The Dating World Doesn’t Make Sense: A Rant

It is a surprisingly common belief that the dating world makes sense or that, failing that, the dating world can be MADE to make sense if you shove it hard enough and throw out enough data. It’s common among pick-up artists, of course, and the more misogynistic brand of Redditor; but Cosmo does it, self-help books do it, friends and family and coworkers do it, hell, I’ve done it on this very blog.

You would think it would make sense. That people would, more or less, all tend to like the same thing: kind, interesting, physically attractive people or, failing that, jerks/bitches. That there is some consistent behavior that people can adopt and then they will all have sex. But that’s not true! The dating universe does not make sense.

Exhibit A:

Christina Hendricks, who is basically the hottest lady alive, and her husband Geoffrey Arendt, who looks like one of my nerdy ex-boyfriends.

Exhibit B:

This is Pierce Brosnan, aka James Bond, aka the definition of masculinity and manliness and heartthrobness, and his wife, who is a perfectly ordinary person.

Exhibit C: Ferrett Steinmetz. I have to say, I am kind of fond of his writing, as I am addicted to confessional essays.  (It is a SICKNESS.) He has also had quite a lot of sex, despite being (as extensively documented in his own essays) overweight, nerdy, prone to cheating, a slob, needy for affection, and a fucking Magic the Gathering writer. He is currently happily married and has a couple other partners (that his wife knows about, obviously). I am just saying.

Now, I’m not saying that whether you get a date is completely up to chance. Many people who can’t get a date with someone they find attractive have pretty obvious reasons why they can’t. “Has no friends of the appropriate gender.” “Has no friends, period.” “So passive that you basically have to stalk them to date them.” “Doesn’t ask people out.” “Has problems trusting people enough to date them.” “Only attracted to people who look exactly like the person they had a crush on in elementary school and borderline asexual with everyone else.”* None of those are bad things in and of themselves, and certainly none of them make one a bad person; however, they will make it harder to transform the X percentage of people who are attracted to you into people who will date you.

But there ARE people who can’t get a date, and there’s no reason for it except that the universe chose to shit on their heads. Congratulations, you’re today’s lucky winner of the door prize of celibacy! Come in and collect your winnings!

This is the point at which a lot of people accuse people who make stupid generalizations about dating, of the “women like jerks” or “men like big tits” sort, of not being able to get laid. But I don’t think that’s the case. Some of them might be, especially on the Internet, but not all of them are. Some Cosmo writers are fucking married.

I think, in a lot of cases, it’s just overgeneralization– either from whom you’re attracted to or from who’s attracted to you. If you like smart guys, you’re going to assume that most people are into smart guys; if you get laid by making tons of jokes, you’re going to recommend making tons of jokes as the Dating Method Par Excellance.

Consider pick-up artistry. If you try PUA stuff and you get laid from it, you’re going to assume it’s telling the truth about the dating world, even if it isn’t.  There’s a huge leap from “I went out and started teasing girls and being cocky, and suddenly I started having casual sex” to “therefore all women like cocky guys who tease them.” Maybe the type of women you like, in the place you live, are more likely than average to like it; maybe it works with your style and your personality better than your previous tactics did; hell, maybe it’s a complete coincidence– that happens, sometimes, when your sample consists of one thing. (And the dude who tried PUA stuff and it didn’t work isn’t exactly going to be sticking about the PUA community selling ebooks, so there’s some pretty heavy selection bias, too.)

What it doesn’t mean is that pickup artist dogma is necessarily going to work for everyone (it won’t) or an accurate description of how dating works (it’s not). Because people are different, and the dating world is fucking complicated, and a lot of times it just comes down to luck.

Imagine dating as some very complicated system, like economics. After more than two centuries of scientific study of economics by many brilliant minds who have devoted their lives to it, we’re only beginning to comprehend how the modern capitalist economy works, and new, revolutionary discoveries are still being made. Why do you think dating would be less so?

But a lot of the scientific study of dating is shit. For one example, I do not understand why psychologists like asking people about “objective attractiveness” so much. I have seen it in seriously SO MANY papers, and it makes no sense. For instance, here is a man whom I would call objectively attractive:

Hi Thor!

Here is a man I want to bang:

Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics!

You will notice that they don’t look a hell of a lot alike. Thor’s got that dopey expression on his face, for instance, and Ryan North has an adorable smile lighting up his face and glasses and *sigh*… wait, I was making a point, wasn’t I?

