Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “my criteria of attractive

The Malleable Trajectory of Desire in Online Dating

Online dating is a weird phenomenon that has changed many of the rules we once knew to hold true for relationships. And one of the amazing aspects is the real estate like show of women and their profiles, likes, desires, must-haves, and in the case of OK Cupid, maybe even their kinky fantasies. Outside of online pornography, never before have so many women been displayed online in photos and bullet points.

And in several discussions with friends about “dating” the superficial elements came up in two very different ways.

First Conversation: I was discussing this process with a woman who has never tried online dating, “and never will.”  Okay. “I just think it’s so wrong to judge someone on their looks alone. You might be missing the perfect woman for you because she doesn’t meet some criteria that are just about her looks.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “That’s true.”

“I think it’s wrong and superficial, and I can’t believe you buy into it.”

“Okay, so let’s say you did, buy into it. And you had to weed down say 2,000 potential matches. What criteria would you use? How would you go about picking from that list?”

She was quiet.

“Because you have to admit there’s got to be some physical attraction.”

“Of course,” she said. “But that’s so little of what goes into an actual relationship.”

I agreed. “You are right, but, without that spark of desire, there’s not much chance of moving on to the relationship part.”

“I know,” she agreed. “But it seems wrong to be judging these women from pictures. Like cattle, or things. It’s demeaning.”

“How would you go about solving the issue? How would you make choices and actually pick someone to approach?”

She was almost angry, at this point, “I wouldn’t. I would never do it.”

Okay, we were obviously not going to reach agreement on this one. Let’s move on.

Some are quick to accept the meeting idea and the plans are easily set. Some are elusive and won’t respond directly to an offer for a meeting. They’d rather chit chat for a while.

Second Conversation: “I’ve got this great person for you. She’s amazing. But she didn’t want someone with young kids.”

“Sure, what’s her user name?”

“Well, don’t you want to hear about her? Call me on the phone.”

“Just give me her user name.”

“I mean, she was amazing, and she does the same thing you do. She was really hot, and sexy. And I gave her your website address and she said to send you her information.”

“She’s a bit older than my tastes.”


Initially, I laughed, but then I was kind of sad for this friend. Women of our own age are VERY attractive. And in my spectrum of desire, even more, desirable than younger or fitter models. But the next revelation was more insightful for me. She didn’t want to date me, even though the chemistry between us was good, she even admitted that. But she didn’t want someone with younger kids. Her’s were out of the house. Mine were 11 and 13. Okay, same bias.

He didn’t want someone who was that old. She didn’t want someone who was younger but had younger kids. Two misses in one transaction. Both a bit misguided and superficial, but ultimately we have to build some criteria for picking and choosing what it is we want next in a relationship, or date.


In the online dating world I maintain profiles on two different sites. And now, after a few weeks back online, I have culled the list on one site to about 3 profiles, and this was from about 150 women. And on the second, more popular and paid site, I have gone from 1,234 matches to about 10.

And as the process goes, you wander through various permutations of physical courting, either “Hey let’s grab coffee” or “Hey, I’m into Game of Thrones too.” And the dance proceeds from there.

Some are quick to accept the meeting idea and the plans are easily set. Some are elusive and won’t respond directly to an offer for a meeting. They’d rather chit chat for a while. It is possible that their dance cards are full and they are spacing you out a bit on their calendar, or they might not be that interested, but interested enough not to blow you off. It’s a hard thing to determine.

Either way, what you do in the dance, is try to get a meeting so you can both lay eyes on one another. Photos lie. And they sometimes lie big.

And as a romantic, I can get drawn into a photograph and begin to imagine connections that simply are not there when we meet. So for me, it’s best to set the date and chill the fk out. And from what I’ve found, most women like this approach as well. If you get too chatty, or too friendly, the throw up a red flag and either time you out, or drop you from their list of potentials.

And while she was attractive and funny when we met, there were plenty of things that didn’t work out for me. I’m not sure how she felt, but it was a quick read for me.

So you set the date and you meet. Then things go from fantasy based on photographs to fantasy based on a physical meeting. Still fantasy. And here’s the amazing thing, your ideas of desire change dramatically based on the photos or profile highlights. And this too is pure fantasy, and yet these fantasies give us insight into turn-ons and turn-offs in our own hopeful quest.

For example, there is a woman in my small pond of desirable women who is an avid soccer player. She’s uber-fit, has a magnetic smile in her photos, and is sporting an interesting tattoo on her tan and a strong arm. She is the meander type. We’ve been chatting and emailing for weeks. For awhile she was sick. For another week she was just starting a new job and wasn’t available. Now it’s the World Cup, and she’s just busy. When I ask her about availability, she says she’s gone on some dates but hasn’t kissed the right frog yet.

