“The Glory of Jacob Shall Be Made Thin”: Mormons, Marriage, and the Cold Realities of Physical Attractiveness

Russell Mormon 39 Comments

Alas, one wanders through the BYU campus and simply cannot escape its pervading influence: romance. One visiting professor from the University of Minnesota‘s renowned family science program, I’m told, called the BYU campus “sexually charged.” For our talk of spiritual compatibility, at the end of the day, are we just as superficial as the next Joe or Jane? Is the primary difference that active Latter Day Saints know how to keep their urges in check? What is the relationship between romance and spirituality, between noticing a pretty figure and “recognizing” (perhaps even in a Saturday’s Warrior sort-of-way…heaven forgive me for ever enjoying that PR-nightmare of Mormon cinema) a “sweet spirit.”

While I do not propose to delve into that can of worms about the difference between men and women concerning physical attractiveness, I do notice that the men in the Latter Day Saint community are no less concerned with physical attractiveness than most men…they just might describe their attractiveness in a more tamed way. From my experience, Mormons are not immune to the hormones that make the world go around. Yet the instructions we receive related to dating are remarkably (and rightfully, in my view) asexual. The cute aphorism in marriage is always to “marry your best friend.” Yet we all know that many of us had that super-tight friend of the opposite gender that we wouldn’t be caught dead marrying. We just didn’t like them “in that way.”

In my interactions with my fellows, when girls are beautiful, the first personality characteristic they are assumed to have is not spirituality. Rather, they are assumed to be “fun,” “bubbly.” And there are just as many complaints at BYU about guys going after the thin, could-find-shade-under-barbed-wire, girls as anywhere else. How often do we ask the rhetorical question of the beautiful single adults: “How is it that you are not married?” Not so with our resident “sweet spirits.” Do we tend to mentally consign them to a life of lonely competence…perhaps working as a librarian somewhere? So I wonder: Have we set up a dichotomy between “spiritual” people and “beautiful” people?

And how vulnerable are we Latter-day Saints to the impact of the media? Sure, we might dismiss them as morally bankrupt and call admiring them our “guilty pleasures,” but let’s be honest: if the most morally questionable Hollywood star were to miraculously have an Alma experience and become the best Mormon YSA in her respective ward, you can bet that s/he would bump even the most solid guy/girl down the list for dates.

For men, (and I risk being seriously contradicted here), I am going to suggest that few men (LDS or otherwise) would call Cameron Diaz, the Brittany Spears of yesteryear, or most supermodels anything less than very attractive (provided some of them lose the heroin eyes and their horrifically layered makeup). but how much would even LDS men be willing to sacrifice by way of personality if the girls they were dating looked like them?

And for women, how many women would pick a younger version of Mitt Romney over the guys they are currently dating (imagine for a moment that Mitt Romney was not going to be ridiculously wealthy)? Or having a worthy priesthood holder who looked like Michael Phelps? If media is the source and marriage is eternal, then we must sadly conclude that much of our eternal life/marriage depends on that evil empire that we denounce week after week. Should LDS men who are attracted to a slim waistline feel particularly guilty for being part of the informal institution that creates anorexia?

Or should we turn to theology for an explanation? Since Latter-day Saints view the body in definitely more positive terms than traditional Christian orthodoxy does, do we tend to place a greater emphasis on physical attractiveness? Does this explain Utah’s excellent ranking in national obesity rankings? (it ranks 45th?).

Finally, if I am correct, I wonder whether deconstructing such media images is worthwhile for the Latter-day Saint…can/should the LDS man/woman “deprogram” their preferences? I leave our friendly readers to decide.

Comments

comments

Comments 39

  1. In today’s world, and despite our best efforts, the media is going to decide and dictate what we take as beautiful. Despite our best intentions many of us will look at the girls around us and unconciously decide that they want to get to know the prettier girls. I don’t believe that many LDS men are thinking to themselves that they want to get to know the prettier girls, they just do it instinctively. Nevertheless we all hope it isn’t looks that we take any relationship toward marriage. We all hope that we find a person we find sexually attractive and has all the other important traits as well. At least that’s how it was for me, my wife wore a size 1 when we got married and although she is a little bigger now, she’s never looked better to me.

  2. To me there is nothing wrong with physical attraction, although once you get to know someone, it is pretty hard to separate physical attraction from emotional/psychological etc. I would definitely worry about people getting married solely based on physical attraction, because they are probably going to have a very difficult road ahead of them.

