Attraction is an uncomplicated formula.
“So what’s dating like for someone like you?” A guy asked me a couple of days ago. He’s much younger than I am, and someone I see around at parties. We tend to banter. He once said if he had a nicer car, he’d take me out, which clued me in to how little he understood about me.
For example, even though I live in a town where people are willing to sleep in a secret hovel as long as they make the exorbitant monthly payments on their shiny Mercedes and Porsches, I don’t personally care about “nice” cars. This is evidenced by the rattling ’86 Corolla I drove for five years in image-conscious Los Angeles, and would’ve driven longer, if the California government hadn’t pried it from my hands by deeming it “unsmoggable.”
The young guy waved around a lot of coulda-woulda bravado by implying “taking” me out would be automatic with no possible lack of interest from me. But I didn’t press the point. A comment designed for a reaction usually doesn’t deserve one. Besides, I find it unmanly for a guy to play coy. I tend to respond to directness instead.
Now he was asking a coy question in a direct way. Tricky, tricky.
“Come on, spill the beans, what’s it like for someone like you?” He asked again.
“Someone like me?” Was this an insult / a compliment / am I a Martian?!
“I’ve seen how men fixate on you.” I just looked at him, mainly because I had no response.
Then he added, “It’s weird.” This must have been that idiotic backhanded compliment thing some guys employ in their pick-up strategy.
“Guys fixate on me?” I said with a huge grin. “And you’ve seen this? That is weird! Have any of these men caught you stalking them?”
He smiled comfortably, his index finger indicating touché. Neither of us was going to be disarmed by the other. I didn’t need any more guys in my life who were ten to fifteen years younger, so it was good he wasn’t very cute or I would’ve been in trouble. It doesn’t take much — a square chin and a couple of clever words. (And if you take away the square chin, then a couple of thousand clever words…) There’s no difference between that and why men who are into me find themselves…into me. Just replace “square chin” with a feminine equivalent.
For me, attraction is an uncomplicated formula, at least based on how often I find myself attracted: A look or presence that’s pleasing (to me), a brain or personality that’s stimulating (to me), and their inherent internal goodness. Done.
Naturally, one must also account for the confounding sorcery that is “chemistry,” but in very simple terms, chemistry is just when someone finds you as great as you find them. The “as” is crucial. Sometimes two people feel chemistry, but the interest to move forward remains one-sided. This is due to one of two possibilities: Either one party doesn’t find the other great in as many areas, or, the resistant party has a built-in suitability requirement.
The notion of suitability is subjective and ranges from perceiving someone as a good potential parent, to someone’s career, wealth, domesticity, handiness, politics, philosophical beliefs, and so forth. Some even count specific physical attributes as suitability requirements. For example, many women have a height preference as often as many men have a breast-size preference, and there’s no point pretending that such superficiality isn’t prevalent. On the upside, with seven billion people on the planet, personal tastes run the full range of human characteristics, even when it comes to size and shape.
“Suitability” is a factor that never consciously figured into it for me. As long as I discerned the intelligence, and the excitement factor in them, it didn’t matter if they were construction workers, career humanitarians, or physicists. That is, of course, if I found them attractive in the first place. Even if I had subconscious suitability requirements, they weren’t the typical financial / station in life factors.
Typical gender-based life fantasies eluded me even as a kid. Even though I wasn’t tomboyish, I wasn’t especially girlie. I didn’t care about dolls, or the color pink, or drawing hearts. I was more interested in looking for strange insects in the yard than helping my mother bake cakes, although I had no trouble licking off the batter at the bottom of the bowl. I did not dream about my prom or my wedding. Very strangely, I fantasized about being an Olympic hero, even though I had no athletic skill, or enthusiasm for that matter. It was about the “hero” part.
I didn’t grow up wishing to meet the ideal man to be my husband. In fact, the whole wedding scenario seemed like a lot of fuss and chaos. I gently laughed off each of the four times I was faced with a marriage proposal. Granted, as a girlfriend of mine likes to point out, unless they’re on one knee holding out a ring, it’s not a true “proposal.” And thank goodness, because I couldn’t very well laugh at a ring without being an asshole, could I?
At the same time, I’ve been in one relationship or another most of my adult life. I’ve had three great loves. After the relationships ended, all three continued to be like family. My first love made me see the world as a better place. My second love made me feel like I could do no wrong. And my third love is the most honorable man I’ve ever dated. He made me want to be a better person.
Of course, I’m guilty of my share of dating duds and missteps in between these exemplary men. But because of these three, I consider myself exceptionally lucky in love.
In a way, the guy asking about dating for “someone like me” had a legitimate question because of the unusual aspects of my situation.
It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve actually experienced being “single” as an adult. In addition, I’m stuck in a time-warp where I have the carefree lifestyle of someone twenty years younger than myself. Carefree is full of fun, it’s true, but it lacks stability. It’s impractical and doesn’t insure you a comfortable future. I’ve always known that by forgoing both a practical career and a domestic partnership, I’m risking a secure future. It’s as if my soul signed a “starving-artist for life” contract.
So dating, for “someone like” me is a catch-22; there are interested but inappropriate men everywhere.
They are inappropriate because they’re too young or too old for me, and in both cases, we don’t want the same things out of life. Really, when I say “young” or “old,” I refer to their stage of life rather than their age. I want more adventure than a mature guy wants, and the young guy situation is a conundrum onto itself.
At first, meeting a smart, decent-looking girl (I’m supposed to say “woman”) who doesn’t seek traditional commitment, has full-on jackpot appeal to a young guy. But neither the commitment-phobic girl, nor the young guy who can’t believe his luck, take into account that in spite of themselves, those who are attracted to substance find each other. Because of this, the interaction inevitably takes a serious turn, and the young guy finds himself in a dilemma because I’m the girl — the older girl — who doesn’t want a family. I’m a Gen Xer in a Gen Y world, so it’s not like there’s time for me to change my mind about kids. And who wants to be with someone who’s going to get older faster than them, anyway? I don’t. So, why should the young guys?
This brings me to my newly acquired suitability requirement. Age. But there’s a twist. I’d date a guy who’s in my age range, but who appears and behaves like he was born in the 80’s. A rock ‘n roller. I don’t mean the musician part; I mean the part where a rock ‘n roll dude isn’t an “old man” at any age. I mean the part where Iggy Pop is 66-years-old but has the energy of a cat on catnip and the build of a teenager who can’t snarl without burning calories.
I want somebody from my own personal time-warp, and it’s not a lot to ask. But he is as elusive as a Martian.
~ Continued at Dating for Martians: Does Online Dating mean Defeat? ~
- The notion of “suitability” of a potential partner can either serve or limit you. For a better shot at love, adjust accordingly — be somewhat flexible (not to be confused with “settling”).
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