Dater X: Feeling Attracted To Someone Who Isn’t That Attractive

What I’m about to say isn’t going to make you love me. It isn’t PC, and it certainly wouldn’t get high marks from the judges in a beauty pageant question and answer round. It is shallow, and a thing that none of us are supposed to say. But it is also honest:

Looks matter to me. Sometimes a lot.

For all of my life, until just a few years ago, I was overweight. I always felt like my exterior didn’t match my interior and landing a good-looking boyfriend who adored me, and whom I adored back, made me feel more … worthy.

Yesterday, when I saw a couple giddily feeding each other French fries while giving each other I-love-you eyes through the front window of a bistro, my first thought was, “He’s kind of fugs. She can do better.” I don’t get why gorgeous, awesome women continually flock to Adam Duritz—even though he is the frontman of a band I loved in middle school, the dude looks far too much like Sideshow Bob for me ever to consider romantically. I’ll even admit that earlier this year, during a friend’s wedding, I found my mind wandering and thinking, “He is great—but how did she get over the fact that he has the sex appeal of a tomato?”

Now I’m not saying that everyone I’ve dated, slept with, or called my boyfriend has been a supermodel. But I do think that, for the most part, they’ve all been at least as attractive as I am, if not more so. Some have had physical flaws, sure, but I could stare at each of them for hours. For each, there is something I loved about their appearance—the flints of turquoise in their blue eyes, a bicep that dented the fabric around it, the gently curved planes of their face, or a dimple so deep it look cut by an exacto knife.

And I’m worried that I, Dater X, am so focused on appearance that I might pass by a not-so-hot guy who could be my green zebra.

So what brought on this sudden soul searching? Meeting Scruffy Beard. After a dry spell and a few genuinely horrible internet dates, I didn’t feel all that hopeful as I walked to meet him at a nice restaurant in downtown Manhattan. I’d liked our email banter, and truly appreciated that he was taking me to an establishment where tater tots didn’t come free with a beer. But one question had lingered in my mind since seeing his profile: Could I be attracted to him?

As the hostess seated us at a cozy table, I felt a sick feeling developing in my stomach. The answer was no. It’s not that he was ugly, exactly. More just … not that attractive. He was tall, but a bit chubby. He had decent style, but a beard that was far too long and horribly uneven in parts. His eyes were a touch beady, and I found myself focusing on his crooked front teeth. Oh no, I thought. Am I really in for another blah date? I started to feel paranoid that, just as I’d judged that couple eating French fries, everyone in the restaurant was questioning why I was out on a date with this guy.

But as Scruffy Beard ordered a bottle of wine and we started talking, something kind of amazing happened. I relaxed. There was no awkward groping for information—no stilted get-to-know-you-questions like “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” All that information came out in a natural flow as we chatted about specifics of our lives rather than our biographies. I was interested in what he had to say and felt that returned. The questions he asked were far more insightful and dug a little deeper than most guys I first meet, and he was willing to go there when I returned in kind. And there was laughter—a lot of it—as well as some fun debates.

As we paid the check and he said, “I had a great time,” I felt a little disappointed. Is he really not going to kiss me? I thought. Or at least suggest that we go for more drinks? That would inevitably lead to kissing?

Outside on the street, I could tell he needed a signal that he could make a move. I reached for his hand. And finally he went in for the kiss—soft and slow, just the way I like it. We stayed there for what must have been 10 minutes, each kiss getting breathier and more intense. I felt his hands on my butt, and I liked his boldness. In the cab ride home, I felt hornier than I had in weeks.

Scruffy Beard may not be conventionally attractive but, at least in this point in the game, he’s attractive to me. I feel that same chemical pull to him that I do to the guys I think are hot on the first glance.

This whole thing has me thinking a lot about why some women are hung up on looks, why some women are able to push past it, and why I am in the first category. I worry that this has to do with some insecurity I haven’t shaken. Every celebrity says it, but for me it’s true—feeling beautiful is a new thing for me. In high school, I had braces and acne. And until college, I was overweight. I always felt like my exterior didn’t match my interior and landing a good-looking boyfriend who adored me, and whom I adored back, made me feel more … worthy. And that’s something I need to shake now that I feel worthy in and of myself. Heck, I’m looking for love—not America’s Next Top Male Model.

I’m seeing Scruffy Beard again tomorrow night, and I’m feeling a little nervous. First, because it’s been a little while since there was someone I was interested in, and I’m scared to lose that vibrating-on-a-higher-plane feeling. I very much hope that our chemistry is still there, and that I don’t get hung up on appearance. I think I need to take baby steps here. First step: Do I like him? If yes, move foot forward.