This is Ralphy. He belongs to a nurse I work with, and her husband. Look at that dog. Isn't he great? He's a great dog. Wouldn't you like your dog to look like that? Sure, you would. Ralphy is a gorgeous pooch. He's loving, with a wonderful personality. Wouldn't you like to have sex with Ralphy?
Wait a minute. What?
Okay, you don't do dogs. I understand. Neither do I. But, suppose there was a guy who *looked* like Ralphy. He's a successful and respected architect. He's witty and charming and warm, he's well-read and well-traveled, he shares your political views, his voice makes your knees go weak. Sex? Remember, he looks like Ralphy. 6 feet tall, athletic build, broad shoulders. And he's got a thick, brindled and dappled coat of fur all over, dewlaps that jiggle and swing when he walks, and wet black nose.
Now, unless you're a furry, you're saying, "No, no, no. No. No matter how nice he is, he looks like a bulldog."
But we love bulldogs, don't we? Or maybe you love Afgan hounds. Or poodles. We love all sorts of dogs, from tiny rat terriers to immense Great Danes, with all sorts of faces and builds and fur length and color. Any of hundreds of breeds of dogs is capable of being perfect enough to win a dog show. Would you sleep with a charming and affectionate person of the opposite sex (or the same, as your desires take you), who looked like one of them? Probably not.
We love all sorts of buildings, too. The Parthenon, Fallingwater, the Empire State Building. Very different, but each one impressive, beautiful, admirable. We love all different sorts of music. Rare is the person who will only listen to Schönberg, or only to Norwegian Black Metal. We love a wide variety of foods. We love traveling to different places, strange and new. Most people's tastes are broad. Humans love breadth, and difference, and strangeness and novelty.
Except in each other.
Is it odd that our concept of what makes an attractive human being is extremely narrow? Take a handful of Hollywood starlets, or models. I can barely tell them apart.1 They're all pretty, certainly, but in the precisely the same way, in face and figure. There's a little more difference between men picked by the entertainment and fashion industries for their physical attractiveness, but not much. It's as if the only dog breed anyone wanted was a Sealyham terrier. The only thing they'd eat was a hamburger. The only acceptable house was a center-hall Colonial. People with Cape Cods and ranchers would cry themselves to sleep at night, because their house was weird and wrong.
In order to make ourselves attractive, we are forced to walk a very narrow line, between the expected norm, and just enough difference to make us seem unique, and stand out. Too close to the norm, and we're boring, But just a step too far out, and you're considered a freak. People look at you, and see Ralphy.
1. Except, doofus, that a few are black and a few are Asian. Which is another, quite likely related issue.