    I also don’t think that “spirituality” is necessarily the only other main quality besides physical attractiveness. Personality characteristics, work ethic, emotional regulation, conflict style, etc. are all important things to consider when one is considering marriage. I’m completely biased, I know, but my wife does pretty well with all of them.

    I only think physical attractiveness is “shallow” or “worldly” when it is the only focus. But those type of people have their reward. 😉

  3. The very first thing that crossed my mind when I saw my future wife was, “Wow, she’s beautiful.” The very first thing that my future brother-in-law said to his mother after meeting my sister was, “Mom, I just met the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.” So?

    My wife was thin with long, auburn hair. She was shy, so she wasn’t ultra-popular, but she was quite striking by most “worldly” standards. My sister is not thin and never has been. She is a wonderful person, but by most “worldly” standards, it would be very hard to call her “beautiful”. Her husband, however, looked at her and was bowled over by her beauty.

    My wife has given birth to six children, and both of our waistlines are nowhere near what they used to be. Her hair now is auburn only when she colors it, and mine looks best when it is cut short enough to not accentuate my expanding bald spot. However, we love each other now every bit as much as we did when we both were skinny and good-looking.

    I agree that we are influenced, often subconsciously, by the media and culture around us, but I also think that there is an ambiguous SOMETHING that reaches out and grabs some people when they meet some other people that is hard to quantify.

  4. Bah!

    I’m not certain what size my wife wears at the moment…and I don’t care.

    {if I did know exactly, rest assured I wouldn’t be posting it on teh intarwebz}

    To a certain degree, certain physical characteristics indicate healthiness. A slim figure, healthy skin, a certain healthiness to the hair. Healthiness indicates a greater probability of fertility. Evolutionary psychology [those are probably dirty words on a Mormon blog, but them’s the breaks] tells us a lot about human behavior based on these sorts of things.

    A guy looks at a girl and what is he trying to evaluate? On some level, deep within, he’s essentially saying, “what are the chances that, if I marry [er, mate with is more technically correct] this girl, we’ll have good healthy children?” So he looks at the things he can see and evaluates those things. Health is a good proxy for fertility, generally speaking. Likewise bust size and waist to hip ratio are seen as being proxies for ‘good’ child-bearing characteristics, as long as certain ratios are followed within certain tolerances. [Bust size is a trickier one, because lactation is not as dependent on bust size as one might think…].

    So evolutionary psych tells us that, quite simply, all guys, regardless of pretty much any ethnic/cultural boundaries are looking for the same thing. Why do you think that what’s considered attractive is so universal. Sure there is some minor variance, and in a FEW instances, being obese was considered a mark of healthiness since it meant you were getting enough food, but this is an exception. Most of the time the preference among men is for women between certain levels of being too thin and not thin enough. Again, a proxy for health.

    This is good for humanity, and I personally believe that it doesn’t matter if you believe in evolution or creationism, this line of thought is informative. You can take this to mean, simply enough, that God decided that it was a good idea for males to be attracted to the females who were MOST likely to be able to bear healthy children.

    For women, things are a bit trickier. While healthiness is a consideration, the same markers of health in women do not carry to men. Our bodies are not as malleable, and we can be very healthy but not attractive in terms of symmetry [researchers know that attractivness is partially governed by symmetry, but this is again a marker of health in many ways]. A male with a strangely non-symmetrical face can be very physically fit, and as long as he is able to demonstrate his ability to provide, he can be considered attractive to women. Why? Because evolutionarily speaking women have a very vulnerable period just after childbirth and therefore need someone who can provide for them especially at that time. So they are attracted to men who are good at that, or who seem to have potential at that. Markers of health are important in this consideration as well.

    In the LDS world, the implications are that we cannot (and perhaps should not) escape the physical side of marriage and attraction. That does not, in any way, I hope, negate the spiritual side of things. In fact, I think it can, if handled properly be a great teaching tool. Teach the young men and women about this, then tell them that it is their responsibility to be aware that there are other things involved in making the selection of whom to marry. Such as how that person will treat children, if that person wants children, if that person is going to be faithful to you and the church, if the person has a history of sexual deviancy [this is important and is an increasing problem in the church–and is one of the LAST conversations that a young couple wants to have, but it should be said that I know a number of people that have NOT taken time to inquire into the kinds of expectations their potential marriage partner had in terms of intimacy, and have been shocked; this conversation can also tell you if a person is struggling with pornography and other things, which is a problem]. Young people SHOULD NOT be encouraged to focus on the physical, but they should be encouraged to focus on being healthy and smart. That way, they can be self-confident and able to find someone who is confident, healthy and smart as well. Spirituality, of course, is assumed as a constant, but they need to be warned that just because someone went on a mission and is at a church school it doesn’t mean they are spiritual. Even if they do take the sacrament every week.

