From our Department of the Blindingly Obvious: CNN recently reported the results of a study which confirms that, given a choice, men prefer good-looking women. Well, who'd a thunk it? The report also confirms something else most of us always knew: that women tend to be more choosy than men when it comes to selection of mates.
Speaking as a card-carrying, red-blooded, well-trained American male, I can tell you that no one needed to spend a lot of money on a scientific study to tell me that I prefer attractive women. I did marry Agnes, after all. And the idea that women would be equally, if not more, choosy makes perfect sense in many ways as well (after all, once they choose the guy, they're likely going to be raising his children, and so they have a vested interest in selecting for quality). No rocket science, here.
Some time back, Numeric Life posted an article about a study of women's strategies in mate selection, and the difference between selection of "dads" (chosen for long-term potential for support and healthy children) and "cads" (those who were losers when viewed over the long term, but were fun for a short "fling" now). Not surprisingly, good looks tended to figure more prominently in the selection of the "cads" than the "dads." And the men...well, as the old joke says, a man given the choice between a woman with dual PhDs in higher mathematics and quantum molecular biology, and a woman who is a world-class author and political theorist, will generally choose the one with the largest breasts.
Now, having said all that, I have to admit that I don't see anything wrong with initial selection of a prospective mate (or a dance partner, or a date, or whatever) on the basis of looks. After all, when you first look at a person, it's not intially obvious that he or she is financially stable, well-educated, a brilliant conversationalist, or a splendid companion. Like me, for instance, har-de-har, har, har. What lies beneath the surface emerges only after the initial contact and the getting-to-know-you phase of a relationship, at which point the factors more important for sustaining a long-term relationship become more important. As I've commented here before, and as we all know deep down, whether we want to admit it or not, none of us is going to look like Brad Pitt or Scarlett Johansson forever. All the diet and exercise in the world won't keep time at bay forever...the muscles will eventually soften, the breasts will go south, and that gorgeous mane of raven hair that caught your attention in the crowd will eventually go gray. If there isn't something else to keep your interest once all that happens, well, you're going to be pretty unhappy pretty fast.
I'm a realist. I'm not a bad-looking fellow, if not in the movie star class. But more than 30 years ago, when my former wife set her trap line for me, I was far from the handsome devil I am today (to see what I mean, surf back to my July 2007 post titled "Five Generations" for pictures showing Bilbo at age 23 and at age 55). There will be no doubt in your mind that my former wife chose for the long term, rather than for my rock-jawed good looks. And Agnes chose me for her own reasons...I don't know how much of it depended on my physical appearance, but I think I was strongly helped by the fact that she's nearsighted. For my own part, I was fortunate that the lady who I found so physically attractive also turned out to be smart, witty, and willing to put up with my quirks (of which there are many, let me tell you).
Yes, we make our initial choice of partners on the basis of looks. So what? So do almost all animals. But when we make that choice for the long haul, most of us do tend to look for the things that will contribute to a long, healthy, and successful relationship. Next weekend, Agnes and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Which, I think, proves my point.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.