Why You Should Never Judge a Book By Its Cover


We all do it. You see a stranger. He looks a certain way. You tell yourself a story about who he must be. The gorgeous guy. The poorly dressed guy. The short guy. The separated guy. The guy who didn’t go to college. The problem with these stories is not that they’re always false, but, rather, that they’re often not true. By choosing to judge a book by its cover, you could very well pass up the love of your life. Join me on this podcast for a great story where I judge someone on her looks, and quickly caught myself in the act.

For further reading on judging a book by it’s cover, check out this blog post on Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him.”

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  1. 1

    Does anyone have a personal story of actually doing this?

    I am Not speaking about passing up someone because they were in a relationship or married, but passing up someone who seemed like a bad mental, emotional, financial or even a physically unattractive investment, but then latter on you discovered that they would have been a great catch.

    What did you do? How did you find out?

    I know the saying of not judging a book by it’s cover sounds wise but how is it practical? Unless it is someone you work with or someone whom you have a mutual friend, then you wouldn’t ever know if you were wrong for passing up this person.

    I admit that I don’t use any form of social media nor do I text, so maybe that is why I am out of the “knowing what’s going on in the personal lives of strangers” loop (O_o).

    Many of Evan’s stories are examples of what I am talking about (with 300+ dates under his belt, I guess there is very little that he hasn’t seen, heard, or experienced). In many of his stories, the women reject him because was financially unstable and appeared as if he was never going to be successful. Yet looking at him now, he has millions of people who seek him out for advice, he has been on national television programs and talk shows, his advice has been featured in national magazines articles, and he has been a guest speaker on nationally syndicated radio programs.

    He is an example of being a book wrongly judged by his cover to all the women that rejected him without giving him a chance. Hmmm… actually now that I think on it, perhaps Evan was a bad example, all an ex has to do is Google a relationship topic and she will find Evan. I wanted to hear stories about the average person, how or why would you know that you passed up a great catch because of judging only the surface of a person.

    Again, co-workers, someone whom of which you have mutual friends, and even ex’s that you share children with don’t count. I want to hear stories of a person that passed up a stranger because you prejudged them too quickly thinking that they wouldn’t make a good long-term partner.

    How did you know? What did you do?

    …    …    …

    I think Evan’s story about the old guy surrounded by the beautiful women is an example of how (regardless of what people say) women are just as bad as men when it comes to gender stereotyping and undervaluing women.

    Because I would bet that if the story was of an older women surrounded by young hot men. Most people (including women) would think those were her sons or something benign like that.

    If the old guy was very wrinkly, or ugly, or very fat, most still would think he was rich, a movie producer, or some kind of pimp to have all those hot young girls by his side. Even if people thought the girls were just using the old guy for something, most still would infer some kind of pseudo-sexual relationship between the man and his harem.

    However! If it was a very old wrinkly women, or an ugly woman, or a very fat women surrounded by young hot guys, I doubt most people (including women) would even consider that she is with any and especially not all of them in a sexual manner.

    My point is that not just men but ALL of us have to work on not prejudging based upon gender.


    1. 1.1

      People may heal with loved so over weight or dressing baggy or sad or unemployed may heal and have a fantastic life when in a loving relationship. I want to find a person I can talk easily with/be friends and chemistry. People may have goals which you are unaware of. Money doesn’t matter. I want to be accepted for who I am/unconditional love…allowed to bloom and not forced to life up to being “good enough”. You have to define what you want. Cars/money/high paying job maybe a guy who is too busy for a relationship etc. Good looking may not have good personality. Getting to know people helps.

    2. 1.2

      Adrian, I believe I was very judgmental and had in my mind what I wanted in a man. I married that type and had two long term relationships with this type. I was actually in one of these relationships when a guy at a restaurant/bar made it clear that he wanted to get to know me. I gave him one look and said no way. I talked to him for a few minutes and said no way even louder in my head. He was older than I usually go for. He was shorter than me which has never been an option. He was an engineer which to me always meant too black and white for my personality. He was quiet and very much an introvert (even tho he did make the first move) and usually it’s the charismatic ones that get my attention.

