Perhaps it isn't a great mystery of life but it's certainly one of life's more intriguing questions. At least for us women, that is.
Think about this: Is it easier on your self-esteem to lose a guy to an ugly woman or a beautiful one? Having lost guys in every way possible, I should be able to answer this. After all, I have lost out to beautiful women and once I was jilted in favor of a girl so ugly that even my own father mocked me.
"Good grief," he said when he got a good look at her. "You lost out to her? She's so ugly that when she was a little girl, her mama probably had tied a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her."
I frowned fiercely at him but still he continued. "Sure enough. I wouldn't tell anyone that. It's embarrassin'."
The subject came up recently when Penelope, dating goddess that she is, suddenly found herself with competition for her latest beau. She found the "tramp's" photo (Penelope's words, not mine) on a social network, printed it out and passed it around for us, the usual dating committee, to see. Remember, I've told you before that all women date by committee. Any man who thinks he dates one woman is as wrong as Napoleon was at Waterloo.
One word comments included, "homely", "plain" and "ugly." I was the kindest. I said, "She's OK."
"OK?" squealed Penelope. "Did you see those un-plucked eyebrows? They look like my brother's when he was 12 and had a unibrow." She rolled her eyes in disgust. "Never trust a woman who doesn't shape her brows."
"Her teeth are crooked," Claudette added, trying to be helpful. "See how that eyetooth sticks out."
Having already upset Penelope, I thought I'd make up for it. "One thing's for certain -- that photo is the best she's ever going to look. You can bet she posted her very best photo." It's the truth.
Penelope brightened. My strategy had worked. "That's right!" she clapped her hands together. "You're brilliant! I'm sure she's much uglier than that." She turned her nose up in self-righteous victory.
But I can't ever stop when I'm ahead so I went right back into Penelope's disfavor when I said, wisely though it was, "Listen, girlfriend, I've got a word of good advice for you. Never underestimate an unattractive woman."
That did it. Penelope's bubble burst. "And just what does that mean?" she asked, using that little uppity tone of hers.
"It means that looks aren't everything. Remember what our mamas told us: Pretty is as pretty does. If she has a good personality and "
"And if she isn't spoiled," Claudette interrupted, casting an eye toward you-know-who.
Penelope glaringly got the message and I stifled a smile but continued. "If she's fun and a man enjoys her company, he'll overlook her looks."
"She doesn't pluck her eyebrows!" Penelope exclaimed excitedly. "There is no way on earth I can lose out to someone who doesn't pluck." Her eyes widened. "She probably doesn't even shave her legs every day."
We moaned in unison. A terrible thought, indeed. Nonetheless, the discussion quickly centered around: What's worse? Losing a man to a pretty woman or an unshaven, un-plucked, plain one?
To be honest with you neither is very appealing. If you forfeit love to beauty then you stand in front of the mirror and squint sadly at the extra pounds or the crow's feet. If you lose to an ugly one, you look at your reflection and try to find flaws because something must be wrong.
Regardless of whether she's ugly or pretty, your self-esteem suffers. And heaven knows, it's even worse if she doesn't pluck her eyebrows.
That's more humiliation that any woman should bear.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.