How Important is Beauty?

sex and the city

Sex and the Psychological City; A Relationship Blog on Commitment, Friendship and Love

Welcome back to Sex and the Psychological City; A Weekly Blog on Relationships, Commitment, Friendship and Love.

If you have read earlier posts, you are familiar with my confession that I was a hipper psychotherapist when my go-to girlfriends -- Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were on the air, with fresh new material on everything from masturbation to marriage. Granted, their wardrobes and lifestyles were totally unrealistic, but the fashion and fabulousness worked well as a delivery platform for groundbreaking discussions about sex, commitment, friendship and love.

Since I specialize in relationships and intimacy, the show became an ideal co-therapist that I brought into the therapy session whenever appropriate.

I recently began re-watching season one and was struck by how much the dating world has changed. Can you imagine a world without blackberries, texting, Facebook, or Twitter?  At the same time, it is surprising how much remains the same. So much has evolved technologically, and yet the very first episode asks the current, ever-relevant question, "Can Women Have Sex Like Men?" Episode two asks the equally current question, "How Important is Beauty?"

These appealing and psychologically interesting questions are as relevant today as they were when the first SATC episode aired. Since I am missing my co-therapist more than ever, I'm taking a trip down Memory Lane by considering each first season episode, from a psychological perspective. So, what do you think? "How Important is Beauty?"

Miranda is horrified and disappointed when she realizes that a guy she thinks is genuinely interested in her turns out to be a "modelizer"! A modelizer, in the SATC lingo, is a man who dates only models. Miranda's date has invited Miranda to meet his inner circle of friends at a dinner party. Miranda views her introduction to his friends as a reflection of his genuine interest, but it turns out that it is nothing more than a ploy. The invitation is merely a response to an anti-model intervention. It turns out that his friends are tired of hanging around with his gorgeous but shallow escorts, and so they insist that he begin dating a non-model. Enter Miranda.

Later, my go-to girlfriends dine in with take-out and attempt to make sense of the mentalities of modelizers and models and they ask each other the ever-relevant question: "How Important is Beauty?"

Clients in therapy touch on the question of beauty and its significance through multiple angles in their quest to find suitable dating partners and romantic love. Obviously, looks are the first thing we see, but how much do they really matter at the end of the day?

In addition to modelizers, whose insistence on dating models is obviously extreme, many people apply physical filters to their search for potential partners. Some men will only date blondes. Some women will only date men over six feet. These criteria raise the question whether people are unnecessarily restricting their access to suitable partners.

Many times, people will express tremendous sadness about not being in a relationship. However, once you delve further into their social lives, it turns out that they have had multiple opportunities to date potential partners who simply do not meet their physical standards.

I like to break it down for my clients in terms of "Candy Bars" and "Apples". Years ago, a former client whom I'll call Mary introduced me to the concept of considering one's dating and relationship choices in terms of candy bars and apples, and she was generous enough to allow me to share this metaphor with others.

Candy Bars symbolize unhealthy partners, and Apples symbolize healthy ones. As Mary put it:

My friends tell me I date too many candy bars when I need an apple. I always go for the super cute, James Dean types. You know, looks great, but you know you will regret it and it will make you feel sick, but you just can't help yourself and you just have to have it. Just like a candy bar. My friends say I need to start choosing apples. By apples I mean, healthy, wholesome choices. Good for you, sure, but I just don't crave apples with the same longing.

My advice?  Ask yourself honestly if you choose Candy Bars or Apples. Do you go for style or substance? If you choose your partners primarily based on superficial reasons, be prepared that your partner may also be motivated to make similar, style-conscious relationship choices. If a relationship is based mainly on beauty, style, and all things fabulously superficial, brace yourself for the possibility that your partner may not always value your strengths as a good, smart, kind, interesting and substantive person. If you usually choose candy bars and you are feeling unlucky in love, maybe it is time to start incorporating apples into your diet!

Consider Mr. Big's thoughts on modelizing. Early in the episode, Carrie is out researching the question of the importance of beauty, and she runs into Big arm and arm with a gorgeous model. Later, Big tracks Carrie down to discuss and defend his modelizing. He enthusiastically explains the temptations posed by the many gorgeous women roaming the New York City streets. Then, he pauses and tries to redeem himself by explaining: "after a while, you just want to be with the one who makes you laugh."

Log in next week to ponder SATC episode three: "Is There a Cold War Between Marrieds and Singles?" 

Follow Elisabeth on twitter @elisjoy and check out her book, "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce."