There is an old Russian saying: “A man has to be slightly better-looking than a monkey”. This implies that a man must not be evaluated by his looks, but appreciated for his more Alpha qualities, such as brains, generosity, and hard work – attributes that will benefit a woman’s happiness in the long term. Without the crutch of conventional good looks, a man will have to work harder on earning a woman’s love and affection, hence appreciating her more once he finally wins her over. Good-looking men, particularly those who are all-too-aware of it, are considered to be a recipe for disaster, a freeway to a lifetime of speculation and paranoia about the whereabouts of a philandering Don Juan. This, for you, is Russian female pragmatism.
I have never really stood by this theory, finding it to be slightly too generalist and discriminatory of the occasional handsome man with decent intentions. My own father had been very good-looking in his youth, and yet had never as much as looked at other women, while plenty of far less attractive men had been known for their Lothario ways. If anything, inedeqacy over looks may actually lead to more trouble, opening up a Pandora’s box of insecurities and triggering a man to rack up the notches on his belt to make up for his days of Loser Past.
And yet, it has come to my attention that we, as a society, may be placing far more importance not only on women’s looks, but on men’s looks as well. I will never forget a very handsome banker telling me that he would not be eating dinner, as there was simply too much pressure for men in the New York dating scene to be slim. Have we really become so vain, that we refuse to see beyond the prism of appearance and evaluate on far more important criteria? (Is he a decent guy? Does he make us laugh? Will he be a good father to our children?) Just the other day, a friend started taking to a guy who, for once in her recently dating history, appeared to be a standup human being. While no Marlon Brando, it was evident that he could make her way happier than the parade of useless, lazy Frenchies she has been changing at the speed of socks in the past couple of years. And yet, she was having doubts because of his looks, which is how we came to resurrect the old Russian adage in an effort to set her head straight.
A person of slightly offbeat taste, I have never found myself attracted to men who would be considered traditionally handsome. Even when I did occasionally stumble across them, they would mostly prove to be disappointing, lazy, and lacking a certain energy and drive. And yet, while I am not looking for a perfect face, I often find myself evaluating a man’s physical shape. “No short and fat!”- I have been known to proclaim, which speaks more towards my desire to improve the DNA and relieve my future children from the burden of going through life with unnecessary issues. Hence, the men we date may also be a projection of our own insecurities, which is an interesting, yet separate, conversation.
In the end of the day, there is no set theory or formula, no recipe for eternal happiness based on your partner’s looks alone. These things are a matter of individual preference, of personal taste, of each person’s unique set of values. While to one woman, happiness is a lifetime of cushy security, to another it is having the cutest Club Monaco family on the block. And yet, one thing I can tell you for sure is this: all of us age, and looks fade. Even the most handsome man in the world is going to turn ugly if he is not smart enough, kind enough, and interesting enough to hold your attention twenty years from now, the way he did when you first met. And if he happens to look slightly like monkey, so be it – let’s just hope he is just as entertaining.