Measuring the immeasurable

31 Jul

My wife Karrie and I don’t always see eye to eye. In fact, there are some things that we almost never agree on… like what the temperature is in the house. Often, she will insist that it is “cold” while I maintain that it is “fine” and that she is “batshit crazy”. Personally, I like the temperature in the house to be suitable for the long-term storage of meat and Karrie tends to prefer something closer to the temperature at which you cook it. And my stance on the matter has always been that she can put on a sweater, whereas I cannot easily remove my insulating layers of blubber.

Often our arguments escalate to the point that I simply get up off my generous posterior and actually check the temperature, which typically hovers around 70-72 when I am home. Despite the clear, verifiable facts, however, this doesn’t usually end the disagreement, since Karrie will still argue that this is “freezing”. I think it’s important to pause here, and note a few things at this point:

  • Karrie has a Masters degree in Physics
  • Freezing is 32 degrees, which is 40 degrees (or 56%) cooler than 72 degrees
  • When the temperature outside reaches 68, Karrie prances around in a tank-top, shorts and flip-flops.

My point is that… coming to an agreement with anyone about something as measurable as the temperature is difficult enough! Start discussing more subjective things and you are absolutely screwed. Yet, we all seem to try to quantify these things and argue about them. For instance, I would rather alternate between licking broken glass and gargling with lemon-juice that to ever have Indian food touch my tongue. Yet, somehow there are Indian restaurants out there that are very highly rated (by people devoid of functioning taste buds, clearly).

As another example, men always want to observe and classify women. When men gather into groups, we ogle every woman that passes by. I do not reveal this with any pride or remorse, I only state it like one would state “The Earth orbits the Sun” or “Apple makes products for morons”; it’s a simple statement of fact delivered without the burden of emotion. We ogle because it is our nature and not doing so denies what we are.

Similar to food preferences, it seems a virtually impossible task to measure attraction in any meaningful way. Some men prefer blondes (gentlemen if the old saying is to be believed), some redheads, others brunettes. Some like brains, others focus purely on looks. Some men are only physically attracted to women who appear so thin and fragile to me that I would swear they cannot be handled without special, carefully calibrated equipment, while other men prefer women that look like they could sustain a direct short-range ballistic missile hit to the ass with little-to-no discernible damage.

It seems pretty obvious to me that a woman’s allure is a purely subjective thing, and not one that can be easily measured. But, despite that fact, all the guys I know seem to want to apply some sort of rating system to it all. These systems, in my experience, tend to be pretty unreliable. For instance, one group of guys I know uses “dress size” as their rating system which seems like a nice quantitative measurement. But, due to the complex and confusing nature of women’s dress sizes, it seems to result in more arguments than ogling:

Pedro: Look, to your right… an 8.

Me: Where?

Pedro: There, near the buffet.

Me: Is she behind the 14?

NOTE: Let me spend just a moment here to comment on how ludicrous I think women’s dress sizes are. For men, the size system is a representation of factual data. Your waist is 36 inches around? BINGO! You are a size 36. Genius. But, as far as I can tell, there is no measurement that you can take on a woman’s body that will have any easily calculated correlation to their dress size. It appears to be a number that is derived through some combination of high math and dark magic, and it is something that makes my brain weep.

The most popular system of rating, the “1-10 system” is also the one that is the most difficult to agree upon. One mans “10” is another mans “7”. A while back, a group of us tried to improve upon the system through the use of modifiers. The idea was to give the subject a base score, and then apply these modifiers (both positive and negative) to reveal their final score. It looked something like this:

Base score
Physical attractiveness: 1-10

Positive Modifiers
Wears revealing clothing: +1
Talks with an accent: +2
Talks to you: +2
Flirts with you: +3
Willing to have sex with you: +4

Negative modifiers
Cheerleader effect modifier: (number of friends with them, after the 1st) x -1
Beer goggle modifier: (number of beers, after the 3rd) x -1

It wasn’t perfect, I knew that when we created it.  With work, however, I believed it might become a more accurate scoring system than those that were currently in use. But the initial field tests did not prove promising. An inarguably attractive woman hanging out with a couple of friends, after you have had a beer or two, would score very low, while a flirty manatee in a low-cut dress with a British accent would score pretty high.

Sure… with work it might become more accurate, but the amount of work needed to cover all cases, would make it resemble the US Tax Code in size and complexity which would make it pretty impractical for use in a bar.  In hindsight, my first clue that the new system was doomed for failure should have been that the group of people responsible for creating it would likely never have a need for most of the modifiers.

And so… in the end, I returned to the same place.  You just cannot measure some things.  I will stick with a much simpler system.  The temperature is “perfect”, Indian food “sucks”, some women are “hot” and if you disagree with me, you are “wrong”.


Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


2 Responses to Measuring the immeasurable

  1. GoBlue

    March 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    We did this in college. An objective ratings system is actually not that hard. Here are the rules:
    * There are no perfect 10’s
    * Nobody under a 5 is worth rating; that’s just mean.
    * Only score in increments of .25; the system is not that accurate.
    * 7 is the cut line for “attractive/dateable”
    * 8 is the cut line for “hot”
    * Provide your rating in terms of physical attractiveness only; your personal/subjective conversions can be stated after the objective rating.
    * People on TV cannot be rated; you don’t ever see them in person.

    Also, it helps to establish benchmarks, such as establishing that a common friend is a 6.5 or a 7.25.

    • ccoffey

      March 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Yeah, that is much more practical than what we came up with. Because we over-engineered and subsequently discarded our attempt at a system, we have been largely reduced to “She’s hot eh?” “Yeah”.


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