The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
Hi Dating Nerd,
I've been dating this girl for a few months, and it's going super well, but, uh, she's kind of ugly. Or, like, not ugly, but not as pretty as some other girls I've dated. Personality-wise, she's someone I could see dating for a long time, but she's a bit on the heavy side and just not as pretty as I wish she was. I keep wondering whether I should break up with her, and get with somebody hotter. Honestly at this point I don't know what to do. Ending the relationship seems sad, but staying in it seems unsatisfying. What should I do?
– Superficial Sam
Hi Superficial Sam,
Thank you for being brave enough to write me about this, Superficial Sam. Seriously. Our society judges people pretty harshly for speaking frankly about physical beauty and its role in relationships. But I think your concern is totally valid. Whatever nasty comments you get about your letter, I don't endorse them.
We live in a time where we get a really unworkable, contradictory set of messages about attractiveness. On the one hand, we're immersed in fables that tell us that we should look past physical beauty: Beauty and the Beast, the tale of the Ugly Duckling, and so on. We're told that the soul and the body are two different things, and that the former is much more important. But on the other hand, we're blasted with an incredible number of images of immaculately beautiful specimens of humanity in a lot of different formats: fashion magazines, internet pornography, Instagram, whatever. Yoga instructors with butts that defy all explanation, wearing tight pants that hide zero anatomy, tell us to look beyond material pleasures for enlightenment. It's insane.
And the messy truth, of course, is somewhere in between these two poles. Looks and personality are not totally unrelated — they influence each other. And they both matter. And only you, finally, can choose how much.
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Now, if you're not attracted to this girl at all, you should end the relationship immediately. It doesn't matter if you're an incredible fit in terms of personality. Both of you will become very unhappy if your dick's just not invested in this relationship at all. If you feel bad for being a shallow pig, it might help you to remember that we're all shallow pigs. Better for both of you for you to be honest about that now than to dishonestly drag out a relationship that just won't work, wasting time both of you could be spending finding a better fit.
But that's not what I'm hearing. What I'm hearing is that she's, well, sort of attractive enough for you. When you're in bed, everything goes swimmingly, but you're not always completely enticed by her face in the mornings. She's got a few lovely angles but also a few unlovely ones. Rather than being gorgeous, she's cute enough.
Which is fine for you most of the time. But there's this gross itchy feeling deep down, like you think you deserve a total dime-piece stunner and you're going to die unhappy if you aren't dating one. Or like you don't totally enjoy showing her off — we all know that proudly displaying our partner is a great feeling. You've also dated hotter people, and you know that there's a certain testosterone tug that just isn't there in this relationship, nice as it is.
It's a tough situation. There are no clear answers here. And if you're really unsatisfied, I wouldn't blame you for ending things. But you shouldn't make this decision rashly. Think it over. Specifically, think about the transitory, troublesome nature of hotness.
Since you've dated hot people before, you might have noticed something: really hot people tend to have weird personalities. It's not their fault. The lives of gorgeous people, specifically gorgeous women, are filled with psychological nonsense. Regardless of gender, centerfold-beauty types are showered by an inordinate amount of affection. People can't act normal around them — from spouting off ridiculous nonsense to walking into stationary objects while staring at them. Moreover, given that everyone lavishes praise on their beauty all the time, it can become hard for them to remember if they have any other worth as a human. And all of that attention is intoxicating, even if they hate it.
So it's only natural that they'd end up with an odd combination of insecurity, exhibitionism, guardedness, and neediness. That's just the natural reaction. But that doesn't mean it's easy to deal with — either for the super-hot, or for the people dating them. Maybe it's a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem. In your case, dating a ravingly attractive woman is like dating somebody with a slightly inconvenient superpower. (In fact, it is dating somebody with a slightly inconvenient superpower.) Having done it a couple of times myself, I don't actually know whether it's worth it. This is just a generality, of course: obviously, there are vain, weird people at all ends of the attractiveness spectrum. Nevertheless, we all know that it's true: very pretty people are very often weird. Maybe dating your mundanely cute best friend is a better time.
Also? Looks fade, obviously. We're all just kind of expiring forever. Some of us age more gracefully than others, but nobody remains at that wonderful peak you hit in your early twenties. Maybe your style gets better, but your skin doesn't. Unless you find some sort of sexy vampire on your favorite online dating site, any woman you date, no matter how gorgeous, is inevitably going to descend to a more modest plateau of attractiveness. So you're just going to have to get used to that, or else have an endless string of shallow relationships with younger women until you're too old to do that, at which point you'll end up alone.
In summary, looks can be problematic, and they're not forever. Again, that doesn't mean you can't make relationship decisions based on physical attractiveness. Just make that decision an informed one. Unlike, say, the decision I made with Kara, a girl I met in college. She was a tremendous human being. Warm, funny, honest, empathetic, enthusiastic. Everything you'd want as a friend or a lover. The girl who embraces both your braggadocio and your vulnerability. A keeper, as they say. Everything we did together was fun. Fights were rare, and when they happened, they were civilly conducted, and over in half an hour. At 22, I had a pretty perfect relationship.
But she just didn't quite have the kind of body I thought I deserved, y'know? She wasn't unattractive, but she was a little farther from my fantasy than I'd like. And it didn't bother me all the time. Here and there, though, I'd be staring at some buxom girl in one of my seminars, wondering what life would be like with someone else. One day, I hit a breaking point, and I dumped Kara, kind of out of nowhere. Being the lovely person she was, she accepted my rambling non-explanation, and took it in a mature way. And I went and dated someone hotter.
Who made me miserable. As did the next person I ended up with. And the next. Eventually, I tried to get back with Kara — but she wasn't single anymore. Why would she be? She was great. Meanwhile, I had learned the obvious lesson: real romantic compatibility is way rarer than big breasts or facial symmetry. Do with that what you will.