How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘physical attraction’

Don’t Play Pygmalion

Men will never disappoint us if we observe two rules: 1) to find out what they are; 2) to expect them to be just that.
—George Iles

Some people view their intimate associates as promising material from which they can make interesting people. Like the legendary Pygmalion, they want to create others in their own image. This is called teaching or helping or guiding or improving or a number of other euphemisms, but it still boils down to trying to change the other person. People, however, resist being changed . . . especially adult males.

The quest for change has two pitfalls, both equally serious. It is possible, but rare, that you do succeed in changing a person. When that happens, you may have created someone other than the kind of person who attracted you in the first place. Barbra Streisand asks rhetorically, “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”

Duets (Barbra Streisand album)

Duets (Barbra Streisand album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second pitfall, and one infinitely more common, is that you will keep expecting and hoping that he will change; but of course, he never does. There’s a continual sense of rage, which comes down to the demand, “Why can’t you be different than you are?” If you want a man who is different, go and find yourself a different man. Don’t waste his time and yours to everyone’s distress and disillusionment, trying to make a better model citizen of the one whom you have. This is one case in which the most appropriate solution is “love him or leave him.”

When you pick a lover, you pick someone who is as close as possible to your ideal man, and remember your ideal lover may be very different from your ideal boyfriend or husband. Once you have done that, learn to accept him for what he is and insist that he accept you in return. Lovers should be involved in trying to discover each other rather than trying to reinvent each other in a new image.

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Beware of the Great Ghost Lover

There is sanctuary in reading, sanctuary in formal society, in the company of old friends, and in the giving of officious help to strangers, but there is no sanctuary in one bed from the memory of another.
—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

There’s nothing quite so wondrous, quite so awesome, quite so interesting as the first time you fall in love. It may not be with the first man whom you take as a lover . . . indeed, such emotional monogamy is more likely the exception than the rule. The intensity is partly due to ignoring or refusing to accept the possibility that such a feeling can end—not only on his part but also on yours.

If, in addition, the thrill of first love is combined with the thrill of first making love and if that initiation is a satisfactory experience, then it sets up the conditions for a powerful kind of imprinting. Newly hatched goslings will imprint on any moving object they happen to see—a moving wooden cube, the heel of their keeper, a ball of wool—and they will follow that object with all the persistence and devotion that nature intended them to bestow on the mother goose that hatched them. In the same way, a woman whose first love experience coincides with her first sexual experience, or at least her
first erotic and wonderful sexual experience, may for the rest of her days be imprinted upon a certain kind of man.

The man who was your first love may provide an idealized model for masculinity in general. If the first eyes that you loved loved you back, and said so, were let’s say, slate gray, then twenty years later, slate-gray eyes across a crowded room will still seem more riveting than they actually are. If the first kisses of great passion were enclosed in a full beard, then twenty years later, a full beard is still a special male plumage of particular appeal. Whether he was tall or short, handsome or gnome-like, muscular or slender, there’s a body type, a body image, which continues to hold for your extraordinary potential appeal.

English: Man with beard sleeping.

English: Man with beard sleeping. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, by chance, you meet someone who seems almost the same as your first great ghost lover from the past, he’ll almost win your heart just by standing there and breathing in and out. Beware. Looking the same doesn’t at all mean that he’s the same. You pick him not for what he is but for the man he reminds you of, which isn’t very flattering to him when he figures it out. You will then project on to him the other traits of the great ghost lover and will be duly disappointed when, quite naturally, he doesn’t live up to these uncanny expectations.

If you find your first great love reincarnated, recognize the source of your attraction. Talk to him if you can’t resist the temptation to do so or if you should want to spoil your illusion with a little reality shock. Take his picture. But don’t take him to your bed in an attempt to go back in time. Even if he looks the same, he won’t be the same and you’ll both be disappointed—you, by his failure to mimic a vanished man he has never met, and he, by your failure to appreciate the fine and unique person that he, in fact, is.

And while you are thinking about your great ghost lover, remember the words of warning from the often-quoted author Bill Vaughan: “It’s never safe to be nostalgic about something until you’re absolutely certain there’s no chance of it coming back.”

