Well friends, I’ve got a good one for you today.
I’ve written in the past about the unique challenges of internet dating – if by “unique challenges” I mean “sifting through page after page of abject lies”, which I do. But as always I have tried to see the other side: people who don’t have the kind of job or social life that lends itself well to meeting potential mates turn to online dating services as something of a last-ditch effort to locate Mister or Miss Right. The process is ostensibly streamlined by these services, which use a series of algorithms designed to match compatible people based on their taste in music and whether or not they’ve seen every season of “Lost”. Fair enough, I guess.
But one of the fundamental principles of attraction I mentioned in my last article is most definitely the “physical” part of the attraction dynamic. I’ll be the first to admit to being somewhat shallow in that respect – it doesn’t matter if you are my single most compatible match the world over; if trying to find your redeeming physical features is like trying to find the cleanest part of a dirty ass, it’s not going to work. I know it’s shallow, and frankly I don’t care. I might not be the prettiest fellow in the room, but I’m better than a slap in the face with a spiked dildo, so I think it’s fair that my expectations match my perceptions of myself.
Of course, some people are considerably more shallow than I am. And when I say “considerably”, I mean “I’m a puddle, they are a meniscus.”
Who are these paragons of vapidity, you might be wondering?
Okay, okay, this might not be news to a lot of you as this site was first launched in 2001 (in Denmark of all places – I would have pegged this as an American thing), but given my aversion to dating sites, I didn’t hear about it until today. I’ll get to why in a minute.
First, let’s have a bit of fun at the expense of site founder Robert Hintze (whose photo, by the way, I managed to locate on Google Images, along with managing director Greg Hodge).
Each site member grades your write-up, and more importantly your photos, on a scale of one to four:
4) Yes! Definitely!
3) Hmm…yes, okay.
2) Hmm…no, not really.
1) No! Definitely NOT!
I would make sweeping generalizations about the banality of these criteria and what they might say about the average intelligence of a BP user, but I’m too classy for that sort of humour.
According to the Daily Mail, only 20 percent of applicants are actually brought in to the Sacred Order of the Pretty Folk; with over five hundred and fifty thousand users, that means about two and three-quarter million applied.
I don’t know what to make of that. See, on the one hand I’d say it’s laughable, because I checked out the calibre of physical attraction BP is looking for. Suffice to say: ladies, if you don’t have perfect measurements, bird-like bone structure, down-to-the-millimetre symmetrical everything, long legs, flat abs, pearly whites, et cetera ad nauseum, you might not want to put yourself through the effort. Boys – just be Johnny Depp, all right? You might sneak in if you’re some kind of ‘roid raging Jersey Shores stereotype, but if your ‘pack is any less than six-to-eight lumps strong, you might as well trundle back to LavaLife with the rest of the Normals.
My point is I have a very hard time believing almost three million people worldwide could even pretend to meet those patently plastic standards, and yet they still put themselves on the sacrificial altar of other people’s unreasonable expectations – I fail to understand the line of reasoning that would convince people this is a Good Idea.
On the other hand, it amazes me a website like this could stay in business as long as they have. Assuming the five and a half hundred thousand existing users are more-or-less equally divided down the gender line, wouldn’t it be reasonable to presume they’ve already found one another and gone on to make babies as beautiful as they are spectacularly stupid?
Sorry, sorry, I said I wouldn’t make that joke.
I guess you could argue that not everyone found a compatible match based on everything that isn’t physical attraction – whether or not they’ve read the Twilight series or if they’d yet picked up the latest Lady Gaga album, for example – but you’d think people who joined a website principally dedicated to matching you with someone as photogenic as you presume to be would have somewhat depreciated standards when it comes to everything else. I mean, come on – what are you expecting when you join a soro-frat of people who are contractually obligated to judge new members based on the quality of their tits (and this goes for men and women alike, I’m afraid)? It shocks me these people wouldn’t get right down to making the Beauty with Two Backs with the first gym star or runway model that tickled their fancy just as soon as their first payment cleared.
And yet, more people are dying to get into Sexy Jonestown than they are to get into cemeteries.
