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Friday, September 28, 2007

All the Pretty Things

This Life column from Day and Night magazine in today's Irish Independent

There's nothing like a good old fashioned, politically incorrect, dubiously-sourced survey reducing men and women to crude, basic stereotypes to get the mind ticking over on matters of love and lust. German researchers recently published the results of a study they conducted on the sexes that essentially says men are shallow, looks-obsessed Neanderthals and women are more ruthlessly shallow gold-diggers.

The "boffins" (it's never "scientists" when it comes to these types of surveys) based their findings on an examination of a group of speed daters, and by analysing their behaviour, concluded that men pick their mates based on physical attractiveness, while women are more selective, and can "adjust their desire for a 'high-quality' mate". And lest there be any confusion, "high quality" is taken to mean "he's loaded".

This is all Darwinian stuff, the boffins tell us, and it would certainly give credence to those moments when you pass a couple in the street and find yourself silently asking, 'What is she doing with him?' Oh come now, you know you've done it.

And who are we to question all of this if it is indeed encoded in our natures? But speaking as a man (be nice), I feel moderately qualified to comment on the laws of attraction that are wired into our XY chromosomes. It is indeed like survival of the fittest out there - and by 'fittest', I mean, of course, the hotties (if you listen really carefully right now, I think you might just hear Charles Darwin spinning in his grave).

Yes, I, like many other men, am drawn to the Pretty People™ and I'm not ashamed of it. After all, they're here on earth for our entertainment and edification. Acting in a manner truly befitting our simian ancestors, we gather around them, knuckles dragging along the floor, making noises and suppressing our innate urges to reach out and groom them by picking flies off their exquisite forms. If it were a movie, it'd be called Gorillas in Their Midst.

And in keeping with the evolutionary process, you find that you must learn a whole new language to even talk to a lot of the Pretty People™. In my specific, man-centric case, it's Hunkish, which I speak poorly in a broken, pigeon dialect that all too often fails to be understood by the intended pretty target. Regular English deserts us when we try to chat up the Pretty People™, leaving us floundering with the few words our primate minds can cobble together, causing us to come out with masterful seduction lines such as, 'Socks are great aren't they?'

However, not for the first time, I think the girls might be right. Looks, shockingly, are not everything, and I can say that having done a few intensive crash courses in the “all that glitters is not gold” school of dating. Based on my own experience and that of my consiglieri, I can confidently say that a lot of the Pretty People™ - and I mean the ones who know they're hot - are just dull. There's no endearing flaw, no little insecurity to arc the attraction and make you want to furrow deeper to find out more.

So what's one to do? Obviously, the solution is to find a way to get through to a Pretty Person™ who has the personality and the goods to back those looks up, and then follow the example of that great, misunderstood romantic heroine, Kathy Bates in Misery, and force them to love you in an environment of torture and intimidation. Alternatively, you can go for the more "traditional" route of being open-minded, shamelessly flirty and, most of all, persistent. And if that person happens to be loaded, all the better. Whatever about looks, we all know money is the sure-fire way to happiness.

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