Sunday, June 26, 2011

I am a Product

I can easily accept the truth about someone else, but the truth about ME—what a shock! Several years ago I attended a party at an ex-girlfriend's house. Another guest struck up a conversation with me, and as I talked with him, I noticed he looked like me. Not just a little; he could have been mistaken for my brother. 

After speaking with him, I looked around the room and began noticing other men. They were exactly my height, my complexion, my profile, my eye and hair color. As this information seeped slowly into my brain, I heard someone ask the hostess, "How may ex-boyfriends do you expect tonight?"

I needed this direct association to understand: the hostess was attracted to a type of man. I was that type, and so were my similar-looking companions. So was her fiance. If she broke up with him and dated a new guy, there was a good chance he'd look like the rest of the team. Recently I ran into someone who I hadn't known before, but turned out to be good friends with a classmate from college. Once again, the bells went off: same height, same nose, same hands. He even had a similar voice. We were like animals in a zoo, a subspecies of tall, almost skinny European white male.

Our liberal society devalues 'typing' people, correctly equating this practice with prejudice. We'd prefer to be noticed for our "character," because we have more control over it. It's easier to accept attraction than repulsion, of course. Still, the idea that we'll be counted 'in' or 'out' based on physical characteristics alone could be depressing. When we're out, we're out. On the other hand, few of us are universally repulsive. In most cases, someone will be attracted. Sometimes, they are attracted by elements we ourselves don't like. This recognition challenges our cherished illusion that we are captains of our own destiny. 

Each of us is a type, a product, a piece of Nature. This comforts me. I've spent so much time trying to act skillfully, assuming success or failure depended on my effort alone, hoping not to screw it up. In the end, a light goes off. Girls didn't like me because of what I did or didn't do, but because of what I was. Most of who I am is hard-wired. I can't screw it up, or lose it. No maintenance required; it's all a done deal. 

This is why we're always tempted to go backward in relationships; we instinctively know we can. No matter how mad she gets at you, the thing that attracted her will continue to do so, because you're still you. You're still her type.

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