Over there, a conversation broke out in response to an article I linked to about on how to avoid being a creep on Twitter. This lead to well-tread conversation about the importance of physical appearance. Namely, whether an attractive guy can get away with something that an unattractive guy would get the creep tag for.

As it happens, my answer is an unequivocal yes. But also, that guys should get over it. My more general believe is that women are more interested in looks than stereotypes suggest, that, men are less, though that the relationship (men more interested than women) is still true. Given this, men collectively don’t have a whole lot of room to complain about woman superficiality.

This view gets a fair amount of pushback from both sides of the spectrum, and not because of the last part. A lot of women don’t like it because it suggests that women are more superficial than their stereotype, and that a lot of guys who complain about being treated poorly because they’re unattractive aren’t wrong. A lot of men like it because it allows them to believe they will be able to peg up when it comes to getting a woman because women place less of an emphasis on looks than men do. I further believe that this myth (that women don’t just care less about looks than men but don’t really care that much) is a pernicious one, because it places a burden on women to be more than they are, and more than we ask men to be.

So yeah, of course attractive and unattractive men are gauged differently. This is true in dating criteria generally. If a woman is interested in a man (or vice-versa) she is more likely to forgive awkward moments, interpret what he says charitably, and so on. This is true regardless of the source of the interest, which includes a lot of things other than looks. The year before she met me, my wife met a guy at the same venue who put a lot of the same moves as I did. She never described him as a creep, but she was made rather uncomfortable by it. Along comes me, who does the same things, and we’ve been married for over a decade. The criteria there wasn’t looks so much as age (he was ten years older than myself), biography (he was a former alcoholic), and other such things.

But come on. Of course it applies to looks, too. And when we’re talking about initial encounters, it’s the cover of the book and people do judge by it. There are things guys can do to make a better impression, but there is only so much that a guy can do. If a guy at the lower-end of the attractiveness spectrum is approaching a woman at the higher end, he is far more likely to be considered creepy rather than charming. And that’s a reason why it’s important that we be honest about this. Because if a guy doesn’t want to be creepy, he ought not aim high unless he has very high confidence in his social skills (and depending on the context, even then).

Talk about how there aren’t universal standards and how one person’s eight is another person’s six is some combination of trying to muddy the waters and clinging to grade school fictions. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is a reason why Hollywood actors and actresses tend to look a lot more like one another than they do like you and me. There may be opportunities to swing for the fences, but it’s a bad idea to do so regularly.

At some point, I started using as a gauge “Would I be doing this if it were an unattractive woman or a guy?” when striking up conversations and the like. If I never would, then I wouldn’t with some attractive lady unless I was willing to admit that I was making a move (however minor). That admission would become important because it meant that if she blew me off I wouldn’t be able to say “How rude.” I swung, I missed, life goes on.

At some point later than that, I realized that was insufficient. That it’s often not appropriate to do towards a woman even if I wouldn’t have a problem doing so towards a guy. That’s where Twitter comes in. Liking every tweet someone tweets (or liking every picture on Facebook) is just not something that a normal person does without some… other motivation. But sometimes on Twitter I do find myself in someone’s timeline and running across several comment-reply-like-retweet worthy tweets. If it’s a guy, I might do three or four or five.

Yeah, but probably not if it’s a female. Not unless it’s one that I have conversed with pretty regularly and have some sort of indication of “Hey, we’re cool.” If they don’t follow me, or my contact with them has been relatively minimal, I will probably pass. This applies especially to young women I follow. Though comparative appearance isn’t an issue (my avatar is a cartoon character, after all), the dynamics between men approaching 40 and women a little past 20 is pretty straightforward. There are a lot more of my type hitting up their type, than vice-versa. And while I am not hitting them up, it’s best to just go ahead and avoid any discomfort they might feel if they even suspected this old geezer was demonstrating a prurient interest.