      So basically everything about him was judged by me. He fit not only in my no category but my no way in hell category. But somehow he must have caught me when I had extra free time or maybe I needed a change but he took all those stereotypes that I had in my head and wiped them all away and honestly it didn’t take that many dates for me do that.    Best decision I ever made!

      I can’t imagine being with anyone from my old criteria. What a fool I had been. It made me stop judging anyone anymore. Seriously if I could be so wrong about the type of guy thats good for me then I am probably wrong about others also.

      Hopefully this is what you were looking for when you asked for a real story:)

      1. 1.2.1

        gotta watch out for those engineers!!!

        1. lily

          OMG! The engineers! I have had two of them fall in love with me (and quickly) since I became single in my 50s after a 30-year marriage. They were both interesting, articulate, so very appreciative of me, intelligent, physically vibrant, passionate and sensitive and very unselfish lovers, fun, financially secure, practical, able to fix stuff, great conversationalists, good to me and my children and parents, and adored me and wanted to marry me. And wanted to let me suggest clothing for them, which they both needed a bit of help with! The first I ended up breaking it off with after a mostly happy long-term relationship. The second has made me believe in the concept of a “soul mate,” something I never thought would happen to me. I will probably marry him. Neither of these men were my “type.” I am strongly attracted to bald men who have very muscular bodies. Both of these men had plenty of hair and, of course, glasses. Evan, thanks so much for all of your advice here… After SIX years of dating online, I think I’ve found my forever man!

        2. Karla

          True!!!! And to think I use think they were a bunch of pushovers!   Oh how wrong I was:)

      2. 1.2.2

        You guys are smart women.   About the black and white- engineers like to know what the requirements are.   That’s what we spend our days working toward, do we meet the spec or not.   And if you let your engineer bf know what you want, he’ll be grateful for it and will work to meet your spec (i.e., make you happy).   Engineers tend to be very resourceful and analytical, yes, good around the house too.   Yup, clothing is a major weakness and we’ll appreciate your help.   We’re way different from the lawyers and doctors and accountants and those types.   Better than those if you ask me but they probably make more money.   About money- efficiency is something we think about a lot too and we like to be efficient with money.   Some might call it being cheap but with our analytical tendencies, resourcefulness, and inbred  deep hatred of waste and  inefficiency, we watch where our money goes and make sure there’s good value.

        Of course there’s a spectrum and mix in some life experiences and you’ll get variation from specimen to specimen but overall, your assessments are really spot on.

      3. 1.2.3
        Rhonda Starr

        When I met my ex of 25 years I told myself he wasn’t my type. I set him up with my sister because I thought he was too good to waste. He was only interested in me. After I realized passion and attraction weren’t the most important priorities after realizing that was basically all I had in previous relationships and they weren’t healthy and making babies and having financial security was and his desire to make me happy won out. I hated having sex with him tho. Not compatible at all but I tried to adjust. I started to be repelled but most everything else was good and we had 3 children and he was a good father and we were great business partners but not much else. I was so relieved when I divorced him. Then I started trying to date and at 57 even tho I’m probably better looking than 90% I am now sorry I didn’t realize how good I had it. My lesson is I will never take a man with 80% of what I want for granted and focus only on the 20% I don’t like. That goes for all relationships and political candidates. Repellent sex however is still a dealbreaker. Never again.



    3. 1.3

      Hello Shasha and Karla,

      Thank you for your stories.

