On beautiful and ignorant people

This morning as I left the subway station around 9:30 (because my job is awesome), I saw one of those stunning women like from the movies–the ones you don’t think can exist in real life.  She was around 5 feet 10, stunningly slim but still curvy, and had a bright red sheath dress on with black heels and sunglasses.  As she gazed about, looking alert, checking her phone every few seconds, she looked exactly like one of those women in the Bond films, save for one thing: the time.  Very few cocktail parties run by ruthless terrorists occur at 10 AM, leaving me to wonder why, exactly, she was hanging out by a subway station glammed out like that so early.

Kind of like this, but by the subway, instead of the red carpet.  Because that's logical.
Kind of like this, but by the subway instead of the red carpet. Because that’s logical.

No matter.  But as I walked to work, it reminded me of the one and only episode I have ever seen of the infamous and trendy show Girls, “One Man’s Trash.”  The awful thing about the episode’s title is that it seems poised to be taken as a joke about the main character, who states in the episode that the “feedback” she’s received throughout her life is that she isn’t beautiful.  She says this when she’s about to have sex for the second time with the reason I chose to watch the episode: the gorgeous Patrick Wilson, who plays a kind, attractive doctor who overlooks the awkwardness of their initial encounter to enjoy having sex with Lena Dunham’s character.

For some reason, seeing that beautiful woman this morning reminded me of the way that Patrick Wilson as the handsome, agitated doctor just wandered into the scene. On the show, after his character has an angry interaction with her boss, Lena’s character Hannah quits abruptly and runs off to find him.  He invites her in, she makes a confession, and then as she goes to leave, because it’s what you do when you meet a new person, instead of leaving, she lays one on him.

As I watched, I thought again how strange it seems to just launch yourself at someone you just met and kiss them.  I mean, I’ve  done it before, assisted by serious amounts of alcohol (liquid courage is awesome).   But only once did it lead to sex, and it certainly wasn’t the most incredible night of my life (although the man was surprisingly respectful and caring afterward, kind of like this made-up guy in Girls*).  Not that Girls is suggesting that this was the most remarkable intimacy of either person’s life, but they liked it enough to continue the bold, nonsensical liaison for a couple of days.  He called into work, she’d already quit her job, and he didn’t turn out to be a serial killer.  Voila.

He's so pretty.
He’s so pretty.

I remain impressed that even in a show praised for its startling honesty when it comes to sex, it starts the way most hawt moments do in Hollywood: with people so overcome by mutual desire that they just go at it en site, fuck the bedroom (J/K!  Or not?).  It is fun to watch, but damn: I love sex, personally, and even I’ve never been so up-and-running that I’ve been unable to make it to the bedroom (unless it was, you know, because we decided to try out as many surfaces as possible).  Maybe there’s something wrong with me?

Regardless, the insta-sex is not what caused a buzz; nor was it the topless ping-pong.  It was the fact that Lena Dunham is not considered beautiful, and Patrick Wilson is.   After some egoistic tirades on men’s sites about how the ability of a character like Hannah to snare a hot guy like Joshua is as likely as a pregnant man, some sites like Jezebel were understandably pissed.  In all honesty, though, what bothered me about the episode was the way Hannah acted in the end. Hannah’s curls and clear skin are quite lovely; I wish I could get my hair to do that, and her big brown eyes are not unbecoming.  If a hot doctor is into her, great!  Joshua, Patrick Wilson’s character, was kind, even when confronting her boss, and after their first tryst, when he invites her for dinner (I myself am always impressed when a guy wants to keep hanging around me after we’ve already spent hours together–am I really that fascinating?).  When they talk, they are honest about what is occurring, and he meets her questions that first evening with brief but honest answers.  She respects his boundaries by excusing herself after their dinner, and he clearly asks her to stay.  Apart from the “jumping-on-each-other-ASAP” part, it seems as genuine as two adults ignoring real-life responsibilities for a couple of days can be.

Where it goes wrong is after the shower scene. Hannah realizes that experiences wholesale are not always great, and that she could actually like perfection.  That she wants to be happy.  Instead of sharing her realization in the form of a real conversation, and letting her partner share his thoughts, when he tries to act empathetic, she shoots him down.  He becomes a backdrop for her moment of self-discovery.  As if that isn’t enough, when she realizes that she has been doing all the talking, she doesn’t ask him anything about himself.  Her next move is to lambast him for what he did say the day prior, as proof that he must be hiding something or insincere. Well, dude.  Nothing says “open up to me” like “what you already said was stupid.”

What the hell?!  A dozen examples came to mind of times that men have expressed things to me and then ignored me or simply been unaware of their inordinate hubris.  One childhood friend I can most graciously describe as immature and selfish bemoaned his gymnast wife’s “baby belly” after she gave birth, while he himself had put on over 100 pounds, was morbidly obese, and routinely dealt drugs out of their home.  The strange thing is, he does to attract a fair amount of gorgeous women with Hooter’s-waitress-bodies, but I attribute this to a serious double standard, and the fact that they’re either his employees or people to whom he sells drugs.