It’s entirely possible that I am being too deferential, and that I am doing them a disservice by not charming them with my banter or my retweets. But you hear enough stories and think “Yeah, I don’t want to be a part of that” and so you don’t. I don’t necessarily follow all of the rules of the original piece, but they’re worth at least considering. Whether you’re a 20-something stud or a 40 year old dad. But especially the latter.


Category: Coffeehouse

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

27 Responses to On Not Being That Guy

  1. Jaybird says:

    Does “getting over it” entail “pretending to not notice it” if not “pretending that some other dynamic exists”?

    • trumwill says:

      No, it’s there and it’s kind of important that people acknowledge it for people to adjust their behavior accordingly.

      • Jaybird says:

        I agree with this.

        I have never really liked the whole “it is impolite to notice this phenomenon” method of counter-argument that shows up in weird places.

  2. Michael Drew says:

    “When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing.”

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe we shouldn’t necessarily fully credit this person with the ability to speak for “women” about how they think about these things.

    Which is not to say, of course, that they don’t all think about them. Because I know they do. But they think about them pretty differently.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      I don’t think it’s particularly unreasonable to do this, any more than it’s unreasonable to buy fire insurance. Sure, it’s very unlikely you’ll need it, but it doesn’t cost much and it’s nice to have if you do.

      Honestly, there have been a few times when I’ve been a bit worried, usually when something seems too good to be true. An unarmed woman isn’t particularly dangerous, but she can have a weapon or confederates. Fortunately, in all such cases, the woman in question has merely turned out to be fatter or have more penises than advertised. Also fortunately, I never had to find out the latter the hard way.

    • fillyjonk says:

      I wouldn’t totally blame the woman; I remember being told in college orientation to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS tell someone where I was going in case something “bad” happened. We were expected to read between the lines. And this was in the late 1980s; I can only imagine the fearmongering has got worse.

    • That actually seems like good practice, Michael Drew, especially if someone is going on a first or second date. And like Brandon said (if I read him right), it’d be a good thing for guys to do, too, if less likely to be necessary.

    • Michael Drew says:

      I’m not saying it’s unreasonable or bad practice. But I don’t think it’s typical.

      I’m just saying I don’t think this person can speak for women. Probably no woman can, but to me this further removed her from doing so.

    • SFG says:

      I’m no feminist, but it makes sense. Maybe 0.5% of men are murderers and 3% are rapists, but who wants to wind up dead or raped?

      Of course, I’m extremely risk-averse, so…

  3. Michael Cain says:

    Whether you’re a 20-something stud or a 40 year old dad.

    Some of us are 62 year old grandfathers who have been married to the same woman for 36 years and barely remember those days… :^)

  4. Peter says:

    I see nothing wrong with a man occasionally aiming for women who are well out of his league, so long as he is realistic and
    understands that most of the time he will fail. Of course this should not be his entire strategy. He should spend most of his time on more appropriate women.

    • trumwill says:

      Statistically, you’d definitely think it would even out.

      My experience is that you get a lot more variation in inefficient markets (small towns, for example, or middle-aged people) and they run both ways (they kind of have to even out, at least somewhat). It was particularly notable in Deseret, where you had an efficient market (Mormons) and an inefficient one (non-LDS) right beside one another.

      • Peter says:

        You probably meant to respond to my other comment, but in any event I suppose my observations of Major Home Improvement Retailer customers may not be entirely representative of all people. Most customers are homeowners rather than renters, especially in the lawn and garden section where I usually work, so they are more affluent than average.
        It may be that among the lower socioeconomic classes there’s more of a gender skew in terms of physical mismatches.

  5. Peter says:

    I see many couples each shift when I work at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Couples tend to be fairly evenly matched in terms of looks. When there’s a notable difference, however, it’s my distinct impression that it can go either way. In other words, you’re as likely to see an athletic and Alpha looking man with a tubby plain woman as you are to see a fat schlub with a hott woman. I try to restrict these observations to couples under 40 or so because appearances change over time.

