“He saw her before he saw anything else in the room.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, One Interne
I must admit before I start that I have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s One Interne (short story) until I decided to use this particular quote. I first encountered this quote when my friend referenced it on her Instagram account, and ever since then that line just stuck with me. I don’t think I’ve read any of his works other than The Great Gatsby, which is a shame, since I really like that book (not when I read it for the first time in ninth grade though). I’ll work on that.
Note: That being said, despite how refined and romantic Fitzgerald’s prose reflects in the literature he’s left behind, his relationship with Zelda was extremely unhealthy. Definitely do not judge a book by its cover, or in this case, do not judge a book’s meaning by its charming facade.
I believe the quote above sums up a facet of attraction in a succinct way. It probably appeals to me a little bit more based of my gender, and sometimes it’s the easily overlooked gestures that make me swoon. Don’t get me wrong, grandiose actions do scream out romance, yet for me it’s the smaller deeds that create an impact over time.
What is your type?
I’ve noticed that I tend to ask really ambiguous questions right off the bat before diving into the specifics, so let me try this again. Unfortunately, I do ask quite a few questions when I exhibit any sort of interest (to the point it might seem like it’s an interrogation, but honestly, if someone doesn’t want to or doesn’t feel comfortable responding to questions I ask him / her, I drop inquisition entirely because I respect that person unless it’s something that I require a definite answer to), so here we go.
On first impression: what makes someone attractive to you?
What do you focus on in terms of physical appearances?
I realize that the whole package is important, but where does your gaze wander to first?
Does your culture and background have an effect on your standard of beauty?
What places someone automatically into the friend-zone (as in, what are your physical deal-breakers)?
Does attraction grow over time as you find out more about that person?
Has attraction for someone develop out of nowhere for you? How do you react when that happens?
What characteristics from a person draws you in and / or drives you away?
Do you place more emphasis on looks or personality? (I suppose the last question also involves what type of relationship you are looking to establish though.)
Personally, I do think we prioritize physical attributes when we’re younger. Sure, we’re aware that personality matters, but the significance of it didn’t matter too much then. Obviously, when I was young, my ideal would be a dreamy, Adonis-looking man. That was the main parameter for determining who I’d jump into a romantic relationship with during the time. Again, don’t judge any book by its cover. That’s important.
I’m a firm believer of at least being capable to answer the questions I’ve posed (no matter how easy or difficult they may be), so here are some answers. I don’t believe that I have a specific type that I’m more physically inclined towards now, but I really prefer men who smile more often than not. I take notice of their eyes, the entire face, forearms, and then their overall physique. This isn’t exactly a trait, but someone’s scent is important to me as well. Yes, I know it sounds kind of weird. I also do check out women, too, in an appreciative and non-creepy way despite my sexual orientation, because let’s be honest – the female body is a bit more appealing than the male body in some aspects.
Being skinny and pale are two holy grails of beauty that’s prominent in Eastern Asian culture. There’s a commonly used idiom in Mandarin Chinese that roughly translates to “a white complexion conceals three (physical) flaws”. Interestingly though, in Western cultures, being tanned (naturally, not from a tanning salon, for obvious reasons I hope) and fit / curvy are typically the standard measures of one’s attractiveness. I’d say that my views on physical appearances are a bit broader now as I’ve been exposed to contrasting cultures. I used to think being skinny was a big component on what makes a woman attractive, but now I value health (physical and mental) over trying to fit in a sample size dress. I’m pretty much an advocate of being comfortable in your own skin more and more now. Throw away the societal expectations of pretty and stick to your own perception. As long as I think someone is attractive, he / she is attractive in my eyes and that’s all it matters.
My biggest physical deal-breaker is obesity to the extent that it affects that person’s daily activities. It doesn’t mean that I judge or dislike someone based on their appearances, because I’ve been through those days of being judged, but it’s quite hard to be whimsical and go to random places or participate in normal activities if weight is hindering that person’s normal life. It’ll also be nice to be able to go on a jog or hike with someone I like. Other than this, I think my options are quite open.
Unless there’s a drastic change – and by this, I don’t mean through plastic surgery…I don’t think my perception of one’s physical attractiveness changes easily. I suppose the only substantial differences I have in mind are weight / muscle loss and gain, hairstyle, and attire change. It’s superficial, but the clothes you wear do make a difference. It’s a bit ironic that I say this, because I wear t-shirt, sweatpants / running pants / shorts, and sneakers most of the time. This might sound a bit brutal, but most of the times I believe we can almost instantaneously and subconsciously decide on whether someone is dating material through first glance. Research has actually shown that we make decisions about people within a few seconds to minutes of initial meeting, too. There’s a reason why online dating and dating apps are flourishing.
We all have a slightly different way to determine whether or not someone is attractive to us. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and even the conventionally attractive people cannot escape the inevitable fate of being scrutinized and be labeled as lacking at times. We’re biologically driven to seek out and potentially create intimate bonds with those who we find aesthetically pleasing at first. Whether or not anything develops between you and that person depends on an array of reasons, which probably include: chemistry / connection, compatibility, core / value, personality, and background. There’s plenty of other factors at play, too, such as your priorities in life at the moment (putting more focus on your career at the moment), age (this makes a bigger difference than you’d think), and personal issues (security / insecurity, fears, trust, etc).