  5. If physical attractiveness has become important to us as individuals, then we have lost the spirit of the gospel.

    If we are LOOKING for a woman with a pretty face, large/symetrical breasts or shapely butt, where does that leave the KIND but homely, flat chested, narrow-hipped woman?!?

    Or if we desire the tall, broad-shouldered, buffed-up fellow with a head full of thick hair and a large bulge in his pants; where does that leave the VALIENT but short, unathletic, bald man who was unfortunate enough (apparently) to be born with a little penis?!?

    These things REALLY aren’t supposed to matter; so why do we let them matter at all?

    Do you think Christ loves the homely LESS than the beautiful?

    Or consider it this way………If Christ had been dating, do you REALLY think appearances would have mattered to him AT ALL?????

    I can’t imagine it!

    Where does our preoccupation with the physical leave Leah???

    Where does this preoccupation leave Christ of whom it was written that “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him?” (Isaiah 53:2)

    I am ashamed of us! What has become of the Saints, that we even think about these things?

    To say that “physical attractiveness is “shallow” or “worldly” when it is the only focus”, is absurd on the face of it. By definition, “focus” is narrow and exclusive! You can’t have more than one “focus”!

  6. Mark S. – Oh, brother! Physical attraction is not something you can wish away. Genetics certainly make some more fit than others for potential mates. Survival of the fittest is inherent in all species, humans not excepted.

    As Mormons, we believe the physical body is an inherent part of the soul. Physical health is part of being a vessel for the Spirit. We are not people who relegate the physical to a position of lesser importance (I am speaking of matters of personal choice & behavior like WoW, not lustfully objectifying the body). This talk of dismissing the physical borders on doctrines of corporeal mortification found in other churches. We should love all people, but we should make choices to be healthy to bring our bodies and spirits closer together. Even Christ, who loved all, healed the sick and infirm. He didn’t host a parade to celebrate leprosy. Obesity is infirmity; it’s just very common in the U.S.

    My BIL (who is single) was talking about several girls he liked. One was more fun to be with, in great physical shape, but less attractive. Another was very pretty but a bit immature and had a mother pushing maximum density. My suggestion in this case was to look to the future. The one who is fun who likes to be physically active is probably a better match as long as she is attractive at all (she was). She can always get a hairdo and wear some makeup (both of which are the great equalizers, IMO). The one who isn’t a personality match may be pretty, but what will they talk about? The other side of the coin is that he should also be physically fit and worth talking to for extended periods of time. That should go without saying.

  7. I want you to carefully note, that I said NOTHING about health or even neatness or cleanliness. I spoke about image worship.

    Beauty does not equate to good health.

    Neither (by the way) does obesity ALWAYS equate to ill-health.

    A woman who is homely, flat-chested and narrow hipped may be PERFECTLY healthy!

    A man who is short, unathletic, bald and with a little penis ALSO may be PERFECTLY healthy!

    As I see it, our society is following the pattern of the ancient greeks. For them, the beautiful was to be desired as a ‘good’, in and of itself.

    It has been observed by others that the greeks considered the “beautiful” to be Holy.

    On the other hand, to the Hebrews, whatever was Holy, was “beautiful”.

    I think it should be so with us.

  8. By the way, I might add that while Christ healed the sick and raised the dead, he did not “beautify” the homely or grant breast-enlargements to the flat chested.

  9. “If physical attractiveness has become important to us as individuals, then we have lost the spirit of the gospel.”

    I still have to disagree Mark, if I understand you correctly, in terms of choosing a partner. I believe physical attraction is God-given, and I also have noticed from personal experience that prior to being married, my friends and I often did not agree on who was “attractive,” so I think there is room for different people to like different things.

    Are you saying that if being physically attracted to one’s partner is important, than one has lost the spirit? Or has become “the natural man”? We probably disagree on this aspect of the gospel. Is physical attraction not important in multiplying and replenishing the earth? Gosh, it is to me. God gave us these drives for a purpose.

    “You can’t have more than one “focus”!” I’m not sure why you’re pulling this sentence out, if you understood my context. What I meant was that one should not date solely based on (or “focusing on” whatever) one characteristic (e.g. physical attractiveness, spirituality, shoe size, etc.).

