The nature of attraction, circa 2001

A Waitress at Duval's Restaurant)

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve written a lot of different stuff over the years, a lot of it gathering dust in the obscure nooks of my hard drive. Rather than let them moulder there quietly I’ve decided to bring them into the light. I haven’t reviewed them, and I’m sure that they will be of varying quality and quite possibly borne out of a perspective very different from today – still, they’re mine. Over the next few weeks/months I will publish them here just so they’re on the public record, good, bad, or indifferent.

The first of these is a piece I wrote one afternoon in 2001. I remember it well because I remember the scenes it describes, the the state of mind and the time in life in which I wrote this. I was in the middle of things. Earlier in the year I’d fallen in love with a woman who later took a job abroad. Soon I was to visit her, unsure of what to expect, but hopeful. This piece came from that in-between time, and is typical I think of the ruminative investigation that even now I’ll occasionally indulge in.

The Nature of Attraction

I asked her what was more decadent, the pavlova or the tart. She looked at me, a slight smile curling the corner of her mouth. I watched, expectantly, something in my eyes telling her this was no idle question, but words intended to provoke and entice. Her smile deepened, her large eyes went to the ceiling as if in deep thought, then returned to me, responding in kind to my gentle challenge. “Well, I think then that the crumble with ginger ice-cream is most decadent, messieur.”

“I don’t know if I can handle that much decadence for lunch,” I said. “Maybe later…”

“Mmm, then I think the tart with maple syrup is more decadent. Yes, I think so.”

“Then I’ll have that,” I told her. All throughout our eyes have met, and the subtext of our conversation decoded. It is delicious.

Later I think of the nature of attraction. I think it is not simply that I would like to take that French waitress to bed with me. It is not about sex though I am sure that would be fine. I am drawn to her specifically by her specific charms. She is petite but voluptuous at the same time. She is short but with a rounded rump on her that is attractive, and breasts that push firmly against the stiff fabric of her blouse. Her lips are full and sensuous, and her eyes great pools of feeling and thought. Her hair is a dark black, fashionably bobbed, so in my imagination she resembles a French shop girl of the fifties maybe, attractive and elusive and slightly mythical. But here she is, responding to me. Later she recalls to my mind the stories of Anais Nin for some reason, the mix I think of vulnerability and eroticism. That is her, why I am drawn to her.

I think beyond that, to the nature of attraction itself. I had gone into lunch with the image in my mind of the woman I have been seeing. She has been on my mind much, wondering what it is I feel for her and what I should feel. Maybe I could love her but I do not know. She is there though, in my mind, an attractive, interesting, intelligent woman that who knows could be the person I spend the rest of my life with. So we sit down for lunch and I order wine and then a meal from this mysterious and alluring French woman who calls me messieur and looks me in the eye. And I feel that attraction, and later, I ask, why?

The answer to this question lies in the relationship between these two women, and me, and in a fundamental truth. I was drawn to the French waitress by the obvious: a lovely accent, her good looks, her deep and sensitive eyes, and her responsiveness to me, her erotic edge. There were things less obvious, less tangible, which are a consequence of chemistry, things you feel only without clearly understanding. I imagined then holding the naked body of this French waitress close to me, close so she is sheltering her petite body against my broad shoulders, my strong arms around her. I imagined her then like that then with her speaking to me in that voice, with that accent, telling me of her life perhaps, or what she dreamt, in any case sharing something with me as I held her like that, not speaking myself, listening as our eyes meet. Quite possibly there was a sex scene that came before this, but that was not what I was drawn to. I was drawn to the intimacy of that moment, of the strong me holding the more fragile her as she spoke from her heart to me. I imagined perhaps an enchanting set of contradictions in her, an uncertainty resolved by a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. It was these elements that drew me to her.

I have lain with my girlfriend as I have described, and she has looked up to me with eyes that melted me. We have shared our intimate moments in a succession of beautiful moments. She is different though, tall and athletic, blonde, successful and obviously so, outwardly certain and confident, an impressive person to speak to and be with. It is only a few people like me that know she is not as confident or certain as she appears, that there is a little girl inside her, that she is silly and generous and teasing. These are the things we have shared. These are the things that I know of her.

So I know on the one hand, and imagine on the other. One is flesh and blood beside me, a hand slipped into my mine as we walk down the street, a lingering kiss on parting. The other is conjecture and vivid imagination, fantasy.