But there’s nothing I have been able to do (chatting about soccer, world cup, which coffee shops she likes) to tip her over the edge of meeting me face-to-face. Even so, my fantastic mind has wrapped several times around this type of woman. Self-described tomboy, athletic, young, vigorous, likes to hang and drink with the boys. And in my malleable mind, I begin forming a life with her: short-form fantasy only, I’m not trying to write our history, just imagining dating, kissing, making love, not really planning our lives together. And for me, this woman still scores a very high number in my desirable book.

Another example is a women who seems a bit bookish in her photos. But a smile to knock you out. She was quick to accept an offer to meet and we agreed on a music club/coffee bar nearby. And for the few days before we met, we exchanged emails and eventually texts about things. She was funny, witty, and had a great sense of humor. And in her photos I was able to stretch out my imagination into something resembling desire, but… And here’s the but… I could see in her photos that there was the possibility of my fantasy being less grounded in reality. Nothing major, but some subtle hints that the top profile photo was an extraordinary moment, and not a view into the day-to-day woman I was going to meet.

If a girl is interested she will take the date offer. If she’s mildly interested she might string you on a bit. If she’s not interested she won’t respond to anything you say or do.

And while she was attractive and funny when we met, there were plenty of things that didn’t work out for me. I’m not sure how she felt, but it was a quick read for me. Something about that gut instinct. It really wasn’t anything in particular. She was cute, funny, talkative. She had two kids and seemed to have her relationship to her ex-husband sorted out. But, sadly, it was a no for me.

Even when we think we know what we want, until we see her and hear her and begin to understand her, we’re projecting a fantasy of what we want her to be. And neither of these women were what I expected. And I’m still waiting to get an acceptance from the soccer-babe. I’m guessing I’m just outside of her desirable scale and she’s postponing out of courtesy, and not wanting to piss me off.

What I’ve learned: If a girl is interested she will take the date offer. If she’s mildly interested she might string you on a bit. If she’s not interested she won’t respond to anything you say or do.

Either way, my imagination is strong and while my list is fairly short on both sites, there are a few new women per week that show up. And the expectation is that they too are looking for some level of a relationship. And thus we go on projecting, hoping, and molding our concepts of what we want to match up the profiles that appear attractive to us on little more than a pretty photo and a few touchpoints of interest.


The Off Parent

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image: the spice girls, wikipedia, creative commons usage

More Sexual Signals, Online Dating Thoughts & Self-Observations

google beauty - resultsOkay, I’m starting to dig a bit deeper into what “attractive” means to me. And even observing men as HOT or NOT and trying to understand even my own scale of what’s important or not. (No, I’m not considering a sexual re-orientation, but merely noticing what I think women might be noticing.)

My own self-image is somewhat mixed, and perhaps it’s time for a hard look at what the disconnect was with my most recent heightened-and-potential partner. (see The Taste of Tail Feathers Again)

First and foremost, even in my own self-assessment, there is a lot more than the physical body in determining my desire and desirability. Let me see if I can distill the non-physical attractions–FOR ME.

1. Enthusiasm – Energy
If you act your age, we’re probably not a good fit. Sure AGE is just a number, but I can count on one had the people I graduated from high school with who still share the same joie de vivre as I do. It’s not about getting older. It’s about giving up on the dreams and goals of becoming a rockstar, perhaps, or a rocket scientist. Bring the energy and joy and I will not even notice wrinkling and other signs of our age.

2. Positivism
I loved being asked by a potential partner, this summer, “Are you always this positive?” If you’ve got anger issues or cynicism you might work on that before working the dating scene. Unless you’re happy with that approach to life. I think we’ve got our own path in life, and regardless of the challenges and setbacks, we either grow and move forward or we give up. Don’t give up. You’re attitude, even about your ex, colors your life. Make sure you’re the one that exemplifies positivism.

3. Joy
A smile can set a thousand armies into battle, the same goes for hearts. You need to find your smile and share it. And this is partially physical, but it’s not about teeth. (Of course, if you have teeth problems, you might have those checked out. OK Cupid’s survey on immediate touch points for both men and women when evaluating the attractiveness of the other sex was TEETH. What? I know.)

4. Self-confidence
Whatever your shape or attractiveness, you need to deal with it and LOVE IT. If you don’t love yourself (YES, just as you are right now, not 20 lbs lighter) that dissonance is going to come through. Even in online profiles you can tell the people who are not prepared to stand in a bright room and take their clothes off. Even with 20 lbs I’d like to lose, I’ve got an OKAY vibe about myself. And maybe that’s a problem as I reach for someone at a much higher fitness level, or maybe it’s not.

