Q: Guys pay a lot of attention to my drop-dead gorgeous friend when we go out. So, what can you do if you’re her not-as-pretty sidekick? I can honestly say I’m cute, especially when I’m all dressed up. I’m told I have a great personality, but I know I lack a certain confidence many women have, and maybe that’s making things harder when we’re in bars and clubs.
—Pretty Unsure Of Myself
A: In a 37-country study on mate preferences by evolutionary psychologist David Buss, kindness was the most desired trait in a partner for both women and men, but no man runs his car off the road turning to look at a woman because she volunteers at a children’s hospital.
Likewise, a bar or nightclub is no place to be trying to win an inner beauty contest. “Beautiful on the inside” isn’t what gets guys sending free drinks across the room. Even if a guy comes over, that great personality of yours probably can’t help but crawl under a barstool when the guy’s talking to you but his eyeballs are on a walking tour of your modelicious friend. If a guy does pay attention to you — a bright spot! — there’s a good chance he’ll eventually mention his wife and kids. That’s when you realize he’s yet another married wingman, which makes you, yet again, the girl the guy has to get out of the way to get to the girl.
Your friend is probably one of those women for whom being beautiful involves rolling out of bed and existing. For the rest of us, being a thing of beauty isn’t so much a joy forever as a job forever. We can either accept the effort involved to look our best or accept the opportunity costs of going ungroomed. We could also take a lesson from French women, who don’t let not being classically pretty get in the way of feeling beautiful. The French have this concept, “jolie laide,” which roughly translates to “ugly-pretty.” It describes women who aren’t conventionally beautiful but manage to be alluring nonetheless; for example, a woman with a big hook nose who, instead of trying to draw attention away from it, wears bright lipstick, pulls her hair back, and walks proud. Big honking beak and all, somehow, the sum total of her look is beauty, and a good bit of it comes from within.
Unfortunately, embracing ugly-pretty will take you only so far. The truth is, beauty is often relative. Take America Ferrera, who plays Ugly Betty on TV. She’s actually only Hollywood-ugly, which means she looks, well, mortal when standing next to Angelina Jolie. In Greeley, Colorado, she’s stunningly beautiful. Accordingly, you’re a cute girl when you go out boyhunting with other merely cute girls. Sure, you “should” be able to go out with any friend you have, but in the cold light of how things work in the real world, if you’re a 6, you’ll probably do much better if you’re flanked by a couple of 4s. This doesn’t mean that you dump your friend because she’s too pretty. Work on boosting your confidence, and until you do, try to do things together that won’t have you competing with her for male attention — say, dinner and movie…at your place…after you tent it for termites, board up the windows, and pull down all the blinds.
Q: My boyfriend of three months is independent and capable in his career, but is becoming increasingly clingy. He says he loves me at least once every 20 minutes and wants to snuggle constantly and have these endless phone conversations. Some things we can talk out. I explained that I’m not a big phone person, and he was fine with it, but the general clinginess remains. Will he get better as he feels more secure in our relationship?
A: Love is a beautiful thing — when expressed sparingly. In your case, well, you’ll always remember that time he turned to you and said those rare and magical words, “You know, I think your left front tire needs more air.” Somebody who chirps “I love you” every 20 minutes most likely isn’t expressing love but something emotionally lacking within them. (“I love you! I love you!” is a better sales tool than “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!”) Chances are, it isn’t the relationship the guy needs to get more comfortable in, but his own skin. If so, no amount of reassurance from you is going to cure him, although you might get him to loosen his grip by warning him that he’s about to “love” you right out of his life. (Ideally, if two people are inseparable, it isn’t because the firemen had a burning house to tend to before they could get over to pry them apart with the Jaws of Life.)