The Rebound Effect

A Frenchwoman, when double crossed, will kill her rival; the Italian woman would rather kill her deceitful lover; the Englishwoman simply breaks off relations—but they all console themselves with another man.
—Charles Boyer

One would think that when suffering the pain of having been rejected in love, a rational woman might foreswear love forever and give up on the whole game. At least, one might expect her to walk around for some time muttering, “Never again, never again.”

In reality, it’s only when a woman has left her man because she’s bored with him or offended or outraged that she thinks seriously of giving up men in general. If the man leaves her, then it’s quite another matter—even if she didn’t much want him anyway. If he leaves her, it becomes a matter of pride. To prove that there’s nothing wrong with her, that although unloved she’s not unlovable, she needs a new love affair—or at least the option of one.

ON THE REBOUND

ON THE REBOUND (Photo credit: Neal.)

To paraphrase the nineteenth-century novelist Barbey d’Aurevilly, “Next to the wound, what men make best is the bandage.”

The rebound love affair involves not so much a quest for love as a quest for reassurance. If you’re acting on such a motive, it’s helpful to be aware of it and to take it into account. When a middle-aged man seduces a young girl in order to prove to himself that he’s still young enough to be a macho swordsman, we tend to think that he’s exploiting her. Although it often occurs that men use women and hurt them badly in the process, it’s necessary to remember that women may also use men and may also hurt them badly.

If your motive in an affair is mainly to seek consolation and reassurance after an unfortunate love affair to bind up your wounds, so to speak, then be sure you don’t exploit the lover you pick. He might well delude himself that you loved him for himself alone and not for the incidental fact of his propinquity.

“Marriage Reminds Me of Death”

I never will marry,
I’ll be no man’s wife.
I expect to live single
All the rest of my life.
—Fred Brooks, “I Will Never Marry”

In the old days, when a man came a-courtin’, a young girl’s father might take him aside in the parlor and inquire, “Are your intentions honorable? Are you seriously considering my daughter as a wife, or are you wasting her time?”

In the new courtship, which doesn’t necessarily lead to marriage, the question is still relevant. While you may harbor no intent to commit matrimony, it doesn’t mean that your lover harbors no such intent. If it so happens that your lover is in serious pursuit of a wife, he has a right to know if you would ever consider getting married, and if so, if you would ever consider getting married to him.

The cultural stereotype in our society affirms that, generally, it’s the woman who wants to get married and it’s the man who must be coaxed or snagged or snaffled into making that commitment. If that was the case in the past, it’s not necessarily so today when unmarried women can lead quite different lifestyles than did the spinsters of the past.

Cover of "The Marrying Kind"

Cover of The Marrying Kind

Some women don’t want to marry ever. They concur with the spinster aunt in Somerset Maugham’s Mrs. Craddock who exclaims, “Marriage is always a hopeless idiocy for a woman who has enough of her own to live upon.”

Other women, once burned, never want to marry again. Yet despite being misogamists—one who hates marriage—they sometimes find themselves succumbing to social pressures to marry again. Such women should belong to Divorcees Anonymous, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. When they feel the urge to get married again, they could call an emergency number, and Divorcees Anonymous would immediately send over a fat man in a T-shirt, with a six-pack of beer, who settles down in the living room to watch football on the tube.

Women who are ideologically opposed to marriage would go along with Gloria Steinem’s commonly quoted maxim: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” If, whatever your reasons, you are adamantly not the marrying kind, then it’s important for you to make that clear to any man who becomes involved with you. The folk wisdom has been justly critical of the man who seems to court a woman but whose intentions are not honorable—that is, he has no intention of marrying her. A woman is equally at fault if she lets a man hope to marry her when she knows from the start that marriage to anyone—or at least marriage to him—isn’t for her.

Rule Two: Accept Responsibility for Birth Control

Without the full capacity to limit her own reproduction, a woman’s other “freedoms” are tantalizing mockers that cannot be exercised.
—Lucinda Cisler, Sisterhood Is Powerful

The sexual mores of the later half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century are indeed different from what they were in the past. One important development which permits such differences to flourish with a minimum of harm and maximum of pleasure is that of adequate birth control.

