Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There Just Isn't a Physical Attraction

The words in the title of this post come from a response to a comment I left on Rural Gay's blog last week.  Rural Gay is a forty-something male who, like many others these days, gay and straight, has turned to online dating sites to meet someone presumably as interested in coupling as he is.

Sadly, he hasn't had much success finding a potential partner, despite putting himself out there and going for coffee with a number of men.  One of the reasons Rural Gay gave for the lack of success is "there just isn't a physical attraction," on one or both sides.  Which got me thinking...

When I met Chris, I wasn't physically attracted to him, either.  Just twenty-three years old, he was a little boy, really; he hadn't yet grown into his looks.  He was skinny, his glasses were too large for his face, and his hair was coarse and unmanageable.  He reminded me of several geeks I'd seen back in high school.  The only physical feature of his that appealed to me was his five o'clock shadow. And that's about it.  

Chris was not at all the hunky Adonis I'd always imagined myself with, I'd dreamed would fall all over himself when he saw me for the first time, wondering where I'd been his entire life.  I'd seen a good many cute, handsome, and hot men over the years, but they paid little attention to me.  

And my physical appearance?  My body was no specimen, that's for sure.  My hairstyle was fussy and plastered into place with too much hairspray.  I tried to sport sideburns then, but the hairs on the right were sparse, and, on the left, they didn't meet up.  I'm sure my face had recently broken out, and, to top it all off, I had braces on my teeth.  Not a pretty sight.  Not a pretty sight at all.

Yep, Chris and I were quite the pair.  And if, as too many gay men do, we'd relied entirely on what both of us looked like to decide if we were interested in each other, it wouldn't have happened.  We would not have pursued anything else we saw in each other, and we would not have been together a total of nineteen years this last month.    

In truth, we were ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill schmoes.  And I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but that's all most of us are.  So why do so many hold out for some physical ideal, someone we've always seen ourselves with or hoped we'd end up with.  What makes average looking men think they're going to land Brad Pitt?  It's time to get off your high horses.  Do you want to be alone or do you want to be in love?      

Guys, here's the thing:  Physical attraction?  It's not everything.  It's only a small part.  Of course, if, when you see someone for the first time, his appearance completely repulses you, there's a good chance, no matter how long you spend getting to know him better, he'll never be more attractive to you.  If that's the case, move on.  Don't beat a dead horse.

But, beyond that, as far as looks are concerned, everyone else is in the running.  Because, on a strictly superficial level, every person has at least one outstanding physical attribute, something you can find attractive, something that captures your imagination--whether it's a thick head of hair, or long eyelashes, or a great set of eyes, or whatever the case may be.

Find that one attribute, that one thing you consider physically appealing, and you find the portal to giving that person a fair chance, to giving yourself permission to discover him beyond his looks.  Honestly, unless he thoroughly disgusts you, a quick first meeting over a cup of coffee isn't nearly enough time to get to know the complex human being sitting across from you, and whether or not you might have a future together.  

That first time I asked Chris to dance?  Let's say I hadn't, so turned off was I by his geeky appearance.  Or let's say he had shot me down, deciding he didn't like anyone who wore braces on his teeth.  Either way, I hope you see how arbitrary those rash decisions would have been, and how much we would have lost out on over the subsequent nineteen years.

How much do you really and truly want to meet someone to spend time with, maybe even to spend the rest of your life with?  How motivated are you to take the risk, to put yourself out there?  How important is it to you to experience deep and abiding love, to find "the one," to know what happily "married" couples experience every day they're together?    

All I'm saying is, give people a chance.  True, you can't control how others come across, but you can control how you do.  If you approach every potential new friend with a defeatist attitude, with cynicism and negativity, he'll know what's going on.  He'll read it all over you.  The energy you give off will turn him off, and, if he's smart, he'll run in the opposite direction because no one wants to be with someone like that.    

I don't care how many times you've been shot down.  Do you want to be with someone, or don't you?  That's the bottom line.  If you don't, this post isn't for you.  But if you do, every time you're shot down, get back up on that horse and ride.  Never let anyone know you've been disappointed in the dating arena.  Be positive, be open, be yourself, and approach each new person as though this is the first time.

Last week, I wrote that my fervent hope is every single one of you reading this will experience the kind of love Chris and I have in our relationship.  Because there is nothing in the world like it.  I want that for you more than you know.  It's why I spend hours every day working on this blog.  It's why I keep writing about how important accepting and loving yourself is.  It's why I want you to see what really matters.  

Love is out there.  Right now, someone, just like you, is waiting to be loved as much as you're waiting to be loved.  Just remember, real and true love has little to do with physical attraction and everything to do with a meeting of minds and souls and intentions.  Our bodies are mere containers.  It's what's inside those containers that really counts.        

Never forget, I'm on your side.  I want your life to overflow with the love you want.  I'm rooting for you.  Now, go out there and give 'em hell.

(Rural Gay's blog is located here.  Check it out.)


  1. Well, if anyone does click the link to my blog, they're going to see my post about liking "The Bachelorette" and conclude, "Now THAT'S why he's single!"

    Seriously, online dating isn't much more real than a reality show. In that context, looks make a difference in whether a profile is clicked or passed over. In life, there's time to get to know the person, to build a different, deeper kind of attraction.

