As I have said before; given the limited traffic this blog receives, it is rather easy to be completely open and uninhibited in what I say here. There will be no comments, no criticism, no anger, just the unending silence of a vast and inescapable web. There is a strange and commutable comfort in the silence and lack of attention, I am sure we all know what it is like to be free from the glaring eye of a boss, or co-worker, or peer, and how freeing it can be when it occurs.
A young woman confided to me the other day (I say "young" because, technically, she is young, although she is only a few years younger than me) via text-based communication that a 50+ year old man had hit on her as she worked at a hospital. My immediate response, and the one I then exchanged back to her via said text-based communication, was that the event sounded uncomfortable. To be hit on by someone over twice your age, especially as a woman, I imagine, is not at all a highlight of the day.
But, alas, given how I am perpetually wrong on issues of and pertaining to, well, everything and anything, I was wrong here, too. Indeed, being hit on had actually brightened her day significantly!
Why, you might ask ("you" being the nonexistent reader of this blog), would this brighten her day? Well, in the apparent spirit of confidants who long know each other (to which neither of us are to each other at all) she said that she is almost never hit on or flirted with, and that to receive the attention of one that suggested that she was "pretty" was something that made her happy.
Of course, I then was a bit flummoxed on how to respond. Do I sympathize? After all, in my 26 and a half years of existence, nobody, not a soul, has ever flirted or hit on me, so I suppose I could relate, in a way. Being complimented certainly feels good. I can't say I really want to be complimented on my looks by someone twice my age, and given that I am a white male, such compliments hardly come with the sort of harmful baggage that they could if our sex was flipped. But I guess, so to speak, one needn't look a gift horse in the mouth; a compliment or flirtation from an 80 year old serial killer, as deplorable a source as it is, would be the first time someone not from my family would have complimented me on my looks face-to-face. Then again, it's easy to imagine myself feeling worse that the only person who thought I looked good made a habit out of killing people. But I digress!
I see the degree of severity our search for looking pretty damages us. One, after all, does not approach someone for the first time at a bar, restaurant, club, class, social gathering or the like, that they "hear across the way" or "smell across the way" or, God forbid, "taste across the way" but rather, they approach someone they "see across the way," someone who looks attractive, or interesting, although the two constantly overlap. I can imagine that, especially as a woman, where the already draining baggage of looking attractive is amplified and magnified, going through life with little to no complimentary attention could become a source of extreme self-doubt.
And yet, we constantly fall back on our animal instincts, instincts that have often caused us to reach a species high-point when we break them, not rely on them, and say "you have to be attracted to someone physically" or post on our social media how beautiful/sexy/hot someone is, knowing full well that we are potentially alienating those outside "conventional" attraction, alienating those who have never had those words said to them. Not that it's your job to "break" conventional attraction, your responsibility to not publically display your attraction to someone, your responsibility to deny visual cues and ignore the easiest and fastest way to indulge yourself in observing someone, but as often is the case, sometimes the things we say hurt the people we don't say them to as much as the things we say to hurt do.
I see this every day, myself, in things I do. After a year's worth of "liking" every single girl on Tinder, no questions asked, I have received 4 likes back. That I have rotated my photos, my profile info, have switched tones completely, and tried many other things, only illustrates the point that I am, alas, not at all physically attractive. In fact, there is a rather long laundry list of ways I don't meet conventional standards of attraction that I will not bore the previously aforementioned non-existent reader of this blog with. That I have never been approached at a bar, or other social setting only reaffirms this. That my friends - or at least, those who were my friends, ostensibly, in high school - told me to my face that I wasn't much a looker, well, if it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, then it certainly is a duck, forever doomed to shitty insurance commercials and the banality of modern society. Where was I? Ah, yes. It becomes a bit draining, to be constantly reminded that one is not attractive, or good looking, or what have you. As I said, compliments feel good. I suppose everyone just wants to be adored by someone, and we all have our shallow moments.
I could, then, use this passage to link to the relative onslaught of studies suggesting that good looking people receive better grades, better pay, more positive social interaction, and I would sound bitter. I suppose I already sound a bit the latter, but the point of this blog is hardly academic, and this post has rambled on a bit.
So, in my bumbling causative reaction to the young woman's assertion that being hit on by an older man made her feel good, I simply suggested that, as long as the man wasn't creepy or persistent about it, then, well, I am glad it made you feel good. I could have interspersed my complete lack of said experience, but such trifling concerns of mine are as such, and I did not want to deflect the moment into a "woe is me" story, when clearly she wanted some attention.
Perhaps my response wasn't the response she wanted. Perhaps it was. I am rather sure that if someone hit on me, my first reaction would be to wish I had a CAT scanner to ascertain what was wrong with them. That is probably not an endearing response, but given a rapidly approaching third decade of existence of no social indulgences or revelations related to physical attraction, affirmation, or compliments, it is the one I fall back on. Given that such experience will never occur to me, the overwhelming evidence suggests that, not only am I destined to be forever ugly on the inside, but forever ugly on the outside, too.