Do the goggles stay on?

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When I came to Berkeley, I expected the ideal dating experience. I was finally leaving Los Angeles behind — along with all of its plastic surgery, Instagram filters and unattainable beauty standards I confronted throughout the most formative years of my adolescence. However, the nasty practicality is that no level of intelligence or progressive thought can disembowel a public identity formed by physical appearance.

Unfortunately, my 4.0 high school GPA and acceptance letter from UC Berkeley would in no way disillusion me with the need to be approved on social media platforms by disingenuous comments and meaningless likes. I am no different from everyone else, preaching acceptance yet still idealizing conventional beauty standards. 

Even at UC Berkeley, this manifests in the concept of “Berkeley goggles”: a phrase describing the campus population, which concludes that intelligence equates to physical unattractiveness. 

To the outside world, every student here automatically becomes hotter and more desirable once they step on campus — the outcome of comparison. Apparently, good looks here are limited, and we all are accustomed to lowering our physical expectations. Peering through the goggles is supposedly the result of compromised standards — strong academics correlated with strong deviation from the conventionally attractive.  

I am no deviant to this. When my friends from home bring it up, suggesting the idea that the dating pool must be shitty and every option undesirable at such an academically rigorous campus, I laugh along. Somehow, it seems like our generation has concluded that, while UC Berkeley students may perform well in school, the same cannot be said for under the covers — the shared assumption that we have no standards. 

Truthfully, I am guilty of this. I ignore the opportunities presented to me because I have convinced myself that somehow the options outside of our school will be so much better.  That, somehow, the “real world” will offer me everything I have dreamed of: the idyllic woman or man straight off of the cover of People magazine, successful, a complete knockout and somehow in love with me. 

I wasted my first two years of college telling myself that Berkeley goggles were real, vowing to not inherit the warped perception of physical attractiveness. True, I messed around, hooking up with the same guys as my friends, discovering the sexual exploits of Piedmont Avenue and testing the limits of libido lost to antidepressants. But I never actually considered the possibilities beyond a night between the sheets. I wish I had, sooner. 

When I look back at the peak of my interest in others, the most erotic of my experiences and intense butterflies, I am met with much more than the bodily frame and physical appearance Berkeley goggles limit us to. 

I had liked a boy for months, falling for more than just his looks and imagining that one day he might feel the same way. And, to my surprise, he did — it worked out perfectly. I remember when we first got together: It was just an innocent kiss, but it was enough for me to want more — or less if we’re referring to clothes. We pulled away from each other, warmed by an aura of shared excitement. I thought about him later that night, imagining what it might feel like one day to call him my boyfriend. My feelings were undeniable, but before long, I decided he wasn’t worth my time. 

I would be lying if I said I had some valid reason for rejecting him. In fact, it could not have been more surface level. I’m ashamed of my twisted thoughts, the questions nagging at me — is he hot enough? — the superficial doubts of whether my crush was a consequence of my “lowered standards.” 

The concept of Berkeley goggles got to me, and I selfishly ended things, my emotional attraction hindered by a vain desire for someone I found more physically attractive.

Eventually, I realized my mistake and was determined to somehow win him back — but we returned to being strangers. Frankly, I deserved rejection after my shallow judgments destroyed any hope for a meaningful relationship. 

Maybe it comes with maturity, but I’ve learned through this trial and error that conventional beauty does not dictate attractiveness and neither do Berkeley goggles. If anything, being at Berkeley has raised my standards, intensifying the intrigue and charm of intelligence, accomplishments beyond body counts or Tinder matches. I don’t ever want to be reduced to how I look — sex just an excuse to see me with my top off, feelings nonexistent and dependent on how often I put out. So why would I judge someone’s eligibility based on appearance, adjusting my actions to what meets the eye? 

There is no way Urban Dictionary can ever capture the true nature of Berkeley goggles and their unfortunately damaging effects. In reality, the Berkeley dating scene, with all of its dysfunctional romance and scattered hookups, might just be a good thing. 

Confronting the patterns of physical attractions and failed flings ensures we learn to go beneath the surface level of sex and relationships rather than halfheartedly scratching it. After all, looks don’t last forever; Berkeley goggles could be our most valuable mistake. 

Gigi Laurin writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.