When women were at risk of getting pregnant, then the choice of a lover was usually also the choice of a father for one’s child; and a father for one’s child, for the sake of all concerned, had better be also one’s husband. If pregnancy occurred, then the only acceptable solution was a so-called forced marriage. Better, under such conditions, not to sleep with anyone you wouldn’t be willing and able to marry.

There’s no longer a need for these conditions to apply. Adequate birth control is, for the most part, available to everyone who seeks it. There are a variety of different techniques for women of different ages, circumstances, and experiences. Although there’ a powerful segment of social conservatives who want to prevent a woman’s right to birth control, and thereby, to deny her the right to control her sexuality.  As a society we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Romney Ryan Plan Birth Control

Romney Ryan Plan Birth Control (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Putting aside the misguided efforts of the few to take away a woman’s right to birth control; whatever you and your physician decide, you should be on the pill or use a diaphragm or a sponge or trust an IUD. It’s, of course, theoretically true that birth control should be the man’s responsibility as well; and as a desirable lover, he should be concerned and cooperative. Nevertheless, no matter how unfair it seems to you, he never risks getting pregnant. You do. You run the risk unless he’s known to be sterile and has had a doctor say so or has had a vasectomy.

A number of years ago at the height of the “zero population growth” movement, men who had had a vasectomy were proud of the fact and would wear a little male symbol of a circle attached to an arrow, but with a break in the circle. Cute and chic and often done in gold, it was worn as a tiepin or label button. It was not unheard of for a man on the make to borrow his friend’s vasectomy pin and wear it as a conversation piece at the local pickup bar. You can’t exactly see his scars but . . .

In every instance, getting pregnant should be a deliberate decision, not an accident or an oversight. Retroactive birth control, such as the morning-after pill, is available for situations in which sex may take place without any birth control. And in the case of contraceptive failure, abortion should be considered as a backup emergency procedure.

You run the risk of getting pregnant unless you have had a doctor say that you are naturally sterile or you have been surgically sterilized or you are already pregnant. As long as you are at risk, you must protect yourself and assume responsibility for birth control at the same time that you assume responsibility for your own sexuality.

The Seamless Seduction

Here is a perfect poem: to awaken a longing to develop it, to increase it, to stimulate it, and to gratify it.
—Honorè de Balzac

When one thinks of the verb “to seduce,” one thinks of it as something a man does to a woman. More stereotypically, you think of an unscrupulous man, perhaps a villain with a pencil-thin mustache, pressing his attentions upon a young and presumably innocent girl. He suggests, “Have some Madeira, my deara”; and muddled by Madeira and soft talk, she eventually fails to resist and he has his way with her.

In a different kind of world, women, however inexperienced, are not as innocent. Women today don’t and need not simply wait for a man to approach and seduce them. Rather, they can themselves select a man they think looks promising and initiate the next stage.

Some men are very indiscriminate and unselective. You can seduce them by the simple strategy of saying, “Wanna fuck?” And they will say, “Of course!” And do so immediately. And when you’re done, you’ll have been, well, fucked. For a man who is the kind of man who is likely to take love seriously, this approach would be, in most instances, a total turnoff.

The kind of man who will be a serious and attentive lover must be approached just as men should approach women: by creating a mood and an atmosphere conducive to the right kind of experience. That means that the communication must be subtle and indirect, with no connotation of obligation, and no suggestion of a need to perform.

Seduction is an invitation, not a command.

The offering of a seductive invitation should be done in such a way that it is possible for the man or the woman to decline gracefully, with neither party losing face. The person who is skilled in sexual matters will never make a pass at someone when the response to the pass is in any doubt. When the time comes to make a definite, unambiguous move, the other person isn’t going to be surprised and his or her reaction is certain to be positive rather than negative.

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Photo credit: mattbeighton

Young people make a lot of mistakes in figuring out how to make a pass, how to see one coming, and how to accept or to deflect one. Older people who aren’t too experienced or those who come from a different tradition can also inflict considerable pain and embarrassment on each other because of their inability to “read” signals and passes.

The strategy for avoiding such confrontation isn’t all that difficult. In our culture, there are a number of sexual scripts as discussed earlier in previous posts. Think of the act of sexual intercourse as a kind of theatrical play with the man and woman being both actors and directors. A sexual interlude is a play with an overture at first curtain. It consists of three acts complete with intermissions and ends with a grand finale, followed by a period of denouement.

