Robot Hearts: The Rules of Attraction

We’re going back to basics on this one as we debate the validity of love and first sight and help one reader figure out how to get chicks to dig him.

Question #1

Alright, once and for all: is love at first sight valid or bogus? My practical side tells me it’s bogus, but all the stories of old people who got married after knowing each other for a week and are happy 50 years later tell me it’s valid.

— Asking the Big Questions in Ginter Park

Tess: Love at first sight is a myth. As much as I love mindless romantic comedies, it’s true. Allow me to clarify.

Attraction at first sight is very, very real. You know what I’m talking about: your eyes lock with a total stranger, and you feel an undeniable pull toward that person that’s more than just thinking they’re hot. Everything in you wants to pursue and be close to this person. Don’t ever let anybody tell you to dismiss a pull like this. Enjoy the butterflies and the newness and the mystery and the chase. These things are beautiful for what they are, and you should relish them all the more because of their fleeting nature.

But don’t ever confuse attraction with love. Attraction is largely the function of mundane scientific stuff: the shape of someone’s eyes, the angle at which they sit, the pheromones attacking you. Real love is going through everything with someone — the epic parties, the heartfelt talks, the let-downs, the crises — and still feeling affection, appreciation, and respect for them. Real love is spending every day with someone, through the beauty and the stress, and still wanting to spend every day with that person. Don’t get me wrong: attraction at first sight should always be investigated thoroughly because it can be the beginning of real love. It can be the first step to getting there. Just don’t base any long-term choices off of it, okay? Those old couples that are still happy after 50 years had a healthy dose of luck that you may not be as fortunate to receive.

Jack: I pretty much agree with Tess on this, I just have a slightly different take. We’ve all felt that immediate connection, whether it be physical or emotional, and it has tricked us all into believing that this new person could be the real deal. All of a sudden you’re daydreaming about spending weekends taking winery tours in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and apartment hunting together, and other such bullshit, meanwhile you just met this person in a coffee shop and have known him/her for 5 minutes.

These old people and their ridiculous notions of love and romance just don’t register for me. One, they’re old and out of touch with the current state of love and sex. Two, you were not expected to experiment and bed-hop like a little trollop back in the day. You were expected to meet at the sock hop and fall in love. Then you were expected to wait until marriage to consummate your love. Uhhhh, sorry old people, but eff that.

I’ve felt the incredible pull of my heart strings (and groin strings) after first meeting a girl, and I’ve floated on cloud nine a few times. But usually I’m contemplating splitting their head (or possibly my own) open with a pick axe by week’s end. Love at first sight= total myth.

Question #2

Hi, I’m a 28 year old male. I consider myself pretty normal. I try to stay fit, I work a solid 9 to 5 at a reputable insurance company, I hang out with friends and I have a few drinks on the weekends. My problem is, I can’t seem to get the girl. I don’t feel like I’m socially awkward and I’m not a particularly bad looking feller – I just always seem to lose the girl to the more interesting guy, or the more “pretty” guy, or the Doctor, or some asshole who writes a blog and bartends (no offense Jack), etc. The knock on me is I guess I’m sort of a “plain Jane”. Do I need more hobbies? Do I need to change something? I want to be out dating and having funny stories to tell when my friends and I inevitably talk about sex. I want an awesome girl to be with and I feel like I deserve it. Lay it on me Robot Hearts…

—Ready To Get In The Game in Henrico

Jack: The first thing you have to learn is that a great number of women are shallow. They will always see that M.D. before a name, and they will see a man’s looks, and they will instantly be drawn to money. Calm down, Tess, I know that not all women are like this…and the ones that are will never admit to it. But it’s true. The looks thing? Well, there’s not much you can do there. But everything else is fair game. Money and status aside, woman are drawn to a man who is enraptured with something. It could be his work fixing cleft palates on Ugandan refugees, his dancing skills, his ability to sell insurance, or it could be his talent for being an asshole and writing a blog. Whatever you really like to do, there’s a market of women out there who would be into you because of it. Can you honestly say you have anything in your life that makes you stand out among other men? Think about it…

Most women (including Tess) will say that you sound like a catch and that you aren’t meeting the right women, but they’re wrong. If you are, in fact, meeting any women, or attempting to meet women and then failing with them, then it’s not them. It’s you.

So yeah, you do sound a bit bland or “plain Jane” as you put it. Until you decide to stand out amongst the cookie-cutter masses of guys we have here in Richmond and tweak or completely alter something with yourself, then you will continue to have a boring existence, occasionally sleeping with the same tired girls who frequent the Fan bars or wherever you hang out. Eventually you will marry another “plain Jane” and that will be it. Does this sound like the life you want?

Tess: I agree that lots of women always fall for The Guy They Can’t Have, or The Guy Who’s Obsessed With Some Cause or Pursuit, etc. It makes perfect sense. People don’t wake up in the morning and say “Today I’m going to find someone boring and plain to spend the rest of my life with.” They want to find someone with a little more zazz. You probably do need to change something about what you’re doing, but I don’t think you necessarily need to put on your plumage and start fighting for domination over the other males. You want somebody that you don’t have to put on a show for; someone who naturally sees value in you.

The problem might be a combination of the following: (1) You haven’t really identified what it is about you that makes you amazing, and (2) Girls haven’t gotten enough of a chance to see what’s amazing about you. Perhaps you do have some interests or personality traits (you’re funny, or you analyze things way too much in a charming sort of way) that would be attractive to certain women. When you meet someone new, try bringing up these interests and traits, and see if you have those things in common. If it’s a yes, then find a way to see that woman often. Some people don’t start to fall in love with others until they’ve been around them tons of times and seen all the little endearing things they do.

The other thing is that you’re trying really hard to “get someone.” At the risk of sounding trite, I’ll say what I know is true: When you stop looking and become completely happy being on your own, that’s when she’ll find you.

Would you like to be similarly fulfilled?? Send your relationship questions to and start the argument. Also, check out past columns at Robot Hearts, keep tabs on Jack at Jack Goes Forth, and see what Tess is up to over at Parasol Party.

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Jack Lauterback

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