Therapist Blames Woman's Sad Love Life on Her Looks & He's Right

makeoverA bit of love advice from a psychiatrist is making women everywhere angry. In the recently published New York Times essay called "The Dowdy Patient," psychiatrist David J. Hellerstein, MD describes a smart and accomplished woman who made amazing progress dealing with her issues in therapy. Only one issue remained: She was too dowdy to attract a husband.


That's how Hellerstein puts it, anyway. He writes:

Greta was not exactly alluring. It wasn’t her looks, which were fine. It was her unfashionable dress and grooming. Which was a shame, not because I cared how she looked, but because Greta herself so deeply yearned for a romantic relationship.

She was a frump! And her dowdy, frumpy ways were scaring away the men. Greta (not her real name, obviously) did not take to his evaluation.

“'You know,' she said, 'I look much better when I go on a date. I put on makeup, I dress up. My friends say I look great!'”

He let it go. A decade went by, more. She kept up her frumpy ways, and she never found love. Ever. The end.

Women everywhere screeched when they read this essay. Could he BE more sexist? "Male Therapist Coins New Mental Illness: Dowdiness" is how New York Magazine mockingly put it. What a clueless ape! 

Yeah! Clueless ape. But also: He's right. You know he is.

Oh the sad, sad truth: We are not (YET) living in a feminist utopia where men only desire us for what's on the inside. About 95 percent of guys out there are shallow and, like birds and small children, they are attracted to shiny, pretty things.

If you're lucky, you'll at least find a man who admits how shallow he is and appreciates all your other fine qualities, the ones he notices after you've attracted him with your figure-flattering dress and your mascara-enhanced eyes.

Seriously, though, physical attraction is a big part of the way couples -- both men and women -- connect with each other. Romance isn't about finding your best buddy, after all. Most of us tend to be more attracted to people who put an effort into looking sexy, whatever our version of sexy is. 

But here's where Dr. Clueless gets it wrong (aside from writing this piece in the first place -- like, why does this even need to be said, and in the New York effing Times?).

I don't think he ever bothered to asked Greta how she felt about her looks and how that related to attracting men. Why is Greta not interested in un-frumping herself? Why does the suggestion make her cranky? How does she feel about how shallow men are? How does she feel about unrealistic standards of beauty? How does she feel about the double standards for dowdy women vs. dowdy men? How does she feel about zhuzhing herself being the ticket she has to pay in order to enter the world of romance?

Hellerstein thinks Greta would have been more receptive to his suggestion if he'd been a female or gay therapist.

He wishes. The truth is, a female therapist would have known better. She would have started by asking questions. Not by prescribing a makeover.

Would this therapist's suggestion have made you question his wisdom and credentials, or do you think he was onto something?


Image via Miau/Shutterstock

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