The Female Quality That Men Find Irresistible

February 8, 2012

Tolstoy's Natasha

My last post on The Rules led to some discussion of Girl Game – what can women do to make men more attracted to them without turning into manipulative wenches? Aside from the ever-succinct “be hot” I think there are other qualities that draw men in, or at least make them want to learn more. As the guys keep emphasizing, a large number of women will meet the minimum threshold for attraction based on physical appearance. So what makes a woman intriguing? What makes a man want to know her better?

In the new book Much Ado About Loving, Maura Kelly and Jack Murnighan comb through their favorite novels for lessons about relationships. I was disappointed in the book, but there was one story that really resonated with me. 

At one point Maura asks Jack, “Is there any way for me to become one of those chicks who casts a spell over every dude she meets? Because there are some women who just – I don’t know – they have that je ne sais quoi. They’re not necessarily outstandingly gorgeous or brilliant or successful…but they know how to rock it.” Jack responded by giving her War and Peace. “Read that. The character Natasha? She’ll show you all you need to know about being alluring.” That story became a chapter in the book: Scorin’ Piece (one of many terrible puns, unfortunately). 

Apparently, Tolstoy based Nastasha on his wife’s younger sister, who is reportedly the one he was really fascinated by. How does Tolstoy describe Natasha?

As a girl of twelve, she is “a bit of quicksilver” – sparkling, and unwilling to be contained. Later she is known for her love of dancing, laughing and flirting.

‘Oh how lovely it is!’ she kept saying. Look what a moon! Oh, how lovely!…I feel like squatting down on my heels, putting my arms round my knees like this, tight – as tight as can be – and flying away!” Prince Andrei, a serious man who thought he had given up on the pleasures of life, hears her from below, and “all at once such an unexpected turmoil of youthful thoughts and hopes, contrary to the whole tenor of his life, surged up in his heart.”

Maura writes, “This is the effect joie de vivre has on the people around you: They share in it, feeling more engaged, more alive and vital…When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you.”

Reader Jackie touched on this same idea in a comment just yesterday, when she shared this story:

“I was thinking about one time when attracting men was “effortless” for me:

Once I was going to visit my sister in NYC. It had been so long since I had a vacation that I made it a law: THOU SHALT HATH FUN, NO MATTER WHAT THY DO.

So when the plane got stuck on the tarmac, instead of complaining, I started a conversation with my charming seat partner. He was on his way to NYC, also, for work. I told him of my “law” and although he may have thought I was a weirdo, we had a really great conversation.

At the end of the plane ride, at the luggage carousel, he asked for my #. I said, Are you asking me on a DATE? And he said, um, YEAH! And I said, Well, my sister is strict and so it’s double date or we get chaperoned! ;D Do you have any friends who would enjoy the company of charming women?

He ended up bringing his boss as a “date” for my sister and we all had a really good time. Meanwhile, on a day trip with my sister, we ended up meeting a *different* man on the train. He also asked me on a date and since he couldn’t find a single friend, we DID end up getting chaperoned by my sister.  (It was still fun, though.)

Meanwhile, the guy who had been my sister’s date was actually interested in me and let me know, discreetly, in case things didn’t work out with Guy #1. We ended up having a “solo date” at the end. 

So, during this one week trip, there were three gentlemen callers (i.e. suitors) and lots of dates, even with chaperonage in there. (And if a guy knows up front he is getting “blocked” and is still willing to take you — and a chaperone– out on a date, you know he must be at least a little interested!)

I am just a regular chick, just like everybody else. The only difference is: The focus was on having fun and sharing it. I wanted to have fun, I wanted my seat-mate to have fun, I wanted my sister to have fun. And by sharing it, instead of being less, there was more.

The focus wasn’t on trying to impress some guy or make him jump through hoops. The focus was having fun and sharing joy with others. My parents told me this is what it was like in the old days: People would just go out and have fun, no expectations and no pressures. Just enjoy the miracle that is life.”

Reader La Negrita agreed:

“Make sure that wherever you are you’re always committed to having a good time. if you always try to see the bright side of things and enjoy yourself, then you’ll be happier and you’ll smile a lot and guys will be attracted to that. smile, smile, smile, laugh, laugh, laugh.”

I have some experience along these lines. This quality has probably been the most powerful weapon in my arsenal. I was a late bloomer. As a feisty, tomboy type in high school, I was the perky sidekick to the beautiful California girls who graced the campus. The funny one. I was short, my hair was short, and as outgoing as I was, I became almost completely silent in the presence of boys, not that any of them seemed to notice.

When I got to college I joined a sorority, grew my hair, and managed to acquire some feminine characteristics. But I remained very effusive in my manner, and I had a rather irrepressible enthusiasm for lots of things. Suddenly, and for the next several years until I married, I found myself on the receiving end of numerous confessions of strong attraction, mild obsession and even some declarations of love. Several of these were completely unexpected – they were from guys I didn’t know well at all. Others came about in relationships, where it felt easy to maintain a constant, humming interest from my boyfriends. Nearly all the guys said some variation on the same thing:

You have such a lust for life!

You are the most alive person I have ever known.

Everything you do is so passionate.

You get the most out of every experience. You leave nothing on the table!

You’re my ideal blend of innocence and passion (he was wrong about the innocence, but I didn’t tell).

Your energy is so contagious. 

You obviously like yourself, so I like you too.

I bet you’re a wildcat in bed.

I share this at the risk of sounding boastful, but it’s important to note what men did not say to me:

You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.

You’re the hottest.

I fell for you the first time I saw you.


I’ve successfully competed with several beautiful women in my life, and it’s because of this one thing. Finding and sharing the joy in life. When we were dating, my husband used to tease me by observing that “Every day you leap out of bed, exuberant with the joy of living.” (This was actually sort of a neg.) I rarely had men at “hello,” but I often dated men with higher SMV, and I won over my husband for life in one weekend visit. 

Cultivate joy. Find that bliss in your own life. Practice gratitude. Express it, share it. It will be welcomed as a gift, I promise you, and people will want to be in your company.