Apparently those who don’t make the grade are possessed of what I like to call American Idol Syndrome. Clearly they’ve been surrounded all their lives by people who overestimate their virtues and prop them up with false adulation, convincing them of their superiority – at which point they enter a glorified talent show and are exposed to the ridicule of the masses (to the masses’ glee) because their real abilities are considerably inferior to their perceived abilities. They walk away with a profound feeling of having been misjudged; they believe in their heart of hearts that everyone in the world is stupid and misinformed except for those who foster their delusions of grandeur, and quite often they get a little testy with anyone who would try to unplug them from their personal little Matrix of self-idolatry. If, by “a little testy” I mean “issuing death threats to the people who shamed them”, which I do. The Daily Mail also reports the site’s owners have been the recipient of myriad death threats from the ranks of the fallen two point seven five million “pretty-but-not-pretty-enough”.
Ah, this is truly America at its best, folks, or at least the West. I love it when a culture can reward mediocrity with one hand and bitch-slap it like an LA pimp with the other.
The site defends itself this way, in their About section:
“The concept and site was founded on one very simple principle of human nature – the fact that people want to be with someone they are attracted to.
It may not be politically correct to say so… but it is honest.
Beauty is subjective and BeautifulPeople Network believes that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The rating module was born from this very principle. By giving the power back to the members to define their ideal of beauty in a democratic way. Essentially, by applying to BeautifulPeople Network applicants are being beholden by thousands.
If an applicant does not get voted in, they may resubmit with a better profile picture and more interesting profile text.”
While it’s a nice idea to provide the “better luck next time” loophole, especially wrapped as it is in the convenient rhetoric of “democratic process”, I’m still inclined to point something out. People’s first impressions of you are always the strongest. A number of years ago, I put on an extraordinary amount of weight – to the tune of about seventy pounds (which is where I garnered the nickname Big Al). During that time, most people I knew were too nice to point out the fact that I was bearing an increasing resemblance to Jack Black, but once I lost all the weight again, all the truth came flooding out – and it stuck with me. While people no longer associate me with “Big Al”, there’s an underlying impression that certain people are anticipating a slide – every pound I gain, even if I lose it again, is documented by watchful eyes in preparation for the inevitable return to neck flab and a fat ass.
The same principle applies to BP. Once an applicant has proven his or her capacity for looking like a bag of smashed assholes (at least from the vantage point of those who’ve achieved BP’s Olympian heights), the potential to return to that state would probably preclude the unfortunate contestant from ever again venturing to walk in the court of the Gods.
But if the story of Prometheus taught us anything, it’s that not even Gods are immune to exile. Apparently, neither are BP’s ranks of Accepted. Where Prometheus committed the relatively inocuous crime of stealing fire, over five thousand BP profilers committed the far more heinous breach of – ready for this? — gaining weight.
Now remember, this is a “democratic” website where application and expulsion rest in the hands of the users’ collective. That means the other five point four nine hundred thousand other members rose as one against the lonely five thousand and said, in essence, “the tribe has spoken; you are the weakest link – goodbye.”
Hey, a twofer pop-culture reference. I win.
But even my generous wit is trumped by the statement released by Hintze:
“As a business, we mourn the loss of any member, but the fact remains that our members demand the high standard of beauty be upheld…[l]etting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.”
I would like to reiterate this was his official statement, made to members of the press. Robert Hintze now holds the State of Affairs record for the oldest man ever to use a term like “fatty” while keeping a straight face and being one hundred percent sincere.
Now, I’m a little torn on this issue – more specifically, I’m a little torn on who to point and laugh at first. I can’t decide whether Robert Hintze is the greatest threat to human self-esteem since Cosmo Magazine, or whether he should be immediately voted into office somewhere on the platform of being the most brutally honest individual I’ve come across in a long time.
