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It Doesn’t Matter if You’re ‘Punching Above Your Weight’ in a Relationship

Is one of you hotter? Who cares?

Are you dating someone much hotter than you? Or are you keenly aware that you’re better-looking than your partner? Do people stop you on the street to ask you how you landed such a smokin’ catch, or do they look pityingly at you after they get a look at your homely partner’s ugly mug? If so, you may be punching above or below your weight, a phenomenon that describes mismatched attractiveness between two people who, god knows why, still want to sleep with each other. One of you got really, really lucky, and is probably very rich or has the captivating appeal of the fidget spinner.

According to a super-scientific survey from a game show called Your Face or Mine, a third of men think they are punching above their weight in their relationship, while only 18 percent of women think they are with someone better looking than they are, The Guardian reported. Is this male inflation, female modesty or both—or have women finally surpassed men in quantifiable beauty (a real scientific theory)?

Some results from the survey: Men are most likely to punch above their weight at age 28, while women are most likely at age 26. One in 10 men has been told by a complete stranger that his girl is really putting him to shame. A third of men say looks are the most important thing to them, but less than a quarter of women say the same thing. Other survey results include that one in seven women admits to having stayed with someone awful because he was hot, while one in five men says the same.

You don’t need a degree in gender studies or even astute observation skills to notice that in this crazy world we live in, women are valued more for their looks, spend more time trying to look good and generally have more tools to reshape what they’ve got into something perfectly acceptable to leave the house in. Men are a bit more stuck with the cards they are dealt, or at least have to do a lot more real, actual work to transform themselves. Because the very notion of femininity is associated with prettiness and allure, we typically think of women as “beautiful” and attractive in a way we are much less likely to apply to men. Men do things; they are not passive objects to be gazed upon. (Still speaking in generalities out of the mouth of Joe Schmoe here—bear with me.)

So maybe women just seem better-looking because we evaluate them that way and because, you know, makeup. Or maybe women have actually gotten better-looking over time than men. Studies show that beautiful people actually breed more daughters, and hotness is inherited—so cut to now, and women are hotter.

At least, that’s the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — good-looking parents have good-looking daughters, and the world begets some real (female) hotties. Satosha Kanazawa writes at Psychology Today:

If beautiful parents are more likely to have daughters, and if physical attractiveness is heritable (such that beautiful parents beget beautiful children and ugly parents beget ugly children), then it logically follows that, over many generations in the course of human evolution, the average level of physical attractiveness among women should gradually increase and the average level of physical attractiveness among men should gradually decrease. No matter what the initial sex difference in physical attractiveness (whether men were more attractive than women, women were more attractive than men, or there were no sex differences in physical attractiveness), given long enough time, the outcome should be that women are on average more physically attractive than men are.

Kanazawa goes on to note that surveys of attractiveness found that in Japan and the United States, women are on average more physically attractive. What’s weird about this is that the survey was based on the opinion of teachers, and of children at age 7. Since when do teachers, known for bad sweaters, dated jeans and 30-year-old shoes, know about beauty? And since when are we rating the attractiveness of children?!

That said, the difference does not seem that great: 85.5 percent of girls were “attractive” at age 7, compared to 83.1 percent of boys. (Though it’s not large, it is shocking, because no way is 85 percent of any population attractive—have you been to a mall or crowded city street lately? A gathering of vintage cars? Lotta beasts out there.)

Jerry Seinfeld correctly stated a long time ago that a mere 5 percent of the population is dateable.

As always, to find out everything that Really Matters in the known universe, we should look to celebrities. Lots of male celebrities who are not such lookers marry “out of their league” all the time, right? According to this list, Judd Apatow, a regular man, married Leslie Mann, a supernova of hotness. That lady who played Joan on Mad Men, Christina Hendricks, is married to a guy named Geoffrey Arend who is so regular-looking by comparison that he is probably sitting next to you at a CVS Minute Clinic right now.

But sometimes it goes the other way. According to this list, Hugh Jackman is a god among men and his wife Deborra Lee-Furness is, well, a lady you could pass on the street. Any street with normal people on it! The Captain America guy Aaron Taylor-Johnson married another Normie McNormalton, filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood, who you can’t even picture on account of how benignly human-looking she is.

But a more broad-minded way of looking at this is to say that looks are one thing, while personalities, chemistry, shared values, good sex, and other things that make humans decide to shack up for an indeterminate amount of time matter as much or more than looks, and attraction is tricky and who the fuck knows what goes on between people. What’s more, why do you even care? These couples are a testament to the fact that it takes more than sheer physical attraction to spend time with someone. And really, we should all grow up.

So if you’re punching up, or trading down, remember this: You, whether you are hotter or notter, found someone on earth who likes you enough to sit through a meal with you and watch you chew food and talk about your used comic book collection. That is the thing to marvel at.