John Tierney’s recent article on “mate value” confirms a long-held notion that people tend to marry others like themselves in terms of looks, wealth, and education. He holds out hope for mismatched couples, however, through a process called “slow love.”
Studies show that the longer someone spends with a potential but mismatched mate, the higher they rate the other in sex appeal. Over time, an individual has the opportunity to uncover the other person’s strengths, which can outweigh the initial impression. (See for couples time can upend the laws of attraction.)
This phenomenon of “slow love” accounts for what Tierney calls the “schlub-gets-babe” movie formula, such as “Knocked Up,” in which the unkempt Seth Rogen lands the gorgeous Katherine Heigl.
Tierney may be off the mark, however, in his other example, “Pride and Prejudice,” which he cites lovingly throughout. Based on Darcy’s initial negative reaction to Elizabeth’s looks, several productions have made Liz a plain young woman. But Jane Austen describes Elizabeth only from Darcy’s eyes, never objectively.
One of the charms of Austen’s sly prose is that the reader can never know whether Liz’s intelligence and wit eventually outweigh her poor looks, or whether her physical beauty becomes apparent to Darcy only when her many other attributes overwhelm his social bias.
After all, the book’s original title was not “Plain Jane and Hot Stud” but “First Impressions.”