I once took a class where we studied monsters and early geography. Our teacher argued that the reason Americas Most Wanted publishes pictures of criminals is that we like looking at faces for signs – we want to know that we can recognize a criminal just by looking. This curiosity is as old as the bible, wherein God marks the first murderer for all to see. We look for outward signs of inner demons, particularly on the face.
The irony here is not just that we can’t judge character based on facial features, but that if I we were to do so, the only thing I know for certain is that the most beautiful people can get away with murder (though not literally). It’s the beautiful people who don’t have to do as much, they don’t have to be smart or clever to be treated well. I hold beautiful people to a higher standard because they can coast because most people see no blemishes in the outside and assume there are none in he inside.
Which brings me to why I have trouble with looks-based compliments. When someone says you’re hot they’re saying you’re worthy of attention. They may or may not believe that because I have a cute face, I’m good on the inside. I’m not saying I’m not worthy of attention or that I’m not good on the inside, but the stranger giving me the compliment doesn’t know (and if I really am as good looking as you say, I probably don’t need to be good on the inside). Unlike Mindy Kaling, who argues in her recent book that a man should compliment how you wear the item (your body) rather than the item you’re wearing, a man after my heart would compliment my fashion sense. I can’t really help what my face looks like, but I can chose the glasses I put on in. For me, that seems to get a little bit at what’s between the ears.