Hey, Good Lookin’

This is part one of a three part series on attractiveness. Stay tuned!


My evening last night ended in a ridiculously ornate pub with two beautiful women and a handful of men (a couple of those gentlemen being more attractive than they had any right to be). I made utterly mundane small talk with a pretty punk-rock German about his travels, and tried to avoid staring at the beautiful man in the corner, whose dark hair fell to his shoulders in loose layers that reminded me first of Joris and then of Zack. I enjoy looking at the gentlemen we hang out with on occasion, but I know better than to pursue any of them.

Most of them, I suspect (and Alicia confirms), are not interesting enough to hold my attention for long, and I am not one-night-stand beautiful, the combination of which effectively dooms those prospects. That is to say: I am not pretty enough to capture someone’s attention in a short period of time, and if someone doesn’t engage my brain I’m not going to invest the time for them to become acquainted with my actual value as a person. In general my best feature is my mind, and I think that is not the thing being assessed in drunken pub banter.

I think this is something that my siblings and I have in common. We’re not unattractive folks–but we’ve never been traffic-stopping gorgeous, either. We’re fairly normal looking–sturdy, handsome rather than beautiful, and largely unremarkable.

Shanna, Rachel, and Wesley in Santa Hats

Shanna, Stella, Rachel, and Wesley!

This, I think, has been an enormous boon to all of us, for two reasons.

1: We don’t turn heads, and because of this we get to choose when to draw attention to ourselves.

Weasel (as I shall henceforth be calling my brother since REDACTED won’t let me call him REDACTED) has always preferred his anonymity because then no one notices whatever his latest scheme is. Shanna relishes her invisibility because strangers harsh her mellow–she doesn’t like people invading her head-space. I am the only one of us who actively draws attention to myself, in classes or in social settings, but even I think that my unremarkable looks benefit me as an ethnographer. It would also benefit me as a detective or a spy–being unremarkable and blending in are qualities that good spies have.

2: We’ve never been able to coast on our good looks, and therefore have had to develop solid personalities.

If you’re in to reading psychology papers, there are a number you can look in to about how much easier attractive people have it. For my sister and I, this societal predisposition towards pretty played out pretty badly in elementary school. (Worse for her than for me, perhaps). We were weird kids to begin with, and a little weird-looking on top of that, so naturally we befriended the most lovely girls in our classes. Poor little me, I was a ringleader relegated to side-kick roles by the poor taste of my peers, who worshiped my lovely friend like a tiny Venus of the playground. One of my sister’s teachers so favored her pretty best friend that Shanna has largely blocked that whole year from her memory. While it’s difficult to evaluate the school trauma objectively, we had at the time attributed our friends comparative social success to their more appealing looks.

However, because we weren’t the kind of kids that could get by on a smile and a wink, we became interesting. We developed good senses of humor. We became good communicators. In general, we had it slightly more rough and as a result turned out more resilient and more fun to be around.

We ethnographers have had a couple of conversations around this area. Again, most of us are just normal looking. Perhaps even interesting looking, though we all seem to consider ourselves “not extraordinarily pretty”. Us gals have had a winge or two about the unfairness of the societal predisposition toward pretty people; however, we always end up agreeing that we would not trade more spectacular looks for our minds. We would rather be brilliant and interesting and talented than pretty, hands down, any day of the week.

All of that said, being interesting as opposed to traffic-stoppingly gorgeous does make the courtship process much more protracted and complicated. It takes time, Caoimhe and I discussed today at lunch, to convince a potential suitor of our pursuability as mates. Time to engage them in our thoughts, to show them what makes us worthwhile. This is an excellent thing for choosing the kind of fellow you want to settle down with. It is not so helpful when you really just want some diversion and maybe a good shift. But such is the hand we’re dealt, and I’d rather be a spy myself than a Bond girl.

Hey, Good Lookin’

4 thoughts on “Hey, Good Lookin’

  1. RachelNoel says:

    This just means one must practice the subtle art of seductive reasoning. Or rather, “The top five reasons why you won’t regret sleeping with me this one time.”

    1. rachelshadoan says:


      Can we please write that book together? “A Plain Jane Engineer’s Guide to Getting Laid: How to Use Logic to Create Lust”

  2. shanna says:

    you know, i’m ok with my not-awesome-prettiness, now! i feel blessed that i had to develop some charm and winsomeness, and i feel like the world is nicer to me because of it. and really, anyway i can manipulate the world into being nice to me is a win đŸ™‚
    i love you!!! plus, even though i loved your article, i still think you’re beautiful! like sunshine!

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