  2. 2
    Karrie Fox

    I must share this.   One of my good friends was in a relationship with the very guy, and I mean the VERY guy Evan is   describing.   Ivy league, contributor to NPR, reads science AND literature, very tall and handsome and charming, and crazy about her.   I soooo envied her.   I wondered why I couldn’t find such a prince?   Why was I with my shorter, less glamorous BF when there were men in the world like this?   Well, on the eve of buying a house together, he pulls out of the sale, tells her that he misses his life playing rock and roll (he’s 50!) and can’t make himself settle down.   Then he disappears!   After two years of allegedly being in love.   She is devastated, of course, and wondering where it all went wrong.   I think this is the very thing Evan is talking about.   The guy was so blindingly attractive that no one bothered to notice that he was a real mess (which we later learned from one of his ex-wife’s friends).   We were all just so impressed because he was such a catch on the surface.

    1. 2.1

      Hello Karrie Fox,

      From what I have learned from most older women and men on and off this blog; they love themselves enough to be confident with their decision in a partner-and they posses enough self-control to recognize that their is always someone better out there, yet they are happy with who they are with.

      Having a boyfriend and only seeing how he falls short compared to hotter men is not something positive. I think it would be better to dump your current boyfriend and find a man who you can be happy with even when a hotter guy comes around.

      Every “happy” couple I know has been in that situation of seeing a hotter guy or girl, and none of them envied the partner of that hot guy or girl because they loved their own partner.


      1. 2.1.1
        karrie Fox

        Adrian, you are very perceptive!   I posted the story because I thought that it illustrated  Evan’s point that we sabotage ourselves by going for the guy who looks good and fits the criteria on our lists.   However, your point is also very well taken.   I am indeed in the process of wrestling  with whether I am in the right relationship!

        1. Adrian

          Hi Karrie Fox,

          Yes I understood the point of your story and I am thankful for the example you provided to this blog, because it enriched us all.

          Nevertheless, your sub-context just seemed to scream at me. I don’t know your situation so I will not presume to judge, but I can tell you about my personal story.

          When I was younger, the idea was always forced upon me that it was shallow to choose superficial qualities over character, compassion and intelligence. You know the saying about beauty fading and it’s the heart that matters.

          (The commenter SparklingEmerald has a mind blowing response to this type of teachings)

          So for years that’s how I dated, and if I had the choice between the two, I always chose the plain (to me) smart nice girl over the hot nice but not too bright or hot but kind of selfish girl-not conceding that we are all selfish to a degree.

          I was never completely happy and this reflected in my actions subconsciously toward these girls. It’s like the people who scream at women that abortion is evil, but then don’t stick around to help the struggling mothers whom they guilt tripped to raise the child emotionally and financially.

          At the end of the day it is you who has to live with this relationship not the people who sanctimoniously tell you that you should be happy with a person who does not make you feel a satisfactory level of attraction.

          This same philosophy can apply to not just looks, but ambition, character, conversation, sex, etc. As Evan says, “settling and compromising are two separate things.”

        2. GoWiththeFlow


          I so understand about how pressure or (sh*tty) advice from friends and family can lead you to be in a relationship with someone who fits “the correct” criteria when in reality it just leads you into a situation where there is stress and unhappiness.   Luckily, as you get older, you begin to let go of some of the “conventional wisdom” and you learn what truly is right for you.

          When I was going through the adoption process, I had decided that I would be open to a child of any race.   One of the questions on the adoption agency’s paperwork was whether family members and close friends would be accepting of a child of a different racial background.   I was very tempted to write down “Anyone who would have cared has been long dead.”   Because that was the truth.   Had those family members been alive, I would have been influenced by their biased beliefs wrapped up in the package labelled “conventional wisdom”, and I would have missed out on the love, joy, and sense of purpose that my two little ones have brought into my life.

    2. 2.2

      I was once in that exact same situation as Karrie.   I was dating a guy who I really wasn’t all that attracted to–but who was really nice and checked off all the “boxes” so to speak.

      Yet when I saw another friend’s boyfriend, I felt this sharp pang of envy I never felt before (nor since).   I had that same thought of oh, why couldn’t I be with a man like that?

      I think I made the difficult, but correct, decision to break things off with him.   I really hope he’s found someone else by now, who is attracted to him.   In hindsight, that envy was a sign that I just didn’t feel enough attraction for him.   To this day, I still feel a bit guilty when I think about it. However, I also didn’t think I would do him any favors by holding him to someone who didn’t really love him.