    I do agree about continuing to move forward and to be positive. If you don't believe there is a possibility, then why invest the time?

  2. Rural Gay, you raise two very good points: the first about what someone will think because you watch "The Bachelorette" (you know I'm kidding, right?; I think that show is probably a guilty pleasure of many gay men, who still believe in the magic of romance as I assume you do), and the second about online dating being a form of a reality show, which I didn't consider before.
    Thank God I never had to meet someone online, but you reminded me selecting people you're interested in there is much more arbitrary than it is in person--it's based entirely on looks, which I endured to a lesser degree in the clubs but was still affected by.
    On the other hand, one assumes anyone with a profile on an online dating site is more motivated to meet someone for the right reasons, and open to selecting more men he could be potentially interested in. So I suppose there are good and bad points about either method.
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

  3. I didn't come out until I was 26. And I've sometimes wondered if that's been a factor in my apparent inability to develop a close relationship with another man. In terms of finding men attractive, I spent all those prior years looking at and being attracted to men but not really interacting and relating to them. I suppose over those years I developed (subconsciously, I suppose) my ideal man (OK, men) ... at least in terms of appearance.

    But there were all those years of not relating well to anyone really. Dates with women in high school and university were particularly confusing as I tried to make sense of something that just didn't 'feel' right.

    And after all those years of imagining the ideal physical man, what a disappointment it was to discover that when one of them agreed to go out with me (or, be still my heart, go to bed with me) that it was often disappointing to discover that beauty is, in fact, only skin deep.

    I'm now at the age where I spend time thinking about my life and trying to make sense of the last six decades. As I wrote on Rural Gay's blog, it's not so much wanting to be 'married' but just to find someone whose interests and activities somewhat match up ... more companionship really. I'm not one of those older gay men who's looking for someone half their age. I've always been attracted to men who are roughly (give or take 5 to 7 years or so) my age. Laugh lines can be sexy!

    But after all these years, I guess I've become pretty set in my ways. Old dogs have a difficult time learning new tricks.

  4. Welcome, canoetoo. I'm so pleased you stopped by and took the time to leave a comment. You've told me a lot about yourself, and I appreciate the honesty in your words.

    I didn't come out until I was twenty-six, too, so we have that in common. But, obviously, that didn't play a factor in me not being able to relate to other men, even though I was pretty much a social cripple by my mid-twenties.

    I was fortunate in that, at the time I came out, I volunteered to DJ at a gay club every two weeks. There, I connected with a lot of men (not sexually), which I know helped me to overcome any social ineptitude I experienced from having so few friends over the years. The more I look back on the year and a half I DJ'ed, the more valuable I see it was in terms of my development as a more confident, young gay man.

    I hear you when you say companionship is probably what you're looking for now. I've known couples (straight, I'm afraid), where they became good friends, travelled together, went out for dinner together, enjoyed each other's company; however, when it was time to go home, each went to his own place. Works for some people, but it wouldn't be my preferred arrangement.

    I'd love to hear more about your effort to make sense out of the last six decades of your life. I'm not your age yet, but, as a writer, I'm constantly trying to figure out what it all means, why it happened as it did, and what I was supposed to come away with from it. I bet you can relate to that.

    I hope you'll come back and visit often. I appreciate your interest in my blog, and thank you so much for your comment.

  5. In my experience, when you let physical appearance dictate your choices in selecting potential partners, you end up "filling in the blanks" of their personality. Meaning, you may end up accommodating things that would otherwise turn you off, simply because you find someone attractive. I don't think those relationships often work out in the long run, because it wasn't the person themselves, but how they looked (which is just a crapshoot of nature, it's nothing they've done to warrant extra attention) that drew you in. Also, in my humble experience as a dating woman (admittedly, many years ago!), very good looking men tend to be a bit cocky, and used to charming the pants off everyone, which makes them fun to look at, but less than exciting to speak with. They're also just a wee bit self-centered. (I realize this is not exactly a news flash...)

    There's plenty of eye-candy on TV, for your viewing pleasure, you don't necessarily have to try to recreate that in your daily life....fwiw.

  6. Sarah, you raise some exceptional points. I'm not sure this came through in the post, but it occurred to me as I wrote it that many of us go after the physically beautiful person to compensate for what we think is lacking in our own appearance. Does that make sense? I guess it's a way of including ourselves in the circle of the attractive, which seems more exciting and appealing than the circle we're in, by surrounding ourselves with those who are. Plus, of course, it's a notch on an unattractive person's belt to land what I call a beautiful specimen. Most of us look at the two of them together and wonder, how did he ever end up with him?

    The "filling in the blanks" comment is perfect. That's exactly what we do. I've done it myself, when the odd attractive man (more attractive than I considered myself to be) paid attention to me for exactly ten seconds. I accommodated a number of things, for example, a smoker, when I'm dead set against smoking and even allergic to it. But he was so masculine. But he was a smoker and had an addictive personality, But... You know where this is going. The argument for why you're with that person goes around and around, but almost all of it has to do with rationalizing when you don't feel good about yourself in the first place.

    Great contribution to this post, Sarah. I love how your comments often get me thinking about things I hadn't considered before, by helping me to dig a little deeper within myself. Thanks for the inspiration.