Via Eugene Volokh, some musings on “men and sexy”:
And I know a fair number of (good adjectives) single men, but [it’s generally] also clear why they’re single. They don’t listen, and won’t; they won’t get a real job; they’re boring but don’t want to acknowlege it or do anything about it. Hey, if that shirt was “in” when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today.
I don’t have a single female friend who hasn’t asked herself, “What am I doing wrong?” and been totally open — often too open, in a self-blame-y way — to the answer, and to changing the answer, often with great success. But I almost never find that men ask that question, or are even willing to hear the answer, let alone do anything about it. Instead, single men in my experience behave as if the only life possibilities are being the way they are, or acting. The idea of growth and change don’t make the radar.
(There’s more, but this is the core of it.) I’m less interested (at the moment) in the differences between male and female approaches that are the focus of the piece, than in the idea that one should change oneself to become more attractive.
I’m a great believer in the mutability of personal identity; the alternative for me is despair, because if I don’t change who I am on a timescale of five years or so, I anticipate ending up in a very unhealthy situation. So, I consider myself a work in progress, and am in principle dedicated to certain self-modifications, although in practice these often turn out to be very difficult to achieve.
Furthermore I’m unlike “most” single men as this piece would have it* in that I’m fully aware that fundamental aspects of my personality are major factors in keeping me single — overwhelmingly so. I’ve blogged about this before, and it all still applies.
So far, so good. But, something’s bothering me about all this: Given the circles I travel in, I meet a lot of quirky people. And, in my experience, quirks are not attractive. Most women find quirky guys off-putting. Nevertheless, most if not all of the quirky guys I know feel no need to suppress their idiosyncracies to be more socially acceptable, and my gut feeling is that this is an admirable trait.
Now my gut is an inveterate liar, and therefore I tend to submit gut feelings to a barrage of skepticism. In this case, my viscera defend their intuition as follows: Quirky behavior is valuable because it makes a person unique. The person who takes pride in his quirks is asserting sovereignty over his own identity, whereas the one who suppresses his uniqueness in favor of attractiveness is in effect submitting to majority rule of his personality. So I admire a proudly quirky person because he is his own man.
On the other hand, there’s no evidence that the author of the piece quoted by Volokh values uniqueness or individuality, because she does not distinguish between healthy personal growth and conformal to social norms; in effect she is encouraging homogenization. She says, “[t]he idea [sic] of growth and change don’t make the radar,” but look at what she means by this:
They don’t listen, and won’t – Classic self-absorption; for a guy to change this would be a good example of growth.
they won’t get a real job – There’s a whole quagmire awaiting me in the interpretation of “real job”; I am going to avoid it by assuming that the key word is “won’t”, and this bit is aimed at the guys who live in their parents’ basements and are temperamentally opposed to working for a living. If that’s what’s meant here, then it’s another example of room for growth, but it describes a tiny fraction of single guys rather than most guys. Perhaps the author spends too much time at Star Trek conventions?
they’re boring but don’t want to acknowlege [sic] it or do anything about it. – But this is very different from the previous two items, because boring-ness is not an intrinsic property of a person: it arises from the interaction with an observer. While no one is objectively boring, a guy could have the misfortune of being found boring by the vast majority of single women. This is certainly a problem, but solving it is an issue of homogenization rather than growth, and there are trade-offs. In my case, my line of work is extraordinarily uninteresting to most women, and by leaving physics for something more exciting (for them) I could increase my chances of hooking up. But I like physics, doing physics makes me happy, and doing something else just to get laid doesn’t make me a better person, it just means I’m selling out.
Hey, if that shirt was “in” when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today. – And fashion decisions are just thrown in with the other items as if they all go together. Are we talking about “growth and change”, or are we talking about changing my shirt? Is this discussion about character flaws, or being found boring by the general population, or having matching socks? When you say, “single men in my experience behave as if the only life possibilities are being the way they are, or acting,” can you explain how I can change my wardrobe in a sincere way as opposed to “acting”? This one sentence makes it very hard to take this piece seriously.
In the end I think this piece fails to acknowledge distinctions in the ways one can change oneself: superficial vs. fundamental, growth vs. conformity. If I make a deep change in who I am just to be more attractive, I lose part of myself in the process – as well as any claim to being my own person.
(Damn, it’s been a while since I had a good rant.)
*I have no idea whether the author is correct about this; I hesitate to generalize from my own example, as I’m hardly typical in other ways.