There was this girl back in college who I really, really liked. I would bend over backwards for her and acted like an absolute fool around her. Looking back at it, it was quite pathetic, but it wasn’t anything unexpected of a teenager. (I started college at 16.) One day, she looked at me and told me that she would have dated me if it wasn’t for a couple of things. She said she preferred her men to be “slim” and “athletic.” (I was anything but “lean and swarthy.”) She also said that she preferred them to drive pickup trucks and look like — wait for it — Ben Affleck.
Maybe if I grew a beard?
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharongraphics/ / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
So we were just friends. We studied together, got together with friends once in a while, and nothing more. I haven’t talked to her for over six years now. The last time we met was while I drove through El Paso on a trip to Mexico. By then, I had met the woman who would be my wife, so that girl didn’t really have anything to offer to me, if you know what I mean. She was just another friend and that was that. Years later, I saw a picture of her and her then husband. He wasn’t slim nor athletic, and he looked nothing like Ben Affleck. But what do I know? Maybe Ben Affleck will eventually look like a man in his 50s although he’s in his 30s. (Childish jab #1)
I’m not saying her husband looks old, but this is the closest picture of someone resembling him that I could find. And the dude is 34! (Childish jab #1.5)
Photo credit: Shavar Ross / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Before I met that girl, there was this other girl I knew from High School. She was very pretty. Blonde and with blue eyes, she really stood out among all of us Mexican kids at that high school. As most young girls look to young men, she was very attractive. All the boys wanted to be her friends. She was out of my league, so I didn’t even try to woo her. Years later, I would see a picture of her and her family on a friend’s Facebook page. She is now very, very overweight, has four kids, and, as it turns out, she dyed her hair. (The eyes are still blue, from what I gather.) This is not a bad thing, per se. Lord knows I could stand to lose some weight. But I do wonder how many of those boys back then would still date her if she had today’s BMI back then?
I couldn’t find a current picture of her, but this… Pretty much this.
Photo credit: John & Mel Kots / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
In case you haven’t caught the gist of this blog post, I’d like to warn the young ones of looking too closely at the superficial attributes of a person because those attributes will undoubtedly go away. Us adults have heard this all along, and we can now confirm it. I can confidently tell you that we get heavier as we age, skin and body parts will sag, hair will change color, and waist-to-hip ratios in women will be less than the ideal.
But you won’t listen to me, or to anyone. I know this because I was warned of this by my elders. I was told not to chase the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls didn’t necessarily make the best companions. But I didn’t listen because, at the time, it was my “cave man” brain that was running the show. Blondes with blue eyes and light skin and 0.7 waist-to-hip ratios were my thing. And I was willing to do almost anything to “hook up” with them, even stupid things. Stupid, stupid, stupid things.
Seriously, it’s amazing that I’m still around, given what I did.
It is absolutely okay to be drawn to a person physically before anything else. We’re hard-wired that way. Those attributes we find attractive indicate good physical genes, and we are driven to reproduce. We’re sexual animals, whether you like it or not. But there will come a time when you’re going to want to have a conversation with that person, and you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment if you just focus on the physical.
That’s how it went with my wife. When I first met her, I thought she was the most beautiful “thing” ever. She fit the bill, so to speak, when it came to physical attributes I found attractive. However, she really “hit one out of the park” on our first date, when she held a conversation with me and showed how intelligent she was. We went to a bookstore and had a really great time. As the weeks went by, the dating went from being all about me liking how she looked to being about the conversations, the emails, the chats. It went from me being proud to have “eye candy” with me in social settings to me being proud of dating a successful young lady with a master’s degree and the respect of her peers.
We are now aging together. I’m getting gray hairs. She’s getting gray hairs, though not as many. I’ve gained weight. She still looks good. What will not change is our ability to have awesome conversations with each other, and to play off each other when we have conversations with other people. I don’t remember a day spent together when we didn’t laugh with each other and even at each other. We love each other’s company, and we are each other’s “partner in crime.” Had I stuck to just liking her for her looks, the time would come when I wouldn’t like that anymore.
These bears get along almost as well as my wife and I do. Almost.
Photo credit: ucumari / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Then again, had the girl who only liked “Ben Afflecks” but, seemingly, ended up marrying her father (childish jab #2), had she fallen for me, I would have not left El Paso, I would have not met my wife, and I would not be as happy as I am today. So, on the one hand, don’t be superficial. On the other hand, be superficial. You might just let go someone who’ll go on to be very happy without you and your superficiality.
This has been my totally self-absorbed and self-centered post for the year. Maybe.
Featured image photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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