Unconventional Attraction

Dr. NerdLove is on vacation this week. Instead of running a “best of” column or a week of dead air, we have another guest post by frequent commentator, occasional gypsy princess, and friend of the blog – Squirrel. She also hosts her own blog, Crossed Wires as well as provides the occasional sounding board for articles here.  Take it away, Squirrel.

One year at a fairly major convention, I passed by a booth for a company where you could hire “Real Geek Booth Girls.”  The service promised to staff your booth with sexy women who were actual members of the geek community.  What struck me most about this service wasn’t the casual sexism of hiring out “booth babes” or the elitism of advertising themselves as “real geeks.” No, what I found truly interesting was how alike all of the women were.  They were all of similar size, wore similar make-up and hair styles, and were even dressed in nearly identical “sexy geek girl” outfits.

At lunch later that day, I was making jokes about this booth to some friends and made the bold claim that I could start up my own company and make “sexy” booth workers out of just about anyone I knew, including every single person at that table.  From there it devolved into a conversation about sexy librarians and guys in pirate boots, but the basic claim holds true.  Some of the most amazingly sexy people I know aren’t “conventionally” attractive.  They’re too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, too pale, too much of something to ever be called attractive.  And yet they are sexy and amazing because they discovered something about themselves that they could hang their confidence on.

Societal Standards of Beauty Suck

Let’s get this out of the way first.  Beauty is a social construct which is influenced by impossibly high standards pushed on us every single day in subtle and sometimes horrible ways.  Magazines employ armies of people whose job starts with a layer of spackle and ends with a hundred layers of Photoshop.  Television and movie studios aren’t much better.  Many models are successful merely because their genetics grant them whatever look happens to be popular at the moment and even they wind up subject to a disastrous amount of photo editing.  And there are far too many celebrities who breezily brag about how easy it is to keep in shape while paying one person to hand them all the right foods and another to yell at them to do sit-ups.

"Twenty more reps per day and I get the US Weekly 'How she got her figure back in six weeks' special!"

If you’re really lucky, you’ve got a supportive family who tells you that you’re beautiful.  If you’re unlucky, you’ve got one family member talking about how fat you’ve gotten and another insisting that you need to eat a sandwich.  Your friends may gather around you and tell you that you’re awesome, but there will always be some asshole out there who is perfectly willing to tell you that you aren’t up to their standards.  Your skin in the wrong shade, your hair is the wrong style, your face is the wrong shape, your sense of humor is too dumb or too smart or you’re just plain too fucking sensitive.  Women like Dita Von Teese are told they’re too skinny, women like Christina Hendricks are told they’re too fat, and the rest of us average looking people are pretty much just screwed.

It can be hard to listen to all of these conflicting messages and not be a little confused.  The truth is that what is considered beautiful changes over time and can be influenced by everything from what kind of food is readily available to what sort of people are rich or famous at the time.  You can either spend all of your time lamenting that there are people out there who are better looking than you, or you can embrace the fact that there isn’t a single damn person on this planet who everyone finds attractive and get to work figuring out what makes you amazing.

Smile and the World Smiles With You

Personally, I’m not a smiler by nature.  Many years ago, I decided that one of my major problems in interpersonal relationships was that I tended to be very negative.  As a part of my efforts to change this, I decided that I needed to smile more.  I had previously rejected any advice on whether or not I should smile because I, like many women, didn’t like being told how to arrange my face.  Usually because the message of “You should smile!” comes with the underlying message of “Because your facial expression should be pleasing to me at all times.”  Unfortunately, a smile is one of the major facial expressions that humans use to indicate to other humans their happiness and attraction.

Or terror. Sheer, abject, unrelenting terror.

Making the choice on my own allowed me to do as the good doctor has previously advised: fake it till I made it. I found that smiling at people when I talked to them, even if it was only a little, caused them to react more positively to me.  If I later had to move the conversation in a more serious direction, starting off with a smile made people more favorably inclined towards what I had to say.

So how does a naturally dour person go about learning to smile?  You start by smiling into a mirror.  Think of something amusing1 and watching how your face moves.  Does your natural smile start at both corners, or does one follow the other?  Do you smile with just your lips, or do you go all in?  What do you look like with a small smile?  A broad one?  Do you smile slowly or does a broad smile come first, rapidly followed by a smaller one?  Recognizing the way your face moves will let you be more aware of how you appear to other people.  It’s up to you to decide where to go from there.

Love Your Look

Magazines make a ton of money telling you how to dress, how to do your hair, how to put on your make-up, and none of that is worth the price of the paper it’s printed on if you hate the way you look in those styles. Part of the problem is that most of the ads are designed to make you feel like crap so you’ll buy whatever product they’re pushing.  If last month’s fancy new make-up or hot new skirt isn’t working for you, then clearly you need to buy this month’s new hair product or accessory!  Another part of the problem is that those so-called “fashionable” styles are typically aimed at a very narrow range of body types and facial structures.

According to Cosmo, this is "average".

Not everyone looks good in a bubble skirt and smokey eye make-up.  I would argue that there are very few people out there who do, but I’m in the class of body types that doesn’t need any more volume around the hips, thank you very much.

One of the major benefits of geek culture is that there are a lot of groups who aren’t afraid to pull from the past to influence their style today.  For example, stereotypical 50s fashions tend to be considerably friendlier to a fuller figured woman.  If the style you’ve been working isn’t doing it for you, try a different one.  You don’t have to change from fashionista to total rockabilly2 , but you might try switching from straight cut skirts to a slightly fuller cut.  For guys, try throwing some button front shirts into the rotation once in a while.  You might discover that you look pretty snazzy in a good Hawaiian shirt3 . Most importantly, if the places you are shopping aren’t making clothes that work for your body, shop somewhere else.  Women’s clothing manufacturers are particularly bad about cutting their clothing to a certain body shape, and not all of them cut to the same ideal.

Dr. Nerdlove has covered why it’s important to find the look that’s right for you.  What he leaves out is just how important it is for you to love the way you look in those clothes.  If you go out in public wearing ill-fitting clothes that you are uncomfortable in, then your unhappiness will show in how your carry yourself in those clothes.  Contrast that to how you feel when you’re wearing that one sweater that turns heads, or those pants you found which make your ass look amazing.  When youlove your look, people will love you in your look.

Foundations Aren’t Just For Houses

Remember when underwear was fun?  You’d pick out your very favorite pair of Underoos for the day and go around school knowing that secretly, underneath your mild mannered exterior, you were actually… a superhero!  Now it’s all tighty whities and granny panties and underwear is boring.  Except for that one pair that you save for special occasions.  Or really desperate laundry days.  The thing is, underwear that makes you feel special doesn’t have to be saved for a special occasion.  Finding underwear in the right cut for your body shape and clothing style can be just as important as finding a pair of pants that fit.

There are hundreds of websites out there that will explain how to go about buying the perfect bra and underwear.  This is not going to be one of them.  Just know that you can get underwear that covers everything from your bellybutton to your knees if you’re so inclined, or wear nothing more than a triangle of cloth on a string if that’s what makes you happy.  If it fits well and is comfortable, it won’t matter.  Much like your clothes, you may need to give a few different styles a try before you find the one that works best for your figure.

As for the plain white undies, don’t be afraid to rock some fun prints and colors.  On any given day, you will probably be the only person who knows that it’s covered in neon animal prints, cartoon puppies, or a strategically placed superhero logo.  However, you may find that wearing that little secret gives you the confidence to start up a conversation with someone you’re willing, someday, to show those awesome undies to.

Seriously, you have no idea how many nerd's fantasies this factors into.

Attitude Matters

All the make-up, clothing, and haircare tips in the world won’t help you if your attitude is negative.  Yes, it can be damned hard to be the person carrying the burden of positivity all the time.  Yes, it can suck to feel like every single interaction you have is going to end badly.  Yes, it is particularly shitty to spend years of your life trying to be positive and getting absolutely jack all out of it.  But you have to ask yourself who you would rather be: The person who starts off every conversation with a polite word and a smile?  Or the one making someone else’s day worse because you’re forcing them to grin and bear it through your crappy attitude?  Dating works much the same way.  You can either be the person going into the date looking to have a great time regardless of what happens, or you can be the person whose date wishes they’d set up a cell phone escape clause.

Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean you have to turn up to every interaction as Captain Chipper, or Debbie Doormat.  Sometimes all you really need to do is give yourself permission to throw your arms out and shout to the world “Fuck you guys, I’m AMAZING.”

Some people even manage to make that into a career.

Which leads me to my last piece of advice.

Find Your Hook

I truly believe that there is something amazing in everyone.  It may take you some time to figure out what’s amazing about you, but it’s in there.  Maybe you make some damn fine cookies.  Maybe you have a knack for complicated code.  Maybe you’re one of the rare modern people who can rock a fedora and Buddy Holly glasses without looking like a hipster.  Whatever it may be, find your talent and hook your confidence to it.  Know that you are amazing at this one single thing.  Then go out and find something else that you are amazing at and hook your confidence to that, too.  Even if you fail at what you’ve tried, then at least you know that you are terrible at karaoke and you can be okay with that.  Sometimes, being awful at something can be just as much fun as being good at it.

