‘She could do so much better than him!’
We’re all guilty of thinking it, aren’t we? You and your very attractive pal are at a bar, and she starts chatting to a guy who’s…well, not very attractive. They hit it off, as you watch on, incredulous. When he walks off to get a drink, you seize the opportunity to warn her, hissing – “Babe, he’s not that hot!”
She looks shocked, you feel like a jerk. They end up dating, and stroll off happily into the sunset. Wait, what?
Welcome, friends, to the confusing world of ‘mixed attractiveness dating’.
In what is potentially the most offensive concept ever created, some charming person has decided to coin a name for the scenario in which one partner is physically better looking than the other.
It's called, 'mixed attractiveness dating'.
Apparently, the idea of a hottie dating a nottie hottie is so offensive, people are leaping at the chance to get to the bottom of it. Oh, the injustice of it! How dare those ugly people date the babes of the world!
The study of what attracts two people is actually something that's been around for centuries.
It is, after all, one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: what feeds that chemical reaction that magnetises you to another? More than just a nice smile, or funny jokes, or great shoes - what is the scientific explanation behind it? How do we logically define...love?
For as far back as 1903, scientists have been studying Assortative Mating, which basically searches for a pattern in the otherwise random act of choosing a mate:
"Assortative mating is a mating pattern and a form of sexual selection in which individuals with similar genotypes and/or phenotypes mate with one another more frequently than would be expected under a random mating pattern."
"Examples of similar phenotypes include, but are not limited to, body size, skin coloration/pigmentation, and age." - Encyclopedia Britannica
In other words, people will generally be attracted to someone with a similar characteristic. Why? There are many theories, but the most likely one is competition.
As men and women battle it out with their peers for the most desirable people, they generally end up constrained by their own characteristics. You know the drill: "A super fit model like her, would never go for an average Joe like me."
And yet, randomness prevails, and every now and then, a 'mixed attractiveness' couple will end up together - and happily so.
Well, if you listened to your mother growing up, then you would know the answer lies in personality. Because looks aren't everything, are they?
A study taken by online journal Psychological Science has found that the longer a couple know each other before they start dating, the less likely they are to be matched for attractiveness.
That is, the longer two people have to get to know each other, the more sensitive they become to the attractive qualities that extend beyond the physical. You know, kindness, honesty, morals, ethics, ability to make a bed, great cooking skills...
Things that connect two people far longer that great sex ever will.
Watch a NYC man work to rescue the lost art of the blink date...in a subway. (Post continues after video)
Couples with varying levels of 'attractiveness' have long been the subject of fascination, particularly in the celebrity realm. From Jay Z and Beyonce, to Salma Hayek and François-Henri Pinault; the cry of disgruntled fans can be heard from the moment they hit the red carpet as a couple.
"Why is she dating HIM?" we cry, overlooking the extensive array of qualities often listed as trade offs for their looks.
One of my favourite lines in the new season of Orange Is The New Black is when Maritza is talking to daughter Daya:
"Marc Anthony grew up in the projects and now he's rich and got to stick it to J. Lo even though he's pocket-size."
François-Henri Pinault, is another great example. He is the CEO of major multinational, board member of a a European NGO campaigning for research in leukodystrophy, and has even been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur - a french order established in 1802 by the emperor Napoleon.
But hey, he's a six and she's a ten, so what gives?
And now for the interesting part: what does all of this mean in the age of online dating, where apps like Tinder work solely off physical attraction?
Relationship patterns that have been established for centuries - if not longer - are being stomped out with the rise of 'technosexual' dating apps such as Tinder and Happn, who perpetuate the 'love at first sight' mentality. (Or should we say, 'love at first lust'...)
Whilst users have the opportunity to chat briefly, their initial selection is based entirely on looks.
"In our technosexual era, the process of dating has not only been gamified, but also sexualised, by technology," writes Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic for The Guardian."With Tinder, the pretext is to hook-up, but the real pleasure is derived from the Tindering process."
It is as addictive as it is damaging. Face after face, there for the judgement without the risk of being asked, 'What the hell are you staring at?' You spend hours judgeing the most attractive person you would like to date. What on earth does this do to our sense of self-entitlement?
The dates-on-tap concept also means that the sense of competition is all but eliminated. You've got no one to compete with but yourself. In essence, you've got six photos, 500 characters, and around 30 seconds of chat before you're swiped left to the reject pile. Think quick, Romeo.
For those who do decide that they are worthy opponents in the game of love, a 'real life' date is set up. Chemistry is tested. Chances are, the careful curation of your date selection will result in a strong attraction. Maybe even a second date. Cripes, if you're lucky, maybe even a relationship!
Speculation surrounds what the technosexual age of dating will mean for the future of mixed attractiveness dating.
Will the 10's only swipe right on 10's?
Will the 2's only swipe right on 2's?
Will exclusive 'hottie' dating apps such as Raya stomp out mixed attractiveness dating forever?
Will 'nottie' dating apps move it to bridge the gap?
All of these questions are equal parts hilarious and haunting. What on earth have we become?
I think back to my own dating experiences. As a 27 year old, I hit the scene well before dating apps were but a glint in their maker's eye. Don't get me wrong - dating was still a game, just a slightly less narcissistic one.
Bars were places you met people. You would dress up, loiter over vodka sodas, and eventually dance around your handbag with a group of girlfriends. If you were lucky, you would lock eyes with someone across the room who made your stomach flip (in the good way, not the 'one too many vodka sodas' way, which was also a possibility). If you were really lucky, you would keep you sh*t together long enough to make a witty comment or two, and exchange numbers.
What followed was a few weeks of nervous email and text exchanges, mid-week beers, and the occasional phone call. If you still liked them after you found out the basics - job, political preference, choice of flatmate, ability to cook - then you would shyly move into phase two: relationship mode. It was nerve racking, and confusing, and glorious.
Because of this random selection of Assortative Mating, you would believe that the stars truly did align to put you and your lover in the right place, at the right time. It was special, because something more powerful than an algorithm bought you together.
And for that reason, how attractive they were played second fiddle to the spark that initially attracted you, and the wonderful attributes that continued to.
The very foundation for attraction is based in looks.
With 15% of our entire population on Tinder (that's 1.5 million people, or one in every six), Australia is the most prolific user of the app in the WORLD. Dating is becoming lazy. Spot a guy across the bar who's caught your eye? Why bother with the awkwardness and the risk - just jump on Tinder, and know for sure that he's interested.
I for one can't imagine anything worse that a Noah's Ark of couples, equally matched in attractiveness, hand in hand with their worthy partner. Variety is the spice of life, friends, and I don't know about you, but spice is pretty important ingredient when it comes to dating.