Privilege Blog

Building Attractive: The Concept Of “Net Plus”

In the first post on Building Attractive, we discussed diet and exercise. MJ replied in the comments.

“Interesting – I thought that your deconstruction of attractive would start with being interested in something outside of yourself, as I think that’s what makes people truly attractive.”

I thought. I’d considered writing about the non-physical components of Attractive, but that felt presumptuous.

I thought some more. So let’s deconstruct. How to understand the universal principles of Attractive? Define your terms, then derive the global rules and parameters.

1. Attractive comes from “attract,” meaning, to cause to draw near, or to compel approach

If someone is attractive, you will be drawn to them. If you are attractive, you will draw people to you. (I will note, everybody attracts someone, but you will want to choose those someones with care.)

2. We will assume that organisms are attracted to anything they believe will help them survive

If we believe that life seeks life, we conclude that attraction involves the presumption of benefit. We conclude that we are drawn to creatures we believe will keep us afloat. Of course, trickery abounds, even in non-human species. Birds display tails, insect-eating flowers put out strong scents, lions lie low in the grass. But we want what we want. we need what we need, we are drawn to apparent resources.

3. Attraction changes across the spectrum of intimacy and distance

Something that appears attractive from a distance may look very different close up. Think of self-absorbed achingly beautiful movie stars, badly-behaved high-tech geniuses, wounded pretty narcissists of the world. From afar, glamor. From closeup, whoops, you’re going to be cleaning up all the mess and experiencing little of the spark.

4. Attraction is not the same as admiration

Principle #4 speaks directly to MJ’s comment. While I might admire someone who is interested in something outside themselves, I’m not necessarily drawn to them. Unless you’re standing on firm home ground, outside interests are options, taken on sometimes at the expense of those we love.

Again, we’re talking attraction, not absolute virtue. Some people do find virtue attractive. It happens.

5. In modern day terms, to Build Attractive, become a Net Plus

Many of us in the modern world live in a state of material surplus. But as we know, even when Maslow‘s infamous lower needs are met, we are compelled to want more by so much. The drive to identity; undigested mustard of our childhoods; dreams promoted by those who who need us to buy stuff.  We are therefore attracted to those we believe can provide something. A Net Plus, whatever the algorithm.

Perhaps the non-physical component of Attractive is best understood by what it is not. Attractive is not A Black Hole. We are repelled by those who take more than they give. I believe this is behind the entire theory of Dating Rules, and Make Them Beg. By acting as though we need no one, we appear as the mythical Net Plus, one who contributes without need. It’s false, of course. Everyone needs. The question is how are those needs managed and expressed.

The most productively attractive people understand their own needs. They get them met gracefully, and manage their feelings about the process, leaving all sorts of resources to provide for others. Those resources may include, but are not limited to,

  • charm
  • humor
  • good cooking
  • skills with wrenches
  • upper body strength
  • earning power
  • poetry
  • reminders of your father’s eyes, or mother’s skin, or John Lennon. Pick your icon.
  • the realization that while life may be short, the little mud bubble we call love brings with it moments of felt immortality. This is the ultimate need for those in plenty.

You build Attractive as you choose.

Choose to create, and succeed, you’ll attract those who want success as much as creativity. Choose to create and fail, you’ll draw a different sort.

Choose service, and commitment to mankind, you’ll attract those who feel that their own survival is most dearly affected by the survival of others.

But choose to neglect yourself, you’re a net minus. Your own needs will drown your capacity to contribute. Whatever signals of survival enhancement you may generate – good health, intelligence, style and literacy – all for naught.

My own personal theory of attractive is, I confess, somewhat bound to virtue. Delight follows close behind.

  1. Love and kindness trumps all.
  2. Care for yourself first.
  3. Care for the safety and comfort of those you love next.
  4. Finally, provide delight through invention – material, spoken, acted. In the surprise of pleasurable moments we feel we can live forever.

And nothing compels life to draw near more than life.

Image: Doug Woods on Flckr

28 Responses

  1. I am flattered to have inspired a post, and, as usual, you have thought about the issue more deeply than I did. But my comment comes from the same impulse: I think we perceive people as being “net plus” when they are interested in something other than themselves, perhaps because that means they are not entirely selfish, or perhaps because it means that by being close to them we get to have their achievement (or virtue, or whatever) reflect well on us by association.

    1. “I think we perceive people as being “net plus” when they are interested in something other than themselves…”

      Yes, and I found this implicit in Lisa’s bulleted resources, ie if a person has “charm” then that person is usually other-directed, people with charm typically engage others on an inclusive level which paradoxically makes the other feel exclusively heard, the self functioning here to solely bring out the other; again, I find the same dynamic present in those exhibiting “humor.”

      Lisa, this series is chewy as can be. Great work.