      Shortly thereafter, I met my guy now.   The funny thing is that if you put my partner next to that other guy–an objective third party would scratch their heads and wonder why I’m so much more attracted to one more than the other!   They’re highly similar to each other on “paper” (i.e. similar appearance, educational credentials, etc.).

      Yet with my guy now, I have never had that pang of envy again, even in the presence of “hotter” guys.   On a purely theoretical level, I recognize that yes, there are other men out there who are hotter, younger, richer, etc. than my partner.   He can say the same about me and other women.   Yet we really wouldn’t trade each other in, even for someone else who is objectively more attractive on “paper”.   Relationships really do have certain intangibles that can’t be quantified by “paper” credentials.



      1. 2.2.1

        Thank you for your comment!   You are helping me to sort out my feelings.   I’m not a vacuous or superficial person; I realize that there are always younger, hotter, richer, taller alternatives out there.   I also know in my heart that if I was happy, I wouldn’t envy other women for having great partners.   I have wrestled with my relationship questions for over a year now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am settling, not compromising.   It is possible to have a lovely person in your life and not be able to return their feelings!   My boyfriend treats me well, in all the ways that Evan lists, but in the end, he lives very far away, and the effort I have to make to keep it going just isn’t worth it for me.   So thank you for sharing your story, and I am soooo happy that you’ve found someone who better fulfills your needs.   Gives me hope!

        1. Christine

          I’m glad my story helped Karrie, and I’m sure you’ll do the right thing in the end.   I obviously don’t know you or all your exact circumstances, but thought sharing my own story might help you in deciding what to do.


    3. 2.3

      Hi Karrie! I hope I don’t come off as too critical, but I find your thoughts a bit disturbing.   I don’t know your age-range, but I’d imagine you are somewhere in the 40s?   When I was younger, I thought women would eventually grow out of the “laundry list”, and look for more visceral relationships, built around strong emotional and philosophical bonds. (Of course, the attraction still would be present, but small,  details of  appearance wouldn’t be a deal-breaker)

      Anyway, your initial thoughts concerning this “catch” who was dating your friend seem to be an example of hypergamy.   You had a bf, who presumably had done nothing wrong in your relationship with him, but were wondering why you were with him, if other “more alpha” males were available?   I just.. I think you come off as many women seem to, even in 40s and 50s.. arrogant.

      The fact that your friend’s bf in your story just up and left doesn’t absolve you of the notion that you had those thoughts.   If “Mr. Alpha” had stayed with your friend, would you have dumped your bf at the time because he was shorter and “lesser”, in your eyes, to go and find a similar “Alpha”?

      I look around (online dating) at many women in their 40s in my area; it’s just wholly unreal to me, how their standards are so high.   Just.. incredible.   Most people over-estimate their sexual market value, but online, it’s taken to a  whole new level.   Yes,  this is a tangent, but  it ties into the notion that laundry lists are often unrealistic, and “Mr Better” is always present.. every day, if one looks around.

      In my opinion, the only way to mitigate that poisonous (to relationships) thought process, is to make the effort to build a relationship with someone who is attractive enough to have sex with,  but  more importantly,  also smart/insightful/compatible enough to create a deep meaningful, near unbreakable emotional and intellectual bond.

      Most women will claim to want the above, but I don’t think most prioritize it.