  6. I’ve finally read that Twitter article this morning, and it actually seems very reasonable. The only thing I see differently is this:

    Replying to things that were tweeted several days ago will indicate to people that you’ve been stalking their timeline. This is probably going to make them feel uncomfortable.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never done Twitter and don’t know exactly how it works, but in that case someone is just catching up on the Tweets of someone he/she follows. I do that a lot with blogs. I’ll not visit a blog for a while and when I do, I read over the posts I’ve missed, occasionally commenting on one.

    However….maybe Twitter is different. And if people feel as she does, then they feel that way.

    • trumwill says:

      Yes and no. Unlike with blogs, people don’t generally go and read someone’s timeline without a reason to. As opposed to blogs, which are generally taken one-on-one, you generally just go with the flow and if you miss something you miss it. If I’m going through someone’s timeline, it’s because:
      1) I saw a tweet that I wanted to respond to but lost it on a refresh and it’s easier to go to their tweets than to wade through everybody’s. The same applies if I want to respond on a specific device (like for instance if there is an image on my laptop I want to use, but I’m on my phone.
      2) Something happened, and I want a particular person’s take on it. If there’s an odd new poll out, for example, there are some polling people I want to look at.
      3) They have a “special feature” sort of thing. One person tweets classical paintings at night. Some of them are really good. So some mornings I will go to her timeline to see what she put up the night before.
      4) They’re tweeting about something, but I’m not sure of the context, and going to their timeline is the best way of figuring out what.

      So it’s all rather special stuff. And if someone responds or retweets to something old, it’s likely that they’re doing one of the above things or found it via a search (like when someone responds to a month-old blog post).

      So there are a lot of legitimate reasons someone would be looking through your timeline that don’t include stalking. Even so, as I mention in the OP, I am conscientious to not give someone the impression that I am reading through their timeline, even if I am for the above reason, unless I am on good terms with them (as with the person in #3).

      • Thanks for clarifying. That makes a lot more sense.

      • Michael Drew says:

        I don’t spend as much time on Twitter as I once did, with the result being that I’ll not see someone’s tweets for a week or more at a time. Then I’ll remember them and want to know what they’ve been saying. I’ll also remember tweets from the past and want to review them. So I absolutely do read people’s timelines – liberally.

        Tbh until this post it never occurred to me that I might be creepy for doing this, or even for interacting with some of those tweets. But I don’t think I ever go through a timeline liking, RTing, or replying to so many of just one person’s tweets that there’d be reason to be creeped out.

        On the other side of it, occasionally a complete stranger will reply to a tweet of mine clearly looking to tangle, and I’m left wondering, “Why are you interested in what some nobody on Twitter thinks about this thing you care about?” For example, I’ve been on a bit of a run of critique of Josh Marshall and TPM lately, and the other day I tweeted something about him without tagging his handle, specifically not to draw the ire of his fans – just wanted to see what any followers of mine thought. A non-follower responded in disagreement, so I asked how he came across my tweet. He said he was searching on the name (not even the handle). Fair enough, i guess.

        A lot of this is just the nature of the medium, and I think one has to understand that going in – especially given it’s now so well-documented what the issues are. This does not excuse harassment. But the point if Twitter is interaction. If you want to express your thoughts and have a strictly moderated discussion, wordpress is available. If you want to seek much wider exposure through a high-traffic public gorum like Twitter, that is your choice. The more so if you make your living by making and circulating ideas to the widest audience possible, and choose to use twitter to advance your success in that enterprise.

        Again, this does not excuse harassment of any kind. But Twitter was not founded on the idea that all packets of expression should inherently be 140 characters in size; it was founded on the idea that that size of message drives up the rate and volume of interaction. So when you go on, seeking that is a choice you have explicitly made. So you’re going to get some unwelcome interaction. But you’ve signed on for that.

        But I’ve said harassment is not excused by this! So, some will object, this forces us to make a difficult distinction between unwelcome interaction and unwelcome interaction that is harassment – which could lead to not the scope of interactions we protect people from under the heading of harassment! Yes, that’s right.

