Rules of Attraction

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Reader’s Question

For me, the aesthetic aspect of my future partner matters as much as the intellectual. I like exclusively men with long slender fingers and long hair; almost everyone knows it, including the wooers, yet they persist.

The same way some people wouldn’t ever be with an over-weight or cross-eyed partner, I wouldn’t be with a short-haired or a bald man. I don’t perceive them as men at all. I express it to them in a subtle way, in order not to hurt them, but clearly enough to get the message across. I asked one of the bald ones ‘would you be with me if I were bald’ and he said no — none would object to him for that, yet they object to me.

I know society imposes a variety of (contradictory) gender criteria and roles, but it’s ‘different strokes for different folks,’ and there are plenty of other females. Why is it such a problem for them to understand that I don’t want them?

Psychologist’s Reply

Without question, many people have a physical ‘type’ that appeals most to them in a romantic partner, and you are clearly very definite about what is attractive to you. However, what is concerning about your question is how you seem to denigrate any man who does not fit into your narrow window of attractiveness. To say that you “don’t perceive them as men at all” raises questions about your ability to accurately evaluate the men you meet for their potential as future partners.

Assuming you are interested in a long-term loving relationship, basing 50% of your choice on “aesthetic” factors seems an unwise principle to follow. You can look at any number of websites listing factors which contribute to a successful marriage (such as this one from Psychology Today). All list sexual attraction as only one of many far more personal, and in some ways more intimate, aspects of partnership which contribute to long-term success. Furthermore, our physical attractiveness declines with age, unless we are fortunate enough to be with a partner for whom our physical being is inextricably linked with a larger emotional connection based on many other, more significant, factors.

I wonder too, if you would be flattered or insulted by a man dismissing you as a potential partner simply because you were, say, under 5’4″, or had curly hair, or square fingernails. Perhaps such a high degree of discrimination would feel unpleasant on the receiving end, or maybe it wouldn’t; what would be insulting in either case would be for the man in question to break down for you why your physical ‘shortcomings’ are so unattractive, such as you describe with the bald suitor in your question.

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If you are determined to continue on your present course, your best bet for declining would-be suitors with the greatest amount of dignity for both sides is to tell them you are flattered by their attention, but are not interested. If they are rude enough to pursue the topic, simply leave, or let them know that you are feeling disrespected by their perseverance. There is no reason to list in detail the reasons why you find them physically unappealing, unless you are attempting to be directly insulting. Their disregard for your attempts to curtail their courtship is distressing and insulting in its own right; to take it to a purely physical discussion, in my eyes, misses the point that you have the right to decline any attentions that feel unwanted, regardless of your reasons.

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