      1. 2.3.1

        Scooter, thanks for taking the time to respond.   There are two conflicting issues here, which I don’t think I made clear in my post.   I found my friend’s boyfriend attractive (he’s not an alpha male by any stretch) on a physical level but moreover, more intellectually and creatively simpatico than my own BF.   I DID NOT go home and break up with my BF.   When the attractive guy disappeared on  my friend, I looked to the heavens in gratitude for my loving and sincere BF, who would never do that to a woman.   In other words, I was reinforcing  Evan’s premise that we really need to look beyond the guys who tick all the boxes and give other men a chance.   That is what I have always done.   Part B of this discussion is that I have been wrestling with my own relationship of 3.5 years for entirely different  reasons.   One of the other readers pointed out that if I were satisfied in my own relationship, I wouldn’t have been attracted to my friend’s BF.   That comment gave me pause.   Maybe she was right!   Maybe I needed to allow myself more space to examine why my relationship was not working for me.   Attraction to my friend’s BF did NOT  make me want to leave my own relationship, it just brought out what was simmering below the surface:  Why was I working as hard as I was to maintain a relationship that had difficulties that taxed me enormously?   My BF lives in another country, 6000 miles away!   I tried to live where he lives but it was horribly isolating and killed my work.   He says he’d move to the US but he can’t afford to live where I need to live for my work, so I’d have to support him in every way–financially, I am not in a position to do, and also emotionally and socially as he doe not know anyone here.   And also, he’s kinda cheap, likes to count pennies, and has achieved far less than his level of intelligence and education would merit.   He professes to adore me, but it’s been easy for him to adore me.   I’ve done all the packing up and moving my life to and fro between continents to keep us going.   So you see, we have many more challenges than me overestimating my value in the dating market.   (And by the way, I don’t think  of myself or anyone else as a commodity on the dating market.   But hey, if you want the superficial “dating market” stats by which you assume I judge men, I’m an ex-Vogue model with two masters degrees and a great career, and the BF I’m talking about is short and not handsome by most standards, and a very modest earner.   That disparity in our “market values” didn’t bother me.   I found him adorable, funny, and loving.   What did bother me was that he wanted me to fit into his world, and I just can’t do that without massive sacrifices.

        I am grateful that this thread  has helped me delineate my thoughts.   I have been trying too hard to keep a relationship  going that causes me a lot of stress and money (the traveling back and forth is expensive, disruptive, and exhausting), separates me for too long from my family and US friends, and sabotages my work (my work gives me great joy).   I gave this relationship a good, long shot because he IS a nice guy who treated me with love and consideration, and we had a very nice emotional connection.

        I hope this will clarify for you that women’s choices are often more nuanced than simply looking for alpha males and nixing nice guys.   What I see in my circle of friends is more bending over backwards to accommodate the men in their lives, and much less thinking they are too good for the appropriate men.

