Dustin Hoffman Suprises Me with an Insight About Women (and People)

TootsieThe other day a video clip of Dustin Hoffman talking about the movie Tootsie went viral. At first I didn’t pay any attention to it, as I haven’t seen the movie. But I guess it reached a critical mass of people sharing it, so I took a look.

I was genuinely surprised and moved by what I found. I recommend watching the full 3-minute video, but I’ll transcribe the key part here. Dustin Hoffman is talking about an interaction with his wife after he had a screen test in full makeup and discovered that he wasn’t a physically attractive woman.

“I know that if I met myself [as Tootsie] at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill–physically–the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out…. There are to many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. That [the movie Tootsie] was never a comedy for me.”

I think this applies well beyond heterosexual men and their approach to women, but that’s how I took Hoffman’s words to heart, so that’s what I will talk about today.

Hoffman was moved to tears making that statement, and watching it, so was I. Because it’s true. So many times I’ve looked at a woman–whether it’s at a party, a bar, or an online dating site and decided from the quickest glimpse of her physical appearance if I’m interested in her. As Hoffman so eloquently said, because of that approach, there are many, many interesting women I’ve never talked to because of that first impression from across the room or from her online photos.

The counterintuitive lesson that I’ve learned in recent years is that superficial attraction may not be at all correlated with physical chemistry. I’ve met women who I would have otherwise skipper over while skimming an online dating site, and I’m surprised by how much chemistry we have. And I’ve gone on dates with stunningly attractive women with whom we don’t share any chemistry.

And that’s just physical chemistry–it’s one of the foundations of a relationship, but definitely not the only one. Having a great sense of humor, being a great conversationalist, or being inherently kind to people have nothing to do with how you look. And yet I’ve dismissed the idea of learning about all of those characteristics with the mere glimpse of a woman who I don’t deem to be physically attractive. I’m ashamed to admit, but it’s true.

The glimmer of hope for me is that in the last few months when I’ve been on OkCupid, I’ve stopped looking at photos first when a woman e-mails me or I check my daily matches. I’ve decided that I don’t want looks to be the first filter for determining if I’m interested in someone. Instead I first check to make sure they’re a non-smoker and that they don’t loathe cats, and then I read their profile to see if I connect with them as a person. Then–and only then–do I look at the photos if I’m still interested.

It’s a small change, but it feels so right in comparison to what I was doing before. It’s just one step in the right direction, and I wish it hadn’t taken 32 years to get there, but I hope it’s never too late to change the way I treat people. There’s always time to improve.

If you watch the video below, how does it speak to you?

2 thoughts on “Dustin Hoffman Suprises Me with an Insight About Women (and People)”

  1. Of course, I loved this. As a woman, I know the pressure I put on myself (in addition to pressure from Mom, society, blah blah blah) to be beautiful, and it can be exhausting. And, a lot of times, I just don’t do it. I’ve been known to head on over to Wal-Mart in yoga pants, a T-shirt and flipflops, hair in a ponytail and no make-up (I sincerely hope my mother isn’t reading this…she would DIE!) just because I don’t feel like TRYING…maybe one of my friends from high school just lost her 7-month old baby girl to a devastating genetic disease. Maybe my 95-year old grandmother called me crying because she’s lonely. There are so many things that are more important than looking the part of a Southern Woman, but when I go that route, inevitably a man holds open the door for a woman meeting that ideal but lets it shut in my face. Or I get a cursory glance from someone who then obviously dismisses me because of the way I look. Basically, I get treated differently when I dress down, and we’re not even talking about a date or an eHarmony profile!

    I understand that first impressions are important, but what hit me about the video was when Senor Hoffman realized that he wasn’t going to be a “beautiful woman”. And it hurt. Some women will never be that ideal woman…in the South, an ideal woman is about 5’3″, perfectly tan, straight and shiny hair (any color is fine, as long as the highlights shimmer in the sunlight), impeccably dressed, makeup expertly applied to look natural while giving her that “glow”, slim but athletic, and has small but perfectly perky and round breasts.

    I’m 5’10”. I can get sorta tan, but I am mostly just white. My hair frizzes in the humidity, which is pretty much constant for 9 months out of the year. I don’t have highlights, just brown hair….so average. Most of my clothes come from TJMaxx or Old Navy and I’m not that great at putting together an outfit. I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup bc of the humidity, which makes me melt. I sweat. I’m not slim (even when I was at my “skinniest”, I was still a size 12…..not the desired size 2) and my breasts are anything but small and perfectly perky.

    But I’m interesting. I’m funny. I love hard. My dog can make me melt when she curls up with her little paw resting on my leg. My niece runs to me pellmell and throws herself into my arms every time she sees me. I am strong…I could probably carry you off a mountain because you got dehydrated and passed out 14 miles into the hiking trip. I can cook something that will make you swoon. I can teach a kid to read. I can paint a room, pressure wash a driveway, dig a ditch, change a tire and mow the yard. There’s so much to me that isn’t seen by looking at my lack of fashion sense or my frizzy hair.

    So….all that to say….it warms my heart to see this video and to think that maybe the next time I show up at Wal-Mart looking less than put together, someone might open the door for me too.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Ansley. That is touching. I would hold the door open for you. And it would have nothing to do with the yoga pants.


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