I have a relatively minor problem, but given how frequently it eats at me, I’ve decided it’s time to address it.
I’ve been dating this guy for a few months now. I met him online, of all stupid things, in the Strictly Platonic section of Craigslist because I was new to the area and wanted somebody to hang out with. This is relevant because he didn’t know what I looked like when we started e-mailing, and we were friends for about four months before any sort of romance emerged.
This guy and I get along famously. We have a similar sense of warped humor, and damn it, we have fun together. The problem is that before anything romantic happened between us, he told me he didn’t like blonde girls, or redheads either, for that matter, and that he was really only attracted to brunettes — dark brunettes, with dark brown hair and matching dark features.
Do I have dark hair? No. I have strawberry blonde hair and light green eyes.
My hair color has never been an area of distress in my assessment of my appearance. In fact, I haven’t really ever had any hang-ups about the way I look, at least until this guy rolled around. He claims now that it doesn’t matter, and yet, when he’s talking about a girl he thinks is good-looking, or thought was good-looking in the past or whatever, the issue of how dark her hair was always seems to come up in the same way that a normal guy might mention a woman’s legs.
I find myself staring at my stupid light hair in the mirror, once rather content with its warm California glow and they way it looked as though it was on fire when the sun hit it. Now all I see is that it’s not brown — even its underbelly, and even when I squint.
I know this isn’t his fault. But I guess my question is: How much does a physical ideal matter? Does everyone have one, and if so, how often do the people you wind up with actually fit it? I should mention that until relatively recently, he was in an extremely long-term relationship with a girl who matched his “ideal” to a T. But he broke up with her. Then again, he’s also mentioned he’s mildly attracted to his cousin. What the hell is going on?
Blonde and Bitter
Dear Blonde and Bitter,
It has been suggested that a preference for a body type is a taboo; this means it has great power. If it is taboo, then it has great power. That is where we store the things with great power: in the taboo box. Because the taboo box is strong. And we let taboos out only on holidays.
So you come sheepishly, and I say, No, no, don’t be sheepish, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Of course you’re uncomfortable with this!
It is like the Internet is making arranged marriages. (You wonder: Does a kid, facing an arranged marriage, say to the arrangers: “Sorry, I only get off on blondes with nose rings!”?) Visually unsuitable partners are put together who never would have cast eyes at each other before — because they didn’t cast eyes at each other in time to look away and move on.
I like to try new things. It means that often I do not finish old things. I have another thing wrong with me, too. Sometimes I don’t like to try new things. I stick to the old thing. So on the one hand I like new things and on the other hand I like to stick with things. I view everything as a character flaw. You’re supposed to get it that when I say the sky is falling, I don’t mean literally. I mean it just seems that way most of the time, and we chuckle about it.
Meaning what? As to the blondeness and the fetish?
Your saying that it eats at you eats at me. I think because it’s so elemental. We’re in a savage state here. We’re operating in a primitive way, in the realm of taboo and urge. We are consuming and being consumed; things are eating at us.
Do you like the new style? (Said with a flip of the head. I was reading Fence, and it was like a permission slip.)
Permission to speak frankly, sir?
May I lie down, sir?
No, but you may assume an oblique position!
This is written just upon arising. That may be another reason. The stress, you know, of large sums of money. Yesterday was Many Forms Day, like going into the Army. We made tea with tea bags and tried not to laugh.
So today is a new day, many dollars shorter. Try not to laugh.
So I’m boring you and holding you captive. You really have things to do. So let me read your letter again now and see what we can do:
OK. Upon rereading, my favorite part is where he says he’s mildly attracted to his cousin.
Oh, dear. I’m not helping.
Here is something. You seem smart. You can use this: The taboo and the fetishistic have power. Is that good for a relationship? Often not — because, precisely because, it has such power. If you have deep brown hair, then you can reduce him to a fawning slave. You don’t want that. You would grow tired of your slave. It’s better for you not to have the fetish thing, or not to own the fetish. But you may borrow it for holidays and special occasions.
So do this: Buy a wig and wear it for fun. See what happens. It will be like high black boots and garters, or a whip. But don’t make fun of him. Be gentle.
Now, what bugs me is we talk about these things as if we really know. And we don’t. And we lower it by talking as if we know. Why do we do that? I think: because we know how much power it has, the taboo. We know how much power it has, so we pretend. We say, Oh, it’s only sex. Like, oh, it’s only God. It’s only death. It’s only the mystery of existence. Like, it’s only the mystery of existence, and don’t worry, I have devices. (But I do have to get up in the morning and go to the guillotine. Just warning you. Sorry.)
(And to Fence I say, I too was literary once. Have you ever tried to get a job?!)
So I’m back, and I’m highbrow again. You feel me?
And finally, the words I long to hear spoken to him, given his predilection: You feel me, Cuz? You feel me?
Yes, I feel you, Cuz, she’ll say. I feel you loud and clear.
Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.
What? You want more advice?