What is objectively attractive and what I’m actually attracted to are completely different. Objective attractiveness is good if you want to talk about beauty standards or body image, less good if you want to talk about whom they get boners for, and even less good if you want to talk about whom they fuck.

*All of these are people I’ve met, stripped of identifying details, so don’t go complaining in the comments about them being unrealistic.

About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.


  1. RodKingsley says:

    “Christina Hendricks, who is basically the hottest lady alive,”

    What? Not from the picture you posted.

  2. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. I’m really feeling down on my luck when it comes to dating.

    I’ve been not dating for over 10 years due to serious social anxiety and OCD, and I’ve finally felt like I can date. It’s been tough. I read the piece on the main site about Rejection, and It made me both sad and angry. It’s EASY to “believe in yourself” if you have a great job and are conventionally attractive.

    How do you believe in yourself when you’re nearly 40, overweight, bald, with a job in retail?

    (BTW I’ve been rejected by a few people who have, in not so many words, said that I’m a “nice guy,” which makes me resent the whole Nice GuyTM thing even more).

  3. Ozy,

    yes and no.

    I believe you make a very important point about the diversity of attraction and attractivity. But I also believe that you’re making the mistake of assuming a random distribution when the distribution is clearly non-random and sex and dating is clearly not evenly/randomly distributed. You’re likely correct that the correct variables are usually obscured behind overgeneralizing statements that often don’t make sense on a second glance, but sexual success clearly is not evenly distributed, and that suggests that attraction isn’t random, and that there are discernable attraction patterns. I don’t think it’s exactly pareto-distributed either, but it’s certainly not random. Otherwise there’s be not a lot of reasons why some people would do so much better than others – and why it’s possible to learn certain behaviours. Your point is certainly valid, but it’s more a statement along the lines of “there’s a lid for every kettle” when the kettle is wondering about how to find a format that is compatible with a lot of lids.

    Accordingly, I don’t think that behavioral (mental) strategies do not matter at all. I believe that there are some (culturally adjusted and adjustable) social strategies that are better than others at creating attraction – not for every lid, of course, but as a strategy to increase the number of compatible lids. Above all, I think there’s one (possibly even cross culturally applicable) which this commenter in a thread over at Clarisse Thorn has completely nailed, in my opinion (,

    • AnonymousDog says:

      Are you suggesting that a random distribution is the same as an even distribution? It’s clearly not evenly distributed by any measure.

      Plus there are any number of variables. The probability of two people being mutually attracted to one another is a completely different question from the probability that they will ever encounter each other, and those are only two issues. Whether ‘there’s a lid for every pot” has to be considered separately(and first) before it can be determined if any particular pot can find its lid.

  4. While like anything the dating world can be objectively analyzed and a plan devised, I think that the inability of people to follow their plans makes even perfect plans kind of ineffective. Meanwhile, most attempts to give a plan are significantly colored by ideology (PUA stuff, the abominable The Rules) and thus end up being incorrect and useless.

    I also think that the (possibly percieved?) inability to rehearse plans means that even good plans fail or don’t get used, so one never hears of their success.

    On objective attractiveness: Obviously it’s not really _objective_, but it is the form of attractiveness that 1. many people find attractive even if they find other things attractive, 2. Is hard to be, and therefore considered awesome even by people who don’t really like it, and 3. is supported by media and culture. Therefore, people who are ‘objectively attractive’ gain some privileges (not really kyriarchal privilege I am talking about here, although being extremely ugly is probably a dis-privilege, and ugliness seems to have some human universality to it) regardless of whether an individual person finds them attractive.

    Personally my attractiveness function for women is fairly close to the norm and for men (Not sexually attracted, just aesthetic plus my theory of what I would find sexually attractive / what people similar to me but attracted to men would be expected to find attractive) is fairly non-Thor-like and actually close to my idealized form of myself (which seems like a rationality alarm bell.

    I really wonder what it’s going to be like in the world to come, once science makes changing one’s appearance and physical body structure is as easy as designing it and commanding one’s body to assume the shape. I imagine a lot of artistic but extremely subtle variations, grotesque ‘ironically attractive’ hipsters, and possibly some communities based on highly conventional-from-the-past and highly-unconventional appearances.

