How to Pick a Lover

Women are moved by sexual impulses towards particular men, not towards men as a whole, and men will never understand women as long as they do not understand this.
—H. M. Swanwick, The Future of the Women’s Movement

When you look around a party or when you go through your email address book or when you count on your fingers and toes men whom you have found attractive, you make implicit decisions about their appeal relative to one other. You also make decisions about their attractiveness to you. You have formed impressions based on appearance and conversations and, perhaps, on reports from other people; and you mesh these together into an overall response to the man. The many factors involved in sex appeal or animal magnetism or whatever it is called are difficult to define, but they combine to form an impression that is easy to recognize.

Every time you meet a new man, you form an opinion about him. Sometimes you feel indifferent, sometimes you feel a faint distaste, sometimes you feel drawn to him. In your responses, you subconsciously rank him from terrible to terrific, from fatuous to fascinating, from disgusting to delectable. It’s fortunate for everyone that the man who seems exactly right to one woman may not even seem passably attractive to another.

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Marlow in Dr. Faustus describes Helen of Troy as having “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Some irreverent young men, not attuned to the sacredness of classic poetry, borrow this line to rate their women. Out girl watching, they will say cryptically to each other, “Five hundred ships, huh?” “No, I don’t think so. Three hundred at most. But look at that one! Eight hundred easy.” The popular 1980’s movie Ten, featuring Bo Derek wearing rows of corn braids and not much else, was based on a variation of this perennial theme where men rate women on a one-to-ten scale.

Long-distance love affairs call for another sort of rating scheme. Just ask yourself: how far would you be willing to commute for a rendezvous? Some men are attractive enough to draw you across the street. Some are attractive enough to rate a drive across town, if it isn’t raining. Some of the spectacular ones are worth a bus trip from Boston to Philadelphia. A few even rate a transatlantic flight.

On the other end of the scale, to quote a woman friend of mine, “Well, if we had twin beds, and his was all the way across the room, it wouldn’t be worth the trip.”

When you are thinking about rating various men and comparing their pros and cons, there is another problem to be taken into account. In assessing a man and the pleasure he gives you or might give you, you cannot always average out the good with the bad. Sometimes, the bad is so bad that it destroys all of the rest.

In Fats Waller’s song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” the man turfs out his girlfriend, complaining, “Your feet’s too big!” If shoe size is that important to you, then a beautiful smile and charm won’t compensate. However, it’s important to learn to overlook unimportant quirks and refrain from making arbitrary judgments over insignificant flaws. The more tolerant you can manage to be, the more people you can find potentially compatible, and the more tolerance you can expect in return.

Except for axe murderers, many of the so-called fatal flaws of physique or character are not all that fatal. Sometimes, however, a potential lover has a trait that makes him beyond the pale as far as you are concerned. He’s like a phone number you dial by memory. If you correctly remember six out of seven numbers, your memory is 86 percent correct, but you still don’t get the person you were trying to call.

Six correct out of seven is pretty good; but with phone numbers, as with people, it’s not good enough.

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Comments on: "Picking A Lover: The Rating Game" (5)

  1. (anatomyofaffairs.wordpress.com) said:

    When women do rate men, perhaps it has more to do with his strangeness as a human male more than his sex appeal, Some men just have bad or strange habits that tend to turn a woman off or at the very least she begins to find him undesirable sexually. That’s the reason she would not walk across the room to be with him. (hope this makes sense)

    • Makes perfect sense. When I read your comment, it made me think of the book “Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars.” Thanks reading my post and taking the time to share your thoughts. There are days when I think about stopping the blog as I don’t get comments very often, and then I get a comments like yours and it encourages me to keep writing.

  2. workspousestory said:

    Hmmm…. I don’t do that consciously. Certainly not comparing. Nor do I have a checklist, even though some women do as my work spouse viciously keeps complaining about whenever he meets a new woman.
    But, I will completely agree – that one thing ‘off’ is enough to turn me off altogether.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and for sharing your experiences with me. I don’t think all women rate men as I described. I would suggest that this behavior, like many behaviors, fits in a bell curve – with some women at one end of the curve doing it excessively, and those a the other end, like yourself, not doing it at all, and those in the middle doing in moderation. Hope you keep reading the my posts and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

      • workspousestory said:

        I think it’s down to personality and previous experience. I don’t have this tendency to organise my life, and thus people in my life, according to any categories. People exist to me as individuals. On the other hand, of course, if there were two guys to choose from immediately for a prospective relationship – that’s a different thing, of course comparing is at play then.
        To give another spin on things, I think it’s also cultural. I live in London but am not British, and my Eastern European culture *I believe* is less oriented on things like checklists. We’re looking for that *click*. Whereas from I’ve been told by my close friends who are British, girls here (especially young ones) often have this image in their head, and if you’re not meeting it, you’re out. I suppose that works when you’re young and beautiful and have your pick, and are vain enough to use that.

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