Monday, September 26, 2011

"Because Of" Versus "In Spite Of"

When you are evaluating what things or changes in your life have ostensibly made you more successful with or more attractive to men, make sure you consider them in light of the distinction between "because of" and "in spite of." The difference is not very subtle, but women (and men) miss its significance constantly. Let me illustrate with a simple example:

A girl cuts her hair short, and soon after, gets attention from men. She concludes that she gets attention from men because of her short hair, when the reality is that she gets attention from men in spite of her short hair. Her shorter hair is not causing her to get more attention; it just isn't unattractive enough to turn off the men that still approached her.

Another example: a girl gets a new dress and wears it out, and gets attention from a man. She thinks "This new dress really works," concluding that he gave her attention because of her new dress, when really she was just cute enough for him to hit on even though he wasn't a huge fan of her dress - that is, he hit on her in spite of the dress.


I think one of the reasons the confusion occurs is that we (men and women) are always eager to have found one thing or another that makes a significant difference in our attractiveness, and this wishful thinking helps us ignore the distinction I've just described. However, this is not the only reason we ignore it. Men make the mistake often when they evaluate women. If I point out a girl and say "That girl's hair looks bad," one of my male friends will often respond with something like "What? No way man, I think she's hot." But when I point out that she is hot only in spite of her short hair, not because of it, the guy making the comment will usually take a second look, reflect and then agree with me. So even when our own ego is not involved, we (as humans) still make this mistake. I think the most important reason for its occurrence is that there are so many factors contributing to attractiveness that they cannot all be easily considered in isolation.

Try these suggestions instead of relying on your perceived results:
  • When you are experienced enough with fashion, make your own decisions about what makes you more or less attractive.
  • Get your male friends' opinions, but make sure you call their attention to the specific change (Try "How does this shirt look on me? Would it look better if it were tighter?" not just "How do I look?"). Make sure it is a male friend that does not like you, because most men that like you will tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • When it comes to clothes, remember that almost every store has a return policy. Buy it, try it on a few times, and return it later if your (male) friends don' like it.
  • Do not solicit or consider opinions from your female friends, your relatives or your gay friends. All of these are strongly colored either by their inability to view you in a sexual light, or their desire to avoid offending you.
  • Ignore your hair dresser's opinion or (for clothes) the salesperson's opinion. Both have too strong an interest in your acceptance of their suggestions. It does not matter how friendly they are. In fact, you would be wise to trust them less when they are friendly.

Be especially careful of the distinction between "because of" and "in spite of" when you receive attention from men you have not met before, because they have no point of reference for your attractiveness (i.e. when you wore a better dress or had longer hair).

I am not suggesting that you reject the attention you get in these cases; I am merely warning you against jumping to the conclusion that new-found attention occurs because of a change you made recently, when in fact it only happens in spite of that change.

13 comments:

  1. Your first two stories make me think of the "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" fallacy.

    I like your own point that we love to think that something just "works" when it comes to making us more attractive. Wouldn't it be nice to have that magic charm that makes everything easier?

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  2. I found myself on your blog through another blog post which was refering to yours. I am just wondering how superficial relationships you have had if these are the things you find women should know about male mindset. I have never had difficulties in attracting men but difficulties yes in finding men that really search for something more than just attractivity in women..

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  3. I've been reading your blog regularly and I really think it has helped me isolate somethings about myself & (my hamster) that have been really eye opening. Anyways, I was wondering if you could write some guidelines about how a woman should behave after a hookup. Granted, I'm still in college, so I'm not sure how this would change in the 'real' world.

    Basically, I hooked up with a man that I share some mutual friends with. He practically begged me to go home with him, though he promised that he wouldn't try to sleep with me (pretty sure that's pure bs). I declined as politely as I can, since I do hold some interest in him. Afterwards, he friends all of my friends from that night...except for me. This does bother me, and my first instinct is to ignore this and distance myself. Am I right to do this? He recently broke up with his gf of a year, so I suppose trying to invest in this is also a stupid idea. Any opinions?

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    1. Yeah I mean the principle should always be that if he isn't making at least some effort to see you or get in touch with you, he isn't interested and you should move on. That being said, if he friended all of your friends (I assume you are talking about facebook here), he is probably trying to play games and make you jealous. I wouldn't give into them. If you like him, be receptive as possible to his advances, but you should still wait for him to make those advances. If he is trying to have sex with you so soon, though, he probably doesn't have a real interest in dating you. I'd forget about him and move on.