  5. mothball says:

    “But a lot of the scientific study of dating is shit. For one example, I do not understand why psychologists like asking people about “objective attractiveness” so much.”

    me either, especially since it doesn’t exist.

    also a lot of the “obvious reasons” people cant get a date (read as: laid) fail horribly to be obvious when you introduce “societal perspective” (I put that phrase in quote because the simpler term to use would be privilege but since the use of that word by the social justice community makes me wanna throw babies on fire into a wood chipper with rage, I used something else).

    i.e. a straight dude who “doesn’t ask people out” and or “has no female friends or friends at all” is more than likely going to spend life celibate and without a date. I would however severally doubt a woman with the same habits would have the same problem. Maybe when compared to other straight women perhaps, but most likely not when compared to straight dudes or people in general

    • In my personal experience as a female-assigned person attracted to men, barring dating websites, it is extremely difficult to get a guy to ask you out if, in fact, you don’t know any men. You’re more or less left with the dudes yelling “nice ass” at you from street corners at that point.

      • mothball says:

        “is extremely difficult to get a guy to ask you out if, in fact, you don’t know any men”

        Your calling “difficult” what a fair chunk of men find almost literally impossible (eventually you DID get a few guys to ask you out right? Most of us dudes have never had this happen to us)

        And while harassment isn’t nice, it’s pretty likely that everybody who has ever cat called you has ALSO been sexually attracted to you, even if they chose to be an ass hat rather than tel you so. Many of us dudes on the other hand who (don’t ask people out) matter so little to women we don’t even warrant harassment.

        If a woman doesn’t ask people out, she will have few partners, if a man doesn’t ask people out, he will have zero partners.

        • I can count the number of times I’ve been asked out on one hand and have fingers left over. If you count the number of times I’ve been asked out by someone I would like to date, well, uh, that would be once. I ask them out instead. 🙂

          Yes, *in general* men are more likely to ask people out than women are, and women are more likely to find the telepathy strategy working out well. But the dating world is complicated and makes no sense and doesn’t have any specific rules you can apply! You cannot generalize from an aggregate trend in women to any specific woman, because her gender is only one of the many, many, many variables affecting her dating experience, from other identities to her social group to her location to random fucking luck.

          But that has nothing to do with “if you don’t know any men you are unlikely to get asked out.” It’s a simple fact. Consider a shy, socially awkward girl. She’s not going to go to a club or a bar, she has no male friends, and new male friends make her blush and run away. (Not an exaggeration of the behavior of some shy girls I know.) She’s not going to get asked out, because the dudes are not even going to MEET her to find out that they really want to date her. For her, “learn to talk to dudes, acquire male friends” is a fairly good plan to increase her chance of getting a boyfriend.

          …I am just going to ignore the bit about harassment, except to point out that as someone who has experienced both the male and the female ends of this particular area you do NOT want to be harassed. TRUST ME.

          • “I can count the number of times I’ve been asked out on one hand and have fingers left over. ”

            I can count the number of times I’ve been asked out with no hands at all!

            “Yes, *in general* men are more likely to ask people out than women are, and women are more likely to find the telepathy strategy working out well.”

            How much more likely?

            “She’s not going to go to a club or a bar, she has no male friends, and new male friends make her blush and run away.”

            Bad example. Actively avoiding the opposite sex is not the same as simply being passive.

          • I have never even had a woman say hello or start a conversation with me, much less ask me out. There is, like Daelyte said, a difference between being passive and avoiding social interaction completely. Your shy female friends could sit on a park bench and read a book and have men talk to them, approach them, smile at them, say hello, and she could certainly get a date. Women, for the most part, simply need to leave the house and they will have some sort of interaction with men. I hear stories from my female friends all the time about men who are approaching them on the street, in home depot, at the supermarket, on the train, etc. They generally aren’t interested in these men but that doesn’t change the fact that it happens. I’ve been living in NYC for 9 years, and I have never had a woman approach me or say hello. I cannot even get them to give me a smile though they do look at me.

            Honestly, I’d rather have undesired attention than no attention at all. Feeling like the world doesn’t know you exist is probably much worse than feeling like too many people are giving you attention. I wouldn’t know the latter because I’ve never received attention from anyone.

            • Emmeline says:

              Trust me, you really wouldn’t. I was sexually harassed all through school *because* word got around that I was raped in the summer holidays. And on another note, guys assuming women just have to leave the house to get hit on makes the ladies who get nothing feel even more like freaks.