  10. Would it be rude, blashpemous and/or shallow to say that I think the women Jesus hung out with might not have been super ugly? Or maybe they were, I obviously don’t know. His mother was described by Nephi as “exceedingly fair.” How shallow of Nephi to say such a thing.

    I’m not sure what Mark S. truly thinks we should do about this pesky physical body of ours. Some religious folk do a good job of hiding it behind robes and veils. Still, though, I’m not sure they are marrying on pure faith. Maybe we could all be required to wear a blindfold until the temple ceremony is complete? Internet dating only, no pictures? Or maybe the way to know if you should marry someone is if you don’t find them attractive, that way we can be absolutely sure that we are doing it for all the right reasons. Yes. Problem solved.

  11. AdamF

    You DON’T understand me correctly. Physical attraction IS God-given; but for the very reason that it IS God-given, it is NOT to be sought after.

    Frankly, homeliness is God-given, too!! But IT is not to be sought after either.

    We (each of us) are as God has made us, and both qualities are GIFTS if we understand them properly; and neither condition is to be despised.

    As I stated, if physical attraction has become IMPORTANT to us, we have lost the spirit of the gospel. If it is something we are LOOKING FOR, instead of simply being something that comes with the “package”, then I think our priorities are misplaced.

    If we are not CONSCIOUSLY trying to train our hearts and minds to overcome “the natural man” (which IS) “an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19); to look BEYOND the appearance, and into the soul, then our priorities are wrong.

    You say that phyical attraction is important in multiplying and replenishing the earth; It REALLY ISN’T. I can point out plenty of homely people who have done a GREAT job in muliplying and replenishing.

    Futhermore, women are only able to “multiply and replensish” for so long before menospoause sets in and their systems shut down and ceases to funtion for that purpose.

    Then what?

    We’d better have been looking beyond the physical if we’re going to deal with that!

    If fewer men were bothered by the sagging breasts, wrinkles, or the stretch-marks that occur with age there would be fewer hurt feelings; fewer pornographic sites, and fewer divorces.

    If more men could see the stretch-marks, sagging butt and breasts and wrinkles as the beautiful marks of courage and sacrifice that they ARE, then I think there would be happier homes.

    The scars, wrinkles, body-changes and hair-loss (as well as the natural homeliness that some people are born with) ARE (if viewed properly) the badges of glory that we are awarded for entering and enduring mortality.

    In fact, I SUSPECT that just as Christ is able to display the marks of his crucifiction to others at his own will and pleasure, so we (when resurrected) will be able to show our future posterity the marks of age, scar, and disability that we received when we passed through mortality, to that they may see with their eyes and feel with their hands what THEY may have to face in their turn.

    These things ARE the gifts of God to us.

    All else is vanity.

  12. Thanks for the clarification Mark. I think I understand you better now.

    “I can point out plenty of homely people who have done a GREAT job in muliplying and replenishing.”

    Haha so can I! But my point is they are obviously still very attracted to each other. Unless you are saying that “physical attraction” is different than sexual attraction.

    Now why my wife finds me attractive, I have no idea.

    I’m starting to lose the point of this debate though. 🙂 I’ll bet we agree on more than we disagree on this, e.g. an emphasis on physical appearance over all other traits in choosing a partner is not a good idea.

  13. What’s up with the long comments? Too hard to read through.

    My wife is hot — just like the day I met her. So things are good here.

  14. AdamF

    Exactly! Physical Attaction/Physical Attractiveness is different than sexual attraction, tho there can be some overlap.

    You’re right though. We DO agree on more than we disagree.

    Amen, brother

  15. Who says that “bubbly” isn’t spiritual? It seems to me that the more in touch with the Savior people are, the more friendly they become.

    Also, I found it interesting that I’d never ever thought about if Mitt Romney was good-looking or not until you wrote about taking a younger version. I honestly can’t say if I would because I don’t know what his personality is like. Yes, I can acknowledge when I think someone is cute, but that’s just the first step. If I realize after getting to know them that they know they’re cute and flaunt it, there’s no way I’ll even try to pretend it’s charming.

    I was engaged once to a fabulous young man. He was smart and talented and good looking. But it felt like we were at different spiritual levels. I think that is the main reason we didn’t get married. It takes a lot of things to make a great fit. I know that I could have married him and had some sort of happiness. Same with a lot of other men. But I have my agency to choose someone who fits as well as possible. And that’s what I’m going to do. 😀

  16. I know it is a cliche, ” Beauty is only skin deep.” The Lord made us attracted to the opposite sex (I know, what you’re thinking, I will not going there!) so that we would couple up and replenish the earth. However, if we are making our choice solely on looks alone, we are almost bound to be disappointed. Not always, but usually.

