The Deep Pool Of Physical Beauty

My friend Rich is a Philosophy and English double major, so having a “conversation” with him requires reevaluating your entire belief system and attempting to put it into words before he can shoot out another point. But that’s not the point. The point is our fall break road trip to Toronto and the conversations that ensued among the four of us – Rich and me included – as we navigated the five hour drive with our Mapquest directions, Guster in the CD player, and the occasional “oops I forgot my passport, can you get into Canada with just your driver’s license?” remark from fellow passengers (aka me). Our idle car ride chatter eventually turned toward relationships.So Rich said: “A lot of people think I’m shallow just because I have standards for girls that I would date.” Eileen and I were the only estrogen in the car. An eye blink later, it was us versus Rich in a debate so fast-paced that both presidential candidates would drool: What, exactly, does it mean to be shallow?Does a shallow person only date the girl with the curvy body and the can’t-tell-they’re-fake highlights? Or the lacrosse player whose polo collection is outnumbered only by his frat brothers? Is it “shallow” to reject someone seriously overweight? Or someone with really bad teeth?We went back-and-forth for 45 minutes before we realized we actually agreed. Yes, we all have preferences for what we deem attractive in a partner (shaggy light brown hair with a little bit of curl, wide eyes and baby faces, baseball hats…ehh, not that I have a list or anything…). And we agreed it’s fair to want someone who takes care of themselves – our justification for why we’d never date a smelly person. More importantly, we agreed that physical attraction is essential to relationship. But we differed in how quickly you can assess “physical attraction.” Rich admitted that he formulates first impressions based solely on what girls look like. He insisted that these immediate judgments alone would not discount a girl from potential more-than-friends status, if she had a kick-ass personality that would level her attractiveness deficit. In contrast, Eileen and I argued that appearance is a very miniscule slice of the sexual attraction pie. Yes, we have a certain “type” we generally consider good looking, but for us, physical attraction means more than a specific body type or haircut. Physical attraction can be about those things you don’t notice right away: the way he or she touches the small of your back when walking alongside you, or the way that person responds to your body movements when you lay on the futon together, or how that person can stroke your arm and notice the smallest scratch or mosquito bite, because that person understands the smoothness of your skin and can recognize sudden imperfections.I believe we have the capacity to be attracted to many types of people – why limit ourselves to standards that rarely materialize? A person’s appeal should encompass much more than the way they look. I think most of us know that. But something isn’t being put into practice, or there would be a lot more couples on campus. It’s not shallow to have standards, but it is shallow to ignore anything broader. Be wary of split second judgments, or you’ll be the one having hypothetical discussions about relationships instead of actually having them.