              • I really would. Sexual harassment and being hit on are two very different things by the way. Would you rather have too many people find you attractive and let you know that they find you attractive or have the whole world saying that you are unattractive? Seems pretty simple to me. Women, in almost all cases, DO just have to leave the house to get hit on. I have many female friends — more female friends than male — and every single one of them tells me stories pretty regularly about crazy situations where they are hit on.

                • I’ll just chime in here and say that while I understand what you are saying, it can become very frustrating to have people hit on you and more (bordering yes on harassment) when you are just trying to go about your business. Frankly, this doesn’t happen to me much anymore, probably because I travel with kids, and it’s wonderful to not be interrupted and then possibly told I”m a bitch because I don’t respond correctly. I say again, I understand what you are saying, but I’d like you to hear what the ladies are saying too.

                  I think it would be a wonderful world if the people we found attractive hit on us. The gamut includes being hit on by people we really really don’t find attractive and not getting hit on at all. And yes, it also includes women hitting on men. I am quite practiced at this.

                  • *puts on old lecturer hat* I am reminded of a story…

                    *takes off the old lecturer hat* Okay I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but the idea is that a bunch of people were sitting in a circle, and someone says something like “everyone write down your worst problem that you wish you didn’t have to deal with, and put it in this hat.” So everyone does this, then they pass the hat around and everyone pulls out someone else’s Big Problem. “You have a choice,” they are told. “You can either take your own Big Problem back, or have to deal with the problem you took out of the hat.” Everyone ends up taking back their original problem.

                    Also…there’s this saying, “grass is always greener…” That too. And something about “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” I bet if I knew another language I could come up with a few more.

                    Basically, I’m just adding onto what Julie’s saying here by pointing out it always seems like it’d be easier to deal with someone else’s problem. This is where empathy and sympathy become so important. This is where it is essential to be able to take yourself out of your own head, if only just for a moment, and imagine that you have to deal with whatever someone else has to deal with.

                    Because the grass isn’t always greener and often someone else’s shoes will give you blisters.

                  • I agree with what you are saying, Julie, …there is a time and place for everything…perhaps if a young single wants to meet another attractive single, the appropriate places for such friendly mingling might be one of the following: (1) social club (ie., Ping Pong Club, a la Susan Sarandon, (2) Young Alumni Club (pick your alma mater), (3) other special interest associations (ie., science, astronomy, book club, etc.), or (4) sports club (i.e., volleyball, Road Runners, Reebok)… perhaps going to a festival (ie., Barbecue Festival or Medieval) with a bunch of your girl friends (or whoever) to play wing man might make you more successful….

                    • sigh… ok, every feminist gives this response, and it is utterly avoids the issue at hand, ill just go down the list…

                      (1) social club (ie., Ping Pong Club, a la Susan Sarandon,
                      The equivalent to a bar, the one place where even as society gets more gender egalitarian, people expect each other to stick to the “script”. dude’s are pressured approach, chicks are slut shamed, everybody goes home alone and pissed at the other party.

                      (2) Young Alumni Club (pick your alma mater)
                      Unless you don’t HAVE an alma mater, or if you do, you had no friends in school (news flash, this group makes up a shit ton of the population)

                      (3) other special interest associations (ie., science, astronomy, book club, etc.)
                      Oh, you mean all the places where women constantly talk bout how they hate not being able to be a part of ‘s social activities without being hit on? “I just come here to read, hack, insert activity here, why can’t I come here to do that thing without being hit on constantly!?”.

                      This of course assumes there are enough women involved in the activity(s) your into to even meet more than 1 of them <_<.

                      (4) sports club (i.e., volleyball, Road Runners, Reebok)
                      See above response

                      (5)… perhaps going to a festival (ie., Barbecue Festival or Medieval) with a bunch of your girl friends (or whoever) to play wing man might make you more successful….
                      Schrodinger's Rapist = approach strange women to start conversation, woman gets freaked out and pepper sprays you in the face (or just slides away from you as fast as possible if your lucky)

                      Also, most people who have social circles that contain so few of $ don’t have $ friends to play wing man for, if they did, they wouldn’t need to consciously seek out stuff to do that a lot of $ do so that the can meet more of said gender. Telling a guy with no female friends to go play wing man with a group of female friends at a festival in order to “meet more woman” is pretty ass backwards.

