It’s summertime in America, and you know what that means: Summer blockbusters, baseball, and people everywhere obsessing over their beach bodies...or lackthereof. While everybody’s a bit self-conscious when it comes to hitting the beach, let’s just be honest: most of the pressure to look perfect is placed on women.
What that doesn’t mean, however, is that sleek legs, a toned tush, and washboard abs are the end-all be all from a guy’s perspective, despite what the ads and the Instagrams would have you think. To prove it, I polled a bunch of real dudes and asked them what qualities they considered to be more important in a woman than that perfect summer body.
But first, a bit of a disclaimer: This was me asking a bunch of guys to think about a sort of dream girl wish list, which for most of them probably doesn’t exist in real life. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t revealing. Just don’t judge them too harshly (especially if you have a dream guy list too…).
We all know men can be very visually oriented (read: stimulated) creatures. So it’s not like we’re going to be completely agnostic about or oblivious to a woman’s physique when looking for a match. But that’s also not the only thing that matters, even when it comes to physical attractiveness.
“Is she confident about her body?” Scott asks (rhetorically, I presume). It’s not like Scott expects women to walk around free of any insecurities, but there are certain things women do that exude confidence about their body which is really attractive to men. Things like dressing well and enjoying exercise and sports are things that Scott describes as confident and attractive whether or not she has a stereotypical beach bod. Joshua agrees. “Confidence is a must—confidence in herself, who she is, her vocation, and her abilities,” he says.
To me, one of the most surprising, fascinating, and whimsical parts of falling in love is the fact that a woman becomes more beautiful the more you know about her, and that even the things about her that you’ve never found attractive in anybody else are now the most lovely things, simply because they are hers.
02. Kind and Affirming
“Nothing beats a woman who's just kind,” Joshua says. “Not sugary sweet nicey-nice but giving of herself and her time, patient, understanding, and who honestly wants and does what's best for the people around her. Truly incredible.” I swear to you, there is just something about the right compliment or word of encouragement that can cut right to the heart of even the most macho, manly man, and that sticks with him.
Stephan says, “relationships are hard, and it brings up a ton of self-doubt and lots of self-sacrifice. Affirmation is vital for building confidence.” Or, to put it more bluntly, “I know I'm not an idiot,” Matt says. “But it is nice to hear it out loud sometimes.”
“I'm grateful for affirmation because it leads towards better communication for both of us,” Ryan says. “I know exactly when I'm doing something she likes and I know when I could do better.”
Despite the stereotypes, I think most guys care way more about a woman’s capacity for kindness than her thigh gap, whatever the hell that is.
For my buddy John, the thing he looks for and values in a woman is that “she shows an interest in me, is kind, asks me how my day was.” And if that sounds overly simplistic, well, that might mean you haven’t been on a date with an American twentysomething lately. Or more to the point, it doesn’t matter how attractive she is, if she doesn’t seem to care about how my day is going, then it’s hard to see it going anywhere.
Sometimes it’s the simplest gestures that can go furthest to make a strong impression, as Matt can recall years later about when he first met his wife: “She came to my softball game and brought Gatorade, and bought two so I would have an option,” Matt says. “Then she actually watched the game and wasn’t on her phone the whole time.” Think we don’t notice those things? We notice.
“High quality character, though hard to identify right off the bat, is more important than any physical attractiveness,” my buddy Chris says. But what do guys mean when they say that? Sometimes it’s just as basic as whether we can trust what you’re saying and doing to be real and reliable.
A high level of confidence and trustworthiness is an essential part of any healthy relationship. We intend on being loyal, and so we think it’s only fair to expect the same in return. Quite frankly, there’s no level of physical attractiveness that is somehow able to overshadow a lack of relationship loyalty. “I’m looking for consistency in ideals and personal convictions,” Brian says.
Simple things like whether she is generally punctual and honors her commitments don’t go unnoticed, and more challenging things like being forthright about difficult subjects really stands out.
05. Good conversationalist
By far the most popular response I got on this topic, to put it bluntly, had to do with whether we enjoy talking to her. If you think about it, that’s going to be the thing you’re going to do the most as a couple, by far. And let me tell you, we do think about it.
“Conversation is obviously big,” Dave says. “It needs to be give and take, and not just a slew of questions. She needs to bring her own experiences, ideas, knowledge, and opinions to the table so we can build something up.”
Alex agrees. “I’m really impressed by a good conversationalist, with a balance of sharing and being inquisitive.” What makes a good conversationalist? “Eye contact, great questions, inquisitive,” Cory says.
You really get the sense from these guys that they’ve been on their fair share of bad dates, when the conversation is awkward and choppy and just seems like work—or worse (“Like I am pulling teeth like a dentist,” as John says). “If she asks a lot of questions, I really enjoy that,” Nick says.
“Conversation is the bread and butter of many people's relationships,” Joshua says. “It's the default way of interacting, and how you come to discover their values, wants, desires, likes, dislikes, and all the rest. I’ll never date someone I can't stand to have a conversation with.” A woman who’s a good conversationalist is very high on many a man’s priority list, if not right at the top.
06. What the good life looks like to you.
I’m learning more and more as I date that if I don’t see some of The Big Future Things lining up in common, I have a hard time getting excited about someone. “The most important thing for me,” Alex says, “is going to be shared core values and outlook on life. Do we agree sufficiently on marriage, kids, what constitutes a good life?”
Honestly, for a lot of guys, one of the biggest things in this case is whether she wants children. The details may be different depending on your situation, but most guys would choose a family over a hot body. Believe me, my buddies and I appreciate a woman who looks good in a bathing suit. But we also know where babies come from, and we think that perhaps the most amazing, generous and self-sacrificial thing a woman can do is carry a child. And yes, that means she’s probably doing that at the expense of her ideal beach bod. Believe it or not, that’s a tradeoff many men are more than happy to make. In fact, at least one man has seen childbirth grow his love his for his wife’s body.
Nobody here is poo-pooing those who choose to work on their physique during bathing suit season. But when it comes to choosing a dating partner, and ultimately a partner for life?
“Better to prioritize interesting, intellect, or personality,” as my buddy Jack Grant says, “Because the bod will fade.”
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Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle