Friday, November 04, 2005

here's looking at you kid

There’s been a cease fire in the gastrological warfare chez zoo, so in lieu of any more anorexic dog dinners I wanted to think out loud about something that’s been pecking away at me for a while:

What exactly is, “being attractive”?

I’ve read quite a few of those “7 things” and other quizzes that ask people to name the qualities that they find attractive in the opposite sex, and there are answers that you would expect to find – nice hands, confidence, shapely bums and legs and shoulders, tight stomachs and tanned skin. But there are enough quirky answers too, enough to suggest what most people already suspect, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Maybe we could, with a little help (given a wide enough selection of alternatives), describe our ideal partner. I think that probably most of us have a fairly comprehensive set of criteria already established concerning what we find attractive and distinctly unattractive. So, given that we are not absolutely all the same, shouldn’t we be out there looking for this identikit, ideal other half? (Obviously there’s one obvious flaw in that plan, in as much as you may very well not be their cup of tea should you find them).

But we don’t do that do we? We have some unfocussed mental image of the person that we are attracted to and then fall head over heals in love with someone that would have ticked very few of the boxes on a questionnaire entitled “ideal partner”. We’ve all had moments where we’ve been introduced to our friend's romantic interest and thought “my word, she’s going out with Uncle Fester”, or made idle chat with your best friend's new girlfriend while thinking that he would have been better off with Lucrecia Borgia.

There’s no doubt that there are some common denominators as far as “attractive" people are concerned, those whom the vast majority (of sighted people) would agree are “top totty”. They are the clause written in to relationships, by which I mean that if I were with a very beautiful girl and we were deeply in love, and she came home early one morning and announced that she’d just spent the last four hours being shagged senseless by Brad Pitt I’d have to say “well done!!” without any trace of irony.

However the majority of us poor mortals still manage to fall ridiculously in love and lust with others that we wouldn’t have regarded as an object of desire if they’d been described to us rather than had we met them. (Women especially seem to describe gentleness and sensitivity as a positive attribute in men, and then hormonally throw their knickers and broken heart at an utter bastard).

There are other people too, like Brad Pitt, but unlike him too, that exude a more inexplicable but equally tangible aura of sexuality, iconic people that examined under the magnifying glass of criteria wouldn’t seem to make the grade. Take Marilyn Monroe for example (and name me a man who hasn’t just intentionally misinterpreted that sentence). She was a ‘big’ girl, had a squeaky voice and extremely large feet, she was as thick as you like (no, I’m sure Einstein wasn’t really interested in her for her conversation), and by all accounts moody and easily confused….but attractive? (Rhetorical by the way, of course she bloody well was).

But you know, I don’t expect she felt so for much of her life. She was plunged into society and politics that she didn’t comprehend for much of the time, paraded at parties, put on pedestals and magazine covers and worshipped – and there’s nothing more likely to make you feel unattractive as feeling awkward.

We all come as discreet packages, of physical attributes and personalities. One person’s painful shyness, that makes them quirky and cute, would make another appear futile or stupid. What we seem to find attractive is the ‘whole’ person, the sum of the parts and not just the individual bits they are made of. I wonder how many women are desperately in love with men with dirty fingernails, and how many men agree with their girlfriends that her nose is little bit quirky – but perfect all the same.

So the other side of the coin is what do we feel about our own aptitude to be attractive? You know people and I do too, stunning individuals with wonderful personalities, with wit and charm that make you green with envy, who genuinely don’t think they are attractive? We worry about our weight, height, hair, clothes (!) and that we might be out of our depth – that we might be boring the other person senseless, we are scared that they want to be elsewhere and wish them away so as not to prolong the agony, a self fulfilling wish if ever there was one.

On a personal note I’ve never considered myself “attractive”, there are just so many things wrong, holes and scars and knobbly bits (but I’m not going to list all of the faults, anyone who is interested will have to find out for themselves). Even so, I’ve been held by people who, at least in my estimation, were beautiful (and I thought could have been very much more discriminating). So, without any vanity, at least at that moment, to them, I was – attractive (either that or it was some terrible practical joke that I didn’t understand). And in that case, who am I to argue, that would be silly.

And it’s true, what makes you feel attractive, new hair, new nails, losing weight, good clothes..we all seem to want something that we don’t have? And most of these are temporary fixes. I’d suggest that the only think that makes us feel truly beautiful and wanted is to accept that whatever we are, whatever shape of size or multi-faceted hotchpotch of personality traits, is deemed to ideal by a person that we love and trust.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that is an easy thing to do.

If you are lucky enough to be in the company of someone you love and trust, and are attracted to – then there’s every possibility that you are wondering what the hell it is that they see in you? And that’s the moment where the magic happens, where you let the barriers down and accept that for them, you are the one.

At that moment, try not to sneeze, or fart.


Miladysa said...

Deep post Colin - excellently written as always!!