          • mothball says:

            “I can count the number of times I’ve been asked out on one hand and have fingers left over. If you count the number of times I’ve been asked out by someone I would like to date, well, uh, that would be once. I ask them out instead.”

            that’s still better than zero

            “Yes, *in general* men are more likely to ask people out than women are, and women are more likely to find the telepathy strategy working out well. But the dating world is complicated and makes no sense and doesn’t have any specific rules you can apply!”

            I don’t think I was trying to argue that point, there are many things that make up an individual’s propensity to have a particular social reaction and the environment contains many of the variables.

            “But that has nothing to do with “if you don’t know any men you are unlikely to get asked out.” ”

            Sure it does, it’s a factor like any other, typically a particularly large factor but isn’t always.

            “…I am just going to ignore the bit about harassment”

            Why? I said that most if not all of your harassers probably find you sexually attractive and as such while being unpleasant, still let you know somebody out there finds you cute. I’m sure most rapists find their victim’s attractive, that doesn’t mean I want to be raped or think rape victims are lucky <_<, it still means they have some external indicator that somebody find's them attractive.

            • Rapists don’t really have to find their victims attractive. They get off on humiliating people. They’ll rape men fairly readily in the right conditions. What they find hot about the situation is the power they have, and the fear the other person feels. I’m not sure why you think being humiliated would enhance your self-esteem.

        • To my knowledge, a man hasn’t even flirted with me, let alone asked me out. Maybe he has and I haven’t noticed. I’m not ugly or overweight; I consider myself mostly average in the looks department, just graduated college. It’s very much attitude (not completely; obviously those who are not conventionally attractive have much harder times). I have never had male friends and despite having a totally awesome relationship with my dad, I often find myself pretty intimidated by dudes. Who knows why. Put me in front of a girl and I’ll talk all day, but I feel like I have to be perceived as attractive to a man, so I just shut up, because a) I don’t really WANT to be perceived as attractive, being as I’m not very sexual and sexual attraction bothers me and b) I don’t want to be perceived as unattractive. Women are often conditioned to feel this way.

          As for sexual harassment . . . are you saying you wouldn’t mind if men larger than you told you you were attractive every day in the form of “Nice ass!” Would that make you feel more attractive? If it would, I think you need to reassess yourself. That’s like saying you’re so lonely that you wouldn’t mind if a robber came into your house. He’s a robber, but hey, company is company! 8D

          • Don Draper says:

            Let’s go for the most commented on post, ever, on “Good Men.”

            Wanda, you just summarized on why dating IS so complicated. Correct me if I missed something, but you start out asserting you’d like a man, and you’d like to be flirted with. Then you conclude by saying, “Put me in front of a girl and I’ll talk all day, but I feel like I have to be perceived as attractive to a man, so I just shut up, because a) I don’t really WANT to be perceived as attractive, being as I’m not very sexual and sexual attraction bothers me and b) I don’t want to be perceived as unattractive.”

            First, if you aren’t “sexual” it’s going to be difficult to attract a man. You need to work on that. It’s an attitude tha can be developed. Not wanting to appear “unnattractive” – doesn’t that sound a bit insecure? You describe yourself as “mostly average.” Take it from an ex-player – if that’s so, there are tons of men who would desire you. Sounds like you need to let go a bit. I mean this kindly, that os, if you desire a male companion.

            • I never did say I wanted a man. I think like most people, it’d be nice if it happened, but it becomes a struggle between how much effort you want to put into something and how much you want it. I used to be super bummed over the whole “no man” thing in high school, but over time I think I’m actually cool with it. And that’s not the “cool with it” in how people have just given into their miserable fate or whatever. I actually think I have a pretty low sex drive, and it took me a while of figuring myself out to realize that (and to reject the culture that says your self worth lies in your boyfriend/girlfriend). So I think I actually am happier if people don’t treat me like a sexual being, since between my social anxiety and low sex drive, it makes me more comfortable if people treat me like a friend. I think it’s why I befriend so many women– with them, I just don’t have to worry about anyone feeling attracted to me. I am not, however, asexual. To my knowledge at least. I feel like I SHOULD date because I don’t feel comfortable making conclusions about myself without testing some theories first, which dating would do.

              In the end, it’s not that I reject the idea of a boyfriend, it’s that I don’t really think it’s worth the time and effort at this point in my life. Because it does take effort, and I have better things to do with my time than sit around in bars and rake through internet dating sites.