  2. Self care, kindness, family, service all speak to me but I feel there is much more to the puzzle..
    Attraction might also involve keeping some things secret, not telling all, becoming a bit of an enigma in certain areas of one’s life…
    urging someone to delve deeper to stick around and find out just what make one tick.

    Just a thought over breakfast, I’ve only had one cup of tea so my thoughts might be groggy ones!

    Have a fabulous day Lisa!

    1. I would posit that the enigma factor signals to you that someone can give more than meets the eye.

  3. I don’t know that the idea of being Attractive to other people holds any resonance for me — I like to think I’m only concerned about being Attractive to myself — but I very much like the notion of being a Net Plus. All of the good career advice I’ve ever received as a young person is based on the idea of Adding Value to the Company. It’s worth considering how much I add to the people around me.

  4. I have found that when I am happiest with myself, others find me attractive. The energy that is projected is like a bright light, that attracts all sorts of other energy. Good and bad alike. Confidence stemming from self awareness and happiness is the most attractive of all.

  5. I think of attractive in very simple terms: Another woman seems attractive to me when I think she is living in the world I would like to live in. A man may bring it to another level with suggestion that my life with him would be more interesting that it is without him. It may go many ways as I harbour different fantasies: having life with more travel, more glamorous, more cultured or more domestic, slower paced and more balanced or a life full of adventure and more meaning.
    Feeling attractive myself is when I realize that I have become the woman I wanted to be in my twenties, even if it is a simple thing like my hair seems to look good in the pictures and my purse is intentional and that I could live on my own if I decided to and I don’t get hysterical or whiny when uncomfortable.
    Net plus is a one way to describe it, feeling that you have more to give than you need from others.

  6. You’ve said this very nicely.

    My husband is enamoured with my ability to take two Excel spreadsheets, pop them into Access and produce something that lets him review stock prices with market signals.

    It never hurts as the waist thickens and the hair fades if you bring new skills to a relationship!

  7. The “positive thinking” vibe is often lauded as an attractor. I really enjoy Barbara Ehrenreich’s works, which give an alternate viewpoint.

  8. However it’s constructed, being a “net plus” is most probably as close to an accurate explanation and description of “attractive” as I’ve ever read.

  9. What a thoughtful post. I had to sleep over night to digest your writing.
    IMO, a person who is in healthy balance with her/himself is attractive.
    To be in balance, requires all the positive skills mentioned in your post ( and so much more ).

  10. Seeing that blondie in the high grass in the photo I remember how surprised I was, when I noticed how many men turned their heads, just because my hair was not brunette any more but blonde. Blond is attractive and sparkly and probably the best low-maintenance attractor I know. (compared to wardrobe, gym and learning foreign languages :-))
    This also explains why I chose this new colour quite late (never having coloured my hair before): I simply did not want to be too attractive in my younger years, all the attention stressed me – being 5’10” you already attract all kinds of attention from the simple fact that you “stand out”, which I don’t mind any longer :-))

  11. I soaked in every word and every comment! Although I have continued to follow your blog, I will begin to contribute by commenting. I love to learn, and I love to share. Have a beautiful weekend.

  12. Thank you for another thoughtful post Lisa. “Net plus” sounds right to me. Your post made me think about what I find attractive. As a younger person I was first and foremost drawn to the most intelligent person in the room. As an older person I am more drawn to diversity. I tend to be attracted to people I admire but what I care about more than anything else at this point in life is love and kindness. And good conversation.

  13. I really appreciate this line: “Attractive is not A Black Hole. We are repelled by those who take more than they give.” Especially when paired with, “The most productively attractive people understand their own needs.”

    Of course. If I don’t meet my own needs, I’ll look for someone/thing else to do it for me. Most likely draining them in the process.

    That explains so much. Your insight makes total sense, yet still knocked the wind out of me with its clarity.

  14. What an amazing post Lisa. A lot to think about and digest. A ‘net plus’ person I think is totally content within themself. And I particularly think the comment ‘we are repelled by those who take more than they give’ to be the absolute crux of all of this. Thank you. x

  15. Picture me sitting comfortably, a nice cup of tea within reach, reading glasses on. That is me when I read Privilege. I love how your writing and thoughts take me away from the mundane.

    (Thank you for your sweet birthday greeting to my daughter. She asked me where California is. And so began a mini lesson in geography.)

  16. I rarely comment when all I have to say is, –“well done,” but really, well done indeed.

    Well–and maybe I would add in the ability to create beauty in different forms besides cooking to the list of attributes. A green thumb, an interesting taste level, the ability to alter a garment for the better, all can mean a resourceful person in general, which for me is a plus.

    Your realism combined with grounded values makes for a post I wish I’d had drummed into my head 12 years ago. So Bravo.

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