When I was 12, I had my first slap-you-in-the-face mega crush. And it was of course on the most popular guy in school: Charlie. I wanted him to like me more than anything in the world.
He was blond and pretty and funny and good at sports, and my feelings for him felt all-mighty. I couldn’t imagine how we were not meant to be.
The thing is, all the girls had a crush on Charlie. It wasn’t just me.
And in hindsight, I know that my feelings for him had little to do with our compatibility and more to do with things that make women swoon in general. Being confident, wanted, and a little bit arrogant.
Throughout my life, I learned more and more how to identify these traits — the characteristics that can make a man attractive but, in reality, don’t actually point to much substance.
So without further ado, here are a few:
My first love and I met in college, and we fell hard and fast for each other. We thought for sure we would get married one day.
And I have to admit, part of his allure at first, was that fact that he was protective of me.
For example, I joined a sorority while we were seeing each other, and often our sorority was invited over to a frat house to drink superfluously. Since my boyfriend was often not in the frat in the question (or any frat) he would not be invited to the gathering.
When the first party was coming up and I told him about it, he said, “There’s no way you’re going to that. It’s for guys to hit on girls. They’ll be all over you.”
And at first, I didn’t mind at all. I’d never been with a guy who cared about me so much that he couldn’t imagine me at a party getting hit on. This felt like love.
I had an over-protective mother, so to me, this protectiveness was a true sign somebody cared about you.
But in the end, I missed out on a lot of fun with my sisters because of his jealousy. He would also get drunk and pick fights with random guys on campus who “looked at me for too long.”
Now, I totally avoid men like him. My freedom is vital to me, so I only date men who are secure enough to feel good about me doing things on my own and who trust me to do right by them even when we’re not together.
Pays for you
That same boyfriend in college always paid for me — everything was on him — and there was no arguing with him about it. Never mind that he was also a poor college student like myself.
And at first, I thought, wow, this is real romance, like what you see in the movies. He was treating me like the princess I always knew I was.
But the thing is, when you keep receiving receiving receiving, you will always feel like you owe something in return. That’s just the way we humans are made.
We adhere to the reciprocity principle. When another human gives us something, we feel a strong urge to give something back in return. It’s in our nature.
You may not even realize it consciously, but if a man constantly pays for you, you will feel indebted. And/or they will feel entitled to something because of it.
In my case, this boyfriend would always bring up his chivalry whenever we got into fights, “I treat you like a queen, and this is how you treat me?” He would hold it over my head.
He felt entitled to my attention when he wanted it. And his “chivalry” fed into this entitlement.
And okay okay, I think it’s nice to be taken out on a date once in a while, to be treated for meals. But I will also do the same for my partner too.
Energy can’t go in one direction forever. That’s why I no longer find it sexy when a man always wants to pay my way. I can afford my own stuff, thank you very much.
Keeps you guessing
After my crush on Charlie at age 12, I moved on to high school and started crushing on the second cutest boy in school: Mark.
Mark and I barely talked during the school day, but every evening before bed, I would sign on to AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) just to chat with him. We would spend about an hour every night talking and I looked forward to it more than anything.
He liked me enough to send me messages back and to stay engaged in our conversation, but I was never sure if he really liked liked me.
And the whole mystery of it all just made me want him even more.
Most women and men are attracted to a little bit of mystery. It keeps us on our toes. When we don’t know what the other person is thinking and where they stand, it gives us more to wonder about — more blanks to fill.
But as we fill in those blanks, the person becomes less of who they really are and more of who we wish they were. Suddenly, they aren’t real, but a product of our fantasies, and once we got to know them, they can only disappoint us.
A person should not need to play games and withhold how they feel in order to interest you. It’s your job to find the mystery in the people you love. If you don’t find it, you’re just not looking closely enough.
We, humans, are infinitely complex and constantly changing. We barely know ourselves, so we can’t portend to know others in and out either.
So don’t look for someone who keeps you “on your toes”. It will cause your head to spin and waste your time and energy.
If someone really likes you, they will let you know, somehow, someway, even if they’re shy. You’ll catch them staring or taking the seat next to yours. They’ll be the ones to keep the conversation going.
Nowadays I go for a guy who can be straight with me, who doesn’t beat around the bush about how he feels. I like someone who has the confidence to share his feelings despite the risk of rejection.
That is sexy in the short term and will make our relationship much smoother in the long term as well.
Wears a suit
When I was living in New York, I loved me a man in a suit. After being at university with college boys everywhere, these men were a breath of fresh air. Sometimes a little older, and always mature and successful looking.
Then I started dating one of them.
He worked at a big bank, and his goals in life seemed to be climbing the ladder of success at his company and making a lot of money. He voted Republican because when he did make a lot of money, he wanted to know that he would not have to pay too many taxes on it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that a man cares about work, has ambition, and wants to contribute as opposed to suck money out of the system. Nobody wants to date a deadbeat.
But a lot of these tax-paying citizens who supposedly “contribute” to the system spend their precious waking hours and mental capacities helping no one but themselves. And in many cases, they are in fact hurting other people, for example as many bankers did in the 2008 financial crisis by creating and selling securities that were essentially worth nothing.
Nowadays, it is not enough for a man to wear a suit and have a fancy job.
I have values that go much beyond my personal success, and I expect my partner to as well. The suit nowadays doesn’t mean so much to me, anymore.
You may think by excluding certain types of people as potential romantic partners, you are limiting yourself. But I’ve found the opposite to be true.
The pickier I am, the more people I meet who I like.
By being vocal about my values, people who have similar values are drawn to me and vice versa.
Now I have a partner who loves his freedom and respects mine, doesn’t insist on paying for me, tells me exactly how he feels as best he can, and for a living, does research to advance medicine on brain diseases.
I love him, and I’m happy to say our connection runs much deeper than his shiny exterior. It goes beyond all those things that we stereotypically believe makes a lady swoon.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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