Most of the men I have dated have been 'pretty boys'. I always had my 'ideal' man in mind and when I met my husband very few boxes were actually ticked! Reluctantly, when he asked if he could write to me (he was serving overseas at the time) I agreed and fell in love with him through his letters.

'Other women' find my husband far more attractive than any of the pretty boys I ever dated! I have to beat them back with sticks :)!

leesepea said...

What I find most attractive is a man who is aware of his faults, yet still feels comfortable with his own skin. A man with a good sense of humor (not in a scything, knock-others-down sort of way, though a little self-deprication is okay) who understands that he will forever be solely responsible for the choices/actions he takes in life and is not happy settling for mediocrity.

Oh, yes, he must love dogs and want a family. Not right this minute, just not never. And he must love me. Even when I sneeze or fart.


Just Some Gal said...

I'm with MiladySa on this one. Its an incredibly deep post.

Very well written.

I try not to think I'm too picky of a gal because, well, I have a lot of faults too.

Thanks for posting this. It makes a person really think.

AJH said...

Seriously wanting to have your babies right now.
Colin, your writing is truly wonderful. It never fails to connect with it's audience (or at least me) which takes amazing skill.

Wendy said...

I love this post - as it does make me sit down and think. When I was younger, I dated alot of guys who were just physically gorgeous - but that was pretty much it. They loved a mirror more than themselves. If anyone ever took me aside and pointed out the man who was to become my husband BEFORE I ever dated him - I would have looked at him and laughed. My husband, physically - is not what most would call drop dead gorgeous. He's very thin (136 lbs), but all muscle - washboard stomach (happened to come that way when I met him and he still has it 12 years later) and he NEVER brushes his hair, his hands are a filthy mess (carpenter) - even after he's just washed them, his pants are always sagging a bit, he kinda walks with a limp (too many dirt bike crashes) - BUT he never puts on airs, he never pretends to be someone he isn't, and there is just something about his smile and the way he walks that makes me melt. If I'm in the car, I watch him walk in to the store and I think "Man, he's so handsome, how'd I get so lucky?" ... but I know what I'm seeing isn't his 'physical attributes'. I'm seeing the whole package - his warm laugh, his ethics, his embrace, the way he holds me when I'm feeling bad, the way I can always count on him, the cup of coffee we share each morning, etc, etc, etc. And now, knowing him like I do, I couldn't care less how he LOOKS, as long as he's mine. Beauty fades. The 'beauty' that I see in him goes far beneath his skin, his hair, his clothes. None of that matters. Don't get me wrong - I know that we all have this "mold" or "idea" of what we find attractive in someone - hence the initial chemistry ... but the physically gorgeous men I've been with couldn't hold a candle to my husband, because they had none of personal attributes that make him so beautiful to me. On our first date, we went to dinner and back to his place to watch TV - Hogan's Hereos and the Three Stooges ... nothing 'fancy' there. But, we laid on the couch watching TV, and he ASKED me if he could kiss me. It was in that moment that my heart began to leap. He ASKED me ... he didn't assume, he didn't press, he didn't jump to any conclusions. He asked me ... sweetly. I left that night walking on air -- because he asked if he could kiss me. I remember it like it was yesterday. He still makes me feel that warmth - THAT is what I find so attractive. Boy do I blabber on ...

Ariel1980 said...

This inspires me to think on an attachment, if one may call it that, of my youth (ie my teenager years) who was tall, well-built, handsome, with whom I recently reconnected: he is still tall, to be sure, but is certainly wider, less built but more corpulent, and yet, when I am in his company, or more recently have been out of it, I find that none of these changes matter to me...and I wonder, if I were only to meet him now, divorced of the prior knowledge of his more golden years, would I still think him as attractive?---and the answer to that is "yes". Of course, physical beauty has something to be said for it, but it is superceded by other, deeper and more abiding appreciations.

Besides, I've always thought of Brad Pitt as a bit of a wanker. He's only proving it more now.

Bunnzy said...

wendy this is exactly the same as what happened to me! my fiance is a carpenter, an absolute gentleman, who adores me, and i wouldnt have him any other way, faults and all.

I believe you should work on improving yourself, making yourself into an ideal partner as much as possible. If you want a good friend, be a good friend, if you want passion, be passionate, if you want sports be sporty. You will attract likeness. People are magnetically drawn almost to their partners, and they fit well together if it is meant to be right!
Great post Colin.

Magpie said...

awww this is such a nice post, i think i'm getting over my all men are bastards weekend from hell...

i agree with miladysa, hubby doesn't agree with what I would list as desirable, but i fell in love with him anyway...

sometimes i wonder why, but most of the time I look at him and think he is so perfect for me, flaws and all...

Jessica said...

Stumbled onto your blog from Common Wombat's place - GREAT post!

playfulinnc said...

I always say, "Funny gets you everywhere."