the curse of being attractive

i was watching survivor season 26, and there is this attractive guy on it, and it’s the opening scramble to make alliances. he is totally up front about it and noted that he and the other girl in his alliance are “the two best looking people out here” and then went on to say:

“This is like the cool kid lunch table back in high school. Everyone wants to sit at the cool kid lunch table; you have to work your way in. But I don’t think anyone else is going to be at our table.”

(they ended up only have 4 people in a 9 person tribe–not their best decision.)


but eddie was right, he was beautiful, and i was accordingly distracted when he was strutting around in his boxer briefs.  as gross as i found his mindset to be, i get it.  i mean, he only thinks that way because society, high school, girls, people like me perpetuate this hierarchy that makes him think that way.

i talk a lot in this blog about attractiveness and the supposed multitude of benefits it provides (success, likeability, confidence, happiness, charisma, etc) and probably is indicative of some sort of mental neuroses/bitterness/jealousy i’ve developed during high school and gay circles, but after seeing that eddie clip, it made me want to write something scathing about why being attractive makes you become someone like eddie.

i did a lot of research and asked around and my conclusion is: this is an exhausting and i don’t want to do it anymore.  grouping, evaluating, probing, investigation, blah.  it’s hard partially because this sort of sociology is so imprecise and varied and “it’s different for everyone” and “it’s a good thing and a bad thing” and etc.  anytime i try to answer one question, it’s beset by 3 counter-examples and 5 new questions.

but suffice to say that there are infinite exceptions (for every example of an attractive person with “flaws”, i can think of a handful of unattractive people with many other flaws.  and i also know some really great attractive people).

so i was trying to string together a narrative/unifying theory, but basically here were the central questions that i was thinking about before i gave up:

the big questions:

  • is being attractive the best currency to have?
  • how does being attractive affect your personality?

tradeoff of attractiveness and being interesting:

  • is there a tradeoff between being attractive and being interesting? (side question: is there any objective measure of “being interesting” or is it all subjective?)
  • if you are trained to and have been built up to exemplify how attractive you are, does that cause you to want to be more attractive?  in the way that bookish people will become more bookish and hackers become more hacky?
  • does wanting to be more attractive cause you to frame your personality and hobbies and interests around that ideal?
  • is there a zero-sum time tradeoff with time spent “becoming more interesting” and “becoming more attractive”?
  • why is there such a pervasive stereotype that there is an inverse relationship between bicep circumference and intelligence/interesting-ness?

attraction as privilege:

  • is being attractive a privilege?
  • does growing up privileged lead to a sense of superiority?  does it increase your likelihood of being exclusionary or vicious?
  • does growing up “privileged” and without having to chase people have people chase you affect your humility or resilience?  (which maybe is also why trust funds exist?)
  • why do attractive people tend to only be friends with attractive people?  why do social groups tend to look homogenous?
  • if 100 people are fighting to be your friend, isn’t it understandable that you utilize attractiveness as a filter?  does it make you economical or superficial?
  • if two guys were hitting on you, and one guy was a 10, but another guy was a 9 but had a slightly better personality, wouldn’t you still go home with the 10 time and time again?
  • is it easier to be excited about a date with a hot guy or a date with a funny guy?
  • if you are throwing a party, is it easier to get people to come if you are attractive and have attractive friends, or if you are interesting and you have interesting friends?  (side question: do “interesting” people even go to parties or go out?)

effects on relationships:

  • are attractive or unattractive people more likely to be in a “successful” relationship?
  • do attractive people have more sex than unattractive people?
  • does having sex with attractive people increase your physical standards to a degree that is not healthy?
  • does having a lot of sex with attractive people cause you to increase your weight on the importance of sex in a relationship?
  • does having a lot of casual sex make you less inclined to try to pursue or search for a serious relationship?
  • how important “should” sex be in a relationship?

i want to stress that the points are phrased as questions intentionally.  i honestly really don’t know where i stand on a lot of these points.  there probably is some grain of truth to some of the implied arguments, but there are so many exceptions that it makes things difficult.

various nonsequitor points/anecdotes in increasing length:

my friends have a mutual attractive friend who is looking for friends or an LTR.  “the problem is, everyone who he meets just wants to sleep with him!” which is, yes, a humorous first world problem that makes us want to punch him in the face, but it’s… still a problem nonetheless?