              Somehow I’ve made this post all about me. :/ I was just trying to say that it is possible to be a reasonably attractive woman and get no action/never get a date (and my roommates have had the same experiences, so it’s not just me). I don’t want to discount men’s experiences (for sure it’s harder for men), but women of average size, intelligence, and looks don’t get dates by just existing. You have to have an attitude, and it’s never been an attitude I possess.

  6. My GF (from grad school) and I were just talking about this the other day…there were a lot of odd couples amongst our classmates….one classmate in particular peaked our gossip…she fell in love with a man she worked closely with (he was like a mentor) and was gaga over him…My other friend asked her if it was who she was thinking of and she nodded (the guy was overweight and balding AND married with 2 kids!)….Long story short: he divorced his wife and married our classmate (apparently, it’s a blissful union…so go figure!)….Sometimes you can’t measure everything that attracts one person to another (well, he was very intelligent, at least according to my friend!)….

  7. wellokaythen says:

    I don’t see the big deal. All you white people look alike to me.

  8. I am not going to let this make me feel depressed! Maybe someday a woman will smile at me and say hello or something. I just got a nice haircut yesterday, so we’ll see. Now I just need to find a group of friends that are my own age, not married, and have women as part of the group!

  9. AnonymousDog says:

    Yeah, people are all different individuals, but it’s also true that people exist in widely varying social environments, which only increases the complexity. It just drives me nuts that a lot of dating advice(so called) seems to assume that things like population density and gender ratios are the same everywhere, or else don’t matter at all. They’re not, and they do.

    • Amen! Many people do not live in or near major metropolitan cities and/or go out to bars and clubs to meet and chat up potential dates, but that is usually the environment around which most dating advice is centered.

  10. That we don’t know any specific individual pulled out of the crowd’s preferences doesn’t mean there aren’t patterns that can be used to sketch out probable characteristics which are either attractive or unattractive to a population. From there it isn’t difficult to assume that given a set of characteristics, the pool of X number people who are attracted to you can shrink or expand. Which is a step forward and less condescending, if not as ego saving, than throwing up one’s hands and exclaiming it’s all a mystery, the universe simply shit’s on some peoples heads for indescribable reasons.

    I’d also argue Ryan North and Thor are alike in many ways. Symmetry, clear skin, straight white teeth..

  11. Peter Houlihan says:

    Yes, but if Thor had written Dinosaur comics…

  12. On “objective” attractiveness: While, I do say its subjective you can sort of tell on average how attractive someone is to a group of people although its sort of annoying. So lets say you want to determine Jane’s attractiveness to straight American men.
    1) Get a random sample from the group of people who is decidin
    3) Average, or possibly find a better way to summarize the data.
    4) Tada you objectively know (give or take an error range) how attractive Jane is.
    I mean it can be useful I’m guessing, just make sure you define everything properly. Of course, its not really “objective” its “if we do X on average the group of people we are targeting will give a higher rating of attractiveness”

  13. I think that the tendency to want to deconstruct, standardize, systemize the dating experience is very much like the current drive to standardize, measure, and test-to-death in education…a futile attempt to quantify and make concrete an inherently qualitative and abstract concept. Wanting to be able to measure how much more educated a student is in the 6th grade vs the 5th or in School A vs School B is like wanting to be able to have a test that will measure how much you love your partner vs your mother vs your sibling. These things are hard to get a handle on, yet they are so important in our lives that we crave the control and want to chart and plan our progression…doesn’t happen that way. Human attraction is inherently complex, variable, and not subject to any rules that universally apply and that is a GOOD thing in the long run…it just makes it fraught with anxiety and unknowns for each individual 🙂

    I agree with the post, that living in a very connected and media-soaked culture (in North America at least), we are all mostly able to point out/identify what is considered the marketing-approved conventionally attractive man or woman (and there is real social pressure to do so), but many of us are attracted to, date, and partner with people who are very very different from that. Hooray for real people doing real people things…no one really lives day-to-day in a perfume ad (and can I just say that those TV perfume ads are getting more and more ‘theatre of the absurd’ all the time?!?).

    • True, Kaija, no one’s living in an ad, but an awful lot of us have no real world standards beyond what’s marketed to us. After all, gender itself is a kind of organic marketing, when you come right down to it.

      I do think that the more help you need with the anxiety of dating, the harder it’s going to be for you. You’re supposed to overcome these things by banging your head against them, and there’s no good advice for helping yourself thru that process.

