Sunday, June 24, 2007

"You could be a part-time model/but you'd probably still have to keep your normal job."

I'd just die to see the mean, median, and standard deviation on one eHarmony question in particular, "How satisfied are you with your physical appearance?" My answer was two out of seven, but now that I've had a few days to live with my hasty choice, I'm afraid I've fallen victim to confirmation bias. Something sounds right when I say I'm 28.6% satisfied with my appearance, but way off when I deduce that means I'm 71.4% unsatisfied with my appearance. Most of the time, I'm indifferent to my physical appearance, and I'd like to tweak the numbers a bit: 25% satisfied, 30% unsatisfied, and 45% neither — and if you do some math with that, eHarmony-dot-com, computer-matching me on twenty-nine freaking vectors of love, the results seem to correlate with my true opinion of my looks, bias and chronic self-deprecation and just objective comparisons between my appearance and the physical appearance of the cast on the CW network included. I really wish I told eHarmony three or (gasp!) even four for that question.

The stats on those descriptive rankings — well-groomed, handsome, athletic, overweight, fit, and sexy — would also be illuminating, especially with the data on how people feel about their appearance. How many self-confessed overweight people are also satisfied with their looks, for example? (What if they used "big-boned" instead? Or if they asked people to rank how thin they are?) The thing that most fascinates me is how people rationalize their vanity. I mean, most people aren't all that hot in the first place. We're not kittens or pugs or panda bears, where you're automatically cute as a member of the species. To my eye, maybe one in twenty people could realistically rank themselves a seven out of seven in the "sexy" category, and one in ten men could do the same in for "handsome." Hollywood aside, and even then sometimes, the scale goes from unkempt to plain to trying too hard, with only a sliver of space for the mutants with perfect skin, zero body fat, and a thousand-dollar smile.

Let's not call it the myth of beauty, since there's plenty of good-looking people at the unkempt and plain ends of the scale. Instead, it's the myth of stunning, eye-catching, head-turning beauty, sucking people in for botox and plastic surgeries — half-man, half-gelatin — and screwing up the pretty curve for the rest of us.

The other question eHarmony asks is, "How important is it that your partner be physically attractive?" And in light of all this, I can honestly be happy with my answer of two out of seven. I was really going to put one out of seven, but I was sort of afraid then they'd hook me up with someone who spent the past twenty years living next to Chernobyl, growing an extra face or something.