i’ve been asking people a bit about what they mean when they said that “a club is crazy”, and more or less i find what they mean behind the smoke and mirrors is that there were basically a lot of hot people there.  truer for places like vegas or gay circuit parties; less true for places like bootie and madrone.

my friend once told this story of a gay built couple who disappeared in the bathroom for a long period of time.  a friend went to the bathroom in the meantime, and saw them in the bathroom with their shirts off flexing in the mirror?!  or a guy who uses the line “you should google me [for hot photos of me]” as a pick up line!?!?!?  which are both…. funny?  is this erratic or even non desirable behavior!?

i once talked to a guy who was generally attractive who was really proud of the fact that he never had to go to other people’s houses to hook up.

apparently the central difficulty of crafting any successful dating app is controlling for the fact that attractive females receive orders of magnitude of inquiries more than others.  i mean, you see it in clubs too, guys with a constant stream of strangers hitting on them.

i know when i was truly in need of people to help me out during my gaywakening, the ones who helped me out were attracted to my body. (the MAJOR ASTERISKS being that they also got to know me so the motivations weren’t strictly physical.  and what i wanted to experience during the gaywakening also weren’t like “attend gay book clubs” and “go to LGBT film festivals.” but i am still indebted to those who lent a relative stranger a helping hand; i wish i could repay them in some way.)

i was having a chat with my friends about dating (again, best conversation topic ever) and the hardest dating situation is not one where you are NOT physically or emotionally attracted or even NOT physically attracted but you ARE emotionally attracted.  the hardest to say no to is when you ARE physically attracted and NOT emotionally attracted.

some okcupid lines:

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
Books: Men’s Health, heath books

You should message me if
I’m typically interested in fit guys around my age who can hold a conversation about something other than their favorite protein powder (though nothing wrong with comparing notes on that eventually).

The first things people usually notice about me
haha how can I answer this without sounding arrogant or self-deprecating?

You should message me if
it doesn’t hurt if you have a six-pack 🙂

what a well balanced pantry looks like.

lindsay lohan and child stars.  is being attractive a lite version of being a child star?  james deen talks about how people shouldn’t blame lindsay lohan for being petulant because that’s how she was raised and she got away with it.  [source]

But it seemed, both in the audio clip and in the story, like Lindsay was undermining Schrader by attempting to “direct” various scenes.

She has a unique way of communicating. She’s a child star who’s been living in this fame world being chased by paparazzi. I tried to consider that in every interaction with her, so when she speaks, what could be construed as an insult by some was not necessarily intended to be an insult. It was just her communicating her interpretation of the scene.

How would you describe this “rare communication style” to the uninitiated?

People treat actors like these fragile, delicate creatures, and you’ve got to remember that for the past 10 years, Lindsay could not go to Starbucks. She was raised in the Hollywood system, so she’s used to a certain level of treatment. Instead of saying, “Excuse me, could you please pass me the water?” She’s used to saying, “I need water,” and then someone just giving her water. She’s been conditioned to say what she needs and then someone will bring it to her, so I can see why people would consider her to be a train wreck or a bitch or whatever, but her intentions are fine.

Quora – Why are pretty girls so egotistical in general?

Let’s first get it out of the way that not all pretty girls are egotistic, that not all egotistic people are pretty girls, and that “pretty” itself is highly subjective. Now, ‘in general’, why might some pretty girls be more egotistic? Because we as a society made them so.

When she was a small child she was probably praised more for her looks than for her brains or talent. She realized that she could get all the attention from a cute smile rather than from expressing her opinions. She realized that children are meant to be seen and not heard. As a teenager she quickly saw which people got the most attention, specifically which women received the most attention and admiration.

Knowing she already had the looks, she sought to emulate these good looking women. And surely her efforts paid off for she could see that she had the most attention from boys, from other girls, and even from adults. Male attention in particular, she had no problem with – all the boys admired her, praised her, and fought over her. She was rewarded for her good looks and she knew that this was how she would be noticed. This became a cycle and the more attention she got, the more it went to her head – wouldn’t that happen to you if you too received a disproportionate amount of attention from a young age, without any active effort on your part?