The sexual script starts with mutual looking. It proceeds, with or without words, to kissing and mutual touching. At each stage, the other person responds with an encouraging gesture (or sound) or a negative one. The skilled lover, male or female, listens to this conversation of gestures, murmurs, and moans and modifies his or her actions accordingly. There should be mutual, if unspoken, consent as to what happens next, if anything.

Because of sexual scripting, the sequence of erotic involvement is generally quite consistent. The man who is seen as a “wolf ” or the woman who is seen as “too fast” is merely someone who has skipped some of the expected steps. The sense of affront this creates may not be for the acts themselves but for the failure to prepare the other person by leading up to those acts in the right way. The actual time frame involved has less to do with the script than with the specific male and female involved. If the two are virgin teenagers who have been kept as innocent and uninformed as possible, it may take months; if they’re sophisticated New York swingers, it may take only a few hours. Since men aren’t as prepared as are women to have someone make a pass at them, it’s even more important that the sexual script be followed and that there be no surprises which might create a sense of threat and discomfort. The gestures involved proceed with very small increments and with great attention to the response they receive, if any. No one gesture should be so obvious that it must be acknowledged in a way which could prove awkward for either party.

If the gesture is declined, everyone should be able to walk away without embarrassment. If the gesture isn’t declined, the sexual interaction should flow smoothly and easily from one stage to the other—right through to the proverbial cigarette afterward.

Telephone Tyranny and Social Media

Instead of belles-lettres, we have Ma Bell.
—Donal Henahan

One familiar little dating game ritual played out in the dating market is the ritual of the phone number. If the man who meets a girl decides he likes her, he asks for her phone number so he can call her sometime; if the girl who meets a man likes him, she gives it to him. Once this little ritual is complete, he has a right to expect that if he calls her, she will remember who he is and will more or less welcome his call.

English: man on phone

Photo credit: Wikipedia

There’s nothing wrong with this little ritual in itself—except that you will notice that the action involved is all one-way. He asks or doesn’t; he phones or doesn’t. You may respond in various ways to his actions; but first, you must wait until he asks, and if he does, then you must anxiously wait for your phone to ring.

The game of “don’t-call-me, I’ll-call-you” is recognized in the business world as a standard status maneuver. Hopeful actors who must audition for parts hear it all the time as do job applicants. It’s equally a status game when played with men and women although a man may not immediately recognize it as such. If he offers you his phone number, he has put the ball in your court, and that is an encouraging sign. If he doesn’t, then when he asks for your number, make it an exchange and watch how he responds to that idea.

A promising variation of the telephone game is played by the man who spontaneously offers you his phone number and says, “Please call me if you want to.” By giving the number, especially by giving it without being asked, he shows that he expects the interaction will be a two-way interaction. This variation is especially promising if he gives you his number in such a way as to be sure that any attempt at communication with him would be effective.

A busy lawyer friend of mine, a very genuine man who unfortunately has a most unprepossessing appearance, was in ardent pursuit of a beautiful model. He not only asked for her phone number (she gave him the number for her modeling agency) but gave her his home phone number, his cell phone number, his office number, and a code word to use with his secretary so that, instead of automatically saying he was busy and would return the call, the secretary would actually put the woman through to his desk. The object of the lawyer’s affection wasn’t too sure about this man, busy or otherwise, but was convinced of his sincerity. Eventually, she did call him; and while they didn’t live happily ever after, they did become good friends.

In today’s dating world and ever evolving social media, the same game can be played just as easily via email or text messaging. Since email and text messaging don’t involve direct interaction with the other person, it’s less personal, making it easier to communicate either your interest or lack of interest without the risk of having to have a potentially uncomfortable phone conversation. Whatever the social media being used, it’s important to pay attention to whether a man voluntarily offers you his contact information when he’s asking for yours. If he doesn’t, and you’re interested, then ask for his. His response will be very telling. If he freely offers his contact information, then you need not passively wait for his call or spend your day constantly checking your text messages. You are free to contact him should you so desire.  On the other hand, if he is reluctant to give you his contact information or makes excuses for why he can’t, then walk away and don’t look back.

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