Here then is the nature of attraction. It is the difference between what is known and what is imagined. It is meeting that mysterious stranger and letting your mind run away with you. It is lingering by that door wishing to open it but ultimately declining, letting instead your imagination go that way. What lies behind that door in truth, what world is revealed, what is it that you see through that other persons eyes, the other persons words?

And so with my French waitress I imagine the kind of life I might have had with her but never will. Wistfully I think of what I miss out on, what now I will never know. What could I have learnt with her about myself? What insights could she have guided me too? What could I have felt, what could she have drawn and teased from me? How is the world different beside a petite French waitress compared to alongside a statuesque blonde lawyer? Though there are sensual pleasures it is not about sex. Sex perhaps is the window dressing, or better still the matadors cape of attraction. Attraction I believe is about discovery and the will to discovery, about learning about yourself and others and the world that they see.

I spoke of all this over dinner to friends. They paused in their eating and watched as I spoke fluently. I had considered deeply in the 24 hours since that lunch. At the conclusion they looked at each other and then back to me and one said: “that is what happens when you’re in love. Everything is deeper and means more. You look at things differently, don’t you?”

Well yes, but that is what love is about.

Turning points

I went to sleep last night thinking about that girl – let’s call her Eva – I met on Saturday night. I thought a couple of things. I thought she seemed very much my type.

I’ve been with a lot of different women of different types, but it seems to me there are two types I am predominantly drawn to. The first I think of as the Katherine Hepburn type – smart, sassy, a little quirky, a sharp sense of humour and good with words. I’ve never been one for the glamorous types – I can appreciate a Marilyn Monroe say, but she does little for me otherwise. I always used to like watching Katherine Hepburn exchange repartee with the likes of Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, that whip smart, challenging nature and unconventional good looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I always found Hepburn sexy. Give me unconventional any day.

The other type is more classic I guess. It’s epitomised I think by a feminine grace. It’s sort of girly in a way, but not dumb, conventional girly, but rather an independent, free-spirited femininity. Generally she is good looking, though often times there is something unusual in the good looks – the obvious has never turned me on. Combine it with intelligence, engagement, and an earthy zest for life and it’s an alluring package.

Like I said yesterday, of all the women I see and know there is just one – plus Eva – who I like, and she, like Eva, is of this second type. We are Facebook friends only and exchange the odd online conversation, but my aspirations don’t go much further than that. I like her, I figure she likes – and appreciates – me, but for now she is all tied up, and that’s that. And so too is Eva I guess, but it seems different.

Funny, as I write this I can see Eva in my mind – a sensual cast to her features, and a prettiness that verges on the beautiful, her eyes soulful, and, though I saw her immaculately groomed, she seems somewhat windswept in my mind. This relates to the second thing I thought last night. I went back in my memory to those very first moments when we looked at each other and so much seemed to happen. She looked at me as if she knew me, as if she expected me to speak to her. She saw me before I saw her I think, and maybe in that glance she saw something I had to catch up with. It was like she was there, waiting, and so when I opened my mouth and began to speak she accepted me, my words, as if already written.

I flirted with her, but found myself reacting to her in a physical way, and not as you might think. I wonder in what seemed our mutual attraction if there was some kind of physical dichotomy at play. She feminine, delicate, beautiful, me tall, masculine, robust. In those moments together I sensed something that afterwards I put together piece by piece in my mind. I wanted to shelter her. I wanted to be her rock. I wanted for her to take my strength and use it for herself. I wanted to be that blunt edge clearing the way for her. As these thoughts built one upon another they took me to a place unusual for me. I had a moment of divine clarity.

Maybe I extrapolate too much: fantasy runs away with me, but I felt as if I might be more with her. Not that I become better or more complete, or any of that nonsense, but rather that as an individual I become more meaningful with her. Meaningful: that was the word, indeed, it was the concept. Here I have this great strength and resolve and it’s lovely, but it benefits little but myself. There is no meaning to life, no purpose as such. What meaning there is we find in ourselves if we’re lucky enough, and only when we understand how to use what we’ve been given. And, perhaps, why.