        1. Scooter


          Hi Karrie!
          Yes, I know you didn’t break up with your current bf, and that’s great.
          Can anyone imagine that happening?   “Hi, honey! I was out with my friend today, who happens to date a significant other who beats you in every measurable category. I’m going to find someone like that.   Nice knowing you!”   Lol.. I know it happens from personal experience.   It’s an awful “pill to swallow”.
          The way you initially described your friend’s bf, seemed to portray him as a desirable, elite male.   You did say he was an:
          “Ivy league, contributor to NPR, reads science AND literature, very tall and handsome and charming”
          And also stated:
          “I wondered why I couldn’t find such a prince?   Why was I with my shorter, less glamorous BF when there were men in the world like this?”
          OUCH! Why are you dating this guy, if you have such negative feelings about him? Especially the “short” comment.. sheesh.   You mention that aspect repeatedly, and it makes me wonder why you hold that as an albatross, on him? (At least in your mind) Really, it’s no different than if a man were dating a black woman and thought, “Jeez, why am I with this darker, less glamorous gf”.   Yes, you say he is, “adorable, funny, and loving”, but for me, that’s hardly a counter to the negatives about him you mention, multiple times.
          The above is why I wrote my initial response to you; I was just a bit shocked.   I am one of those guys that “gives everything” for a woman I’m with, and much like your bf, I am not rated highly on the looks scale.   (Some would say that’s why I “give it all”, but I would argue it’s due to my upbringing)   I tell you this to disclose my personal emotional bias.
          You do say, “Attraction to my friend’s BF did NOT  make me want to leave my own relationship.” Karrie, that doesn’t jive with what you said above (about questioning why you were with your shorter, less glamorous bf).   However, I surmise that trying to date an underachiever, who lives on the other side of the world, and is not on your level with regards to looks and money, may have something to do with your negative thoughts?
          Why are you dating this guy?   You say you’re an educated ex-model?   There has to be more to this story than what you have disclosed, because your characterization of him doesn’t jive with your expressed determination to somehow “make it work”.   You’re dating someone who, in your opinion, isn’t attractive, and literally, isn’t (readily) available.  
          Yes, you do say, “he IS a nice guy who treated me with love and consideration, and we had a very nice emotional connection.”   Yet, that’s at odds with: “The BF I’m talking about is short and not handsome by most standards, and a very modest earner.”  
          So, looks and money.. there we go.   Those are very important considerations, and I’m not judging you (or anyone else) negatively for holding them foremost. If he is socially aware, he knows that he is dating out of his league.   I commend you for trying to accommodate him financially, and by moving to his location.   Nevertheless, from what you have said, it appears you were/are dating this guy (if one can call it “dating”, from 6000 miles away), based on him being what I would call a “safe, transient pick”.   In other words, if it goes well, then fine.   You have some fun with a person you really wouldn’t fret over if/when the relationship ends.   It seems he’s an intermediate; he’s around until that rare guy who contributes to NPR, reads scientific articles and the classics, and is tall and handsome, comes around.   This does support the idea of “dating market stats”, as you put it.   And if your bf is content with that in his mind, then all is good.
          You conclude by stating: “What I see in my circle of friends is more bending over backwards to accommodate the men in their lives, and much less thinking they are too good for the appropriate men.”   Well, if by projection, you are implying that you are too good for your current bf, then do the right thing for the both of you; let him go, and find your level.


  3. 3

    I must say I’m a guilty person over here. The BIGGEST judger of all judgers. Even though those guys I had chemsitry with all disappeared, I still can’t seem to shake off the attractiveness checklist. I get scared about settling for lukewarm. I want excitement, someone who challenges me instead of saying ‘yes’ to everything, I want mutual attraction. One guy I’m dating right now has everything I want in a guy except that I find him weird, and his weirdness means I’m not sexually attracted to him – although he is very good looking. Another guy I am dating is everything as described above – good husband material (I can even get past the lack of phsyical attraction) but the fact that I can click my fingers and he’ll change his viewpoints to match mine is a total bore!

    My pickiness is going to land me with a lonely future, but all I want is mutual attraction and someone to give me a run for their money.

  4. 4

    My boyfriend is kind of like the guys you are describing.

  5. 5

    Scooter, the website isn’t allowing me to reply directly to your post, so I hope you see this.   I think you nailed it!   For the first 2 1/2 years of the relationship, I put aside all the things that bothered me.   But then, looking ahead to a long future, I can’t just casually date someone on the other side of the planet.   The only way we can be together is to get married (as one cannot just keep living in a foreign country without legal status), and while I have loved having his companionship in many ways, for a marriage partner, the criteria is different.   I need more than what he offers to feel   satisfied and alive.   So you are entirely correct.   I have to leave this relationship, comfortable as it has been, and allow both of us to find someone more appropriate for each of us.   I must say that this thread has really helped me clear my own thoughts and feelings!!


    1. 5.1

      Well, good for you, Karrie. Although, I must say I feel bad for your (now former) boyfriend, because I imagine he was very hurt, and felt deceived.   Still.. better to let him go.

  6. 6

    It’s so interesting.   You are still blaming me by using the word “deceived.”   If a woman tired of flying 6000 miles many times a year for you, uprooting her life, harming her work, and neglecting her family, you would feel “deceived” when she explained this to you?   Amazing.   You think I owed this man the rest of my life just because he was nice to me?????   Seems that a woman can’t bend over backwards enough for your tastes and needs.   Yeah, guess I should have kept up the “deception” so he would have continued to bask in my presence.   A-mazing perspective.

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