In my early twenties, I dated a guy I’m going to call “Nate” for the purpose of this story.
Nate and I had gone to high school together, but he was older and ran in more popular circles than I did. In a turn of events which I can only describe as rom-com-worthy, a mutual friend ended up setting us up years after we had both graduated, and we ended up dating for almost a year.
Nate was, to put it delicately, hot.
Like, not simply cute or good-looking, but hot. And for some reason, he wanted to date me. Now I’m not saying I’m ugly or anything. But, I’m certainly never going to be mistaken for a model. (As John Cusack would put it in High Fidelity, I’m a “middle-weight.”) It was, on some level, baffling for this handsome guy to be dating me. I always went for the wiry, bookish types, so this was certainly an aberration.
And, while I still look back on this particular occurrence with some confusion, I will say that I learned some valuable lessons from the experience. Namely:
5. He didn’t seem to care about our disparate levels of attractiveness.
In my mind, I always assumed that someone who’s more attractive than you knows that they’re more attractive than you. However, I gradually came to find that this isn’t really the case. If somebody genuinely likes you — your personality, your looks, your demeanor, the whole package of YOU — then your stock is elevated in their eyes and is independent of what the rest of the world sees. And yes, I know that sounds incredibly corny, but it happens to be true.
After I’d been dating my significantly-more-attractive significant other for a while, I came to realize that somewhere along the way, I had stopped seeing Nate as “hot” and started seeing him as his own, unique self. Even though I knew he was still classically attractive, it was no longer the superficial arrangement of his features that I was responding to — it was his familiarity. And while I initially questioned his interest in me, I slowly came to realize that the same was true for him: he wasn’t really registering my physical appearance so much as my presence.
This all sounds incredibly hippie-dippy. But, romance can be stupid that way.
4. He had just as many insecurities as I did.
There are always statistics suggesting that beautiful people have easier lives — they’re more likely to get job offers, earn higher salaries, have more romantic success, etcetera. And part of me believes that this is true.
However, my personal experience found that regular, everyday beautiful people tend to be more aimless and unsure of what they’re doing with their lives (which may very well be a result of having things handed to them). Sure, we see gorgeous, successful celebrities and assume life is like that for all notably attractive people. But what about all of the regular people out there who just happen to have fantastic genes through no particular fault of their own?
Nate was remarkably good-looking. But, being remarkably good-looking in a small Texas town simply resulted in a guy who had partied too much and had a lot of sex without ever bothering to develop an ambition.
In this sense, I think Nate envied me a little bit. While he was more popular and attractive, I was arguably the more intelligent one who at least had a solid notion of what I wanted to do with my life. I had done well in school, whereas Nate had barely shown up to his classes. Whenever this fact would come up, either in conversation or in arguments, he would become embarrassed, saying he wasn’t “good enough” for me.
Everybody has their tender spots — even (and especially) hot people.
3. Of course, I had always wanted to have sex with someone hotter than me — until it was actually happening.
Sure, salivating over an attractive person is fun … until you’re actually faced with the prospect of undressing in front of them. Then, you find that you’re suddenly a bit more self-conscious than normal, and you feel an annoying and inexplicable need to apologize. “But wait,” you think. “Isn’t this supposed to be the pinnacle of sexual experiences? Why am I so in my head right now?”
Well, you’re in your head because you’ve just realized that “fantasy becoming reality” entails a particularly heavy dose of reality.
It’s confusing for your libido. On one hand, it’s like, “Wow! I get to touch this hot guy!” On the other hand, your brain is like “Uh, maybe we can just do it through a hole in the sheet, like Yentl?” You become aware of all of the ways in which you don’t physically “stack up” to this person, and it sort of makes you feel like you’ve hired a male escort. (Which, again, is probably a hotter fantasy than reality.)
Of course, I eventually got over my hangups. Because that’s really all they were: MY hangups, not his. He wasn’t seeing the imperfections that I was seeing, and it wasn’t some huge, crushing disappointment for him when he saw me naked.
Give hot people credit: they already know what you look like, and they’re having sex with you because they want to have sex with you.
2. Women were, surprisingly, nicer to me.
This was weird, but part of me had expected other women to narrow their eyes at me when they saw me out and about with my Hot Boyfriend. That’s perhaps an uncharitable thought, but it’s no secret that there’s an unfair sense of competition among many women, and I assumed that my attractive significant other would earn me a fair amount of glares.
But it didn’t actually happen that way. Rather, other women seemed … impressed? I should probably be more insulted by this, but it felt like women were actually heartened by the idea that an average-looking girl could snag herself a beefcake. “He’s really cute,” they would say to me in confused awe when he left the room. Again, part of me wanted to be annoyed that they clearly thought he was out of my league, but I won’t lie: it was also pretty satisfying.
1. Attractiveness ultimately didn’t make up for our drastically different personalities.
Of course, beauty isn’t everything. That’s something I’ve known (or at least been told) since I was little. But it’s easy to forget. After all, aren’t we all striving to obtain beauty on a regular basis? If Instagram has taught us anything, it’s that beauty is the ultimate lifestyle “goal,” and that achieving it will earn us free international travel and sponsorship deals. Right?
Maybe for some people. Dating a ridiculously good-looking person was fun and taught me important lessons about self-worth, but his attractiveness couldn’t keep the spark in our relationship. If anything, it made me stay in a relationship that was already dead for far longer than I should have. Part of me wanted this model guy to be the right person for me because I liked how the idea of dating him made me feel.
But, I ultimately realized that there was no way to resuscitate a relationship when the only thing it had going for it was me liking the way my boyfriend looked.
Attraction is one thing. Compatibility is another thing entirely.