Clearly Hintze’s comments aren’t exactly what could accurately be termed Politically Correct, and frankly I’m amazed the man is still alive and well and hasn’t yet been eviscerated by Gloria Steinem and the ghost of Sylvia Plath. To be fair, I don’t know if he’s in the position to be making fun of anybody else’s looks – check out the picture again:
Is it just me, or does something seem kind of…off about that guy? I can’t quite put my finger on it; I’m already put off by his choice of dress (nice blouse, by the way), but there’s something about the way his face sits on his head that seems slightly askew, as though somebody tore his face off and stuck it back on just a few centimeters off-axis from where it was originally.
It might sound kind of nitpicky, but this is the same guy who kicked five thousand people off his website for eating a little too much turkey and stuffing, so I think as a former fat guy I’m entitled to sling a little mud back his way, don’t you?
Miki Haines, a spokeswoman for BP, responded to criticism from grassroots social movements like the Fat Acceptance Movement and the Obesity Action Coalition who condemned the site for propogating stigmas about the overweight.
“I think that some cultures just lend themselves to overindulging, and any weight gained by binge eating or drinking can be unattractive…[t]he site is very harsh. To want to put your photograph forward you have to be a bit tough and willing to accept criticism.”
And you know what? She’s absolutely right, at least about the second part. To be honest I don’t care one way or another whether or not sites like BP exist, because I don’t exist in a paradigm where I require any more external validation than what you, my dear readers, supply to me every day. I equate it like this: I use this blog to forward my opinions on all kinds of topics ranging from the very serious to the patently silly. Sometimes you agree with me, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes certain people will call me out on not having done enough research; others will take things I’ve said out of context and make me out to be some kind of conspiracy theorist or fanatic. Sometimes I just get told I suck. But guess what? That’s the risk you take. The internet is rife with opinions, and as someone once said, they’re an awful lot like assholes – everybody’s got one, most of them stink. If somebody thinks I’m the worst writer in the world, well, they’re entitled – it’s my job as that writer to develop a thick enough skin to take criticism and keep on trucking. The point is I chose to do this; I don’t have to put my thoughts on the altar for the world to tear apart, but I do – knowing full well that some people are going to tell me I’m wrong.
So as much as I understand why the five thousand former Beautiful People might be pretty pissed off and hurt by the rejection (apparently BP sends an email with information about local health clubs and gyms in addition to the notification of termination – you know, to add insult to injury), the bottom line is this: if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. As a matter of fact, if your body image is that exclusively important to you, you might do to stay out of the kitchen anyway – at least, if you listen to BP’s rhetoric. But either way, you knew the risks signing up – nobody forced you to hand your picture to a bunch of cultural ubermensch whose judgment you had to expect when you applied for membership. If your delicate little feelings won’t stand up to that kind of criticism, don’t open yourself to it. There’s this weird socially-accepted rule of thumb these days that everybody has to have an online presence – you don’t! It’s a choice, like everything else. And consider this: if you were accepted to BP based on their narrow views of the prevailing cultural idea of physical beauty, I’d be willing to bet the rest of us Normals will still find you hotter than the average bear even with the holiday heavy weighing you down.
I get so tired of fortunate people bitching when they don’t get their way. It’s an undeniable fact that how you look has everything to do with how you’re treated in society, at least at first; even if you got kicked off a dating site, you’re probably still better off than me. You all need to grow a backbone and stop complaining about how you don’t have enough of something the rest of the world would give their collective right nut to have even a taste of.
And as for the watchdog groups calling foul on BP’s very existence (many of which are American, go figure – of the shamed 5000, over fifteen hundred were from the ‘States), why do you care? Nobody is forcing you to go sign up either. It’s like anything on the internet, or in media generally – if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. I spend every day of my life on the internet and I’d never heard of BP until this story came up, so I bet you could spend your entire life never knowing about it too – no different than avoiding Two Girls One Cup, the Star Wars Kid or Gawker. Instead of looking for things to be pissed off about, why don’t you put that energy towards making a positive difference in your own lives? If you’re uncomfortable with your weight, either get counseling so you can come to terms with it and be happy with who you are, or failing that, figure out how to take some of those pounds off. Either way, there’s got to be something more productive to do than complain about a site you probably wouldn’t want to be a part of even if you were skinny and beautiful.
How about that – I just decided who to point and laugh at. ALL OF YOU.
Shut up and get the hell over yourselves.