Finally, I know from personal experience how hard it can be to spend years trying and constantly failing to find that special someone that you can spend the rest of your life with.  It is so much easier in love stories, where the main character is swept away by someone who sees something amazing in them and falls in love.  Real life doesn’t work that way.  You have to see yourself as amazing first, and truly believe in it.  It may take you years to get to that point, and years more to find someone who is as amazing as you are to share your life with.  In the end though, those years will be worth it.

  1. Like “I probably look pretty funny standing here making faces at myself in the mirror.” []
  2. Doctor’s Note: but it couldn’t hurt! []
  3. Note that I said “good,” not “Oh god, oh god, I’m blind.” []


  1. Kung Fu Colored says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I can’t tell you how much I’ve needed something like this since gaining weight.

  2. On the note of finding a hook, the cliche that the way to the heart is through the stomach is far more true than people realise. Guys and girls all love a good serious homemade dish. If you have even one recipe that blows people out of the water, you will get serious mileage out of that.

    It doesn’t even have to be complicated. I make THE BEST omelettes. Truth. No one makes better omelettes than I. You have no idea how many points this gets me.

    • MrsOctopus says:

      I just have to completely and utterly agree. My own personal husband makes the BEST grilled cheese sandwiches (also, killer omelettes, but not much else). And yeah, it was about the only thing he could make, and totally worked. It wasn’t the only reason I married him, but it was definitely in the top 10.

    • Seconded! My former wife caught me by appealing to my stomach. While she didn’t cook anything great, she did make regular offerings of delicious fruit, and this gave both of us a chance to get comfortable with each other. I didn’t realize this was her strategy at the time, but I can’t deny that it worked.

      And then she came up with this GREAT recipe for pan-fried chicken. And now it’s MY recipe for great pan-fried chicken. That’s sure to get me some points as soon as I’ve the opportunity to use it.

  3. Many thanks for this. I’m going to print this out and keep it in my bag. Sometimes if we’ve had a big dry spell in the Love Dept, we need help remembering just how fantastically epically awesome we are.


  4. When I saw the heading “SOCIETAL STANDARDS OF BEAUTY SUCK”

    That’s when I knew this was going to be a good article.

  5. Many people tend to under value the smile. 50% of body language comes from our expressions!

    The hook idea is an interesting way to deal with not meeting expectations but can I suggest something better? Stop judging yourself! Stop judging how “good” or “bad” you perform at any given task because when you judge your actions, you judge yourself. Why should your self worth be influenced by how good or bad you are at something? Why should your self worth be based on something outside of yourself? Forget your expectations and become fully engrossed in the act itself. Don’t feel bad when you make a mistake; correct it (however long it takes) and continue on your path.

    Once you become secure in the knowledge that your self worth is intrinsic, you can forget the idea of “positive” and “negative” attitude. You instead gain an attitude of self assurance. An understanding that win or lose; you’ll be fine.

    • Squirrel says:

      The problem with saying “Stop judging yourself” is that we are constantly judging ourselves, whether or not we have confidence in ourselves. Even in your own advice about not judging, you still acknowledged this with the comment about making a mistake. How do you know you’ve made a mistake? You judge for yourself whether the action was correct, and move on.

      It’s not about whether or not you are good or bad at any one particular thing, but that you acknowledge that you are good at *something.* Anything. That thing may have an external product, sure, but the thing itself has to come from inside. Sometimes, people need that one single external product to hang their self worth on. Holding on to that external proof gives you time to acknowledge the internal, and from there develop your sense of inherent self worth. It sounds trite to say “I am not completely worthless, I make damn fine cookies,” but when it seems like the whole world is telling you that you are worthless, even one small hook is enough to cling to until the storm passes.

      • There is a difference between acknowledging you made a mistake and putting a moral judgement on top of that. For example, say you mess up a batch of the your cookies. There is a difference between saying “Oh, I left them in for too long” and saying “For fuck’s sake! I left them in for too long. They’re ruined!” That extra moral judgement is fundamentally false because there is no good or bad; everything is good and bad. I’m not saying that good and bad are the same things, I’m saying they are intermingled. The problem with judging something as good or bad, besides over simplifying it, is it has negative consequences. By judging an action as bad, you can set up a self fulfilling prophecy. By judging an action as good, you create a standard that you put pressure on yourself to meet and when (not if) you fall short of that standard, you judge the action as bad.

        “when it seems like the whole world is telling you that you are worthless, even one small hook is enough to cling to until the storm passes.”

        And what happens when you accidentally mess up the batch of cookies? There goes your hook.

        When we judge our actions, we judge ourselves. We place our self worth and value as a person on what we do and not who we are. If we are bad at something, we feel bad. If we are good at something, we good for now; but we will always be looking for external validation.

        Here is an alternative: take a long hard look at the ideas that have been pushed on you by society: the beauty standards of fashion magazines, the expectations of your parents/peers, etc. Lay out and take a critical look at them to determine if they have been hurting or helping you. Instead of being motivated by these ideas, do things for yourself. Perform actions to better understand who you are; to test your limits and grow as a person. View the development of your skills and yourself not as a hurdle to jump but as a tree constantly growing. When harmful ideas creep into your head, acknowledge them for what they are: just thoughts.

        Is there another way to reach you? I would love to talk more about this.

        • Anthony says:

          If I may enter this discussion, this is something that is very important to me. For the past, I’m not sure, 15 months?, I’ve attempted to be brutally honest with myself. This means when I make a mistake, I fully admit it to myself and to others (with the rare exception of hiding it). The ability to judge my actions has really helped me grow as a person. I’ve always been an optimistic person, so when I do ‘mess up the batch of cookies,’ I can say, “I didn’t do well this time. But, I can learn from my mistakes, and improve next time.” This certainly isn’t true for everyone, but being able to look at everything I do (or did) wrong has helped me correct mistakes far faster than I ever did before.

          Erasing the extra moral judgement was very important. And I place very little emphasis on results. While I always strive to have good results, it’s far more important that I try my best. I do take issue with saying that you shouldn’t judge yourself, because there is often no better judge than one’s self. But I think it’s very important to realize that the results are not what you should be judging; it’s the path that was taken that’s important. And, even then, you should not ever be angry with yourself. Every mistake is a learning opportunity, and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. It’s an opportunity to realize a mistake and fix it.

          I’m not really articulating everything well, but I do agree that you can’t be too hard on yourself. But, at the same time, you need to be incredibly honest. It isn’t going to help to sugarcoat anything, because delusion is a very, very ugly thing. I don’t really know why this is so difficult to put into words, but I’m having trouble right now (could be that it’s 3 in the morning and I just got done working). I think what has worked for me is placing emphasis on fixing mistakes, and constantly improving. What has helped me continue that is realizing that setbacks and mistakes are going to happen, but they will not stop me from improving. I guess I’m striving to be the best version of myself, but I have no timetable to reach that goal. I probably won’t ever reach it, but it’s not really the goal that’s important; it’s the attempt.

          • Anthony, your pretty much align with everything I said.

            On the topic of judging yourself:

            When I say “judge”, I mean moral judgement. There is nothing wrong with pointing out your mistakes and what you do correctly. The issue comes when you think these traits make you a lesser or greater person in relation in others. The concept is to focus on reality and not the “delusions”.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            I thought this was an interesting blog entry on this topic:

            …The first couple of weeks of Buddhist meditation classes were okay, but didn’t feel groundbreaking. I got frustrated. I approached it too intellectually, because intellect was always my way of attacking everything. I treated it like something to study for, just memorizing buddhist terms and concepts like I was studying for a test. Totally missing the point.

            Also, there were a few suck-ups who pretended to ask sincere questions, but the questions were clearly calculated to impress with their level of pseudoinsight and false humility. For example, much of the subject matter and readings had been about letting go of ego, and there would always be some guy who would ask some question that was really just a self-aggrandizing speech about how much ego he realized he had after meditating. It was a type of humblebrag that wasn’t really asking for any particular answer to any particular question, but rather was just a speech designed to show off how insightful and deep he was. This would then spark competitive follow-up “questions” from other students that were also disguised humblebrags. I started finding the Q&As tiresome and found myself tuning out whenever a question was asked.

            One day, though, a girl finally came forward and asked the teacher a sincere, vulnerable question. She said “I hear all of this about letting go of the ego and the false self and not being a perfectionist, but I don’t live in an ashram or a monastery or a temple. I live in the big city. And I really want to embrace this, I really do, but a big part of me is afraid to let go of my ego, because if I do I keep thinking it’s the same as embracing mediocrity. How do I let go of this harsh false self, this ego, this part of me that keeps beating myself up and comparing myself to others, yet still keep striving to improve myself? Once I give it up, will all the drive I need to succeed just evaporate too?”

