Being a Handsome Man Vs. Being a Hot Guy

And why it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway thanks to a little something called “charm”.

Recently I asked my facebook friends via my status update, this question:

Females, I need your input for something I’m writing: What is the difference between a guy who is “handsome” and a guy who is “hot, sexy, etc.”?

To summarize the similarities of the responses, with a man who is “hot” there is an attraction (mostly physical), whereas  with a man who is “handsome” is someone who simply is a good-looking guy, though there is not necessarily any kind of attraction there.  Of course the ironic thing about this can best be summed up by what my friend Holly Arnesen said:

“if i refer to a guy as handsome, it usually means that physically speaking he’s nicely put together, but doesn’t necessarily mean i’m attracted. hot and sexy usually has to do with more than what a guy looks like. like some women think intelligence is sexy so, they’ll go for a smart guy over one that they think is nicer to look at.  i once heard someone say, ‘men fall in love with women they are attracted to, and women are attracted to the men they fall in love with.’ i’m not a guy, but i’m pretty sure this tends to be way things go.”

On the right, Bronson Pinchot, who played "Balki" on Perfect Strangers.

What enticed me to walk up to my future wife on October 5, 2006 and talk to her the very first time I saw her from across a large crowded room was her appearance.  Though it wasn’t until four months later to the day, on our first date (I knew it was a date but she didn’t until it was over), that she actually thought of me in any kind of romantic way.  My physical looks were irrelevant to the equation up until the point I made it clear I was interested in her, given that I’d shared with her my personality and character prior to day that we crossed the line from being friends to dating.

Until we started dating, I was just another average-looking dude.  A forgettable face.  Perhaps the most memorable physical trait would have been my dark hair.  Based on the celebrities that people have told me I look like in the last couple of years (“Cory Matthews” from Boy Meets World, “Balki” from Perfect Strangers, “Ross” from Friends, as well as David Arquette and Paul Rudd), I evidently have the looks of a Jewish-American comedian, which all of those Nick Shell look-alikes are.  Men that are remembered not for their looks, but for their personalities and talent.  Are those men handsome?  Sure, why not.  It’s irrelevant either way.

Ben Savage, who played "Corey Matthews" on Boy Meets World.

Speaking of David Schwimmer, I don’t believe anyone could have played the part of Ross better.  But to be part of one of the most popular romantic American TV couples ever, he was a very ordinary looking guy.  Fans of Friends always think of Ross and Rachel fondly, though never once have I ever heard anyone comment good or bad on David Schwimmer’s looks.  But regarding Jennifer Aniston, it’s not that way at all. Her looks were so relevant she actually started a hairstyle craze in 1995 called “The Rachel”.

When my wife and I reminisce on when we first started dating, she always says, “You always had interesting stuff to say so I knew we’d never run out of things to talk about.”  It’s possible that’s what won her over.  My quirkiness.  Some people would call it my ability to “think some crazy crap up”.  Others more reverently refer to it as “thinking deeply”.   My lifelong habit of daydreaming during math and science class definitely paid off.  I charmed her.

So if a guy is simply average-looking, how can he improve his situation?  The “Makeover Week” on the TV show The Biggest Loser would tell us he would need to slim down, get his hair cut shorter, shave off his beard, and wear nicer clothes.  But I know my wife always prefers me to wear jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap, and she never notices or cares whether I have a beard or not.  There’s really no official way for a schlub or average Joe to gain “handsomeness” or “sexiness” since that’s up to the girl they’re trying to attract.

The more colorful and eye-catching cockatiel bird is on the right. The female is on the left.

And I think that’s why it’s a guy thing to not care as much about our appearance as females do.  Because unlike male birds (which are always more attractive and attention-grabbing than the females they attract), male humans know they can attract a woman who is out of their league looks-wise as long as they are funny enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, or whatever else it takes to charm their love interest.  From Doug Heffernan to Barney Rubble, charm certainly has its advantages.

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Self-Depreciation and Self-Denial are Forms of Self-Help

Help yourself to telling the world how inadequate you are.  Evidently, it’s good for you.

When I see a person make a habit of letting all their friends and acquaintances know (in general terms) how unpopular, unappreciated, and unloved they are, I look at it as a subconscious method of helping themselves feel popular, appreciated, and loved because they are unable to feel those ways otherwise. 

Facebook is currently the most fertile ground for this to take place.  Like people using their status as a way to tell everyone how “Yet again, another date gone wrong.  I guess I’ll just be single forever…”  (I’m assuming the guy or girl they went on the date with is a facebook friend and will pretty much immediately read the comment.)

And “Tell me this.  How could someone actually say that to another human being?”  (This vague sort of comment opens the door for people to ask, “Hey, what happened?” and “What did someone say to you?” and “Who’s doing this to you?”)

Both of those status updates of course are soon followed by 13 comments.  And jackpot, the plan worked.

While I’m generally an upbeat and positive person, I definitely get into ruts just like everybody else.  And I don’t fake being happy when I do.  If someone asks me how I’m doing, I tell them the truth.  But what keeps me from broadcasting my gloom to others, publicly?

I learned the hard way a few years ago (2005) on Myspace and I hated the way it made me feel: I admitted in a “blog” that I was feeling “depressed by all the winter weather”.  It didn’t take long for Myspace friends to come “rescue” me by leaving positive comments.  So even though it was just an off-hand thing I wrote, I realized it could be perceived as “help me feel good about myself”.  Like I was fishing for compliments. 

Not that I wasn’t grateful that those people cared enough about me to show their concern.  It just felt weird and unnatural for me.

In public, I have to feel like (and know) I’m helping myself get out of the funk.  I do ask for help, advice, and encouragement- but I do it all in private.

So now when I write, I am always reluctant to present a personal problem without finishing the post by providing the solution or how I will help myself get through it.  And most likely, to get that solution, behind the scenes I’ve already asked for advice from a trusted friend or family member.

I don’t assume that the way I deal with feelings of inadequacy (privately) is the superior way- it’s just the best way for me.  All I can assume is that people who publicly deny themselves are doing what’s best for them, and that’s why they continue to do it.

On a different token, however, self-depreciation has made Conan O’Brien’s career.  In every monologue, he makes fun of his pasty, lanky, 6’ 4” body and his own off-beat style of humor.  His confidence is shown in his ability poke fun of himself.  But when this comes from a place of confidence, a person can totally put themselves down and have it work for them.

So self-depreciation and self-denial definitely work for certain kinds of people.  Those who gain their confidence from a public array of encouragement and those who already have confidence yet ironically bring attention to the very things about themselves that others may find cause for low self-esteem.