So if you’re wondering why some pretty girls tend to be egotistic, it’s because we as a society shower pretty women with our attention. We encourage them to conform to the societal standard of beauty so that men can fawn over them. Then we wonder why they’re egotistic.

Quora – What’s it like being an attractive woman?

Two years ago I fell off the steps of a bus while climbing down and twisted my ankle. What followed was the usual procedure that is common in the US. The EMT’s came almost immediately and I was loaded on to an ambulance and taken to a hospital. A few hours later I was treated and discharged.
What was uncommon was how I was treated while going to ER and while I was in the hospital.

People were KIND to me, men and women alike. They even went the extra mile that they didn’t have to. They wheeled me into a private room instead of making me wait in the crowded ER waiting room. Someone came and asked me if the temperature was okay and if I need the AC adjusted. When I said I was cold, he brought me a blanket and some magazines, in case I got bored. The nurses stopped by, making pleasant chitchat with me. Random people asked me if I was in too much pain, did I need anything… etc. There were other people who were brought in while I was waiting. Old patients groaning in pain were given the provisions they needed and then ignored. A woman who’s face was bitten severely by an Akita was left in a corner holding wads of tissue to her face while howling in pain. Nobody was abandoned without treatment but it was obvious to me that others (mostly the elderly, the infirm, the seemingly unattractive) were treated clinically and ticked off the ‘to do’ charts.  A sprained ankle is not priority, so while I was not pushed to the front of the line, my stay was made as pleasant as possible. Why would people do that? ER staff, who understand what real pain is like, certainly knew I didn’t need their attention like others did. Why were others treated clinically while I got coddled? Others got more care, but I got kindness.

My mother had a stroke 17 years ago and has had several mini strokes since then. I have made many trips to ER with her. This story doesn’t change. It broke my heart that night to see the contrast that I was treated with compared to what I watch my mother go through every couple of years. I came home from ER that day and wept silently, after seeing first hand how differently I got treated versus the people who really needed it. People like my mother, whom the world ignores. Nobody acknowledges the pain, the struggle, the helplessness of the less fortunate.

Quora – What does it feel like to have a trophy wife?

I’ll tell you that it means a never-ending doubt and a disquiet in your mind.  Most days, when things are going well you don’t think about it, but on days when you’ve had a setback or just something is keeping you down, you wonder if the person who you are supposedly closest to is really who they are supposed to be.  And you think about opportunities lost, or chances not taken.

Fast forward a few years… my wife is still my wife, and she is always loving and sweet, but you know she enjoys shopping quite a bit, takes just a BIT too much glee in showing off her new handbags to her friends (some of them old friends she knew before she met me) and giggling about it.  I can’t say anything much about it because it’s not like it impacts the cash flow, but… there is doubt.
The worst thing, and I feel guilty saying this, is that in college and a couple years after, I had a girlfriend who I knew loved me for me, before I made any money.  She adored me and I adored her, we studied together (we were in the same major), we made plans to be married soon in the years after we finished school, we even had names picked out for our kids for chrissakes.  But then it didn’t happen.  My career began to take off and I started spending a lot of time at the office, hanging out with colleagues at off-hours networking events, and we spent more time doing different things and grew apart.  Eventually she got a job offer in another city and even though we said we’d stay in touch, we drifted apart pretty quickly.

or another:

But why on earth would I be interested in someone, no matter how gorgeous, who was clearly attracted to me primarily for my money, name or position?

COUNTERARGUMENTS to various things posited above

looks are a big deal.  we should not care LESS about how attractive is, we should care MORE.  sex is important in relationships; [unsourced but] the top 3 things couples fight about are sex, money, and children.  nobody fights about quality of conversation, nobody is tempted to cheat on someone because they’re interesting.  and attractiveness is an easy signal for a bunch of other really positive personality characteristics.  our priority of looks over substance is not irrational; it’s healthy.

looks are just as arbitrary as any other filter. why is it “bad” to choose someone based on looks?  one of my friends loves to argue about how it’s totally evolutionarily justified to choose a mate based on money.  people choose whatever they think will make them happiest, and who are we to judge their preferences.

james shouldn’t throw stones. we all use looks in some form.  i’m nicer to gay people.  if a stranger approaches me, i’m much more likely to be nice if they’re attractive.  looks are easy and natural and fast.  i am part of the problem and being hypocritical.  not to mention–i can be pretty fucking boring.  and a jerk.

friend groups look homogenous because looks are an easy signal for interests.  this is a very “why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria” (by beverly tatum) thesis.  exercising is a legitimate interest, and buff people are more likely to be able to talk to you about it.

final notes:

the person who kept emphasizing to me how meatheads are stupid and uninteresting now exclusively dates meatheads.

i know plenty of uninteresting, unattractive people.  attractiveness has zero correlation to interesting-ness?