    It is no sin to marry someone good looking. I did!

  17. Looks are definitely not all there is, but there is some price of entry there. If you find someone UNattractive, that would be a bad idea to pursue, almost regardless how great their personality is. People’s attractiveness can improve on knowing them better if you really like them (they have a good sense of humor or are fun to be with) or they can become less attractive if you don’t like them. I remember thinking many times in my dating years that someone’s smugness, stupidity or lack of humor made him get less and less physically attractive.

  18. For all of our talk about tolerance, we always seem to keep room open for the disparaging of the ugly, fat, and spastic. The best looking people not only tend to marry the best looking people, but they also get the best jobs, make more money, and tend to be happier, than the uglies among us.

    Is this right or just? I think attraction is an element of the natural man, which a part must be tamed. I think God wants us to be attracted to our potential mates, but when I was at BYU nobody dared deconstruct what it meant to be attractive in a normative sense, only that you couldn’t help what you were attracted to and you couldn’t settle. What, if any, or our attractions, are based on media hype as opposed to biology or spirituality? Being a size 2 is considered the mark of sexiness nowadays, but it wasn’t always so. Someone who had very thin and larger girlfriends, I can say that intimacy and sexual attraction in close physical quarters don’t discriminate in the size of the woman’s waist. Yet, from an eyeball perspective, which is what most LDS boys get from the Cosmo magazines to the flaunting halway tart in high school, sexuality is purely visual. I mean, you can’t touch, so only the mind and eyes are available for sexualizing women. I think this has been corrupting on us as a culture. Healthy women can be a size 18 as well as a size 2. Yet we use it as s code word to seem less shallow, but we really want that size 2.

    I have news for all of those men that wish that. If all you wife does is pole dance and the edge of the bed, then follow the lusts of your eyes, but when the lights are off (which they frequently are) things are much different (speaking as someone who has now married). Marry someone who is beautiful in all areas to you, and love them with all your heart. Only since my marriage am I shocked at how shallow I was–but it was nutured and encouraged by the BYU culture I lived in. Just another example of how we’re teetering at the top of another pride cycle.

  19. Peter Brown

    You’ve made my point beautifully!! Thank You.

    For all our ‘talk’ about ‘beauty being only skin deep’ and how we should care about a person’s heart and mind more than we do about their body; I say, for all our talk of such things, few of us really believe it enough to practice it.

    And that’s a pity.

    It’s easy for the cute, and beautiful among us to talk about “a price of entry”; but how do you think the ugly feel when they read the things you say about them?!???

    Do you understand how small and worthless that can make people feel???

    If we feel that the BEST love and BEST happiness are reserved for the beautiful, then what have we really learned from Jesus Christ?

    A Zion society is supposed to be better than that. We are supposed know something about “the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron. 16:29) and to apply that principle to heal those with broken hearts.

  20. “all you wife does is pole dance at the edge of the bed, then follow the lusts of your eyes, but when the lights are off (which they frequently are) things are much different…”

    Peter, I really want to respond to this, but I won’t, as it would definitely be TMI. But really, where do you get those poles? 😉

  21. Mark: “It’s easy for the cute, and beautiful among us to talk about “a price of entry”; but how do you think the ugly feel when they read the things you say about them?!???” Since I’m the one who said “price of entry,” I can only assume you are referring to me, but I am totally unclear on what exactly you think I said about “the ugly”? I didn’t use that word. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder (probably why many people marry someone who looks like them). The only thing I think is really important is that you are sufficiently attracted to the person you marry, not that only empirically beautiful people should be eligible for marital happiness. That is all I meant by price of entry. I also agree that one’s holiness enhances one’s looks. That and soft lighting.

  22. Have a friend in CES. He was speaking to a group of older-adult, ummarried women at some sort of conference. Following the prepared portion of his presentation, they were apparently having a friendly and productive conversation about the wanting to be married, trying to find someone thing.

    Then it happened.

    One of the ladies asked the question, and my friend says that it was her phrasing that doomed him.

    She asked, “looking at this group in particular, what do you think is the single most important thing we could do to move closer to our goal of being married?”

    (You all know where this is going already, right? 🙂 )

    He said he didn’t know what came over him, and he said it before he could stop himself. What came out was:

    “Oh, that’s easy. Lose weight.”

    I guess what followed was pretty ugly (no pun intended) as he tried to modify and defend what he had just said, and as that “group in particular” got mad and said many of the things that have been said in this post, though not as calmly nor as eloquently.

