The first time I got a love letter from a boy, I was 11. The letter was from a boy nicknamed “Ntí ”. “Ntí ” is the Igbo word for “cheeks”. It was a suitable nickname for him too as he looked a bit like Droopy, the popular cartoon dog from MGM. I remember the afternoon my brother delivered his letter to me. I had just come back from school and was trying to change into house clothes. I was initially mildly excited when he gave me the letter, but the moment he mentioned who it was from, a blend of anger and repulsion surged through me.
Immediately after reading it, I wrote a nasty and condescending reply at the back of the letter and asked my brother to return it to him. My brother, who considered him a friend – since they played football together most Saturday mornings, begged me to think about it…but hell no! my mind was made up.
Sometimes when I think back to that moment, I wonder if my actions were fair. I try to tell myself that I acted that way and rejected the letter because his family lived in a rented apartment on the street before ours at the time, he went to a school not as prestigious as the one I attended and he always walked to school, so he was not of my class (I was a bit of a snob growing up). Other times, I imagined it was because, in the letter, he kept including his reactions in brackets: (she laughs) (she smiles), which I found it bloody irritating; or I figured his claim of love for me was unfounded as I had never spoken to him a day in my life before then. A few times however, I let myself admit that my shallow little self at the time only turned him down because he was not the best looking of the guys on my radar at the time.
The general idea is that men are first attracted to women because of the way they look physically, but women on the other hand do not care much about the man’s looks. They are often swayed by the man’s words and his actions towards them. To a degree, it is true.
But then… the truth is: a man’s looks matters much more to women than they are willing to admit. I am a huge culprit. Thankfully I am not as shallow as I used to be, thanks to certain realizations I have garnered by virtue of growing up. But as much as I say to people that I do not have a type, I really do not care how a man looks physically and I only care for his personality, how well I connect with him and how he makes me laugh… I do, to a certain extent, actually care about the way he looks!
While it sounds impolitic, hopelessly superficial…if not immature, to admit to giving any measure of weight to a factor as shallow as looks, let’s face it… to a greater extent than most of us are comfortable with, physical attractiveness is a factor in mate selection, and women—much like men, when they seek long-term partners—are looking for men who pass a certain bar. And believe it or not, this bar has to be crossed before personality and compatibility start to matter.
Think about it… if, in fact, male physical attractiveness does not matter to women, why don’t we see short, fat, ugly male models on TV? You think this male movie star (I forget his name) is where he is today because of his amazing acting abilities? Don’t get me wrong. The men I find very attractive, for instance, would never be able to stand as male models – the slightly dorkish, abs-less, thin, shy-faced, perfect-looking people. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not attractive…they simply don’t fit the same look as the currently hot male models or movie stars. Perhaps nature’s way of balancing things out is that different women have different perceptions of what they consider to be moderately attractive.
The way I see it, women tend to underestimate the true importance they place on a man’s physical attractiveness.
Both men and women want the same thing in a partner — someone they want to have sex with but can also mentally connect with, hang out and maybe goof around with. “Want to have sex” means attracted to, and “attracted to” means likes how they look. Perhaps the real issue is that women aren’t nearly as easy to lose their minds in sexual frenzy just by being in the presence of a particularly good-looking male as they are simply better at seeing beyond the physical shell, OR maybe men are more consciously aware — or more willing to admit — that good looks in a woman is as important or even more important to them than personality, OR women haven’t historically and culturally had the same freedom to be as shallow, so it’s a more repressed urge.
Whatever the case, can we finally retire this idea that women just aren’t as visually conscious as men and don’t care about looks as much? Because we are! And we do.