How to Pick a Lover

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes to the bone.
—Evan Esar

There is a play, and subsequent movie, based on the story of the Elephant
Man, an unfortunate in Victorian England who was afflicted with a grotesque
deformity of head and body. You may feel many things for the Elephant Man,
from sympathy to respect to affection, but you may legitimately shrink from
the prospect of making love with him.

For each person, there are some attributes which are so offensive, so intolerable, that a person with such deficiencies is disqualified as a lover no matter what his other attractive features may be. If your early conditioning or your present sense of the aesthetic leads you to a definite judgment, then you must follow your instincts. Apart from the obvious fact that there is no need to martyr yourself by doing some kind of erotic social work in an intimate situation, it is almost impossible to conceal a sense of distaste if that is what you feel. Letting someone see, or even suspect, that you view them with revulsion is not so much insulting as it is wounding. If you can’t anticipate having sex with, at minimum, a sense of mildly pleasant anticipation, then it is better for everyone not to have sex at all.

Before you designate someone as an “elephant man,” however, you might pause and think about what features are absolutely essential and what features are merely preferable. Before eliminating all handicapped persons, remember
that many persons are handicapped in some way, if you compare them to the perfect health and physique manifested by an eighteen year old. You are entitled to some prejudices, but you should remember that to be prejudiced means to prejudge.

Some things that, in the abstract, sound rather distasteful turn out, in fact, to be not so bad or even irrelevant. One woman married a man who had lost one arm at the shoulder in a boyhood accident. They had a turbulent relationship, but she reported that his having only one arm was not a relevant factor and that, whatever his other limitations, he was a great lover. Could you love a blind man? A deaf one? How about one with a limp? With an artificial leg?

Let’s start with some easier questions. How about a man with a glass eye? a toupee? false teeth? Many physical problems are not exactly appealing but are within the realm of tolerable. Except in extreme cases, they are easier to live with than the less apparent psychological problems. If you find a potential lover who has the other, more important, positive
psychological traits, you might at least try to reconsider your need for physical perfection.

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