Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dude, You're Getting a Delta

I am in love with Enlightened Caveman's Appearance Delta and Gimmick Theory!

We all know that we shouldn't judge others based on looks. But let's face it, we still do (but to varying degrees). Even if we are enlightened enough to catch ourselves when we are being judgmental, we still have no control over how enlightened other people are toward us.

It would be nice if we could not care about people who judge us by our looks. But, as Enlightened Caveman points out, sometimes we need things from these people!
I need to get one of them to like me enough to hire me for a job, for example. I assume that this person will form an instant impression of me simply by how I look, and that depending upon what he or she comes up with, I may or may not have an easy time in the interview. Just to venture into absurdity for a moment, suppose there's a scoring system that is used by the interviewer to determine if I get a thumbs up or thumbs down, say from 1 to 10. It takes a 9 or better to get the job. If my appearance impresses him or her, I may start with a 6 or a 7. That means I only have to come up with a couple of points to ensure success. It may be my intelligence or my personality or my experience, but whatever it is, it will not be about my appearance. But suppose another applicant comes in and the interviewer is dazzled by his appearance. He may start with a nine, meaning that if he doesn't do anything to cost himself points, the job is his. What I'm getting at here is the notion of an appearance delta. [emphasis added]

I would define this as the difference between my appearance and the appearance that would grant me instant acceptance in any given social situation.

Okay, so looks matter. But wait! Don't get Botoxed just yet. The Enlightened Caveman has a better suggestion.
The key to the usefulness of the appearance delta is in the notion that it can be overcome by non-physical attributes. All it takes is a gimmick, and there are all kinds. Being smart can be a gimmick, as can being funny or empathetic. Being an artist, such as musician or painter, can also serve as a gimmick, and being rich and/or powerful works, too. The point is that knowing your delta tells you how much gimmick you need in any given situation if acceptance is what you're looking for. Harsh as it is to say, if you're short, fat, and bald, you're gonna need a lot more gimmick than the guy who's tall, lean, and well coiffed. Now, you can object and refuse to participate in this ever-so-shallow game of human interaction, but you should do so at your peril.
Alright, so this isn't utopia. But it's reality, and we're all living in it. Does that mean we should all turn into shallow nitwits? Nope. We just have to learn how to live with those who are.


Additional Note: Still craving more appearance theory? Then Red recommends reading Changing Your Cover - Appearances - Part 2 and The Lobby and The Appearance of Dignity.

Comments:
Yeah that's a good article. EC doesn't go there, but I think his "appearance delta" concept is also key to dating. When you meet someone for the first time, their intial impression of you may leave an appearance delta on whether you are a datable prospect. However, here there are maybe 2 thresholds, a first threshold of "yes I will take more time to get to know you" and "yes let's date". As EC says, this appearance delta can be erased by non-physical factors like personality, intelligence, sense of humor, common interests, etc.
 
This issue really used to chap my ass. I was a *weird looking* punk kid in high school in the late 80s…in Georgia. Of course, I knew full well that my appearance was *unacceptable* to the general southern public. It was that very notion of coercive conformity that encouraged my action. The more I was criticized, the more I liked it, but my affinity for shock wore off before I hit my twenties. However, I still reject the pop cultural insistence of slavish trend following. Individual identity is invaluable in my estimation.

That said, EC’s assertion that one should, in effect, dress for the job one wants is absolutely true…albeit sad. Nowadays, my aim is to blend into society with the least possible effort; I‘m much more interested in cultivating an independent thought life and considering ideas, than what color to die my mohawk. ;)
 
The key to the first of Michael_L's two thresholds is to be generic. Be generic enough to look like the "standard" of what you are supposed to be (male, female, white collar worker). If there's nothing especially wrong with you, a prospective date or prospective employer is more likely to decide to get to know you.

In this pragmatic and not-necessarily principled approach, a guy that can't get a date should shave, cut his hair into a short, fashionable style, wear clothing from the Gap (or what have you), and frequent mainstream restaurants, movies, etc. And work out, if he's especially chunky. A woman who can't get a job should take out the tongue stud, nose ring, cover the tattoo, wear very plain make-up and a conservative black suit. All this is known as "selling out to the man."

The deceitful part of this is once you're past threshold 2 (let's date/you're hired), you are likely going to stop pretending to be someone you're not. Out comes the long beard and nose ring.

I might be a bit idealistic - I like to see the world through something Big says in Sex and the City: "there are lots of beautiful women in New York, but in the end you just want to be with the one that makes you laugh." I am like that - once I get to know someone, they are attractive based mostly on what's inside and what they make me feel. Perhaps I'm naive to think that viewpoint occurs in men - since I gained 30 lbs, my boyfriend has said that he's still dating me because he's willing to forego sexual attraction in exchange for me being nicer and less psycho than skinner, hotter girls he could date. While that's a realistic sort of trade-off most people make, it really didn't make me feel like breaking out the candles and champagne.
 