A person who can really draw me in is someone who is kind, honest, objective / rational (especially when it comes to problem solving and communication), respects others, whimsical / adventurous at times, independent, with some sort of drive / passion in his / her life (career and interests), humorous (it’s okay to get crude or offensive at times – I grew up with a brother), and probably a few other factors that I’ve missed. These characteristics apply for both friendships and relationships.
As vague as it sounds, I’ll need to feel some sort of connection and chemistry with someone in order to consider him as a potential romantic partner. Romance and feelings of butterflies are unfortunately not enough anymore, and Mark Manson elaborates more about that in his article “Love is Not Enough”. Ultimately, personality is more important for me as I need to know that the person can and is willing to stick with me in the long term. Short term and casual relationships are completely acceptable, but they’re just not my thing. This is not to dismiss that physical appearances are not important. Looks matter, but if I’m already considering someone as a partner, then I’m pretty certain that I find that person attractive on the outside already.
There’s another magnitude of attraction that’s fascinating.
Have you ever met someone who made you instinctively feel the want, no, the need to know him / her? I get that it sounds a little bit creepy after typing it out.
I have experienced that. Twice, actually.
I believe that I exhibit more silence in a personal setting (and probably seeps into business as well) during an initial meeting. This is not to say that I flat out refuse to talk. I think I ask and answer basic questions and see how the conversation goes. Alcohol definitely helps in this case. I’m innately more interested in what the other person has to say until he / she strikes a cord and reminds me of a personal experience / relatable anecdote. I observe and see how the conversation goes, and I don’t actively connect on social media with people I meet for the first time (there are exceptions though). Socialization with strangers / acquaintances / new friends makes me expend a lot of effort based on my introversion. This explains why I need some solitude after social interaction.
However, during the two rare instances that I have encountered, I was completely different. I was still me, but there was an added sense of urgency. There were subtle actions that I’ve noticed. My silence doesn’t tell anyone much, and as cliche as I risk to sound, there was a sudden lag, or a certain internal disconnect from my surroundings for a few seconds. Then an enormous wave of want / need buries me instantaneously. It sounds like a hyperbole, but the burning desire to connect with that particular person was comparable to our basic primal needs. The feeling of panic infused with adrenaline rush would probably be similar to skydiving for me (I’m scared of heights and my amygdala would definitely be hyperactive).
I wasn’t really that active when I’ve experienced it for the first time out of confusion. I had no idea where that feeling came from, or the reasoning behind it. I couldn’t even decipher myself in an objective manner other than concluding that I’m really drawn to that person. So I tried connecting after a few more interactions and it worked (I was on campus then, so it wasn’t hard to meet that person). Even though this person isn’t in my life anymore, I’d never really forget the immense spectrum of emotions that I’ve felt during that first moment.
I’d like to think that when I encountered this inexplicable feeling for the second time that I was in a much better place. I wasn’t perfect, but I was improving and feeling better. During that moment, I somehow convinced myself that I’ll never get another chance with this person if I didn’t do something.
Well, cross that.
Now that I think back, if I didn’t take the plunge then, this individual would be a stranger that I think back on once in a blue moon. And I’d regret it. It sounds so absurd, because there are so many people in the world. What makes this person…special? How did this person who I didn’t know the existence of for a huge chunk of my life make me feel this urge? After the initial contact, my mind decided that I need to know more about this particular person. It was like bees to honey for me to him, but honestly I still can’t pinpoint the precise reason as to why I had that reaction then.
Alcohol definitely helped in this case with loosening up my usual inhibitions. I’ve also broken a couple of my mannerisms that even surprised me when I sobered up the next day. I’ve had too much that night though, because I tend to forget a few events and details when I drink in excess. Luckily, I had no hangover the following day.
I find this type of attraction electrifying. In a way, it overrides any type of sense I have and I’m forced to seize the moment regardless of my fears and insecurities. I love that ephemeral courage I get from nowhere. My brain actually shuts my own thoughts off during these rare moments and executes, because these instances are too precious for me to let go, and I’d rather dwell in regret and sorrow from failure than to miss a shot at trying to connect to that person.
…that’s very unlike me.
If I were to run into the same situations again, I’d plunge in a heartbeat. I’m not going to let whatever cowardice or my “logical side” talk me out of an action that produced such an impression on me.
You can be afraid to take a leap. It’s okay, everyone feels the same way. No one wants to be vulnerable and hurt, but sometimes there are people worth risking that for. Don’t live in mere safety just because you’re scared. Shatter your old defense mechanisms and your self-defeating behaviors, because those generate one and only one repeated result. Someone out there has been already and / or is willing to be hurt by you, because you are precious enough for him / her to break his / her comfort zone. Remember that when you start doubting next time.
I’d say jump.
“The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.”
– Victor Hugo, Les Miserables