I read a Glamour blog post recently, and I can’t remember for the life of me what it was about, but in the comments section women wrote about their boyfriends and how some weren’t initially attracted to them. I can see this happening in a friends-first kind of relationship, but how does this work in a regular dating situation? How important is physical attraction in a relationship? How long do you go out with a guy you’re not attracted to hoping some magic will happen before you decide it’s cruel?
Recently, I joined Match.com and met a promising sounding guy. We’ll call him med student. As you probably figured, he’s a med student, and since intelligence is very high on my list, I agreed to meet him. He’s a very nice guy, and I can’t quite pinpoint what was lacking. Except for the zsa zsa zsu.
“is a relationship a relationship without the zsa zsa zsu?”
carrie bradshaw, Sex and the City
Now, maybe I’m just covering up my lack of attraction with talk of spark (and we certainly weren’t in a relationship), but it got me thinking. What exactly goes into attraction? On the surface, he seems like a great guy for me–smart, attentive, courteous. All are things that are attractive. But when I think about it, we didn’t have anything in common. Granted med school is hard (I’ve never been in med school but I surely hope the people to whom I entrust my health go through strenuous education), but he had no other discernible hobbies; which, I think is very important. Nor did he seem very physically active.
Yet, when I told him that the spark just wasn’t there, he told me, and I quote:
“I personally think it’s hard to find a ‘spark’ with somebody you don’t know very long… you are fun, smart, and very pretty…so I hope we can spend more time together.”
One part of me is thinking, “well, duh. I’m awesome, so of course he likes me” but the other part of me is thinking, “but what is the draw? Exactly what makes you really like me?” Given that he complimented my looks more than my other attributes, I have to assume it’s based on physical attraction. I’m not the smartest girl and I assume that he met plenty of much smarter girls in college (Ivy League!) and in med school. And, I was completely honest when I said I was hungover at work on a Friday, even though he’s not a drinker.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me either. I hope I don’t sound cocky or conceited, but there are a handful of times where I’ve met a guy or gone out with him and continually heard, “you’re so pretty.” Flattering the first time. The next ten effusions are slightly uncomfortable.
I guess med student has a point, though. When I think about the three guys who had the strongest romantic impact on me, all started out as “enemies,” not even friends. The zsa zsa zsu was clearly not there. Initially. Boy from Home annoyed me as a freshman in high school, before we both got over our 9th grade insecurities. Then we became friends. Assisi terrified me the first few weeks I knew him—yelling at swimmers for not putting in the effort or coming on a regular basis—“hey there,” I thought, “we’re a club team not some Varsity swim team.” A guy I met studying abroad is also included in the aforementioned three, but honestly, I don’t remember the first few weeks of my studying abroad.
My favorite literary couples also follow this course (both hatred and friendship): Elizabeth Bennet hated Mr. Darcy initially. Jemima Emerson hated John Reid. Scarlett O’Hara hated Rhett Butler. Same goes for Lily Evans and James Potter. Anne Shirley hated Gilbert Blythe and then they became friends (then lovers). Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightly were friends far before romance was involved. As were Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
So, I wonder, does physical attraction play a larger role in man’s initial relationship investment than in a woman’s? How long exactly can you drag out the pre-relationship process, before you decide if you’re attracted to him or not? Same goes for finding the spark, or zsa zsa zsu. Or are they basically the same thing—the spark being an entity we invented to avoid saying, “I’m not attracted to you.”