Keith: First impressions still materialistic

Columnist

Last Tuesday I coaxed one of my best friends into attending Daniel Packard’s Group Sex Therapy discussion at the Kansas union. The discussion seemed like a dating seminar laden with crude jokes, but something Packard said at the very beginning of the talk stuck with me for the rest of discussion.

With the audience divided by gender on either side of a strip of tape, he told the guys that a man’s clothing choice is one of the first things a woman notices about him. He then told them as an anecdote that women don’t want guys to wear skater clothes unless they actually skate, to which the women replied with a collective applause.

I was relieved to hear that sentiment coming from a member of the XY community, and it was clear that most of the women in attendance thought it was funny. But here, Packard was right. Material factors may be considered mundane by many in dating, but when two people first meet, shoes, hair and even the pitch of someone’s voice have the power to begin to bring two people together (or, of course, send them scrambling for an excuse to end the conversation).

When people are asked what they notice first about others they’re attracted to, many give cliché responses like a good smile, their eyes, etc. But something else that women in particular tend to notice is someone’s shoes. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but a person’s shoes are a great indicator of the care he puts not only into his outfit but also the rest of his presentation. Here, guys in particular are advised not to wear grungy Nikes with nice jeans on a night out.

Next, women tend to notice wrist watches. It’s unrealistic to expect an average college student to sport a Rolex, but if a potential is wearing a watch with Mickey Mouse or a calculator on it, ladies should steer clear. Watches that resemble the ones you wore in the late ‘90s speak volumes about maturity and suggest that a relationship will likely feel like a babysitting gig. Students can easily fake nice watches by checking out the selection at Target or Kohl’s or simply going without to dodge the issue.

According to national radio host and author John Tesh, women care about tipping when it comes to paying the bill on a date. He said that the overall cost of the bill didn’t make a difference, 82 percent of women surveyed said that they’d ditch a new beau over bad tipping practices. Money matters may seem to be as materialistic as it gets, but if someone is stingy with tips, his investment in his significant other may follow suit.
Meanwhile, while men notice many of the same elements that women do upon meeting someone new, science directs them to evaluate factors sometimes as specific as the pitch of a woman’s voice. According to Cosmopolitan magazine, men tend to be more attracted to women with higher-pitched voices because a high pitch is tell-tale sign of youth and reproductive potential. This may be subconscious, but it runs rampant on the dating scene.

Also, men tend to know what’s fake about women from the get-go, and not just a fake smile or pretending to be interested in a topic. They notice fake eyelashes, nails, and more, which screams high maintenance. If men think potential partners are too difficult to please, they likely won’t even try.

And finally, again according to Cosmo, men also tend to subconsciously notice how much a woman’s skin glows. Recent scientific research suggests skin’s glow correlates with mental health. The healthier skin looks, the more mentally stable people tend to be. Like fake nails, eyelashes, breasts, or whatever, the lack of mental stability is an indicator that the person is high maintenance and needy.

While what men and women want still remains at least partly unanswerable, students can know that speakers like Packard and scientists are working to debunk the never-ending question. Students shouldn’t fake certain features about themselves for the sake of finding a partner to avoid an embarrassing slip up later, but they should still keep them in mind anyway.

Dating many not inevitably come down to factors like these, but when we’re looking to start something new, not being mindful of the science of getting a relationship off the ground can keep us from landing something later.

Rachel Keith is a graduate student in education from Wichita. Follow her on Twitter @Rachel_UDKeith.

  • Updated Nov. 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm