Evan, I know you get a lot of really heavy questions, but I have a simple, light-hearted question for you. Should I grow my hair out? I’m 51 and have some gray, but not a lot. I recently added highlights to help blend in the gray. My hair is currently a shoulder-length bob. I have a great stylist and the cut is very flattering, but I wonder if longer hair would be more appealing to men. -Liz

Liz,

Since there are so many people (and women’s magazines) who think that dating coaching is all about the physical, I tend to shy away from topics like this. Isn’t there enough societal reinforcement to remind you what men find attractive?

And aren’t there enough exceptions to these rules to prove that you can still find your partner even if you don’t listen to Cosmo?

Hell, walk around the mall: how many people actually look like a thinner version of Kim Kardashian? Not many, that’s for sure.

In fact, it seems that millions of people are getting married to people who don’t look like models. Men with a gut. Women with an ass. Men who are balding. Women who are graying.

It seems that millions of people are getting married to people who don’t look like models.

Are all these people crazy? Are they settling? Do they have no standards whatsoever? No, no, and no.

In fact, most people arrive organically to the conclusions that I draw as a dating coach – that holding out for a commitment-oriented George Clooney is tantamount to choosing to be single forever. And that if you want to pair up and build a life, you might have to deal with a guy who is shorter than 5’11”, or has a belly. Why? Because that’s the majority of men.

I believe that most of us understand that people do get “thicker” as we get older (at least I do!). People do get wrinkled. People do start to sag and shrink and lose height and musculature. It takes a lot of work to avoid this fate and many people are just trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

So it’s not that there’s nothing to be gained from trying how to maximize your overall value in the eyes of men… it’s just that it’s a piece of the puzzle, that’s all.

In my experience, men dream of something that isn’t even real – or is at least exceptionally rare – they want thin and curvy. Some combination of Salma Hayek and Alessia Ambrosio. Big boobs, tiny waist. No fat. Young. Long hair.

This would explain the models you see inside and outside men’s magazines: Maxim, Playboy, Esquire…and would also explain the actresses you see in women’s magazines, where they have their bodies dissected by “experts” in various states of undress.

It’s not that there’s nothing to be gained from trying how to maximize your overall value in the eyes of men… it’s just that it’s a piece of the puzzle, that’s all.

It’s hard to say who’s to blame for cultivating this unrealistic taste – men, women, advertisers, editors – all I know is that we’re being sold an unhealthy fantasy that’s going to smack us really hard when reality sets in. Because people aren’t airbrushed in real life. They don’t have professional hair and makeup. They don’t stay 25-39 forever.

And from talking to my clients, I’ve learned it’s quite dispiriting when you go through the effort to run a triathlon, grow your hair out, hire a personal trainer, get a professional eye job and dye job… and you discover that the men on Match are perfectly content as a paunchy, salt-and-pepper haired 50-year-old businessman. He doesn’t worry about getting his nails done or his scrotum waxed. Why? Because there are plenty of women who will appreciate a smart, considerate, relationship-oriented man, even if he doesn’t look like he did at 35.

Long story short, Liz: yes, long hair, thin waist, big boobs and a stylish and sexy wardrobe will certainly help garner more attention. But you want a man who will be attracted to that and then see past it.

Don’t fall into the beauty trap like so many others who are afraid of what men will think. Instead work on becoming the kind of woman that men will marry because of your character, patience and humor.

Your looks may get you in the door.

Your personality will be what keeps them there.