“He said he wants to maybe retire on a beach in Thailand with me,” says my friend over lunch. Out of context, it sounds like a pleasant enough idea. But she’s not thrilled about it.
“It’s so weird that he included me in that fantasy. As if I’m just an accessory. Like, he wasn’t asking if I want to be retired and living in Thailand. I’m just there to fill a role.”
I guess in the mind of the guy my friend is dating, she’s supposed to be laying there on the beach beside him, looking nice in a bikini, and always available for pleasant conversation or sex or whatever else. The scene doesn’t have any of her motivations or goals written into it. She’s a prop, not a character.
I see how that’s a problem. But… don’t we all kind of do that? Don’t we all have images of what our lives would ideally look like, complete with a cast of love interests and supporting roles and extras?
Supposedly, over the years, we learn that the people around us are actually people, with their own wants and desires. But, do we stop imposing our own list of wants on them because we recognize their inherent agency? Or do we simply renegotiate what’s feasible after having our demands chipped away by experience?
I used to want a woman that was “hot” in terms of my male gaze, built out of the intersection of received media and my personal lens. Having hypothetically matured, I would now tell you that I want to be with a woman who takes her physical fitness as seriously as I take mine.
Which might be an evolution of recognizing how people need shared values in order to be compatible. It is true that I take my fitness seriously and would find it hard to relate to someone who was completely unconcerned about their overall health. But all that might also just be a more diplomatic way of describing “hot”.
Maybe I drifted from pursuing “hot” simply because I learned the dark secret of hot people, which is that they’re people. It’s not that they necessarily fail at other dimensions as a direct result of being hot, though looks and personal development can intertwine. Even under the best of conditions, what makes people compatible or appealing on the inside will always be a lot more nebulous and hard to understand, let along get along with, than what you…