I’ve been mulling over the nature of attraction, and therefore also the nature of repulsion. Mostly attraction, but why are we sometimes drawn to a stranger or a picture and other times repelled by one? However, I'm not going to talk about repulsion, as that is unpleasant, and instead focus on the desire for the train to slow down a little before it reaches your stop. Setting aside generally objective standards of beauty, as well as what we find personally physically appealing, what causes us to seek out an encounter or delay ending one with someone we might not otherwise notice in a crowd, or a waiting room, or mowing a lawn, perhaps?
It’s not scent; it occurs online sometimes, as well, though this can create a false narrative. Over the years I’ve met a couple dozen people I spoke with online, male and female, mostly female, and the ones with whom I settled in and really connected to weren’t always the ones I’d have predicted.
Sometimes I’m at a Target on the other side of town where the cashier available at that time of day is a fairly stereotypical gay man about my age. He wears a divine scent and we always have a bit of good conversation. I’m drawn to his scent, and I like our brief talks, but I don’t feel drawn to him in any way other than by a notion we probably have some commonalities based on age. He
might would probably bore me at dinner. But recently at the symphony, I made a polite remark to a woman sitting near me, and this caused her to strike up a conversation during intermission. She was clearly one of those people with a thousand stories, able to hold court wherever she is, surrounded by listeners. I’m often drawn to that archetype, at least, the female version, and will politely listen, nod, and smile in turn. A man who holds court in that fashion is rarely interesting to me, and I wonder what the difference is, but I suppose that’s another topic.
That’s all another kind of attraction, anyway, not the “I might like to touch your arm as we speak” variety.
I might be mulling this over because as I age, the bits of attractiveness I relied on to ease myself through the extroverted world are mostly all faded, and I feel sometimes like quite a different person than the one I see in the mirror, especially since I began wearing glasses all the time. I never felt like my insides and outsides quite matched anyway, but they do even less so now. It vainly occurred to me that other people have probably been confronting this all along. And as I never regarded their beauty or the lack of it as a paramount characteristic, why should I assume other people ever regarded me only as something to view or avoid viewing? I’m not really so awful as to think I am the only person in the room with a measure of depth…
We should definitely all smell nice and make our hair and clothes neat when we go out. Is it old-fashioned of me to think so? I don’t care.
A few days ago, I was watching a TV show, and saw a young actor who struck me with his beauty. (Yes, like a smack on the back of the head.) I looked him up to see what else he appeared in and learned he is about 30 years old. Yikes. I was drawn to him on screen, nonetheless, but would I have been in real life? It’s doubtful, as I’m generally drawn to people, in this way or the other way, who are about my same age or just a little older. There’s a data equation for it with incrementally shifting variables, I think. But as I grow older, one thing never changes, and it’s that thing I seemed to start out talking about at the beginning of this wandering typefest.
For me, that “I want to touch your arm as we speak” sensation occurs only with men, but it’s reasonable to assume both males and females might experience it with either gender. It’s physical attraction, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into “I want to touch you beneath your clothing.” People are sometimes confused on that point, and would breathe a lot easier if they’d stop to consider the matter for what it is and isn't. Did you ever have a “work spouse,” which I understand to be a thing, and actually try to take that next step with him or her, only to have it end in awkwardness and the sense that you can never go back to your previous groovy “we might, but we don’t” status? Sometimes, anticipation is the reward. You pin that person to your internal “I probably would” board, but don’t actually follow through.
When I was younger, I was really no good at that. If I wanted someone, he’d absolutely learn about it. But I was a little mixed up and would get in over my head. My switch was stuck halfway on, which isn’t nice for other people. I wanted it badly sometimes, yet not quite enough to follow through (that is inaccurate; it was the protective mechanism of fear, not lack of desire, that took over.) Well, I loved that “we could if only we could” sensation, and would happily sustain it for a long time, but then switch off if the response was too close to reality. I wasn’t this way on purpose; I just didn’t know how to take anyone as seriously as they take themselves, which can be terribly hurtful. To be honest, I’m still no good at that, but eventually I learned to avoid any appearance of interest, which is a kinder path to take, though it became too stringent. I used to laugh and say if I were a man I’d have been…much more physically impulsive. Certain gender-defining properties being what they are, it’s possible. But I can’t think about that more than very abstractly. I cannot for the life of me imagine what sort of woman I’d find attractive were I a man. Perhaps if I were a man, I’d still just prefer other men.
So, where was I? On a train ride, perhaps, stuck on that one bridge between Penn Station and Seacaucus for no reason anyone ever could see. Or in a waiting room or a bookstore. Very little is said, there’s just some palpable nature to the air that brings a smile when thought of later on.
Is it always reciprocal? Is that particular (from chemical or electrical particles? neat thought) sensation only possible when it goes both ways? It’s awfully nice to think so, even though it usually doesn’t and generally shouldn’t lead anywhere further. I think we should, with our better natures, remain open to these little moments in time, appreciate our connectivity, allow it to energize our thoughts and moods and improve our view of humanity. I allowed that to happen pretty often when I was younger, not only in the more focused manner I referred to above, but just out and about in the world. I’ve probably been overlooking that opportunity for years now, knowing there’ll never be another boy with a bouzouki looking back at a girl seemingly made entirely of contrasts. That girl wasted some measurable energy mourning the loss of something that could never, ever be real, though. This woman knows there is no loss in appreciating energy without seeking to manipulate it.