  14. I’ve often thought that a part of this drive to understand dating stems from us wanting to feel in control. The randomness of dating means bad things often happen due to nothing we’ve actually done. But if we believe it was because of something we did or didn’t do – then we have a way of controlling things. We make it our own failing in order to give ourselves power to change it.

    But the truth in the dating world is you have so little visibility into what’s really going on. That girl you were chatting to may have lost interest because of something you said, or maybe she lost interest because she met someone else who captured it, or maybe there was a death in the family or some other catastrophe. You’ll likely never know which one it was, and will at best be able to make an educated guess (which, but the way, will be coloured by your own preconceived notions and biases, so be careful).

    I’m actually one of those guys that doesn’t seem to be able to get a date. There are some situational factors that aren’t helping me any, but in general it’s been alot of crap and seeing things go well up until a point where they randomly and inscrutably stop going at all. But I’ve made a conscious choice not to let myself get too caught up in why things fall apart, or to let myself get bitter or cynical about it – I’ve seen what those emotions do to people, and how it twists their perspective into something that unfortunately ensures they’re likely to remain alone. It’s quite sad to see, and I just don’t want to end up like that.

    • I agree, luck is very important.

      However you can increase your chances by going out and doing stuff and meeting people.

      • Well yes. It comes down to luck but you do have the power to alter the odds. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking you have complete control, because the only way to do that would be to deny the agency of others.

        I get out and do things I enjoy. My interests tend not to be the most helpful when it comes to going after women but by living a life I’m happy with without someone I’m better equipped to handle some of the emotional rigours of loneliness.

    • Don Draper says:

      Ahhh!!! My Joanie! I happen to think Geoffrey outkicked his coverage, as well!

      We’re talking about the ages-old difference in what makes one perfectly great person desirable to hoards of the opposite sex, and another, just as great, not? It IS the great mystery.

      I don’t pretend to have it solved, but I rather believe in the “aura” theory…you carry that “mojo” with you all the time…and that isn’t to be confused with machismo. “Mojo” is that secret essence that makes you desirable, and everyone has to discover and find their own personal musk. (However, I happen to think mojo’s first cousins are confidence, and a light spirit.) When you do, you’ll get the opportunities.

      Now, help me with my problem…I’ve been out with something like 60 women in the past 6 years. My problem is that I’m generally, NOT attracted to those who desire me, and vice-verse. I tend to believe that as we get older, the dating/selection process gets less hormone-driven, and more “decisional” or rational, as in, “he may be a nerd, but his stock portfolio makes him a lot more attractive.” In your 20’s it was enough that he was funny, had a great car, and sexually frisky. Today’s modern, 35+ lady seems to be looking beyond the outer, and to the “security” aspects of attraction. Is it wrong for me NOT to want to be evaluated on my ability to “provide” but rather by my “heart”? I want a woman to believe in the man that I AM, and can believe she can help me become the BEST version of me, without regard to my ability to solve her problems…I want to do the same for her…is that too much to ask? Maybe that’s what Pierce Brosnan enjoys, that the rest of us fail to see. How can you place a value on that? It’s priceless.

      • One suggestion, since you are dating 35+ women, mayne look for women who have successful careers and their own money. A lot of those women (if they are still single) probably have some trouble meeting guys because (a) they are too busy and (b) they are too “intimidating.” (I’m speaking frm experience as an attorney who didn’t manage to meet the right guy until I was 42).

        But I think you are destined to run into a lot of women who think about men as “providers” because that’s very engrained what women are raised to look for in men, just like men look for beautiful women. I think you can find plenty of women who aren’t obsessed with a guy’s paycheck but there won’t be many who don’t care at all, at least in the sense that most women want to see that a guy is dedicated and passionate about what he does and isn’t irresponsible or a flake, that he can pay his bills, etc., even if he’s not rich. Just like there aren’t many men who don’t care about a woman’s physical attractiveness; even if they also care about other things, it’s still always a consideration.

        • Agreed. And the engrained gender roles like “provider” and “homemaker” are shifting greatly with generational shifts. I encountered an example of this with a female friend of mine who is dating a great guy who has “between jobs” for a period of time and going back to school to upgrade his skills. She got a LOT of flack from mostly older family and acquaintances who warned that “he’s not going to be able to take care of you”, which was baffling to her because she has a very good career of her own and has always assumed that she would make and spend her own money, so “provider” is not on her list of attraction qualities. Her younger friends were nonplussed, as many of us know a lot of people who are struggling in the current economy and were also raised to “pull our own weight”, whether it’s at work or at home.