            I thought to myself, “Damn, finally, a good question.” I had given up on ever hearing a good question in the class. I looked at the teacher and she just had this expression of warm, compassionate bemusement that somehow reminded me of a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie and really struck an emotional chord with me. It felt like a loving parent who sees her child struggling and getting frustrated with something that the parent knows is not as insurmountable a problem as it seems to the child in that present moment, but nonetheless she wants to be sympathetic to the plight and not belittle it. The look on the teacher’s face made it obvious she heard this question countless times in the past and that she at one point was in the same position.

            She simply responded to the girl, “There is one thing you have to keep telling yourself throughout this process, and it’s something I continue to tell myself to this day: ‘You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement’.” Those words were like a sledgehammer to my chest that knocked the wind out of me. So direct and so simple. The most important part to me was that she said “and there’s always room for improvement,” rather than “but there’s always room for improvement” which would make the acceptance feel a lot more false and conditional.


  6. The way the article starts seems kind of contrary to the attitude the good Doctor typically expresses– that men shouldn’t complain about the “impossible standards that women have for them” and instead should start exercising, taking better care of themselves, etc, that recognizing that beauty is a social construct doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work with it.

    • While I can see where you’re coming from QD, I think the Doc’s usual advice is a little more nuanced than that, and when you examine it, still consistent with Squirrel’s article. The thing is, if you’re happy with what you look like in your body-type or your style, and you want to/are attracting the people who are attracted to that, cool, you’re good to go. But if you want to attract someone who say, is into the thick-rimmed glasses and plaid button-ups, or someone who digs the toned gym-bodies, or … who likes gregarious and outgoing people, you want to be willing to put the onus on yourself to make the changes necessary to do so.

      That being said, where Squirrel comes in is the fact that no matter the changes you make, you should be happy with yourself. As the Doc pointed out in Assholes Finish First, the attitude of being content with yourself as a person and not caring what others think is incredibly attractive, because it evokes a feeling of confidence. A certain level of confidence, at least in my experience, overrides a lot of the “attractiveness evaluation” from other aspects. If a lady carries herself well and knows how best to bring out her best SELF rather than trying to be someone else, chances are I’ll be readily interested, even if she’s not “conventionally attractive” at first.

      It’s not a simple, defined dichotomy of “change everything and lose yourself” or “fuck everyone, stay exactly how you are now!” so much as, like you said, working with what you’ve got to bring out the best version of yourself.

  7. James (Thortok2000) says:

    > Usually because the message of “You should smile!” comes with the underlying message of “Because your facial expression should be pleasing to me at all times.”

    This completely blows my mind. This is why people don’t smile when the “you should smile” advice is given? That’s ridiculous.

    You should smile. SMILE! NOW! =P

    It’s like the #1 most effective thing ever and takes like a tenth of a second to perform. As far as effort-to-results ratio it blows everything else out of the water. SMILE!

    • James, I don’t know any women who appreciate having some random man come up and demand they smile. Its demeaning. It’s controlling. It’s like they’re saying I should be trying to look attractive at all times, just because i’m a girl. Or that I don’t have the right to be sad or look unhappy, ever. And the thing is? I don’t know you. I don’t care if you l think I look pretty or not. Also, you don’t know me. Maybe there’s something going on in my life right now which is why I’m not smiling. It’s just rude for you to make this kind of demand of someone you don’t know.

      Telling someone they should smile more is only actually kind advice when its someone you know, and you’re having an actual conversation with them. When it’s some random woman you spotted at the store, or just happened to get on the same subway as, and you tell her to smile, then you’re being an obnoxious, controlling jerk.

      • James (Thortok2000) says:

        I don’t go around telling random women to smile. I was referring to the context of advice columns such as this blog. I was attempting to do so in a humorous manner. =P

        Practically all the advice columns say to smile, and if your reason not to is because you don’t want society to control your facial expression, that’s just silly.

    • Why does that blow your mind?

      Honestly I’m dealing a lot with this problem of people telling me to ‘just smile!!one!’. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t take effort. I’m the kind of person to just mind my own business and when random strangers tell me out of nowhere that I should be smiling at him/her, it’s not that strange to take it the wrong way. Here I am feeling comfortable and then this guy walks up to me (yeah, it’s normally guys who do this) and tells me I’m sad, literally that. It doesn’t have to be true, but just for the sake of this person that I’ll never see again I have to smile, even when I don’t feel bad.

      I have to add that I can accept this comment coming from a good friend or one of my siblings, because they know me. They know when they can do it and it helps when they do. Random strangers never know this. Most of my other relatives don’t know this either. I don’t tell other people how to look at me. Even a smile doesn’t always have to mean the person is happy.

      It’s not ridiculous. Sorry if this comes off as too forward or defensive, but I wanted to explain this.

      • James (Thortok2000) says:

        I was unaware that people randomly walk up to people and tell them to smile. That’s just silly too.

        People have every right to feel sad at appropriate times and you don’t know what’s going on their head right now. Telling someone, in person, that they should be smiling, you don’t have the first clue about them.

        But as a general point of advice for how to look more attractive and flirt better and to do better in the dating scene? Smiling is like step one. The easiest while also most important step.

        If someone’s not smiling, chances are they’re also not looking to hook up or date anyone in the nearby vicinity. If they are, and they’re not smiling, that’s a problem. But if their REASON for not smiling is because they think society’s trying to control their facial expression, that’s ludicrous.

        I have to remember to smile a lot myself so I know it’s not ‘easy’ but it’s still way easier than some of the other advice given out there. =/

        • Dr. NerdLove says:

          At the risk of dogpiling, James, you seem to be missing the point. Nobody is saying “I don’t smile because society tells me to and FUCK society!”

          They’re pointing out that going up to a strange woman and saying “Smile for me!”, “You should smile!” or “How about a smile!” is rude, obnoxious and potentially creepy. It carries the implication that the person doing so has the right to demand an immediate response from a woman, with the undertones that a woman’s behavior and body is actually public property.

          Surely you can see the difference between this and an article that suggests a smile gets a positive response out of people, yes?

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            Indeed: But what I’m not understanding is why I’m accused of being a person that goes up to strange women and says that. =P

            If in the context of the original post the “Because your facial expression should be pleasing to me at all times.” comment is because of people coming up at random telling her to smile, then okay, I can get that. That’s an appropriate response to random people telling you to smile.

            When I read it, though, it was in the context of “I’m not going to do what this advice column says about smiling because….” and that seems like a ludicrous response to an advice column. Since I wasn’t aware of the ‘random people telling you to smile’ phenomena, it was the only context I knew to apply to that statement.

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            Actually, going back and re-reading my comment, and being aware that guys walk up to girls and tell them to smile, I can see how I came off that way. It depends on which context you read my comment in.

            In the ‘response to advice given on a blog’ context, I sound just fine and agree with the advice blogs. In the ‘response to what random strangers tell you to do’ context I sound like a douche saying the random strangers are right. =P So my fault on just being ignorant that random strangers even do that in the first place. =/

          • Paul Rivers says:

            “Indeed: But what I’m not understanding is why I’m accused of being a person that goes up to strange women and says that. =P”

            James, just wanted to say that I understand what you were trying to say – and not trying to say – perfectly well.

            It’s something that happens – if it’s possible to read a post in any sort of offensive way, a lot of times you’ll get a lot of responses claiming that you said that.

        • Squirrel says:

          Oh yeah, all the time. Especially to women. Which is why many women get defensive when told “Just smile, it’ll make you more attractive!” I think you misunderstood that part a bit. I didn’t reject smiling in and of itself, just the advice. Which is why I tried to find that balance in basically being a stranger telling a bunch of other strangers “Smile more!” and acknowledging that smiling more has to be a willing choice, not something you do because someone else told you to do it.

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            I misunderstood that part quite a lot actually, heh. Well now I know.

        • Hey, It’s good advice for dating, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to tell another person to smile.

          It’s kind of weird and awkward if a girl is trying to flirt with you and your response to this is telling her to ‘just smile’.

          And yes, people do walk up to (especially) women/girls to tell them to smile. I’ve had teachers at school do this to me randomly, janitors that didn’t even know me and guys trying to flirt with one of my friends suddenly turning to me to point this one thing out. And this is coming from someone who’s pretty much a loner, doesn’t go out much and is just minding her own business.

    • On a deeper level than you’re seeing here, smiling is (sometimes) appeasement behavior. Servants smile at masters, underlings smile at bosses. A man who walks up to a woman he doesn’t know and DEMANDS that she smile for him is engaging in dominance behavior; effectively, he’s telling her that she is his servant.

      Why do you have a problem with allowing women to decide for themselves when they feel like smiling? They’re not just here for your entertainment.

      • James (Thortok2000) says:

        I don’t know why all three of you felt I’m some random guy walking up to women and demanding they smile.

        This is an advice column. Both this guest writer and the Doc himself offer smiling as advice. I’m agreeing with that advice.

