Beyond face value

In midlife dating, we repeatedly hear, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” At this point in our lives most of us have wrinkles, sags and perhaps even some scars or skin discolerations. Yet it takes a lot, usually, to look beyond the surface image.

So what do you do when someone has a facial feature that absorbs much of your attention? How do you see the person who lies beneath?

I recently had the opportunity to share a small-group dinner table conversation with a man who deals with this every day.

Ngahi Bidois

Ngahi Bidois is a New Zealand Maori motivational speaker. His face is mostly covered with an intricate traditional Maori  tattoo called ta moko.

At first, I found myself stealing glances not wanting to stare. But in a small group, I could look closely at the pattern while he conversed with others. However, I noticed how quickly my fascination with his facial tattoo waned and soon I began to focus on his expressive and soft brown eyes and engaging smile. His spirit, heart, humor and intelligence emerged delightfully. In no time, I found I didn’t even notice the inked design.

In “Yummy is as yummy does” I talk about how a man’s attractiveness increases as his kindness, thoughtfulness, humor and caring emerge. He may not be traditionally handsome, but becomes yummier as a special personality is revealed. Yet, most of us don’t have to put this concept to the test as frequently as Ngahi does.

Sometimes I can remember to look beyond the surface, but I admit I also fall prey to deleting online profiles of men who sound good when reading their description, but their pictures aren’t “my type.” It’s a common complaint that daters don’t give others a chance if they don’t look appealing. It’s also a common fear that when you meet someone for that first coffee encounter, they will turn on their heel without even saying hello once they see you.

Ngahi is a great reminder of how we can miss out on a treasure if we make too-quick decisions based on only surface signs. By the end of dinner, I was marveling at how handsome he was. (He’s married, so not a potential date, but the lesson is still a good one.)


To better understand how dating midlife men is different, get your copy of Embracing Midlife Men: Insights Into Curious Behaviors.


13 responses to “Beyond face value”

  1. Patti Avatar

    I’m dating someone whose profile I’d never have responded to – bad photo, he smokes, profile doesn’t say much about him, he’s not so tall…….. BUT we met at a face-to-face meet up of the online dating site (PoF) and clicked, 3.5 months later….. so who knows. He is the sweetest guy I’ve met in a long time, very laid back but our chemistry is amazing and we just get along really well. My BFF says ‘perfect for me right now’, we’re just taking it a day at a time and see where it goes.

    It’s FUN! He’s getting me to stop taking myself and life so seriously and we’re both learning from each other too. So yes, get over the obvious ‘flaws’ and look for the gems that each person has within themselves.

  2. Sonyawp Avatar

    Its a shame that men can’t look beyond the surface. I can’t tell you the number of men whose pictures on dating sites were obviously a little larger than average but yet they rate themselves as ‘average’ and then are looking for ‘slender’ girls. I am larger than average and claim it which means that a lot of men don’t want to ‘look beneath the surface’ at all.

  3. Yvette Francino Avatar

    Nice post! I blogged about this today. I have often tried to look beyond the surface and have made some life-long friends. However, I have never been able to have a romantic relationship with a man that I don’t feel physically attracted to. I just don’t have that passion or the motivation to want to be physically intimate… I hate admitting this because it sounds so shallow. I also know if this weren’t the case, I’d have more opportunities to find a partner. I just wonder if this is settling, though… Unfortunately, as much as I can grow to love someone as a friend, if I don’t have a physical attraction to start with, it never seems to develop… And once you’ve been in “the friend zone” for a long time, it’s very difficult (for me) to see someone differently.

  4. Nicole Johnson Avatar

    Hi Dating Goddess; great post !
    I just stumbled across your blog, how refreshing !!!

    I encourage my clients to look past the online photos, and other personal details (age, height, weight, etc.) when meeting new people in the dating market place. In fact, I think when you date outside of your “type” you become introspective, and learn to appreciate people for their core character, versus their physical presences. However, I do agree with Yvette’s comment. It’s all about chemistry and physical attraction. Without chemistry and passion The Friend Zone is imminent…

    I look forward to reading your Blog !

