How important is it to have an attractive partner?

I recently heard someone make the argument (very confidently, I might add) that attractive people don’t “date down”.  In other words, beautiful people date other beautiful people while the aesthetically challenged stick to their own, and never the twain shall meet.  If aesthetic beauty can be considered in terms of social hierarchy, then the most attractive people are at the top while the least attractive are at the bottom.  Oh, how we love our hierarchies!

As I continued listening (more appropriately – eavesdropping), this person went on to say that any attractive man who dates an unattractive or comparatively less attractive woman was likely closeted; that their partner was their “beard”.  While their logic isn’t completely flawed, that claim strikes me as uncomfortably cynical and somewhat ignorant (and often enough, inaccurate).

These kinds of generalizations are particularly frustrating to me.  Generalizations are ‘true’ often enough to justify making such a broad, sweeping statement.  However, on a planet of nearly 8 billion people, there are just as many examples of the opposite.  In fact, I think there are more tangible, practical explanations for this.   Barring a full-scale scientific investigation, the attractive man-unattractive woman pair (and its companion, the unattractive man-attractive woman pairing) can likely be considered in terms of self-esteem, availability, and personality.

Before I make my argument, I would like to address the other popular opinion about this query-some pairing.  And that is the perception that attractiveness is negatively correlated to trustworthiness (i.e., the hotter you are, the less trustworthy you are).  Speaking as a man of above-average beauty (and slightly below average humility), I’ve heard for most of my adult life from women that I must be a “player”.  In fact, many people I meet are reluctant to entertain the idea that an attractive person – when it comes to dating – might also be an ethical person.  Thomas Hobbes would be proud.

For many, handsomeness in men (and women, not to gender stereotype) often goes hand-in-hand with wandering eyes. And hands. And genitals.  The argument has been made on both sides of the aisle that beautiful people should be avoided, with the justification that because they can have anyone, they will. Often.  However, reality rarely aligns itself with our expectations.  Often times, above average attractiveness is accompanied by problematic self-esteem issues, (relative) emotional instability, and a greater difficulty in finding compatible partners.  This becomes especially complicated when marriage factors into the equation.  While a person’s trustworthiness is certainly an important factor in choosing a life partner, more often than not you are likely to see a disparity in the attractiveness of a paired couple that has less to do with how trustworthy they are, and more to do with their level of emotional maturity and how much they’ve developed their respective personalities.

In other words, it’s a safer bet to select the “less attractive” mate, because they are more likely to have a surplus of other qualities, not the least of which includes how reliable they are.   Attractive people can often be narcissistic, self-absorbed, and manipulative.  While that’s not to say that unattractive people lack these qualities, they are observed in abundance in the most beautiful people of the population.

Much has been made about the advantages of  beauty; it has been correlated with higher pay, better job opportunities, a greater selection of potential mates, among other desirables.  I’m not sure where this notion originated from; it’s not as if attractive people are able to cast spells on unsuspecting victims.  I can assure you, I’ve met more than a few women who managed not to fall prey to the magic of my symmetrical bone structure.  Which, to my mind, calls into question what we consider to be ‘beautiful’ in the first place.

Beauty is honesty.  Beauty is virtuous.  Beauty is strength during times of intolerable cruelty.  Beauty is the courage to press forward, to pull yourself away from the smoldering wreckage of failure and towards future success.  Beauty is everlasting; it becomes more luminous as time passes.  Beauty isn’t skin deep; it’s somewhere tucked inside our bodies, and yet still radiating out into the cosmos.  Beauty can be found in the ‘least attractive person’, and absent from a statuesque model.  It is intangible and difficult to identify, and yet ever-present.  Often times there is beauty in pain and suffering, and none to be found in sense pleasures.  Beauty is simplicity; beauty is everywhere and everything.  Hippie rant over.



Photo Source: Shallow Hal (2oth Century Fox)

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