As I explained in my just-posted reasons to be pretty review, the plot of Neil LaBute‘s play is triggered by an overheard ill-chosen remark by factory-worker Greg (Thomas Sadoski) that the face of his live-in girlfriend Steph (Marin Ireland) is “normal,” which she finds so devastating that she leaves him. He tells her that he meant “normal” as a compliment but it it doesn’t fly.

To describe a woman you care for as “normal” obviously means you don’t see her as drop-dead attractive. It means that you see her face as fine, good enough, pleasant, half-there. Most of us think of “normal” as one step up from homely — obviously a hurtful thing to say about anyone. (I would never use the term”ugly” to describe anyone outside of sufferers of elephant-man disease, and even then I wouldn’t use it.) But if you substitute “normal” for a letter grade of B-plus, B, B-minus or C-plus, you could almost see “normal” as a kind of compliment.

Let’s consider two well-known quotes to start things off. Albert Brooks‘ character voiced the first in Broadcast News: “Always choose a woman who’s just hot enough to turn you on.” He could have continued by saying, “Reach a little bit higher than that and you’re flirting with trouble. Go much higher than that and you’re flat-out asking for it.” The other quote is from a famous early ’60s Jimmy Soul tune that goes “if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, don’t make a pretty woman your wife.”

Life has taught most of us that the best women to be with in a relationship are B-plusses, Bs, B-minuses and C-plusses. I’m not saying you can’t be perfectly happy with a triple-A or a double-A — I’m saying that happiness odds increase when you drop down into the B and high-C categories. Every now and then you’ll get lucky and meet a lovely, spiritually attractive, good-for-the-soul A-minus woman, but the odds don’t favor it.

That’s because A-category women — especially the model-pretty, drop-dead glammies (be they rail thin or breathtakingly curvy and buxom) whom I categorize as triple-As and double-As — are often trouble and not worth the long-run grief. Because they know it’s not that hard to find a replacement at a drop of a hat and are therefore a bit more adjusted to the idea of trading up if push comes to shove. They’ll almost never admit this (even to themselves), but this is often how things work.

This is why describing a woman as a B or a high-C is a compliment — because you’re saying in effect that she’s probably got good internal qualities as well as looks. You’re saying that she’s probably a good person inside, good all around the track, keeper material, etc.

Thank God for life’s exceptions (my last serious relationship was with a solid A and she was fine all around for the most part) but many A-category women (with the exception of A-minus types) are a handful — often with very pricey material expectations and wanting things to be as good as what they got from their well-to-do dads if not better, aware that they can trade up fairly easily if the mood strikes, often looking around for a better deal if there are any troublesome issues with their current beau (and what relationships don’t have issues?), or at least exhibiting a tendency to re-assess and renegotiate with much greater frequency than B or C-plus women.

This may sound overly pat but A types tend to be less solid due to the fact that men (starting with their fathers, grandfathers and uncles) have been making a big fuss over them all their lives — catering to them, paying their way, putting them on a pedestal, constantly flattering, quick to offer gifts and concessions and accommodations — and life has simply never encouraged them to develop that much internally. They’ve all been taught that all they need to do is look around and send certain signals and guys all around them will drop to their knees and start panting like dogs.

Life would be heavenly and rhapsodic if women had the personality and temperament of dogs — forever loyal, non-judgmental, constantly affectionate. But that’s a loser’s dream.

B- and C-level women have tasted a little rejection and have come to understand that love and relationships are a two-way street and that it’s not all about them and their whims or whatever. People only develop emotionally and spiritually when they’ve been forced to, and a certain working familiarity with rejection among women or men obviously tends to encourage this. Knowing that others are more attractive than yourself means you have to work harder and develop the internals in order to compete.

Obviously average- or funny-looking guys luck out now and then (as Marty Ingels did with Shirley Jones as well as that French horse-face guy who hooked up with Racquel Welch in the ’70s) but the only way I’d even consider trying to launch a relationship with a solid A, double-A or triple-A would be if they’re 45-plus. That’s because age tends to take everyone down a peg or two by meat-market standards — they suddenly realize they’re not the package they once were and that younger women are more tantalizing to the most stable providers and that encourages them to develop themselves within and reassess the game and be a tad more accommodating.

By this standard women who are Cs should be even better (sweeter, kinder, fairer-minded, more spiritually resourceful, more turn-the-other-cheek) than Bs, and that C-minuses and Ds would be better still and so on. My closest female friends tend to be from the C and D crowd. I’ve noticed however, that if women are too far down into C- and D-hood they sometimes develop scars and hang-ups and complications in the other direction. I don’t have much experience with Cs and Ds in a romantic vein so I shouldn’t say more than this. All my life I’ve been with (or have pursued) Bs and B-plusses and the occasional A-minus. I’ve avoided As like the plague and I don’t even try to talk to double-As or triple-As at parties.

I had a brief chat with Angelina Jolie not too long ago and I couldn’t really relax or be myself. She’s a nice person but those lips, those eyes…the whole thing. I was flustered, quietly stammering, trying too hard. I tried to calm down and play it cool and easy, but I’m so used to not even speaking to women of her calibre that I couldn’t escape a slight inner trembling.

I didn’t want to get this far into it. I’m just saying that calling a woman a B-type can be, in a manner of speaking, a kind of compliment. Let’s leave it at that.