Okay, full disclosure: the title is clickbait. I have no intentions of telling you what men find attractive in women. I don’t know what they find attractive these days, and I kind of don’t care. This post is about my personal relationship to the concept of “what men find attractive in women.”
I don’t want to be one of those people that brag about how awesome they used to be, but when I was in high school, I was attractive in the conventional sense. My face happens to be symmetric, which is good, but I went the extra seventeen miles. I straightened my hair to a crisp and ensured that there was never a hair out of place. I covered all blemishes in makeup and evened my skin tone completely with foundation. I wore eyeliner and mascara and sometimes even lip gloss (although I played the clarinet, so usually lip gloss was a bad idea). I wore earrings, a necklace, and a ring every day, just enough bling to look classy. I wore skirts and dresses just as regularly as I wore jeans. I never wore sweatpants to school until my senior year, where I enacted casual Friday. Boys took interest in me—boys I went to school with asked me out often enough, and strangers would flirt with me.
Flash-forward to right now. I’m about to head into the city with my friend. I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt. My only makeup is eyeliner. I’m rocking glasses and semi bed-hair. I’m wearing Old Navy $2 flip flops and no jewelry. This is how I look every day now. I probably don’t turn the heads of strangers anymore, but you know what? When I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I find myself attractive because I look on the outside like how I feel on the inside (part nerdy chemist, part hot mess). You know what else? I am so much happier now. I’m not slaving to get the approval of other people. I’m doing what I want, and other people can just deal.
The progression from neurotic Barbie doll to the real Iris has been a gradual progression starting senior year of high school. The transformation has been incredibly liberating, much more than I could ever have anticipated. Not only am I able to scratch my face without getting buildups of foundation under my nails and drive my jeep with the top down without having a nervous breakdown over the status of my hair, but also I feel less like I’m hiding myself or trying to change myself into someone else.
I met my partner two and a half years ago. I had an exam that evening, and it was raining. My hair probably resembled a poodle, and I was wearing a Pi Day shirt and sweatpants tucked into rain boots. He approached me to tell me he liked my shirt. A few months later, we started dating. My point is that I did not draw him in with my looks, and there was no point in our relationship where I wondered if he was just interested in my because of how I looked. I drew him in with my nerdiness, and kept him ensnared with my award-winning personality (or something like that). I’m not worried about what I look like when I wake up in the morning with him or what I look like after waking up in Tennessee to the realization that our hotel has no water and then driving five hours to get home and then falling asleep because I’m too tired to get a shower and then waking up again with greasy hair and blemishes.
This post is just a public service announcement reminding you that you don’t have to be what society says is attractive in order to really be attractive. But if you want to be what society says is attractive, that is okay, too. Do what you want, and others will either respect you for it or have to figure out a way to get over themselves. That is all.