A glimpse behind the guy curtain

"They're nice girls, pretty faces and I think they'd be interested in dating me, but they need to lose weight and you know I won't go there. I'm non-negotiable on the hot bod as you know."(Conversation over dinner)

"Looks hot from behind but the face isn't so great." (Comment at conference.)

“She’s almost hot but she looks like she walked into a door.” (Observation after meeting.)

“Great profile pic, disappointing in real life.” (Ditto.)

"I'd date her but I worry she'll put on weight." (Conversation over brunch.)

"She's nice and he says the sex is good but I don't think she's hot enough for him. He'll dump her." (Small talk in the car.)

"I checked out this chick’s profile pic, she looked attractive enough so I thought I’d give it a try. Because all a guy wants is to be given a chance, you know?" (Conversation over dinner.)

Having guy friends who feel comfortable enough around me to say what they really think means I regularly get to go behind the guy curtain. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and also mildly terrified. It has confirmed my worst fears and made me more determined than ever to stay single.

The men who see the world this way are genuinely nice guys, all of them. Mostly single, they range between the ages of 26 and 40. I am very fond of them. But if this is how my friends see other women, then chances are that's how they see me. And, yes, chances are that this is how most men I encounter judge me too.

I can’t un-know this. I can choose not to care, and sometimes I forget, and it doesn’t matter. But not caring is very difficult in a world in which you know full well that you are always being judged not by the content of your character, but the smoothness of your skin.

When my guy friends talk about a woman they’ve met – socially or in business, it doesn’t matter – they never start off by saying "she's nice" or "she's smart” or “she really knows her stuff.” It's always whether she's hot, or she has great boobs, or how it's a pity because she has a nice face but she needs to lose weight and she really should make an effort.

The women who don’t attract comments like that have crossed that mysterious line into permanent invisibility because they’re too old, or too fat, or too old and fat (in which case they might as well not exist at all).

“You should date again, Sarah,” my guy friends tell me. “Plenty of people would date you.” (Who? Guys with low standards, who can’t do better?)

The one thing I definitely don’t want is for my guy friends to stop being honest. This is the way they see the world, and I’d rather be exposed to the unvarnished truth than live in blissful ignorance.

If there’s one conclusion I’ve reached from the conversations I’ve had with them it is this: I was right to retire from men, because I really don’t want to have to care what they think of me. I saw behind the guy curtain, and it put me off guys.

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