honestly, i find this whole discussion baffling. people are throwing the word "attractive" around as if it were a mathematical constant.

Well, I think it's kind of assumed that attractiveness is not a constant. At least I answered under that assumption. When I refer to attractive people, I mean people I am attracted to.
posted by brundlefly at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2006

girls (might never admit it but) don't like their BFs cuter than them...i know it's true for me.

I guess this is the "lover or beloved" problem - would you rather be with someone you desire or someone who desires you... Personally I would far prefer to feel it, to be the lover. Being desired is pretty uninteresting unless you desire the person back... Of course, if you desire someone who doesn't appreciate your good qualities, that's frustrating and unfulfilling as well, so obviously the best scenario is for it to be equal. But that's tough to find. Still, i don't even get the point of being with someone who doesn't stimulate, inspire, excite or otherwise get you going in some totally visceral way - of course I agree that intelligence, humor, talent, personality, etc are major factors, but I would absolutely prefer super hot to less so, all other qualities being equal (which of course in real life they never are which complicates everything).

And while I can be flexible about the attractiveness factor, it still has to be there on some level, otherwise you won't have (or anyway won't enjoy) the sexual aspect of the relationship. I guess you can have an alternative lifestyle scenario where your "life partner" is not your sexual partner, but that's unusual and probably difficult to pull off.
posted by mdn at 11:18 AM on January 6, 2006

And for a contrasting male point of view from infamous ex-husband of Angelina Jolie Billy Bob Thornton:

"Sex doesn't have to be with a model to be good. As a matter of fact, sometimes with the model, the actress, the 'sexiest person in the world', it may be literally like f**king the couch. Don't count out the average-looking woman, or even maybe the slightly unattractive woman, or the really unattractive woman. There may be this swarthy, little, five-foot-two stocky woman who just has sex (written) all over her."
posted by Marnie at 12:03 PM on January 6, 2006

Has anybody found that looking like you have money is more attractive than looking good?
posted by davy at 11:03 AM on January 7, 2006

possibly, at least, indirectly. here in chile people who look "european" tend to be from the upper classes. and i get a lot more attention than i did in the uk. on the other hand some may be due to simply being "different" rather than "rich".
posted by andrew cooke at 11:08 AM on January 7, 2006

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