There’s a video clip from Steve Harvey’s talk show making the rounds on Facebook. It’s being used as Exhibit Z—because A through Y have already been done—about why so many women, black women in particular, are single.
Two sisters are sent on a double date with two nice, but somewhat dowdy-looking, men. Given the appearance of the women—the blond Farrah Fawcett hair, the tight dresses, the contoured makeup better suited for a fashion editorial shoot than dinner—the viewer might make certain assumptions about the ladies. Assumptions like perhaps they’re superficial.
As the pairs begin to chat, viewers discover that the initial assumption was right. The women, obviously turned off by the men’s appearance and thinking they lack wealth, stop being polite and start being basic. They ask the guys questions like, “How much money do you make?” or “How many rooms do you have in your house?” At the end of the evening, they offer to pass the guys off to friends they think would be better-suited for them. Ouch.
In the next segment of the show, Harvey brings the women on and berates them for their behavior on the date. The women weren’t interested, but the guys were and they were polite; there was no reason to dismiss them. Fair enough. Then there is an unexpected, big reveal. Those frumpy guys? Not actually unattractive, or broke! Steve’s team had given the guys a “make-under” so they would be less physically attractive.
The guys are actually very handsome, former-professional-athletes-turned-entrepreneurs, and they have big bank accounts. One even shops for shoes at the same place Harvey does—and we know he’s rich because he has a million jobs and we’ve seen his house in Essence and on his wife’s Instagram. The takeaway is supposed to be that these two women, and women in general, shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Oh, and, um, men who can manage not to curse you out for being rude at dinner and are also rich are good, relationship-worthy men. That’s all it takes, based on the segment, because these were the only two things that we learned about the two men Harvey deemed worthy.
I’m with Harvey, in general, that there’s more to a man than his appearance. Though I should mention that I see absolutely nothing wrong with a woman seeking a partner who has money or wealth. That shouldn’t be the sole reason you’re interested in someone. But we gotta all stop pretending that there’s something wrong with putting “a man who can provide” on the checklist.
If you want to struggle up with a good man with potential? More power to you, and I hope it works out for you the way it to did for FLOTUS Michelle Obama when she met a man who was in Harvard Law School. That wasn’t exactly a gamble; that was patience. But if you ain’t about that life? I don’t blame you.
Sorry, I digress. Back to appearance. Yes, there’s more to people than their packaging. I wonder at what point we’re going to start saying that to men, too. Because I’ve seen and heard, a million times, men telling women to look beneath the surface and focus on a man’s potential, but not never, not once, have I heard or seen a man be told the same when it comes to a woman’s appearance.
Like, have you ever heard a man say to another man, “Yeah, she’s overweight, but maybe if you work out with her, you’ll feel a spark.” Maybe it’s happened once in human history. Nothing’s impossible. Or, “Yeah, she’s a little frumpy, but you get her a whole new wardrobe and a new hairstyle, and it could work.” These are just not conversations guys have.
And yeah, I called around and asked several men. They agreed that, of course, not being attracted doesn’t make the woman a bad person and it’s not an excuse to be rude. And no, looks aren’t the only thing that matter, but if he’s not attracted, it’s game over as far as pursuing a relationship goes. No one questions him. Sorry it didn’t work out, and on to the next one.
So why is there so much fuss when a woman isn’t attracted to a guy? A woman says, “He’s not my type,” and a million people want to tell her to look at his potential and offer ways she could work with him. Maybe you can get him to dress differently or get a better job or use deodorant or shut his mouth when he chews. The list of what women are told to work with is endless.
But back to appearance: There’s this overarching belief that women don’t care about physical appearance. So, every time women see Idris Elba on a magazine cover, do you think it’s his gentle spirit that has us all crossing our legs like the front-row lady in The Five Heartbeats? Nah, bruh. We care about looks a lot more than men—and sometimes other women—give us credit for. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Looks aren’t everything, but they are a thing. You don’t spot someone across a room and think, “I wonder what his or her conversation is like.” Stop it. And yeah, maybe over time, you can meet someone you’re not attracted to and eventually you might be. Or, you might never be, and when you have sex with that person, you gotta “lie back and think of [America]” to get the job done. I mean, just imagine how bad that sex is. That’s no way to live.
Let me give you another spin on the takeaway from Steve Harvey’s segment: Be polite to people who are polite to you, even if you aren’t attracted to them. Do it because it’s the right thing to do, and also in case a TV host pulls a bait-and-switch prank on you, so you won’t look like an ass on national TV. Oh, and date people you want to do. Is focusing on attraction superficial? No more so than when guys do it.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.