I have an IQ over 160. I’m glad of it. It makes me good at puzzles and playing cards, and I guess it helps me professionally (though being a smartarse can be counter-productive). Likewise being tall-ish was an advantage when I still played sport. It helps filling out a suit and generally helpful with people’s perceptions. Like my intelligence though it is a singular thing – as other things are. The benefit of these has been to me as an individual. I’ve lived the life, I’ve travelled the world, I’ve done the work, channelling these things into a narrow focus like a beam attached to my head. No regrets, and grateful for all I have, but as the sole the sole beneficiary of these advantages the value has been halved.

Suddenly it occurs to me that I have gifts that I might share. That might be attractive to others. And suddenly I realise that by sharing them they multiply, they become meaningful in a much border context. And I realise in myself without thinking of it that that’s what I want, a surprise to me, that these things might be made so much more, that there are so many more possibilities. And that’s what I want, what I felt in those moments of mysterious connection, those parts of me open up, rouse, and seek the meaning hitherto unknown. And with her.

This is how it works I guess, I give something for her, and she gives something for me. Together is something more, ours, something new made of old and familiar things, and something beyond my imagination before.

No-one extrapolates like me! Maybe that’s what this is all about – me learning something I should have known long before now. In any case, regardless of what happens, I take this encounter as a positive sign of better things to come.

Wikipedia: much definition: great in quantity, amount, extent, or degree.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I need to settle down. I saw three different women over the weekend. Had drinks at Von Haus and then dessert at the European with the first one Friday night. On Saturday morning I had a dreary cup of coffee with the second. And then on Saturday night I had dinner etc with the third at a local Indian restaurant.

There are none that I would consider to be long term options. Friday was pleasant and quite taken with me, but while I had a nice enough time I didn’t feel the necessary spark. Saturday morning was a drag because we come from different galaxies. Saturday night was an earthy, sexual woman whose company I enjoy, but I can’t see much more than a friendship coming out of it long-term.

To add to the general confusion I was chatting to a very alluring and interesting woman on Friday night before I had to dash off. Another time I would have suggested moving our conversation to a more intimate venue, a suggestion she seemed open to. Typically that was not possible. She’s still around though, so won’t rule it out.

After the activity of the days preceding I had a quiet Sunday. Towards the end of the day I found myself casting back to recent events. I sighed wondering why it was so hard. For a few misguided moments I thought wistfully of the girls who could have been, wondering why I couldn’t make any of them stick and thinking how much easier if I had.

I reflected on a couple of other little things that seemed indicative of something more. Last week I met with a bloke who presumed I was a father. It was not worth correcting him so I let it go, but it troubled me. I felt classified, categorised, pigeon-holed and somehow reduced to that single point of difference – which is really something very common. I was surprised to find how much it offended me. I look forward to being a dad, I expect to love it, but…

Similarly I got talking to this girl at a work function Friday. I sought her out having been put onto her by a mutual friend. We got talking and it was good and more than a platonic chat between colleagues. She knew and I knew and I wondered how that was communicated so simply. I was in the game, she knew it and was receptive to it. Then I went back to my colleagues – the consultants – and they looked at me as if I was their champion and I didn’t like that either.

Man you do things, you bounce around from one thing to another, from one experience to the next, often ricocheting unpredictably like a pinball in a machine. I often figure that my professional life is pretty well plotted out even if it doesn’t often go to plan, but that my personal life is pretty random. In the end I assume, without judgement, that the blame for much of that is me (though in general it seems a male failing).

I wonder how it is that wherever I go and without saying a word everyone knows that I’m in the game. I like to flirt sure, but that’s pretty harmless. Saturday night gave me an unexpected insight into that. I don’t think it’s the whole story, but it might be part of it. She said I was cool, cooler than most and pretty well everyone else my age. I look and act young, I dress pretty hip, have a groovy haircut and cool glasses and have the general attitude and posture of someone confident and in control. Well to be honest I probably would have thought most of that was pretty true, but I had never considered the impression this makes on other people. I guess it brands me, something my sister confirmed yesterday.

That’s not all of it though. I think there is something in the way you look and how you carry yourself, an edge born of curiosity and desire that is somehow communicated whenever there is not anyone to satisfy that.

End of day you are what you are, no matter how you get pigeon-holed. That’s the trick I guess. Can’t change what’s happened and can’t do much more than influence what people think of you. As they say, you just keep on keeping on.