I looked at her and saw an image that was surreal.
How can I attain it? It was very beautiful, but maybe that’s why it’s in a magazine?
I searched for a very long time but couldn’t find that perfect smile, and the teeth and oh!! those eyes. Maybe somewhere in Europe?
I later ended up seeing a shrink, and her first line of action is to reassure me and that it’s normal and more common than I think. After all, all we really have access to are the numerous threads on forums and we see that they’re far from alone in this area as well. It’s not something that’s discussed in Cosmo and Vogue, but it’s a line of thought that’s alive and well in the psyches of thousands of women and men.
We then spoke about breaking down the flimsy definition of attraction that our culture propagates. Because our culture is obsessed with image, we define beauty only as what is apparent to the camera’s eye. It’s skin-deep, or less than skin-deep if you consider the amount of makeup, airbrushing, and photoshopping that is involved in creating a magazine photo. We carry this definition of beauty into our intimate relationships and assess our partners through this lens. We may consciously say, “I don’t expect him/her to look like a magazine photo,” but we nevertheless define attraction by the superficial criteria that we’ve absorbed since birth. How can we do otherwise? Cultural conditioning runs deep and it’s only with a great deal of awareness that we can re-wire these habitual ways of seeing.
So if attraction isn’t based on physical appearance, what is it about? It’s about “essence”. It’s about the person you see when all pretenses fade away. It’s about the light that emanates from his eyes or the radiance of her smile. It’s about seeing soul instead of personality, the sustaining beauty of true nature instead of the fleeting beauty of a pretty face. It’s about what draws you to your partner, what connects you, what makes you say “yes” to him or her and no to everyone else. It’s about that place that feels like home, when you can sit next to each other immersed in engaging conversation or content in comfortable silence. I want to start eliminating words such as “attraction” or “chemistry” from my vocabulary – both buzzwords and anxiety-spikes – and instead ask, “What draws me to my partner?” Let’s understand attraction like a magnetic pull instead of in terms of superficial beauty. For we’ve all known people who appear typically beautiful but as soon as they open their mouth, the spell is broken and their true, toad-like nature is revealed. And we’ve known the opposite scenario as well: the person our culture defines as physically unattractive but whose essence radiates such love, warmth, clarity, and goodness that they’re transformed into the fabled prince or princess.
I’d like to think of myself as a toad who won the heart of a princess.