defining attraction and appeal

Defining attraction and appeal

A recent post by a fellow blogger got me thinking about what really matters to me in choosing who to engage with on an online dating site. Who am I attracted to, and why? How does attraction work?

As anyone who has been reading me for a while knows, I am rather analytical. It’s one of the things that makes me very good at my job and naturally it carries over into my personal life. And the things I learn at work apply as well – in this case, my approach to dating can be summed up as “test and learn”.

I’m not going to get all corporate speak on you. But the idea is when making changes, try some different things, see how they work, and learn from it. 

My dating rules were the first culmination of lots of testing and learning. Patterns of behaviour which my friends and I observed coalesced in my head. What I was ultimately looking for also changed. These rules are really about the minimum criteria for me to engage: they aren’t about attraction, per se. They are all about knowing if someone doesn’t meet these criteria then we aren’t looking for the same thing or won’t be set up for success. These include:

  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Length of longest relationship (this could be a red flag more than anything else)
  • What they are looking for (dating, marriage, etc)
  • Whether they’ve put any effort into their profile

The first thing I look at in a profile is the statistics. What I’m looking for hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote about them, although now my age range is late 30s to mid 50s.

I try to read what someone has written before I spend much time looking at their pictures. I don’t want to be swayed by a hot-bodied tall man who says “not seeking any commitment” and has three words on his profile. I have enough casual lovers, thanks.

The second thing I assess are the qualities someone exudes in their profile. Do they seem kind and curious and passionate. Do they have something interesting to say. Are they confident in who they are. Is there some humor evident in their words. Do they seem open-minded and intelligent.

There are some things I scan for in what they write, which I know could be an issue for me

These include: If they talk about wanting a princess, or someone to take care of (or worse, someone to take care of them). If they talk about wanting a woman to dress a certain way or commenting “I like it when my woman dresses like x”. Don’t get me wrong, of course we like certain things – there’s something amazing about a man in a classic tuxedo – but to highlight it on a profile? Nope.

If they seem really keen to get married. If they mention being lonely.

If all they say they like are doing sports and camping – and their photos prove it…actually… its not just athletics. I scan a profile for multiple interests. It’s not usually enough to rule someone out, but if they only appear to be about one thing (athletics, or being artsy, or whatever it is), they probably aren’t for me. I have multiple and varied interests and I’m looking for someone similar – even those interests are somewhat different.

I admit to pausing when someone mentions God or says their religion is very important to them. I’m confident enough now to admit I’m an atheist. I’m not anti-religion: I grew up Protestant and have great admiration and respect for the teaching of several world religions. Unfortunately, some are less tolerant of differences and I am all about diversity and inclusion. Don’t believe in gay marriage or being pro-choice? I may think you’re smoking hot but we have a different value system which at some point will be an issue.

One profile I read said “I’m not smart and I’m not classy.” While I applaud his self-awareness, it’s a whole pile of NOPE for me. It reminds me of one of Fox’s favourite songs which was a huge turn-off: it was all about being a simple man who just “is who he is”. I am multi-layered and believe in personal growth. I’ve tried “simple” multiple times with different men, over several months, and it didn’t work.


If I’ve read their profile and like what they have to say (or at least, don’t see anything that’s a red flag for me), only then do I go back and look closely at the pictures. While somebody’s character matters the most, I still need to be physically attracted to someone (although intellect has a great deal to do with it!).

But perhaps because so much of it is intellectual, it’s hard for me to explain clearly what creates physical attraction for me, because I’m open to a lot of physical combinations. It’s also why I’m careful to not pre-judge until I’m face-to-face with someone.

I prefer tall men as I’m 5’10” (6″ in heels), but it’s not a must-have. While Faraway Lover was only 5’7″ and one of my best lovers, until I run out of opportunities for men at least my height, I am unlikely to swim in the “shorter than me” pool. Although it’s not my preference, I can handle it when I look eye to eye with someone.

Skin color makes no difference whatsoever. I may be unusual in this regard, but I have no idea since it’s rarely a topic of discussion on blogs. Black, beige, brown, whatever.

I also don’t care whether they have hair or if they sprout beards. I’m currently talking to a bald white dude with a goatee and a black one with no facial hair. They couldn’t look more different.

I tried dating truly fat with Leo and it was difficult for me, but had he been more athletic in bed it might have been okay (case in point: I just saw Jake and he’s gained some weight, probably weighs close to Leo, but he is very skilled and moves well and it makes a huge difference). So I don’t rule anyone out other than those who are really fat… which yes, has an aesthetic component but it’s also about lifestyle. I’m working on being more active and am generally healthy and I want a partner who is aligned.

I will pause to say – of course a really tall, athletically built, handsome man will get my pulse racing.

Generally speaking, unless I look at a man’s picture and think nope, no way, I don’t find that human attractive at all, I will give him a chance. I also find so many men have horrible profile pictures that it’s worth seeing them in person sometimes – I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past.


When I started writing this post I thought it would be about actual physical characteristics I found attractive. But ultimately,  in order to engage with someone its primarily about their qualities, with a secondary review of their appearance to make sure it’s not a “hell no”. Which is why I no longer get my hopes too far up before I’ve met someone – the in-person chemistry, a combination of intellectual and physical, is the true test.


7 thoughts on “Defining attraction and appeal

  1. If you don’t take a good look under the hood, you might miss something. What is attraction and how does it work? I could explain the chemical processes that happen in the brain but I’m not gonna do that and because this happens differently, there’s no way to generalize it.

    We “know” what it’s supposed to be, i.e., that which draws our eye and appeals to us. The question I ask is do we rely too much on what we can see but not give what might be under the hood a lot of scrutiny?

    I quote a line from a famous song: Beauty is only skin deep but ugly is deep to the bone. That charming hunk of a guy, upon closer examination, could be a narcissistic asshole or an abuser of women; that babe with the killer looks and body could be the reigning Queen Bitch of the Universe.

    I figure that if I take a very close look at someone, analyze them (analysis was part of my job, too), and can’t find something attractive about them, they must be truly fucked up people.

    I just never believed that attraction should be judged by superficial means alone; I also never believed that someone can’t be attractive if they happen to remind me of someone from my past; everyone should be examined for attractive potential based on their own merit, not ancient history.

    I find you attractive… and I’ve never laid eyes on you but I’ve had the honor and privilege to be able to peek under your hood on occasion and I do like what I’ve seen… so what you actually look like doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.

    When it comes to attraction and appeal, sometime we need to look with better eyes – and then don’t trust our eyes because they can deceive you… and how many of us have been fooled in this way?

  2. I went out with this guy once, worst date ever. I was late but he was over an hour late because he was having car problems. He looked nothing like his picture in a bad way, just enough I knew it was him. He talked about sex constantly or his ex, where it was complicated and she just moved in. It was terrible.

  3. You said it better than I could. However, I have met more than one man that I was immensely attracted to because of intelligence or personality qualities and it died on the vine the moment I saw their physical characteristics. I applaud you for being able to overlook that in favor of other compatible traits – I have proven to myself too many times I am incapable of the full atttaction without the physical.

    • I still have to be attracted to someone to date them – there was one guy who was an amazing intellectual and emotional match and in person we had ZERO physical chemistry. That’s rare for me, though! I guess the thing that matters to me more is the qualities someone has, so that’s what I choose to focus on (with a scan of “could I kiss that face?”) before I meet them in person. And that’s also why for dating I dislike Tinder or Bumble or any site where I can’t weed someone out based on their facts and what they’ve written. I don’t want to waste my time on eye candy that doesn’t have the qualities I seek, but I’m happy to meet someone who has them but may be not my physical preference.

What do you think?