Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why Guys are Superficial

"Guys are superficial, they only care about looks," so goes the common refrain. True or not, ask many Orthodox Jews in their early twenties, and they'll admit to hearing it, if not believing it. But is it true?

I'm not so sure. Or rather, I'm not sure that's the right question.

A few weeks ago, Josh posted his reasoning on why there are more good girls than guys. In order for a girl to be good, she needs to have middos (everyone seems to have good middos), open her siddur once in a while, and refrain from certain actions. On the other hand, to be a good guy, he needs to be able to hold down a job, have a chavrusa every night, daven with a minyan 3x a day. On top of the good middos and living on 3 hours of sleep. In short, girls have a longer "checklist" than guys. One (female) friend summed it up nicely "it's easier to be a good girl, you don't have to do much, just not get into too much trouble. Whereas a guy has to actively be a good guy."

A couple of days back, Nephtuli posted on whether guys are more superficial than girls (its short, so read the post and the comments). In response to my comment that men are just more honest about their superficiality, Miriam, in a well written and well thought out comment (comment here too Miriam!) said that even if true, women base attractiveness on personality as well as looks, at least to a higher degree than men.

While I lack a background in cognitive psychology and biology, and regression analysis is beyond my mathematical ken, I'd like to disagree. It's not that guys put less emphasis on personality, or girls more, rather, the questions are asked at different points in the process. There are external factors which relegate when a guy or girl ask about looks. I'd like to put forth the following analysis:

You're a girl. You've narrowed down 100 guys to 2, who fit all of your criteria. Ask whether the guy is cute and you're down to 1, or maybe none. You can't ask the question, if you do, you'll never date.

You're a guy. You've narrowed down 100 girls to 99. You can spend the next 3 months going out with them, or you can narrow down the field. Presumably you want her to help raise the kids, so while job aspirations are important, they won't shed much light. Also, given current demographics, you might only reduce those 99 girls to 90. Not really a big dip. So, you ask if the girl is cute. A very subjective question, and one, like middos, is easily muddled. But still, you can get physical characteristics. You know the type of look you're generally attracted to, etc. So you've decreased those 99 to 20 or less.

Much more efficient. Are you being "superficial" about looks? Well, you're deciding who you want to go out with based on how they look, so perhaps you are. But, just like Miriam said in her comment, if you find her lacking in personality and annoying, its likely you'll find her less attractive, for all her good looks and there'll be no second date. That ability is not in the exclusive purview of women. In addition, girls are just superficial about other things. Some want a rich guy. Hardly the stuff of personality. Or, rather, someone to support her lifestyle. Others want a certain yeshiva or hat style. Again, I've met nice guys and total jerks from almost every category.

So are guys more superficial when it comes to looks? I don't know. Y'see, if the girl asks about looks, since she's being superficial about other things, she'll go out with no one. Ironically, the refrain of no good guys would only become worse. She can't ask about looks. She's trapped, forced to go on the date. Once that happens, if the conversation goes well and she has a good time, she'll become more attracted to him.

On the other hand, the guy will be able to go out with girls anyway, his checklist, his list of superficialities, is much shorter. Oh, so she likes hats instead of wigs. Whoop. Di. Do. So he throws in looks. Might as well. And, as happens often, if the shadchan or friend was wrong and he doesn't find her attractive, yet has a great time, he may come to find her attractive. Just like Miriam claims girls do.

Its not that guys are more superficial about look than girls, they're just able to ask about it. Or I could be wrong. After all, you never heard a girl ask "Is he a REAL 5'7?"