He is now divorced.

A far nicer man I actually dated religiously worked out, praised my appearance and in general kept himself well-dressed and put-together.  He had a great career, genuinely cared about others and was a great boyfriend.  Yet at 42, he maintained the ego of a 20-something rocker.  It’s annoying when a truly hot young man with a swagger tells you how big his dick is and how much his ex is missing out on, but you forgive it because you think he’ll grow out of it.  When a man with intensely OCD tendencies, a gait like a grandpa and a receding hairline pulls the same shit, it’s just sad.  And that’s the thing: even at my “hottest,” when I had all my shit together and put exercise above shoving food into my mouth, I never felt the need to put others down or verbally swagger on about my awesomeness.

Another man I met who wears the same hoodie every day at almost 40, works obsessively and lives with his parents could not understand why I did not want a relationship with him.  When I finally relented because I was very attracted to him sexually, he asked me to pay for the second date and made little to no time for me in the three weeks I actually gave him a chance.  He also had trouble just saying what he thought or felt, except–rather abruptly, without knowing me well–had the gall to say that he thought I should marry him and just give up on my personal dreams for about thirty years so that I could give his mother a grandson.

Because nothing says “I’ll love you forever” like “Shut up and be my baby mama.”

When Hannah turned her new lover into a prop for her emotional discovery and railroaded him for the things he did share, his natural response was to withdraw.  How is the guy supposed to feel?! She tells him in this moment that no one matters as much as her own thoughts, and turns him into a therapist/mentor kind of figure with her speech.  This broke the spell of their experience–for me, and for him.

He's sad about it.  Are you sad?
He’s sad about it. Are you sad?

Soon after, she seems to recover her more mature self, and the episode ends pretty much the way of my own similar experiences: you get up, enjoy breakfast and the accoutrements of your temporary home, and then get the hell out.  But her words, and how shocked she seemed when he didn’t reciprocate, reminded me of a real problem in relationships: double standards and a lack of self-awareness.

I’ve attracted a lot of jerks with my own unwillingness to be honest and an unhealthy share of manipulation.  While I am now aware of the situation, it’s given me a window into some pretty funny idiosyncrasies. A fair share of them are my own, so rest assured, I am an equal-opportunity learner.  But what I’ve realized is that when reality conflicts sharply with how a person perceives him- or herself, it’s a huge turnoff, kills intimacy, and unless you have a truly open relationship and are comfortable enough with yourself to be honest (which I wasn’t with the aforementioned oddballs), it ain’t happenin’.

When Hannah walked into the room the morning of their second day together, I was struck by how truly perfect the doctor was.  In that scene, he has a pressed shirt, perfectly tailored to his body; casual, high-priced loafers, a coffee press in front of him; and a morning paper.  His hair is perfectly cut and combed, he is seated in a home he has poured hours into making a lovely dwelling; and he has a medical degree providing the funds Hannah refers to when she says that his sweater costs more than her rent. I bring it up because he has crafted a world for himself, and it is a world that contrasts sharply with Hannah’s.  She does not work out daily, know what she really wants, or have enough maturity to admit her shortcomings. They are incredibly different, but their time together isn’t pointless.  They serve a purpose for each other, and the process teaches her something.  He is not an immature forty, but a man in transition, and it awakens something inside her.  Until the scene upstairs when she dismisses his feelings, they treat each other with dignity, but it never seemed tenable in the long-term.

Relationships are rarely just “are they both hot or not?” Rather, like attracts like.  I was attracted to those guys earlier because we had something in common, whether that was a negative factor like codependency, low self-esteem, workaholism, or merely a life in transition; or a positive attribute like mutual interests in fitness, travel, serving others or religion.  Hannah and Joshua intersect at a unique place where both are in transition, but unlike Hannah, Joshua does want to be happy, knows who he is and is in a settled place in life career-wise and in his home.  Hannah would have either relaxed into a greater self-assurance and comfort if she stayed with him, or dragged him down to her stage of “life-in-flux.”  Regardless, as shown in their last scene together, their maturity levels don’t match.  That, more than their appearances, is their undoing.

Being able to jump someone’s bones and be sexy with them for a couple of days is fun.  But being grossly unaware of, or unwilling to change, a deeply unattractive side of oneself–whether that’s immaturity, arrogance, or treating other people like shit–kills long-term hope every time.  And believe me, whether you’re gorgeous or not doesn’t save it.

FYI: This review was my favorite that mentioned the episode: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/that-sex-scene-on-last-nights-girls

* In movies, men are portrayed as jerks who almost always leave right after sex, leaping into shoes and running out as though their pants are on fire.

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