Karen,
Your boyfriend has just about as much tact as I do... And unfortunately, that's not compliment to him (or myself)...

Seriously though, I understand exactly that. Personally certainly affects one's perception of looks. A buddy of mine dated a girl in college who was a spitting image of Jennifer Love Hewitt. And was also a manipulative, cheating slut. As hot as she was, I can't look at her anymore and be attracted to her. The same can work the opposite way. You find that a person who normally wouldn't be your ideal has a great personality and is a perfect match. And every day you spend with them, you see them as more and more beautiful. The brain is funny that way, huh?
 
LOL, Brad. My boyfriend has since backtracked and said it's not like he's not attracted to me at all anymore, it's just that I'm less sexy with more poundage (like he's supposedly less sexy now that he's chubby, too.) Personally, I don't think I panted that much more when he had washboard abs. (I think it's because when he had the abs, he was stranger-that-I'm-awkwardly-dating. He's chubby now, but he's now my schmoopsie-poo-hunny-bunnykins. Perception definitely makes a difference.)

My previous boyfriend was even more tactless. He told me on my birthday, after we had had romantic relations, that he didn't love me and his friends think he should break up with me. (His definition of love was "we've been together for 10 years and you've been nice to me and still excite me" - overly simplistic and unrealistic, IMHO.) I tried not to let it hurt my feelings too much. I was still getting good things out of the relationship, and at least he was being honest. By that point I'd had my fill of men that say pretty things they don't mean.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Well I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I don't think you should try to change yourself drastically to meet with someone else's expectations, be it an employer or a potential mate. On the other hand, cleaning yourself up and showing some decent grooming habits and putting on some clean clothes are pretty much basic courtesy, right? I mean, you'd certainly want to show yourself in the best light as a first impression. Relationships are hard work; if you're not willing to comb your hair, take a shower, and put on some clean clothes from the get-go, how will you react when she wants you to always leave the toilet seat down? :)
 
Yes, I actually originally conceived of the Gimmick Theory in the context of dating. I went to Florida State University, which was, shall we say, a very competitive dating market. Being a slightly above average-looking guy in that kind of environment made having gimmick an absolute necessity - half the guys looked like they walked out of a JCrew catalog.

So step one was to determine what my gimmick (or gimmicks) were. This is a useful process, in that it forces you to look inward to determine what your unique differentiators are. And if you don't have any, or they aren't as powerful as you'd like them to be, then you know you have work to do.

If you're successful (as a male pursuing females, that is), your gimmick comes off as whatever the girl tells her friends about you the next day. "Oh he's sooo hot." (Looks) "Oh, I met the funniest guy last night." (Fun, Sense of Humor) "Oh, that guy last night's dad is the CEO of GE." (Money) Whatever. The point is that there has to be something memorable about you if you intend to win the girl. However...

"In this pragmatic and not-necessarily principled approach, a guy that can't get a date should shave, cut his hair into a short, fashionable style, wear clothing from the Gap (or what have you), and frequent mainstream restaurants, movies, etc. And work out, if he's especially chunky. A woman who can't get a job should take out the tongue stud, nose ring, cover the tattoo, wear very plain make-up and a conservative black suit. All this is known as "selling out to the man.""

*This*, I don't think, is the answer. The key to the gimmick theory is to use it wisely. That means you have to be realistic about where you want to compete. If you have a rather large appearance delta, it's going to take mad gimmick to hook up in circles of beautiful people. And it may not be worth it, as you'll find the shallowness of dealing with people who haven't worked as hard for their acceptance as you have wears thin.

Taking the above examples, the answer is not necessarily to "sell out." There are girls for grungy guys and there are jobs for girls with nose rings. Indeed, a big reason people get tattood and pierced from head to toe is to send a message to mainstreamers that they aren't playing "the game" and to other non-mainstreamers that they share their disdain for the mainstream.

The notions of appearance delta and gimmick theory are useful only if we're smart about who we want accepting us. Putting on an act to gain the approval of people we'll inevitably clash with is painful - unless, as in the workplace - we can successfully live the double life to get what we want. We're best served if we look for the win win scenarios. We live in America where there are great jobs and wonderful people in all areas of life. We just have to find where we fit, figure out our delta therein, and work up our gimmick to find the relationships we want.

None of this is pretty, but that changes nothing.

Thanks Red for linking to my stuff.
 
New kid in the blogosphere

I have some rather unorthodox views and opinions that I will eventually hurl at the general public. Of late, I've enjoyed commenting on various blogs and having a blast doing it. Until I manage to produce content, check out Eric's Random Musings, Seven Inches Of Sense, The AnarchAngel, The Unrepentant Individual and Redneck Feminist: A Free Market Feminist Blog. This should keep you occupied for now. ;]
 
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