  5. Mark Avatar

    Even if you do see the person underneath, sometimes that’s not enough to overcome a lack of physical attraction. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is sometimes.

    And I think most of us middle-aged people are more accepting of the appearances of others than we might have been when younger, but without any kind of physical spark, the physical side of a relationship can be difficult.

    My own experience is that a small spark can become much more significant as I get to know and like the other person better, but I always needed some small spark to begin with.

    Here’s what one of the Roman historians, Pliny, said about Cleopatra: “When upon first meeting her, she seemed rather ordinary. After talking to her for an hour, she seemed the most beautiful woman in the world.”

  6. Mitsy Avatar

    “My own experience is that a small spark can become much more significant as I get to know and like the other person better, but I always needed some small spark to begin with.”

    Well said, Mark. I totally agree. For me, if there is not some “small” spark, it doesn’t usually develop later.

  7. christina Avatar

    Nice observation, but i still think that physically attraction is also needed.But yes judging a person on their online photo is cruel, for me physical attraction is must(I don’t want him to look handsome like Brad Pitt) but he must not be ugly also…

  8. Pedro Ferreira Avatar

    I think human nature relies too much on the exterior. It’s hard to see past that. Only with time we can get to know the other person and that’s something most people aren’t willing to give. ..

  9. Mark Avatar

    The problem with looks and online dating is that too much emphasis is placed on photos that often are misleading. Some people photograph well and others don’t. And physical attraction is based on more than frozen-in-time 2D picture. It’s in how the person’s smile becomes a laugh, how that laugh sounds, the way the voice and the expressions match up, the body language.

    I think people are too dismissive based on pictures. It’s just another reason to complement your online search for a partner with trying to work in the old-fashioned way of getting out in the world and meeting people.

  10. Karen Avatar

    I agree that a photo isn’t enough to judge…but in my experience, if you meet in person and there aren’t “sparks”, it just won’t work. At all.

    I think I’m like most women–the things that turn me on are not always conventional. Movie star handsome? Doesn’t mean a thing to me, necessarily. Instead, I always go for the guy with intelligence and confidence, even if he has a gut or whatever. It’s kind of indefinable. However, I’ve found that I especially I like men who really like women (& sex)…you can always tell when you first meet them!

    The guy with the maori tatto isn’t a good example about looking past looks, IMO. Although obvious, the tattoo isn’t disfiguring and his face is still there and can be seen to be very handsome underneath it.

  11. dlynn Avatar

    As a midlifer, I totally agree that there is so much more to people than initial good looks. I started dating a friend who held no physical attraction for me at first. But as I grew to love him and appreciate his good qualities, he became more handsome in my eyes. If someone has kind eyes or a sparkle in their eyes, it can make up for a lot of other stuff (at least for me).

  12. Jessica Avatar

    To sonyawp, I know what you mean about the inability of men to look past the physical, but I think that it is important to remember that the whole purpose behind dating is to disqualify all the prospective mates that you might spend the rest of your life with.
    Let’s take a hypothetical situation to prove my point. Victoria is dating this guy who she thinks is great but she finds out that he’s cheating on her. What an jerk! I know, it’s harsh, but sometimes, we give our time and energy to jerks.
    She’s not the first woman to do so and she won’t be the last. Although she has already wasted months of her time on this jerk, when she thinks about how much more devastated and miserable she’d be if she had found out his infidelity after they married and had children, she is relieved and she welcomes this new information. Victoria knows that she’d rather go through the heartache now than be happy now and shattered later.
    Consider your situation similar to Victoria’s. Wouldn’t you rather a man show you his shallow personality now before you ever waste a second of your time on him? Or would you rather put in your time, efforts, and energy so that he can break your heart later? I have a feeling that as a self-respecting woman, you’d probably choose the former option.
    I wish you best. And remember: You will find love. Every jerk you encounter just means that you’ve just disqualified one more and that you are one step closer to finding Mr. Right. You will find love.

  13. bookyone Avatar

    IMHO, shallow is as shallow does. I’ve never been turned off by physical flaws, only by personality impediments. Of course I’m handicapped, so maybe that explains my ability to look beneath the surface to a greater degree than my non-handicapped friends.