        • Michael Drew says:

          narrow the scope

        • trumwill says:

          A lot of it is context-specific. When it comes to guys, I don’t think there is anything to be self-conscious about. So you’re safe with Marshall. He’s also a very public commentator, adding to the safety. And if you respond or retweet to something I tweeted a couple days ago, I take it as a compliment. We have a relationship.

          But it’s different if we’re talking about Clare Coffey, who has a somewhat modest following and has commented about being hit on quite a bit, or Elizabeth Breunig who has a larger following but a history of being harassed. Bethany Mandel is a public commenter about public affairs with a significant following, but has also been harassed a great deal. Now, if these people follow you that changes the dynamic. You have a relationship. The importance of that shouldn’t be overestimated, but it’s at least something.

          (And FWIW, nothing you’ve said indicates an acceptance of harassment.)

          (Also, I’ll have to look back and see what you’re critique of Marshall is.)

        • Michael Drew says:

          You’ll probably be disappointed; it’s sporadic and unfocused. Ironically the critique of Marshall is mainly for in my view suddenly becoming glib while at the same unfocused and difficult to follow Someone else asked about it after one tweet & I wrote him an email. I don’t think he’d mind if I copied you on it now. (It’s someone you know very very well.)

        • trumwill says:

          Yeah, send it over if you’re comfortable doing so, but it’s not that big of a deal.

          I like Marshall except when I don’t. I don’t follow him on Twitter, but a lot of what I see coming from him is back-slapping This Latest Thing Proves What We Said Before with a lot of filled-in-blanks. (ie GPB endorsed Trump because he’s obviously afraid of Trumpism thus demonstrating that Trump is The Future Of The Party as I said three months ago*).

          * – I’m not saying it’s not. It could be. Am saying we don’t know yet, Bush endorsement had a lot of moving parts, and was kind of shoe-horned into his general thesis.

        • Michael Drew says:

          That’s almost exactly right. It’s like he thinks he got a Big Thing right and is Seeing Clearly, so he thinks he can be both slapdash and grandiose but because he’s on a roll, he’s just going to keep getting things right. That his writing, unlike Yglesias’ is still typo- and syntax-error-riddled suggests to me he doesn’t see much need to have anyone edit his posts for anything still, despite now having a large staff of probably some of the best word-trade candidates available in NYC/DC. In fairness, he seems to be coming back to earth a bit very recently. I’ll send it.

  7. Φ says:

    I can’t speak to Twitter, but IRL:

    it’s best to just go ahead and avoid any discomfort they might feel

    Honestly, I thought I was the only one making that calculation.

    Especially being married, and since I’m not actually hitting up anyone, the social risks of being accused of such are much greater, while the social rewards, even if everything goes well, is merely a pleasant social interaction. Doesn’t actually pass the cost/benefit analysis. This isn’t especially “fair”, but at least I’m the one making the decision to lean away instead of lean forward.

    Except . . . I find myself thinking about this when contemplating the mandatory SAPR training I’ve had to endure for 11 years in a row now. There are multiple problems with this training, as I’ve blogged about, but in this context I think, why is it that I’m dragged away from the productive work I was doing to sit for an hour or more being forced to care about YOUR problems when YOU refuse to suffer even routine social interaction with me? And when I think this, I get . . . grouchy.

    • trumwill says:

      I was super-paranoid about this when I was substitute teaching the mid-to-upper levels. (I didn’t do much high school, though did a lot of middle school.) It got a bit easier with time. In regular office environments (the last time I was in one) I worried less about it, but it was definitely something that I would try to be cognizant of. There was a young lady at Mindstorm that I was actually interested in getting to know (platonically) but I was more cautious about it than I’d have been if I’d been single.

  8. Brandon Berg says:

    Thinking about this, it occurs to me how much that notorious John Derbyshire column resembles the way some feminists talk about men.

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