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  4. Okay, I am super confused now.

    "Get your male friends' opinions, but make sure you call their attention to the specific change (Try "How does this shirt look on me? Would it look better if it were tighter?" not just "How do I look?"). Make sure it is a male friend that does not like you, because a male friend that does like you will struggle to be objective."

    Why would a "male friend who does not like you" want to hang out with you anyway, much less give you advice on clothing choices?

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    1. By "not like you" I meant "not interested in dating or sleeping with you." This could be your brother, for example, or an ex boyfriend. The point is to make sure it is a guy who isn't going to tailor his answer to what he thinks you want to hear.

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    2. Well, in another tip you say "Do not solicit or consider opinions from your female friends, your relatives or your gay friends. All of these are strongly colored either by their sexual disinterest in you, or a desire to avoid offending you." So I think my brother is out, since he's a relative. And gay men are out because of sexual disinterest, so how will a disinterested straight man give me a better opinion? Do female friends care more about being nice than male friends?

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    3. Touche. I did say that, didn't I...

      While I did contradict myself pretty blatently, the principles at work are still valid. Sexual interest can cause men to say what they think you want to hear (in order to get in your pants) and sexual disinterest can allow others to ignore what really makes you attractive, in favor of what is fashionable, or "fun" or whatever. You also want to be wary of people who will try to make you feel good with their answer.

      The point is that you should choose someone who will be able to objectively gauge your attractiveness but will also be honest with you. In many situations these two things are mutually exclusive (hence the contradiction in my advice about who to pick).

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  5. I think it's really hard to get an honest opinion from not only females friends and family members but also MALE friends too. The bottom line is that humans generally don't want to insult the people in their lives so it's easier to just say "you look great." We've all done it. That's why this blog is great because you are not talking directly to a girl you know, so you can be truly honest. The other post about a girl looking good IN SPITE OF her short hair rather than BECAUSE OF her short hair is something I've been saying for years. Sure, we've all seen gorgeous models with pixie haircuts.....yet that same model would still be way better looking with long, shiny, bouncy hair that moves! It doesn't matter how hot you are - guys don't want to feel like they are running their hands through their buddy's hair!

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  6. I disagree about getting opinions from gay guys. While I have some that are pretty flamboyant, and would tell me that rainbow eye shadow is the way to go, I have many more with great taste. They are often powerful observers of women, and since they are guys and are driven by visual attraction they can often tell me if something isn't fitting right or looks great.

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    1. But they are incapable of seeing women the way straight men do. They cannot comprehend what is sexually attractive and what is the most feminine. There is simply a link missing there. You might as well ask a female friend with good taste. We already know that gay men are partial to women looking less like women and more like a woman/teenage boy blend, as in the fashion world.

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  7. I don't mean to sound absurdly feminist, but it kinda sounds like you're expecting (1) women to want only to dress up to attract men and (2) straight, disinterested men to give decent fashion advice. I think both are false. Most girls I know dress up because whatever we're wearing makes us feel pretty, not because some guy noticed us. It has more to do with feeling good about yourself. A nice, well-fitting outfit affects a woman's self-confidence in a big way. We feel beautiful and sexy...and that's without any male commentary.
    And asking a straight disinterested man for fashion advice? If I asked my guy friends what I should wear, at least one would immediately respond "a thong". Not because he's at all attracted to me, but because he's a guy. No offense, but most of your gender seems to be thinking about sex 75% of the time. If you just ignore the previous statement, girls, think about going to one of your guys friends. Ask him what you should wear: the yellow dress, or the pink skirt. I have never met a straight guy who would NOT do one of the following: shrug and look deeply confused, or say bluntly "I don't care."
    I personally have always asked my best gal friend. She's knows me, what I love, what I can't stand. We know other very well, well enough to be brutally honest with each other. I tell her when she's being a bitch and she tells me when I look like a slut.
    It's not a question of partiality, its a matter of honesty. Do you trust the person you're asking to tell you the truth or not?
    I personally would think you need new friends if you thought they were shallow enough to lie to you about FASHION advice just to stay on your good side.

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    1. You're missing the context because the article is about a man's perception on what is attractive. Also, while you say most girls dress so they feel pretty, most often the biggest indicator of that is the amount of attention from men.

      In my opinion, women that don't need to look sexy and don't need approval from men are way more attractive.

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