Folks will date UP, or reach for a higher category, but won’t often reach down to a lower level of fitness.

Now let’s check in with the physical attractiveness for a second. What are the signals that I look for in a woman? What’s intangible? What’s negotiable? What’s a deal killer?

Let’s start with fitness and thinness, as this seems to be an obsession. (And I’m not claiming to be immune to the mass marketing of ultra-thin beauty.) [Of course, the rest of the story here, and in our thin-obsessed media, is that thin is NOT healthy. Ultra-thin, even less so. Many of the things, besides Photoshop, those women go through to look like that, even with Photoshop. It’s unhealthy.] Let’s look at OKCupid’s fitness classes.

  • Rather not say
  • Thin
  • Overweight
  • Skinny
  • Average
  • Fit
  • Athletic
  • Jacked
  • A little extra
  • Curvy
  • Full-figured
  • Used up

Wow, that’s quite a range. I wonder what the difference between Thin and Skinny is? Or Fit vs Athletic? So let’s do a little test. Where would you place yourself? First: honestly where do you fall? Second: what are you going to use on your profile? Third: do you have aspirations to a different category all together?

I’ll go. First: Overweight (or A little extra, but I’m going with Overweight); Second: on my profile, my sales pitch, Athletic (I do have a football player build, have always, since I was a kid.); Third: where I’d like to be FIT. And for me that means getting a clearer view of my abs, and not just when I’m sucking in my gut. And actually, I’d rather not have to suck in my gut anyway.

So, here’s an observation I’m noticing. Folks will date UP, or reach for a higher category then they believe themselves to be, but won’t often reach down to someone in a very different attractiveness category, or in this case, level of fitness.

But for me, that’s only part of the answer. For me it’s a ratio thing, when it comes to fitness and body type. I will admit to be enamored by the ultra-thin. But I’m not so sure this is who I will end up with. In fact, I don’t believe the ultra-thin are into the athletic-build. They probably like ultra-thin guys.  I don’t know what this is about. I’m not all that into six-pack abs on a woman, but I don’t mind a bit of definition on the belly. But I do actually like a belly. My wife was most attractive to me after she had our kids and was a bit more curvy. I’m sure there would’ve been a limit to my flexibility if she had grown into a new category, but she didn’t.

Of course, then comes the real work of scoping out compatibility. I haven’t even gotten to start on that yet. All this stuff I’ve been writing… It’s mostly theoretical.

And that opens the discussion about what is MY real category. In my mind, with all my positivism and self-confidence engaged I am easily “a few extra pounds” but in REALITY, I’m Overweight. ACK. That sucks. And perhaps when I court the affection of a “thin” or “fit” woman I’m simply asking them to leap down a category or TWO to join my loving heart and brilliant mind. And that might be a stretch. But my limits aren’t that rigid. At least I don’t think they are. Maybe they are.

Let’s gather a few more data points. When seeing a woman from a distance (say a few aisles away in the grocery store) my animal brain begins to do some rudimentary calculations. And here’s how I think it goes. 1. Ratio: is something way out of proportion? 2. Hair style, color. 3. Clothing style, colors, type of clothes.

Then as we get closer the smile and facial beauty take over. But from a distance, MY range is pretty wide. At least that’s how I perceive it. Sitting just inside a Whole Foods about 65% of the women, in this distant assessment, would meet up with my criteria of attractive. (Again, this is more animal and hardwired, than actually evaluation.) BUT then, as we get closer and I begin to scan smiles, eyes, skin color, and overall radiance, my WOW rating drops to about 20%. From there all but 5% would fall into the ASPIRATIONAL rather than RATIONAL category. Oh, so we’re talking 5% of 65%. That’s a low number. (Something like 3 women out of a hundred.) And this is Whole Foods, after all, where the beautiful people hang out. And again, this is just attractiveness.

One of the things I’ve learned from online dating, is to recognize my signals more easily. It’s a bit like house shopping online. You need the curb appeal first before even starting to look at the details. Same with online dating profiles. If someone’s picture is odd, or obscure, or sad, it’s easy to click the hide button. A good portion of my time on OKC is spent hiding the definite NOs. At this point, what’s the risk. The problem with online dating is there are too many people to weed through. Too many houses with keystone windows or Tuscan architecture, neither of which are in my taste range.

Of course, then comes the real work of scoping out compatibility. I haven’t even gotten to start on that yet. All this stuff I’ve been writing… It’s mostly theoretical. I’m ready for the 0.35% woman to come and burn my maps. Within reason, mind you. I’ve learned what torching your plans for infatuation and physical beauty can get you. Two beautiful kids, maybe, but into trouble after that.


The Off Parent

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image: screengrab after Googling “beauty”