What really attracts us?

For all of you breathlessly waiting for how it went at my first encounter with a 6th grade crush after 30 years, here it is!

Over lunch after our session, Tom mentioned that the only high school reunion he’d attended was our tenth–which means it’s been a few decades since we laid eyes on each other.  Interesting to be in one’s skin in these moments, when my mental picture of the person I’m going to meet hasn’t been updated since he was 18 and we’re a few years past that now….

I was fair, I didn’t peak.  I could have looked through the window next to the front door to see him before he saw me, but I was good.  I didn’t.  We both got our first looks at the same time, when I swung the front door open.

He wasn’t an athlete when I knew him–he was kind of a slight guy.  He’s still on the short side, but the man that greeted me when I opened my front door had the wide barrel chest and large arms of someone who’s done construction for some time, which he has.  I could almost see a shadow version of the smaller younger man, while also stepping out of my memories to look at him as if I’d never known him.  From the latter perspective, he looked like any 50 something guy–really, nothing remarkable-looking about him.

How much do we overemphasize looks in our culture?  Does that benefit us in anyway?  Many people have commented on how our striving for ever more perfect appearing human specimens leads to the ever more unrealistic expectations that airbrushing inevitably brings.

Did you ever notice how refreshing European movies are in that way?  We just watched The Girl Who Played with Fire.  One of the first things I noticed was how REAL the actors and actresses looked.  Erica, Mikael’s lover, is middle-aged, as he is, and no attempt to hide this is made.  I find that so refreshing.  British mystery movies,  one of the pasttimes David and I share, have the same quality of real people–pockmarked skin, male pattern baldness–the people in these movies dare to look like they’re older than Brittany Spears.  What courage!  Thank you!

Meanwhile,  back in the USA, the number one criteria for judgment of whether someone is relationship material is their “attractiveness,” which is 99% o fhte time 99% physical. And when your frame of reference is when you were 13, EVERYTHING is not only appearance but SEX SEX SEX.

So there we were, two middle-aged people of opposite sexes, married to our respective spouses and enjoying each others’ company.  The link–the connection–the ability to be real and trust each other, just being ourselves, was still there.  When you have a perspective that’s wider than junior high school, it can be about so much more than the physical act of sex.

It was about sex in the sense that it had the light energetic playful energy of flirting.  But it wasn’t about getting anybody into bed.  It gave me a new perspective on what really connects us as human beings.  Clearly that was still there–he was more interested in seeing what I’d been up to and asking me questions, I was equally curious to see what he’d done in his life and what was going on for him.

What a tremendous gift to have even one conversation in our lives like that!  How many do we ever have,when the other person is really and truly interested in what we have to say?  Have you noticed?  How often have you come back from vacation, brimming with adventures that you’re keen to share with the friends that you were thinking of while traveling–only to have them cut you off with THEIR favorite vacation story when you’ve gotten a max of two sentences into your thrilling account?  THAT’S why I say it’s truly a gift to have a conversation with someone who really listens and is interested in you.   So whether I see Tom again or not (and of course I’m hoping that I do–true friends are rare), that day was a gift.  THank you so much.

David and I do that kind of listening, of course.  That’s one of the reasons we share our relationship because we’re starting to get how different we are.  It is my observation that it’s a very rare thing. It’s something we can never get enough of, in my opinion.  Perhaps there’s a seminar in that–truly listening.  Stay tuned.

Come to think of it, I may end up sharing some of those tools at the talk I’m doing at the Small Business Administration.  It’s free.  It’s next Monday, 6-8:30 p.m., at the SBA on Market St. San Francisco.  The address is 455 Market, 6th floor.  I’d love to see you there!

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