I read this piece on Medium a moment ago and it gave me a layer of understanding about dating I hadn’t really considered before.

It’s a piece by a writer named Umair Haque about attractiveness. Haque asserts that it’s ineffectual to attempt to be attractive to the greatest number of people, to pursue conventional attractiveness, in order to find love, because people who’d really love you are not going to fall for a fake version of you. That you’d only attract people interested in that image, and that while being yourself attracts fewer people, a greater percentage of those people will be interested in who you really are.

They don’t go into all the reasons people might want to appear as conventionally attractive as possible other than to find love–sometimes it’s emotional armor, sometimes it’s about self esteem, sometimes it’s to avoid violence–sometimes it’s really about survival.

But this definitely gave me some insight about general trends in dating, and about an odd exchange I had this weekend.

On Friday night I was talking to a man on okcupid. He said hello and I replied to him, though I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. Our conversation went back and forth for awhile, exchanging small talk. I let him know I wasn’t really interested in a date, and he apologized for assuming (it wasn’t weird to assume on a dating site, but I appreciated that) but he wanted to continue the conversation.

I didn’t really understand why; in about 20 short messages we hadn’t really stumbled onto anything to really talk about. We didn’t share interests, philosophies, hobbies, or a profession.  We really had nothing in common. It seemed like the proposal to meet in person came after exhausting all attempts to find things to talk about.


I realize that most people rely heavily on small talk, but there has to be a point, with someone you are trying to befriend or date, where you really connect, or at least see the edges of future emotional intimacy. And maybe that’s over dinner, because you find someone physically attractive.

But isn’t that the cool thing about online dating? You can get to know someone a bit before assuming you have things in common because you like the shape of their body or their haircut or their clothes or their face?

I didn’t understand why this guy kept asking me questions, digging desperately for something, when it was so clear our interests or desires didn’t overlap at all, when we had yet to find an in to a more complex conversation after so many messages.

Reading the article about attractiveness and dating really helped me understand part of what was happening.

There’s an assumption in our society, sold especially hard to straight men, I think, that the people you find physically attractive are inherently going to be attractive on various other levels and good for you. That you find love by finding someone pretty, taking them out, making small talk, and discovering who they really are after a number of dates. Trial and error, based on beauty standards.

There’s an assumption we should all be the most across-the-board appealing person we can be, and eventually, much later, we can start to show people who we really are.

That seems to me like a very impractical way of dating and making friends. Personally I am pretty low on physical and mental energy, and I don’t really have it to spend on people I don’t click with. I need intimacy in my life, not performance.

I realize for lots of people, expending all the energy it takes to dig through to who various people are under their masks is worth it. But I think that if you can’t even connect on shallow things like TV shows, and you’re not willing to talk about big things so soon, is there a point?

I’d love feedback on this. Let me know if you have made good connections with people who you just thought were pretty and kept trying with, grew attachments over time that initially came across as dead ends, or if you share my experience and don’t see the point.

While I think Haque missed that not everyone shares the same motivations for trying to appear conventionally attractive–I do agree with their overall assertion that it’s a lot more effective to finding people who like you if you don’t try to be someone else (though I know that’s easier said than done).

I also agree with the (I think subsequent) conclusion that it’s ridiculous to assume you can emotionally connect with someone just because you find them physically attractive, especially by a standard set by society.

What do you think?


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