    It’s not a pretty fact (still no pun intended), but a fact nonetheless that most folks, mormons included and perhaps males in particular, are motivated to some degree in a visual/physical way. He said that the point he was trying to make was that you could get grumpy about the way things are, or you could do something about the way you are. I don’t think you can healthily take that point to the extreme of surgery and eating disorders, but there is some value in that point. If someone is not especially handsome/pretty (I am a great example of someone like this, by the way 🙂 ) they can still at least put themselves in the game of making themselves into their best selves for a potential or current spouse. The effort that someone puts into their health, appearance, intelligence, spirituality, maturity and emotional health and personality (yes, you can develop personality traits desireable to yourself and others) says something about a person, how they value themselves and their “other”. That effort is one of the things that makes a person attractive to someone else.

    If you just get mad at the way things are instead of dealing with the way things are, you’ll end up with toes that get punctured when you kick against the pricks. (yet another unintended pun!)

  23. I finally learned a significant fact two or three years ago when our youngest daughter went to get temple garments: Women come in about 14 different types, which I’d never thought of before. Every guy has a certain type he likes more than others. Some of this began to dawn on me when we went to my 40th high school reunion and I was talking to one of the girls and looked at her picture in the annual, dressed is a formal, and I said, “Wow, you sure were pretty then!” which kind of insulted her. Then I had to explain that from 8th grade on I only saw one girl as being pretty and didn’t notice all the rest. It turned out that one girl was the type my wife was and I’d been prepared by her for meeting my wife, as I’d only have one chance when it happened–there were more than 15,000 girls at BYU and our paths never crossed. When I met her I wouldn’t give up trying to date her, and after that started we saw each other everyday from then on. Her prettiness attracted me, but when I learned about the rest of her, she then kept my attention. As I look at pictures of her from the mid-60s I am wowed at how pretty she was then. Most guys would have found her pretty–she got whistles when walking to the beach in California–but since she was my type, she was prettier to me. Such is the way it is, and for every girl there is a guy for whom she’s his type. I’ve seen lots of guys think some girls are pretty and I didn’t, and it wasn’t until the last few years that I understood this phenomena–it made no difference if she wasn’t pretty to me as long as she was to him. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder explains all of this.

    My wife was one of the “flat” ones, and had me convinced there was nothing there (she told me she was barely out of a AA bra) and when we got married I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t totally true. As for lactating, she had no problem with nursing our 9 kids. (When our first child was born, her mother said she’d never seen anyone so flat get so big.)

    I also wanted a pretty wife so our kids would have a chance, and it worked!

    When physical attraction is the only important thing, then it’s a problem. Those homely people mentioned in #11 thought of each other as being attractive and would think your observation of them is stupid. (I’ve explained this above.)

  24. Mark,

    “for all our talk of such things, few of us really believe it enough to practice it.”

    See, there you go again, What starts out as a looks-based attraction seldom ends there. There must be other things. If not, those people have a problem. Attractiveness comes in many different forms, not just physical appearance.

    Lighten up.

  25. I resent that jab at librarians! 🙂 But seriously, this discussion will probably never end in this world.

    IMO, physical beauty is something inherent AND something we consciously cultivate, and operates significantly in our lives. It affects our purchasing choices of things as mundane as food, household cleaners and tools, etc. It affects our consumption of print, t.v., film, music, performing and visual arts, sports, etc. It affects our personal hygiene and physical fitness goals and efforts. It affects where we live, what we do in our professional jobs. It affects who we interact with in social groups, and it affects our interpersonal relationships.

    Beauty is more than just the outward physical traits, and is much, much more than skin deep. As much as we might want mask things with pleasant facades, just like truth, “beauty outs” eventually. True beauty is infused throughout; in people, it is ingrained in intellect, social skills, body movement, physical form, tact, courage, and testimony. Those who will be seduced and blinded by facades will ultimately receive their just desserts. Those who see beyond will be more richly rewarded. And those who seek to truly beautify everyone around them will receive the greatest reward of all.

  26. At first I was going to point out several unwarranted assumptions you make. But I’m tired so I’m going to sum up my response in one word: Hogwash

  27. Hawkgrrrl

    I apologize for not being clear. Although I referenced your remark concerning “price of entry”, I used “you” in the general sense of anybody (including myself) who make “physical attractiveness” a “price of entry”.

    Women or men who do not meet the ‘standard’ definitions of physical attractiveness or ‘beauty’ through no fault of their own, only feel worse when their feelings or fears are confirmed by conversations such as ours.

