on perfect bodies

your body perfect

not for its fact, or form–

but because it’s yours

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The Frog and the Prince: Reflections on Sex Appeal, Sweetness, and a Walk in the Woods

Can I give you a handshake, or a hug? he said.

A hug, I said. It was the beginning of our first intended meeting, and the hug was attenuated and avuncular.

Yesterday I went on this sweet and beautiful hike with a very sweet and kind and gentle man. It was a date, of sorts, and it should have been awkward (we are both awkward) but it was in no way awkward. It was a calm adventure, a winter walk down a slippery trail, the air cold, the possibilities like the trail itself, mysterious and unknown to me, and seemingly unending. And in its utter quiet, the pristine quality of winter seemed preserved.

And I knew, in a manner visceral and a sense immediate: this was not a man who would ever hurt me. Not a little. I could have a quiet, happy, pleasant, simple, intellectual sort of life with him. It is presumptuous to project that sort of delusion outward, but it is also self-evident in a way that I cannot explain, I just know. He would always have follow up questions, he would always make time, he would be present and available. And that is nice.

The trouble, with this particular man, at least as I understood it, was a plain one. It was nothing in his personality or temperament or demeanor. He had flaws, sure, a compensating ego, a measure of baggage, a certain quality of absentmindedness that might have been adorable, but in his case, was entirely devoid of charm. Overall, though, he was a catch in most measures. Smart, capable, sometimes funny. Sweeter than honey. His only shortcoming to speak of, one I am almost too embarrassed to admit, was an utter lack of sex appeal. It’s not that he was physically unattractive; I found him handsome, masculine, generally good-looking. I just didn’t fall into a spell on his sight.

There is more to life than sex appeal, I realize. One should not be so shallow. Sex appeal is not going to make you tea when you’re sick or hold you when your grandmother dies or render a commitment to be faithful. Sex appeal is not going to spoon you while you’re sleeping or cook your favorite food for dinner every Thursday or love you if you gain a lot of body weight, if you’re grumpy, when the chips are down. 

And in my own experience, I’ve known a lot of men with a lot of sex appeal and where has it gotten me? It’s gotten rocks thrown at my window, and that’s about it. So on the balance, sex appeal is overrated, I think.

Nevertheless.

It’s something.

And it’s a hard something to get over, especially when your most recent and best-loved ex was so full of raw physical appeal that in spite of how horrible he was as a boyfriend, he is still on your mind.

But I am trying to change my pattern of choosing men who aren’t in the business of staying, who are beautiful but broken, well-intentioned by unavailable, who are brilliant but unkind. So I went on this date, knowing full well that my initial reaction was a pleasant one, but that I did not feel compelled by him, physically.

Nevertheless, the date went well and he was sweet and we talked and did a lot of laughing, I was never bored, and it was never awkward. I enjoyed being around him, liked the ease of speaking to him, appreciated what he had to say. So at the end of the date, I asked can I give you a hug? and he said yes, and the hug lingered, and somehow found its way into being a kiss. Not the sort of  kiss you’d give your grandmother, either. After a moment I drew my face away from his and looked at him, in stunned silence. 

He kissed me again. I kissed back. It was surprisingly good. When I looked at him again, I saw him in an entirely different light. And in my mind, I kept replaying that moment for days.