Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that this essay is probably going to make me sound like a shallow hag, but just to be clear, I do not base my relationships on physical appearance alone. I wrote this primarily to grapple with how my complete bafflement when it comes to my own physicality affects how I react to others’ flesh suits.
One thing my therapists (and psychiatrists and social workers and parents and friends) have consistently praised me for is my self-awareness. I’m pretty fucking good at observing, naming, and dissecting my issues, and I always have been. But this doesn’t necessarily feel like a trait to applaud, since that awareness is almost never entwined with an ability to actually address and remedy the flaws. Rather, I ruminate on them and hide and cry…and take a hot bath that immediately puts me to sleep so that I can just end the goddamn day and give myself a break.
Which brings me to a realization I’ve come to about myself relatively recently. Because I was largely ignored by the opposite sex in my adolescence, I have a thing for dudes younger than me. Not children. But on the legal side of the teenage years through early twenties. It’s largely centered on pretty skater boys, since they encapsulate the ultimate ideal I could never hope to attract during my decade-long “awkward phase.” I wasn’t even deemed interesting enough in middle and high school to be teased or bullied; I was simply overlooked. So I’ve created a sort of revenge fantasy, in which I capture the current-day avatars of this specific breed — with their flaxen shoulder-grazing locks and lanky limbs — and wreak havoc on their stupid bodies and useless lives.
But let’s take a step or two back (unless you’re reading this on a skateboard; in which case I hope you do a really difficult trick to impress your imaginary fans and fall on your ass and die). Basically, I’ve become fascinated and often hopelessly ensnared by male beauty. I think this also has roots in the fact that I grew up with very few male characters in my life. I had no male cousins or family friends who were my contemporaries, and up until college, I was too shy around boys to wrangle any, even as platonic friends. So there’s always been this kind of intrigue around males my age, as though they constitute another species entirely. My knowledge in this area is — and always has been — almost comically lacking. Positively gaping, really. (Insert joke about gaping and destroying a skater boy’s asshole that I’m too lazy to come up with here.) Thus, the combination of this — in my mind — exotic populace with intoxicating physical beauty usually renders me incoherent.
So when my most recent ex — who will henceforth be referred to as “The Abercrombie Sociopath” because his name does not deserve utterance/keystrokes — popped up on Tinder and expressed a pointed interest in meeting me, I was flabbergasted. Here was this all-American, stereotypically handsome-as-fuck skater dude, with muscles (new for me), one of the squarest jaws I’ve ever seen this side of Johnny Bravo, and long, freshly bleached hair (my #1 weakness in boys, after tiny nipples on a sinewy chest)… and he was texting me nonstop to meet up. Regardless of how I look now (and I honestly feel like I have no idea what I look like, period), I am still invariably shocked when a male paragon of beauty hits on me. I immediately revert to the gangly, horse-faced pubescent incarnation of myself circa Bat Mitzvah season ‘03.
Looking back, my fascination with this dashing sociopath’s physicality was a major factor in why I stayed with him despite the painfully bright red flags that appeared in an exponential curve over the course of our relationship. Anywhere and everywhere we went, he was treated with a sort of reverence that I would have considered bizarre and harrowing if I hadn’t shared it. And this awe didn’t just come from women; it was actually more obvious in men, especially the good ol’ Southern boys who populated his Tennessee suburb. While I felt somewhat slighted that I seemed doomed to be the less attractive half of the couple, I was simultaneously filled with pride that this straight-up hunk had confessed his love to me and had chosen me to spend his precious time with.
Of course, as his pseudonym suggests, he turned out to be the worst fucking person I’ve ever encountered and our traumatic breakup prompted my downward spiral into drug addiction. (See: "The Post-Rehab Blues: When the Absence of Failure No Longer Feels Like Success.")
Once I regained clarity, though, I was able to poke through the maze of the ill-fated, disastrous relationship with my rejuvenated self-awareness operating at its full potential. And I basically realized that I allowed myself to be manipulated for months and months because inside, I’m often still a gangly brace-face nerd who gawks at the type of boy I pined for growing up.
Now, a year later — with a begrudging hat-tip to the Abercrombie Sociopath — I am not going to allow this inner, slighted mini-me to be sucked in by any dude with the type of cheekbones that look like he’s been sucking on a lemon for days. Instead, I’m choosing to channel this weird energy into the development of my alter-ego: a sultry mad scientist who — seeking revenge for her years of being cruelly disregarded by skater boys — abducts her local skatepark’s delinquents and takes them back to her diabolical laboratory, where she performs experiments on them that most assuredly violate the Hippocratic Oath.