You’ve all heard people say it, usually in reference to a movie star or junior theater stud major Stefano Theodoli-Braschi:

“I can’t date a guy who’s prettier than I am.”

“His cheekbones are higher than mine. That’s not even in the world of okay.”

“He makes a better woman than I do.”

“He’s pretty, too pretty, undateably pretty.”

“I wish you were straight, Chad, I’d date you.”

I used to take that as a compliment. I guess I’m just not a pretty-boy. According to some of my woman-friends, that’s a good thing. Is prettiness a blessing or a curse?

Somehow I doubt that pretty-boys like Paul Walker, Ashton Kutcher or RuPaul have any trouble getting dates. Still, girls at Yale and elsewhere in the big judgmental circle of life can’t seem to get over the cheekbones factor.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to justify leaving Beta Late Night with closeted a cappella boys or prematurely beer-bellied frat dudes rather than leaving with boy band dropout swimmers with strangely overdeveloped pectorals. We’ve all been there, ignored by our golden gods:

“I mean seriously, who does he think he is? Justin Timberlake?”

But on the inside, our (metaphorical or actual) blue balls scream:

“I’d totally do him. Please, pick me. I’ll name our first adopted Asian child after your grandfather, Robert[a].”

And then you go to a naked party, hoping that he’ll be there, hoping that this is one of those fabled naked parties that turns into an orgy. And you’ll be able to climb over, around, under, in between all the ugly sweaty bodies (without contracting a single STD!) and land in the safe, loving arms of your Rock Hudson.

But then, naked parties never really turn into orgies, and even if they did, the beautiful people are probably the ones responsible for that syphilis epidemic anyway. It’s a good thing there are very few Ken doll action-figure types at naked parties. If there were too many of those dudes with muscles bigger than their heads, the male physiological reaction to arousal might create some embarrassing situations. And there are no pockets at naked parties with bananas in them on which to blame a surprise bulge. Our dreams will never come true, and we know it. So, we compete with these chiseled animals instead. And prettiness becomes a scarlet letter, or rather 10 scarlet letters.

And that’s just the heterosexual tip of the iceberg.

It’s one thing for women to find fine-featured men intimidating — too much competition to be boyfriend material. Even then, however, prominent masculine features like those big pecs and that big other thing in his pants prevent a point-for-point comparison. A sharp nose or great eyelashes, however, are more than enough to raise many a woman’s competitive hackles.

Now think about all the gays you know at Yale. I won’t deny it, we’re vicious. We notice everything. The dress you wore three days in a row. The TA we’ve seen you with outside of class. Twice. Your suspiciously-timed nine-month leave-of-absence to “campaign for John Kerry.” In the spring. We miss nothing. We are Kings of Comparison, Queens of… well maybe Queens is enough.

And we have to date each other.

If women think social standards for beauty and style are tough for them, they need to walk a day in the shoes of an Ivy League homo. Pretty-boy or no, we can’t help but compete. The gym is so full of queers that if we weren’t constantly tripping over those pesky lacrosse players, or trying to avoid that crazy girl who moans with every rep, Payne-Whitney would quickly become the naked-party orgy of our dreams.

(I’ve heard tales that the sauna already is).

This culture-baby of well-sculpted bodies, product-coiffed hair and glowing skin tone pops — perfectly manicured — out of the gay manwomb of Queen Competition. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing all this work to get a date, or just to make my date feel completely inadequate in comparison to my own glorious personage. How do we survive this sadistic cycle? We respond just like women do: we don’t date someone with whom we are directly comparable.

We can avoid the fate of all heterosexual men — at least we’re not doomed to date our mothers. But our fate may be even worse — we may be doomed to date ourselves.

In all honesty, if I could clone myself, I think we’d have a blast together. But the prospect of dating your evil gay twin tends to horrify most mo’s enough to run like hell. If the likeness is too close, they’re off limits. And thus, “the type” emerges. Sure, the delineations of “top” and “bottom” are heteronormative standards thrust on us by overbearing breeders, but they’re also safeguards. We can’t get around comparing dick size, but we can try to escape comparing everything else. So, everyone tries to find a niche: tops, bottoms, bears, cubs, twinks, ho-ho’s, just plain ho’s. You get the picture.

Straight women and gay men alike, we fear comparison, judgment, and the fact that he might make a better me than I do.

I had this theory beautifully fleshed out and polished when a friend rudely broke my bubble: “My sister has two gay friends named Chad. And they’re dating each other.”

I vomited into my Rice-a-Roni and then my head exploded.

Chad Callaghan conceived his gay culture-baby by artificial insemination. It has pretty-boy tendencies.