    For instance, some studies have shown, that short men have much less success in attracting women than tall men. This effect of “shortness” usually isn’t even compensated for by education or wealth or ‘personality’. It just isn’t.
    How do you think that makes a short man feel? (or a bald, or an ugly man??)

    Ditto with sexual organs. Most women do not want a man with a smaller than average penis. Given an alternative, women will usually opt out on such a man. Doesn’t seem to matter how much ‘character’ he has, (or money or personality). Small penis is a relationship killer.

    Yet, if we live the gospel as we should, most women should not know in advance what they’re getting in that department. Right??

    It seems therefore, that the Lord doesn’t even want us to consider it as an issue). Still, it’s a very important issue to many women.

    Likewise, for a woman who has radically asymetrical breasts. Men will usually reject such a woman on that basis alone, (if they are aware of it in advance). Again, it doesn’t usually matter much if she’s got a “great personality”. The breast business will likely kill the relationship before it’s had a chance to start.

    Women can try to hide the issue with padding, AND by dressing modestly and behaving virtuously, etc.; but EVENTUALLY, if she has a deep relationship (or marriage), the truth will have to come out.

    Now, we can all point to exceptions to this rule; but that’s my point………it IS the exception and not the rule. We SAY that we admire the person who can look beyond the mere outward appearance.

    Yet MOST of us, in SPITE OF our desire to be such a person, simply are not. As a consequence EVERYBODY loses out.

    All I’m saying, is that we SHOULD be that exception to the rule; we are called to be SAINTS, and SAINTS should not be so concerned about the outward appearance. In fact, (if I understand the Lord’s insistance that we dress and behave modestly), we shouldn’t be concerned about it at all.

    Otherwise, before marriage, for the sake of “full disclosure” and concern for the other persons feelings, each of us should have a forthright conversation with our ‘intended’, and come clean on just what they’re going to be getting (or NOT getting). Every man should provide measurements and a description of his private parts; every woman should tell HER intended, just what she’s ‘falsified’.

    Yet, I don’t think the Lord wants us to do that. Do you?? I believe he intends for us not to care a whit about these things.

    Furthermore, because rejection (for things that we have absolutely NO control over) is such a deep and painful experience; and because longterm loneliness is such a horrifyingly awful thing (that LOADS of people live with every day of their lives), I MUST conclude that this is something each of us should be working on EVERY DAY.

    Many people probably think that I’m overstating this point; but I have to say that unless you’ve experienced THAT KIND of rejection and loneliness you probably WON’T understand how serious this problem is. For many people it is literally an issue of life and death.

    I believe that “Zion” is about lifting people out of that kind of despair.

  28. P.S. – If you don’t believe that these issues run so deep, then how will you explain the current epidemic of anorexia, bolimia and the explosive growth of the cosmetic surgery industry?

    Lots of people out there are feeling so ugly/inadequate that they’re willing to have their bodies cut open to ‘fix the problem’.

  29. When I was in law school at BYU I was single. They have a group for single law students there (unlike most schools where being single is the norm) and they held some activities for us. Most of them involved having us walk poodles. Well, cute, fluffy, big hair, brainless and much too young. The guys enjoyed the activities (going to Covey’s house, some general authority firesides), but were losing interest.

    Some Stake President thought he was being clever and got us into an activity with a group of old maids from his stake and related areas. (I say thought he was being clever because he had the look about him and the mannerisms of someone acting like he had put one over). Much to his surprise, while the women were not as physically attractive, they were mature, could think and it was by far the most successful activity we had. A number of the guys expressed a desire not to have any more of the mixer style activities but instead wanted to have more to do with the people they met.

    Personally I’ve never liked the quasi-anorexic look, before I met my wife the closest I cam to getting married was someone who was physically not very attractive looked at the normal way. I think Ray is right, none of us are really that attractive physically in the end. But Hawkgrrl is right too, the way we are framed, the way we frame ourselves, makes all the difference in the world.

    Good essay, great comments.

  30. Mark,

    “P.S. – If you don’t believe that these issues run so deep, then how will you explain the current epidemic of anorexia, bolimia and the explosive growth of the cosmetic surgery industry? Lots of people out there are feeling so ugly/inadequate that they’re willing to have their bodies cut open to ‘fix the problem’.”

    You raise a good point, but the context is the “world view.” What Satan has done is take something normal and natural like physical attraction and magnified and distorted to it to the point where to some it is ALL that matters. hence, causing the problems you have exactly raised in your posts.