        The article writers themselves have already listed all the reasons you should smile if you want to succeed at finding a relationship and flirting and all of that. If you don’t want to succeed at finding a relationship and flirting and such at any given moment, feel free to not smile.

        My main point in my comment is that “society wants to control my facial expression” is an inane reason to not smile if your goal is for relationships and flirting and all that good stuff. If you’re just not in the mood, of course you don’t need to smile, I’m not saying everyone should smile, all the time, no matter what, that’s just silly.

        I really don’t know where y’all are coming from on this. I was rather emphatic about the advice, and apparently there’s guys that go around telling people to smile in public that I don’t know about, but other than that ‘you should smile’ is not really new advice. =/

        • James –
          If you’re getting this level of anger directed at you, maybe the response shouldn’t be “why are all you silly women getting mad at me?” but “there is clearly something I’m not understanding here”. You don’t’ have the perspective that women have on this subject.

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            Indeed, now that I re-read my comment with the knowledge that random guys tell random girls to smile, I can totally see why they reacted that way, I sound like I’m agreeing with the random guys.

            My intent was to agree with the advice blogs that say to smile.

            Forgive my ignorance.

    • Holy cow, people, calm down.

      He’s making a fairly reasonable point. He maybe could have worded it better, but I don’t think he was saying “Women must all smile for my enjoyment, for I am man!”

      There are plenty of actual misogynist douchebags in this world for you to get mad at. There’s no reason to be offended by what he said.

      • Pro-tip: It’s not your place to tell women how to deal with misogyny or how to respond to it when they encounter it. It seems like James now understands why what he was saying read as misogynistic, so that’s one less man throwing male privileged crap around for women to deal with.

        If no one talked about this online and in comment sections, then there would be infinitely more “actual misogynist douchebags” walking around.

      • In fact I would put Max here in the “actually a misogynist douchebag” category.

      • Max, all the women here are reading James’ comment as if he does walk up to random women and demands they smile for him, because all of us have been approached by men in exactly this manner before. Therefore we understood that’s what Squirrel was referencing in the article she wrote. That’s why to us it looked like James was defending that kind of behavior, which is why we all got mad. James has made it clear now that he hadn’t read the advice in the same context as the rest of us, and all the misunderstanding has been cleared up.

        Which is why he doesn’t need you to defend him. And also why you now look like the douchebag you mentioned.

      • Getting mad at me: totally reasonable.
        Getting mad at James: completely unwarranted.

        He’s obviously a nice guy who respects women, and freaking out at him isn’t helping anybody. I’m kind of an asshole (who, for the record, also respects women and supports equality for women), so freaking out at me also isn’t helping anybody.

        So, back to my original point: Calm Down.

        • And his point was that it has calmed down. You come here after the fact, like you want this discussion to continue.

          James already admitted that his comment could have been read wrong and I’m done because both he and those who commented now understand each other’s sides.

          Discussing is not the same as getting mad. I don’t see anyone here who truly got mad. No one was disrespecting him or calling him an asshole and personally my point was simply to inform.

          Calling yourself an asshole doesn’t warrant you anything, I don’t see the relevance of that.

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            Not to beat a dead horse…

            I was asked “Why do you have a problem with allowing women to decide for themselves when they feel like smiling? They’re not just here for your entertainment.” And after Max’s comment, someone referred to me as “so that’s one less man throwing male privileged crap around for women to deal with.”

            To think that nobody’s going to get upset over a misunderstanding is unrealistic: people can, will, and do get upset. And while in hindsight, now that everything IS calm, I can tell nobody got really ‘mad’, at the time, with all 3 comments at once it really did feel like I was being attacked out of the blue. =P But I tend to be defensive so that could just be me.

            I’m also glad to know that my side is understood because if it weren’t for Max’s comments and the replies to it, the discussion would’ve simply ended with my admission of being ignorant of the intended context. Nobody came along and said “I get where you’re coming from now, sorry for jumping on you like that.”

            Not that I expect that or feel entitled to it or anything. I would’ve been just fine leaving it like that and I would’ve considered it resolved. I don’t need an apology (or any other form of resolution) because there really isn’t anything to apologize for – it was just a misunderstanding and people got upset at it. Happens all the time.

            My point is that I can see where /Max/ would see it as unresolved because nobody apologized for attacking me, or even admitted that they saw where I was coming from (until Debra’s comment just above), they just stopped attacking me.

            So to Max I say, given the choice between hauling all the conflict back up again to try to get an apology for being attacked, or just letting it die now that I’ve adequately explained where I was coming from, I’d rather just let it die. While I wouldn’t mind some kind of acknowledgement that my side is ‘understood’ (as Debra puts it), just so I know that it’s been resolved, I don’t /need/ a response like that, and it isn’t worth ‘bringing it all back up again’ to get it.

