Dear Intimacy Doctor:
Simple question. I find myself incredibly attracted to this person, except physically. My body isn’t perfect by any means and I wouldn’t want someone discounting me because of physical attraction. But I can’t get myself turned on by this person. Am I a dick?
Dear Dick Face:
Simple answer first.
Yes. You totally are. But so is everyone else. Congratulations, you’re human.
Now,here is the more complicated answer.
We like what we like, for all types of reasons. I could talk about the science of attraction for days and days, but meh. And that’s not your question. You want to be with this person but you aren’t feeling it on a physical attraction level. So as we ping about through life, we meet great people. But sometimes they just don’t ring that bell inside us (there is your science-of-attraction spiel, right there).
But, dammit, they are COOL. We WANT to like them in that pitter-patter heart beating, inner bell ringing kind of way. And one of two things can happen.
Ideal world for you is this: Sometimes as we get to know someone well, their physicality ceases to matter. They just become THEMSELVES. We are more than the sum of our parts, of course. And as we get to know the essence of a person as a whole, those bits and pieces just get blurred into the rest of who they are. A friend of mine recently berated her husband for not calling her out on her weight gain. In the course of school and work and raising children, she looked up one day and realized she was unhappy with her body. She started exercising and started feeling better within a few weeks. She asked her husband, “Why didn’t you tell me things had gotten so bad?” He responded, so sweetly: “I never saw your weight, I only ever saw you.”
I know, Dick, you are hoping that you can see this person for all the things you adore about them, rather than a physical feature that you aren’t attracted to. And it can happen. Elisha Lim described this beautifully in her comic “100 Butches” (which is part of the comic anthology Gay Genius, edited by Annie Murphy): “When you love something, whether it’s jam and cheese sandwiches or wearing your pajamas as pants, if you just love it, you forget that it was anything other than commonplace.” Elisha was discussing her friend who happens to be FTM transgender. She ends the piece by stating simply that he is her jam and cheese sandwich. The rest didn’t matter.
So maybe that is what will happen. I get the feeling that’s what you are hoping will happen, right, Dick? It happens a lot. But the tricky part is, not always. We all have deal breakers. I don’t have a particular physical “type” myself (though I am partial to bearish guys who make me feel little, protected, and safe) as long as they are great human beings. I am fond of saying I have an intellectual type more than a physical type. Short, tall, big, small. Whatevs.
But you know what happened? I dated a smoker briefly. Super cool guy, but he just smelled AWFUL to me. No matter what he did to try to clean up, cigarette smoke is a smell that permeates. And so he stank (to me) all the time. I couldn’t get over it. I am very smell oriented and his smell didn’t jibe. I couldn’t handle it, and I tried. We had discussed it being an issue before we started dating. He wanted to give it a whirl. He didn’t smoke around me or anything. He was very considerate. But in the end? Ugh. Sometimes we just can’t even.
And that’s OK, too. Because you know what? You deserve to be with someone that rings that bell in you. And any future partner deserves to feel like the most attractive, amazing, excellent person in your eyes. No one wants to be a “yeah, but…” choice in the end. No one ever wants to feel like they are not quite good enough. The idea of not being enough is a relationship dead weight. I would rather be alone than not enough for someone. I think most people feel the same way.
Be this person’s friend. If they become your jam and cheese sandwich, I want an invitation to the wedding. If they “just” stay your wonderful friend, then that’s OK, too. But don’t toy with them. Because real dickitude happens when we don’t respect ourselves and others.
Follow-Up Report From Dick Face: Why, yes, Dick Face did indeed find his jam and cheese sandwich! He reports that despite a variety of differences (culture, religion, and the physical attraction issue he wrote in about), that the individual in question is so super-great he just “couldn’t say no.” They are quite enjoying each other’s company, nowdays. Dick Face is happy, content, and cheerfully grouses that it is all the Intimacy Doctor’s fault. I will just as cheerfully take the blame for a great result. Jam and cheese sandwiches for everyone!