        • FlyingKal says:

          That’s probably one of the things I loathe the most in the process of “Trying to make sense in the dating world”: The tendency of people who’ve also had a couple of mishaps (and Hey! Who hasn’t?) to hand out unsolicited how-to-advice along the line of “This worked for me so it’ll most likely work for you too.”, as if they knew that person, what s/he is like and what measures already been taken…

      • This is a really fascinating comment. I (a 35 year old woman) am newly single after a seven-year marriage and trying to determine what I’m looking for in a future partner. I’m finding that while in the past I adored artsy, bohemian guys I’ve now had about fifteen years of dating/being married to men who are incredibly talented but who can’t or won’t support themselves. So I AM interested and concerned about a potential future partner’s financial security and stability because I have first hand knowledge of the stress and toll it can take on a relationship (and me) when my partner isn’t contributing. And now (because I feel like I’ve been given a stay of execution in some ways) I’m reevaluating what I actually want from my life. I made a lot of compromises based on what my partners’ desires and plans were in the past and put my goals on the back burner. I want to travel! I want to have adventures! And I’d really like to be with someone who can come with me. So, I still am really attracted to the artsy, bohemian guys with a killer sense of humor AND I want to know that they can keep up. I don’t know. This is all very new to me and I’m just starting to sort it out. I just know that I’m kind of too old to be sighing and starry-eyed over fascinating starving artists. Because starving isn’t so much fun, as it turns out. And love is important but relationships are actually sustained on way more than love, they are sustained on lots of drearily practical things. Life is hard and love is not all you need (although love and kindness and compatibility help a great deal). Actually, yeah, I’m not entirely sure that I have any idea. Hopefully I’ll work it out along the way. Good luck to is both!

  15. I remember the feeling I had on the first few dates with my boyfriend. He is not really ‘conventionally attractive’, not by contemporary Western society beauty standards at least (bald spot getting bigger, Santa belly, a bit of a double chin and he’s dealing with psoriasis ; on the other hand, he’s go adorable round cheeks, an utterly cute little nose, the most beatiful eye color I’ve ever seen in a human being- think intense dark blue- and a huge smile that lights up his whole face; but as far as I can tell about beauty standards set by… i don’t now, the fashion industry or whatever , they don’t really work that way.
    So- I remember the feeling: I was damn attracted to him. I just wanted to cuddle up in his arms and let him kiss me forever. On a very rational, matter-of-fact level, I acknowledged that he was so conventionally unattractive- and not even the type of guy I knew myself to be usually attracted to- and I remember my feeling of surprise and relief at how utterly irrelevant all of this was.

  16. FlyingKal says:

    This is Pierce Brosnan, aka James Bond, aka the definition of masculinity and manliness and heartthrobness, and his wife, who is a perfectly ordinary person

    Wasn’t that, like, 25 years ago? He’s 60 years old, FCS. 😉
    (I’m not trying to be ageist here, just reurning your “manliness” play, since I think most people are considered more “objectively attractive” in their 30’s than in their late 50’s.)

    • Besides, Pierce was always too elegant to be manly. His bland confidence was a plus, but he never had that atavism at the core.

  17. I’m not seeing a big difference facially between Christina Hendricks and her boyfriend besides complexion and glasses. They both have button noses, soft eyes, full lips and fleshy cheeks. They’re surprisingly similar looking despite being different genders.

    • QuantumInc says:

      Actually you might be onto something, and it certainly relates to Ozy’s point about “Objective Attraction” being nonsense. The fact that they share so many facial features probably does play a part in their mutual attraction. From a evolutionary perspective I might hypothize that similar features indicates members of the same social group, or perhaps just the right amount of genetic difference. However as Ozy said, there hasn’t been a lot of research into such ideas because researchers tend to focus on objective attraction, which is quite likely because sexist narratives exist in the minds of experts and researchers just as anyone else.

      • Now that I think about it, Pierce Brosnan and his wife also look shockingly similar. They both have typical dark-irish features and she’s as feminine looking as he is masculine, as in very feminine and very masculine.

        It’s bizarre that Ozy chose to to illustrate the so-called nonsensical nature of dating with couples that are very well-matched appearance wise.


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