Part of life is discovering things about yourself. Indeed, that is practically the definition of growing up; you find out what genetic hand you were dealt and what you like and dislike. But even well into middle age, it’s still possible to have something pop up and challenge your self-image.
What brought this to mind? Recently I have been informed that -at least to some women -I am considered good-looking. Not swoon-inducing, mind you; I haven’t been asked to sign undergarments for women who couldn’t believe their luck at meeting Brad Pitt in South Dakota, nor have I been getting hit on at stop lights as used to happen to a buddy in college. But reliable sources have told me that I am reasonably attractive to certain members of the opposite sex.
I know, Boo Hoo, what a traumatic revelation, have I sought help in dealing with it? More to the point, why is this notion such a surprise? After all, three women chose to marry me, and no indications were ever given that it was despite my looks (it certainly wasn’t for money), nor was unattractiveness ever mentioned during the bad times leading to two divorces. At no time in my life have I ever had reason to think that my physical appearance was a major factor in my life.
Perhaps that last sentence explains it. I have never given much thought to my looks, and when I have considered it, I’ve been ambivalent. I was the skinny nerd of my class growing up, with the stereotypical shyness, clumsiness and fashion sense. I never thought that I was going to attract girls physically, so I didn’t put any effort into it, which made it self-fulfilling. Eventually I learned to use humor and intellect, to which I’ve always given credit for my small romantic successes. I gradually improved my style somewhat and overcame the shyness, but I never gave my natural physical attributes real consideration. When my wife told me that her daughter said I look “a little nerdy”, that was right in my comfort zone. Conversely, when I’ve gotten compliments about my appearance I’ve usually shrugged them off.
Thirty-plus years later, I still think of myself as that bony kid. I guess it’s time to consider the possibility that I’ve aged well and learn to enjoy a pleasant surprise when I get one. Oh, and to keep a marker handy in case I have to autograph a bra.