What did a 23-year-old Megan Rosker do when she met a bald 40-year-old at La Guardia airport? Well, eventually, she married him.
I met my husband on the Internet six years ago. We spoke for two months on the phone and over email before we ever met. At the time I lived in Gallup, New Mexico. He lived in New York City. I had only one picture of him before we met. He had only a head shot of me.
During those eight weeks we got to know each other extremely well. I would never have thought that possible without having physical contact. In all our conversations and emails we learned the other’s rhythms, pleasures and difficulties. It was intimate. People usually think that intimacy has to do with sex and a physical connection, but this didn’t. This had to do with being together in an entirely other way. Little did I know we were building a foundation for our life together.
During our time apart Michael would send me pictures of his morning commute through Times Square on his bicycle. In turn, I sent pictures of red mesas that watched slow-moving trains pass through a dusty town. He sent music he liked on CDs in the mail. Upon receiving them I lay down on my back in the middle of the living room and listened to every track, every word, trying to sneak into his subconscious and understand why this song was important enough to send to me.
After two months he bought me a plane ticket to New York and away I went. I left my son, then only fifteen months old, with his dad on the edge of the desert and went east to dig deeper into this new intimacy. The physical connection loomed ahead. What if there just wasn’t any? What if I simply wasn’t attracted to this man?
When I walked off the plane and through La Gaurdia airport, I remember listening to the click of my heels. Then I saw him. To my twenty-three year old self, forty-three looked a lot older than I had expected. He was shorter than I understood 5’11’’ to be. He had on a black baseball hat that covered a completely shaved head. He wasn’t buff at all. He was trim and healthy, but didn’t look strong in a classic superhero sort of way. Did it matter? Quickly my brain tried to survey my emotions to see if it did.
I was young. I was a single mother who worked full-time. I was almost three thousand miles from home. I surveyed my options and I decided to forget the body and go for his heart. I had just spent two months forging the ground work for what I believed was the most profound relationship I had ever been in.
I looked at his face, his body again and said to myself, “I can work with this.”
His body was going to get old and ugly someday anyway. In fact to my youthful eye it already was. I had never dated someone whose head was shaved because he had gone bald or whose chest hair was going gray. My whole dating life I had always been attracted to men that worked out. I dated a lot of runners and swimmers, a basketball player once, one football player, but whatever their sport of choice, they were fit, muscular people. Michael was different, and it took time for me to accept this other kind of man. I wasn’t as physically attracted to him as I had been to these other men. I, like many women, always had an image of myself lying in bed and rubbing my hand over the youthful, muscular chest of a toned man. In fact I had done it a few times and thought is quite nice, but ultimately was this going to be satisfying? What would happen when age stole those pectorals away?
If our physical attractiveness was a distant second to the emotional connection we have with our partner, wouldn’t we feel a lot more at ease with ourselves when we could no longer bike as far as we used to or couldn’t bench press as much as could when we young? It would suddenly be enough just to be healthy and happy with the one who inspired us to live.
Unfortunately the superhero manly look we often expect from men and revere in media is one that isn’t based in the confidence of the unique life and ability of the individual. Rather, it is based on the physical capabilities of the body. When men look for their emotional confidence to follow their physical confidence, they end up never fully developing their emotional lives. Working out and having a good body becomes an expression for their confidence and their worth, when really there may be a greater purpose they will never discover.
If I hadn’t met Michael online and he hadn’t lived so far away, I never would have discovered this truth. How different the world would be if we all had to correspond with our future partners through email before ever meeting. If this had been the case, would you be with the person you are with now? How much did the physical play into falling in love? I know I wouldn’t have given our relationship the chance I did if we had simply gone to dinner or met in a bar. Instead the honesty of who we were never gave way to the deception of our gym workouts.