  31. Post
    Author

    I am inclined to think that there are two different conceptions of physical attraction at work here…”single-measurement attractiveness” and then attractiveness in general…the former is decidedly unhealthy and crass while the other is a good deal more ambivalent if not outright acceptable.

    1) It seems that some are defining physical attractiveness by a particular measurement or a single attribute. Understandably, that could easily depress anyone because we really do little meaningful control over that. And yes, it is quite interesting to me that our femininity/masuclinity (which plays a direct role in our perceived marriageability) would be determined by such isolated element. So anyone who would say, “I’ve got to date a 2 waistline or under,” or even, “He’s got to have blue eyes,” I would urge them to think twice and at least give others some consideration.

    2) However, I don’t think I would extend my disapproval of single-measurement attractiveness into a delegitimization of attractiveness in general. Mormons have hormones, and I know of no Mormon who has been able to destroy their tendencies. For obvious reasons, I think it would be important that we not find our spouse to be revolting to look at…and are we expected to deprogram ourselves from that revoltion? Yes, we are commanded to look upon the heart…but then again, I doubt that this idea is all-encompassing, esp. in marriage. Isaac’s servent found Rebekah to be “fair to look upon.” It obviously wasn’t the only criteria, but it was a criteria.

    Just a thought.

  32. Mark – I do feel we should be up front about things we are “hiding” before we get married. Or how about just not hiding them and instead being yourself? A few days before we got married, I was on the phone with my mom and I said I had tried on a dress that made my butt look big. She started shushing me because my fiance was on the phone too. I said it wasn’t like I was going to be able to hide that big butt! The truth was going to come out in a matter of days.

    A lot of the issues with being unhappy with our looks could be solved with a sense of humor. A boring bald man who takes himself seriously is one thing, but a smart bald man with a sense of humor is quite another. Humor enhances your looks. Plus, some people dig bald guys. Some like short women. Some prefer athletic build (okay, flat-chested) women. It is totally subjective.

  33. Physical attractive is subjective. Thank goodness!
    I think in the LDS culture, there’s another element that goes beyond looks. There is a certain type of girl that’s attractive to most young LDS men — in my day, she was sweet and spiritual and slightly submissive, and it didn’t hurt at all to be good-looking. A couple of female BYU students I know well told me that nothing has changed in this regard. I still remember a guy in my BYU ward telling me I’d never get married unless I “changed my personality” because it was too strong. Sadly, I suspect this attitude is still alive and well, in addition to normal physical attractions.

  34. To those LDS men who are only attracted to submissive women, I say more power to them! I would not want to get into a tug of war over such a man. I’d lose either way–maybe especially if I won.

  35. I married in my thirties and feel somewhat qualified to discuss issues of “boy meets girl” in the LDS singles context. I actually wonder if the expectation of faithful, believing church members to find an eternal companion does not often complicate dating relationships. When one fully accepts the ideal of one spouse and sexual partner – – FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITY – – it puts a little pressure on one to find the very best. Recognizing differences in tastes, gender variations in what is attractive, etc., this still contributes to the phenomenon that one single woman friend once described as “sevens looking for tens.” This phenomenon includes, but is not limited to, physical and sexual attractiveness. I think we have a lot of LDS singles looking for companions who are perfect in many, if not all, ways. And that is a very frustrating task. I just feel very grateful that this “seven” found a “9.5” willing to lower her standards.

  36. #32 – “a smart bald man with a sense of humor is quite another” – Thank you, m’lady.

    “some people dig bald guys.” – My wife didn’t when we married; she does now.

  37. I’ve seen the guys who go for the submissive ones – sometimes they’re nice guys who get a little kick out of feeling protective and in charge. Then there are the guys who HAVE to be in charge (shudder)and you can bet on either a completely miserable woman or an eventual divorce when she figures things out.

    I’ve never found the submissive thing attractive at all. In fact, submissiveness was something that would cause me to stop dating a girl…it’s just so dang….uninteresting. It’s not that my wife is a shrew, far from it in fact. But some of the best things about my marriage are the challenging, hours-long conversations on family road trips (the kids have earphones in, so we can really dig in) or the one-on-one basketball games where she’s legitimately beaten me (and I’m a player 🙂 ) at a rate of about once a year for the 12 years we’ve been married. One of the most attractive things about her to me is that she keeps working hard for the next time she’ll be able to beat me, even though it only happens about once every couple hundred games. I’m genuinely proud of her when she does, and THAT is something about me that I think really boosts my attractiveness to her.

    Anyway, those who like a nice, submissive girl get what they deserve….BORING!

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