One thought on “the curse of being attractive

  1. westguy3 says:

    I realize that your post is a couple years old, but it’s the internet and you came up.

    I’m a reasonably good looking guy. I’m not model material (they don’t take 5’8″ guys) but I’m built well and apparently my face is “the type” that people seem to like and fawn over. I’ve been compared to a young James Taylor, Harrison Ford and a couple other “stars”. OK, I get it, I must be good looking.

    Yes, it is a curse. And I’m going to list some reasons that you didn’t touch on.

    First of all, at any stage in life, if you let on, even for a second, that you might realize you are good looking, immediately everyone says “Egotist, stuck on himself, prick, bitch”, etc… So, the unwritten rule for good looking people? Never for a moment let on that you realize it, in fact, put yourself down as much as possible or you will get attacked – either aggressively or passive-aggressively.

    In high school you are purposely left out of being picked for ANYTHING. Everyone figures you have it easy in life because of your looks. What happens instead is good looking people tend to be loners. And then you are a target. High school is a microcosm of real life in a pressurized system.

    After high school or college? In the work place when you are the new guy, you immediately get stared at, get notes at your desk, get girls who want to date you (or worse, their friends who chat you up trying to get you to date them) and other guys who immediately hate you based on nothing more than what your face looks like. All of this in the first week, mind you. I’ve had co-workers sabotage me out of jealousy. One guy even admitted it later. “I did it because you have it so easy!” Well, with people like you around, no, I don’t! If you are in the closet, it’s even harder because you get the double whammy of rejecting girls but none of the guys like you at all, either! So, you get the reputation of simply being a freak that doesn’t date girls and lives alone and doesn’t like guys either.

    How about the bars? Personally, I hate both gay and straight bars.They are the worst place in the world to go if you are good-looking. A myriad of social psychologies are at work and you have to be ready to combat all of them. The ugly guys who think they can hook up with you and want you to immediately leave with them and them alone. OK, I know I’m good looking, but can’t I also have someone that looks good? Is that somehow not allowed? The drunk guy who won’t stop saying how pretty you are. The women who say over and over how much of a waste your good looks are. The big, mean guys who simply want to beat you into a pulp because they don’t look like you. The pinches, gropes, pawing and worse. Everyone wants a piece of you. After about 30, I simply stopped going to bars altogether. Too many mind games and sometimes it’s downright dangerous.

    In public, there are the stares. Probably the easiest thing to deal with, but still, it does get old. In an ironic way, I know what it’s like to be a burn victim. I couldn’t go to the local grocery store without people (mostly older women now, which is much easier) staring at me. Smiling and looking me up and down like I’m for sale. I know, there are people who will say “Oh, shut up, you love the attention!”. Nope. I really don’t. I just want to go and get my shopping done without feeling like today’s special.

    Then there are the blind dates. Good looking people beware. Only date other good looking people because otherwise you end up in this trap: “Oh, you are so handsome. Do you think I’m handsome?” Well, what if I don’t? What if you are short, bald, fat, pock-marked, look like a baptist preacher and have horrible teeth? Am I supposed to lie to you because you just paid me a compliment? It’s a trap! There’s no good way out of this one. I’ve tried to say “That’s very nice of you, thanks, you are a very nice person”. That doesn’t work, believe me.

    I grew a full beard and grew my hair long at the age of 35 because I was so tired of the bullshit. That helped. I didn’t fit the styles, so I no longer fit society’s norms.

    I’m finally reaching an age (50) where my looks aren’t what they used to be. And I’m really happy about it. My looks never bought me anything anyway. Never got me a job, never made me any money, never got me a good deal on a car or a house or anything. In fact, I’ve probably been given the worst deals because, after all, I’ve had it easy all my life, right?

    So, yes, good looks are a curse. Believe me.

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