            I appreciate the ‘nice guy’ comment and that there’s someone out there who thinks I’m worth defending, but it really wasn’t necessary in this case, alright?

            Thanks for the thought, though. ^_^

          • James (Thortok2000) says:

            In fact, I do see a resemblance between randomly telling people to calm down and randomly telling people to smile. Just sayin’…

          • @ James: Since I can’t seem to reply to your comment, I’ll reply to my own.

            I can see how it could have felt like an attack, but we couldn’t really have known that :P The comments were posted around the same time, as far as I know.

            And I can’t speak for everyone who commented here, but I do understand your ‘side’. I didn’t leave a comment because you also stopped replying to me. To me that was a message that it was resolved. I think everyone could agree on that.

        • Top. Telling. Women. To. Calm. Down.

          We have a right to our emotions. Honestly, Max, this is not a difficult concept.

          • Well that first word was supposed to be “Stop.”

            Whatever, you get my point.

          • I’m not telling “women” to calm down, I’m asking you to calm down.

            You have a right to your emotions, obviously, but you don’t have a right to express them in ways that might hurt others.

            If a man was yelling and cursing at a woman because he was angry at her, would you say he “has a right to his emotions,” or would you ask him to calm down?

            Clearly, this example is a little more severe than writing an angrily-worded comment on the internet, but the idea is the same.

          • Dr. NerdLove says:

            OK, we’ve well gone past the point of usefulness in this conversation thread and have degenerated into pointless arguing.

            So drop it.


          • Dr. NerdLove says:

            OK, we’ve well gone past the point of usefulness in this conversational thread and have degenerated into pointless arguing.

            So drop it.


  8. “You have to see yourself as amazing first, and truly believe in it.” This is the most important advice I would give a young girl! As a kid, I didn’t have many friends at all, and don’t remember any of my peers EVER telling me I was pretty, so I had to look in the mirror and tell MYSELF that I was pretty and awesome. Eventually, I started to believe it. :)

  9. At the risk of being on-topic, I would just like to mention that the clothes that I feel really, really, really comfortable in are *not* clothes I would ever leave the house in.
    That red v-cut where I wrote “HA CK ER” with a sharpie? Those 15 year old trainers with rub-burns on the knees? Or, well, that dress.. when it’s not Halloween..

    • Makes sense, but there’s more to it than just *feeling* comfortable. It’s about knowing you look good in the clothes you choose, in addition to feeling comfortable in them. After all, if you left the house in those “really, really, really, comfortable” clothes you would probably feel weird because you don’t think they’re very flattering. In which case you would feel a certain level of (social) discomfort outside of how the clothes actually feel on you. So you just need to find a balance between the two types of comfort.

  10. There’s an utterly fascinating documentary about this – it’s an episode in a series called “How Art Made The World” (the first episode actually, entitled ‘More Human Than Human’). It tries to answer WHY it is that we lean towards portraying unrealistic body images (and why we always have – this isn’t something confined only to modern times). It’s worth a watch:


    From the summary:

    “In reality, we humans don’t really like reality – we prefer exaggerated, more human than human, images of the body. This is a shared biological instinct that appears to link us inexorably with our ancient ancestors. ”

    I think the above quote (from the webpage) is slightly miswritten though — from watching the documentary you don’t get the message that humans HATE/DO NOT LIKE images of real bodies. It’s that we have an exaggerated attraction response to images of bodies that have exaggerated perfection.

    What I really got from watching this was how important it is to let people know that “yes, these images have been photoshopped / THESE ARE NOT YOUR AVERAGE BODIES”. This applies to men as well — think muscle mags and weight-training competitions where people will purposefully dehydrate themselves before the competition to ‘look good’, or those commercials for protein powders that insinuate that ‘you too can look like this with enough training and hard work’.

    Another phenomenal YouTube video for those that haven’t seen it – Dove Evolution:

  11. This article is good, if primarily aimed at women and having little content for men.

    However, the smiling bit in this article ticks me off a lot. I’m the sort of person who can’t smile unless I’m genuinely pleased/happy/whatever. I’ve tried forcing smiles, but they simply end up weird and the person I’m interacting with wonders if I have a condition or something(While this usually shows up on their face, I’ve been directly asked such on more than a dozen occasions).

    So, telling people to smile like it’s a simple thing to do, when I know it’s not, really, really ticks me off.

  12. What a beautiful post. Thank you!

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