Monday, December 13, 2004

Before I go on

I need to explain something about where I am regarding men with physical issues such as disabilities, burn scars, etc. I’ve gotten emails from people expressing anger over my last couple of posts, including one beautiful and heartfelt letter from a woman who herself is a burn victim. Thank you for pointing out that I have some explaining and qualifying to do. I apologize to the people I've hurt.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I’m perfectly willing, even happy, to date people with physical disabilities, or people with issues that are asthetic, such as burn scars. Indeed, I have dated such people. One of my more infamous dating stories involves a man, paralyzed from the chest down, with whom I went on two wonderful dates. I really liked him. I did a lot of soul-searching about what I wanted, and what I could handle, and I really wanted to date him more. But, of course, he dumped me, ostensibly because I’m older than he is, which just goes to show that the able-bodied do not have a monopoly on superficiality. But I digress.

Shortly before the Shabbaton, I went on several dates with a very cool guy who happens to have a very obvious disability – not just an asthetic issue, but a functional one, a disability that would have necessitated certain lifestyle adjustments on my part had the relationship gotten more serious.

Perhaps it was this recent experience that soured me, for the time being, on men who have something “unusual” about their appearance. Let me give an analogy to illuminate the situation:

Let’s say a woman has recently been in a relationship with an ER doctor. He’s a great guy but they had problems working out certain issues between them, including his long and often unpredictable hours at work. She appreciated that he was saving lives. But it drove her crazy that they constantly had to cancel plans because he’d be called into the hospital or have to stay late. She felt like he was always at work, and wondered if she could really handle being with someone who is almost never around. Is that what she wants? What is important to her? How can she begrudge someone who is saving lives? Etc. She’s been doing a lot of “heavy thinking” about this. Meanwhile, the relationship ends because of some combination of other issues. Basically, they were not meant to be, but she’s invested a lot of time into untangling her confusion about his work issues.

A few weeks later, her friend wants to set her up with a new guy, and says “and guess what, he’s also an ER doctor. A lot of women can’t handle that, because of the long hours, but I know that you can, because you just went out with someone for a long time who is an ER doctor.”

Well, can you blame our girlfriend here for saying “Normally I’d seriously consider it, but I’m tired of dating doctors. I’m tired of dealing with their long hours. I’m tired of having to think about it. Right now I want to find someone with a 9-5 job so it will be easier and I won’t have to make heavy decisions.”

Does this make our friend “anti-doctor”? No, of course not. She knows that this other ER guy is a different person, and maybe they would work through their problems better than she did with the last boyfriend. Or maybe he’d simply be better suited to her and suddenly the long hours wouldn’t matter to her as much. But right now she does not want to deal with it. Right now, she needs a break from doctors.

That’s how I feel about men with disabilities. I need a break. I’m tired of thinking about “can I handle this? Do I care what other people think? How would this affect my lifestyle? Can he have children? When is it safe to ask that? Etc etc” It doesn’t mean that men with disabilities aren’t datable in my book. It just means that I’m tired of dealing with that issue at the moment, and would rather deal with some other issue, like a crazy mother-in-law or a bizarre obsession with Legos. In a few weeks, maybe I’ll be back to being OK with disabilities. Sometimes these things are about timing.

I recognize that everyone has flaws, and everyone has disabilities. They just aren’t usually obvious before the person has opened their mouths. But for now, I’ve had enough of dealing with obvious flaws and would rather take my chances on the hidden ones. Get back to me in 2 weeks and I might tell you something different.

None of which really addresses Daveed- the guy with the burns – because in this case we’re not talking about a physical disability, but rather an asthetic issue.

Regarding asthetic issues, I have two things to say:

a) Like any issue of asthetics, there’s no explaining why some people are attracted or anattracted to certain things. Some women love beards, I happen to hate them. Some women can’t stand balding guys, others think they are sexy. One woman’s teddy bear is another woman’s “ew.” I once had a huge, huge crush on a man so, eh, unusual in his appearance that my friends openly told me that they don’t understand how I could possibly think he’s so cute. And yet to me he was adorable. Some things are about timing, and some are about taste and can’t be explained in any logical way. Maybe I'm turned off by burn scars, but would happily date a man who is missing an arm. And maybe my best friend feels the opposite.

And yet, there is another issue:

b) I cannot speak for all women, but I can speak for myself when I say that the more confident I feel about my own looks, the more likely I am to be open to a man who is somehow “unusual” in appearance. There is an inverse relationship between how happy I am about myself and how much I need a man to “validate” me in some way. I don’t think I’m alone. There’s a reason that supermodels seem to date short, bald, overweight men more than you’d think: Being secure in their own beauty, supermodels are free to date men who make them laugh, share their values, whatever – no matter what the man looks like. They have nothing to lose by dating someone “ugly.” For them, there is no "what will people think" factor, because these women know what people think: They think "let's put her on the cover of Cosmo."

But a woman who feels bad about herself will be less likely to overcome the “what will other people think” factor, which is her loss. I know absolutely that to the extent that my non-interest in Daveed may have been because of the “what will people think” factor, I may have lost out on a great guy. But I was in a bad place, emotionally, on this Shabbaton, and I don’t think it’s fair to call me superficial because I knew my own limits at that particular time. Realistically speaking, a woman who can be seriously interested in a man who cannot get from point A to point B without a wheelchair can’t be an inherently superficial person. I just don’t believe that about myself.

Do I hate it when men look for trophy women to “validate” them? You betcha. So, am I being a hypocrite? Yes.

But I’m working on it. I struggle with this. And like I indicated before, maybe in 2 weeks I won’t be a hypocrite about it anymore.

And I dare any of my readers to claim truthfully that looks truly don’t matter to them. The people who say that “looks don’t matter to me” really mean that “my taste in looks is different from most people’s.” But everyone has some sort of “taste.” Of course it matters to everyone! It’s just that there are some people who go to Baskin Robbins and decide they are picky about their flavors and there are only two flavors they like. They are hard to please. And other people are more open and like 37 of the flavors (and therefore are much happier customers of the ice cream scene!). But no one likes all 39.

And yet, each of the 39 flavors is liked by someone, or Baskin Robbins wouldn’t be selling it.

Is this metaphor still making sense or have I lost you?

1 comment:

  1. Sarah -- Don't beat yourself up about all this. The fact is, you SHOULD feel strong attraction to the person you're with. I know too many women who have been married to guys with great resumes and handsome features but don't have the magnetic pull on them. And like you say, everyone has different tastes. My advice to you is to forget all the hypotheticals, could you or couldn't you, what if this or what if that, and just go with it and let yourself fall in love with the person, whatever that person is or isn't....