While I was visiting my aunt, my cousin-in-law Dehlia stopped by. Dehlia is married to Aunt Caroline’s eldest son Rodge (Roger, Jr). Dehlia is extremely pleasant and quite attractive. Rodge, on the other hand, is morbidly obese. Not only that, but he’s also not the most pleasant person to be around. He has a passive mean streak, put-down jokes that you aren’t sure are entirely jokes. For most of my life I’ve wondered how it is that he won her over. But during my younger days it did give me hope that I, too, might find someone like Dehlia.

It’s not uncommon in television to see a hot wife with a lukewarm (or worse) husband. The most commonly mentioned examples are According to Jim and King of Queens. Not only is there an attractiveness disparity, but one of maturity as well. I’m a believer that we are more influenced by popular entertainment than we believe. Though no one would come out and say it (or even recognize it), I think that a lot of guys look at those partnerships and internalize an optimistic view of what they might get if they try hard enough or get lucky. Even if they are outwardly pessimistic.

When I was a kid, I was fat, had acne, poor posture, unkempt hair, an introverted and awkward persona, and an uncool wardrobe. I wasn’t particularly optimistic most of the time, but looking back shows like Just The Ten Of Us (which paired a heavy Bill Kirchenbauer with a trim Deborah Harmon) and considering my cousin I was still left room to dream. Now hope is generally a good thing, but it can sometimes get in the way of a necessary self-evaluation. Or it can allow us to overlook the old maxim that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Lady Luck almost always shines her grace on the prepared.

It’s worth noting that even within the context of these television shows, there is something that the hefty male characters have that most of their real-life counterparts lack: charisma. They’re generally outgoing and personable, if dim and immature.

It’s also worth noting that most of us can tell the difference between entertainment and reality. The problem is that we sometimes see (or think we see) televised perceptions in real life as well. No one past a certain age thinks that people can fly a la Superman because they’ve never seen it and it’s been explained to them that people can’t fly. However, little fat kids are not told by people whose opinions they honor that they’re going to end up old and alone or doomed to end up with a fellow fattie. And further they see numerous counterexamples, which brings me back to my cousin.

A guy can see them on the street and think to themselves (“Hey, if he can get a woman that looks like that, so can I!”). I used to the same when I was single and in search of a pick-me-up. We find hope wherever we can. What the person on the street does not see, and what growing up I did not know, was how exactly Dehlia and Rodge came to be. Once upon a time Rodge was an athlete in top physical form; it was only after they married that he let himself go. Also, Dehlia had a son in need of a father, which Rodge had to be (despite the fact that my cousin-once-removed is very brown-skinned and both his parents were right, it never occurred to me that Rodge wasn’t the father). Dehlia’s son is a great kid and I don’t mean to suggest that being his father was a steep price to pay, but it is precisely the price that a lot of moaners and groaners don’t want to pay.

Bob wrote on a variation a variation of the media-perceptions theme a little while back. He points out that our cues for what to look for in a partner are imperfect. Similarly, our cues for where we stand socially are equally skewed. This is particularly true for guys like me growing up who had absolutely no sense of reality because I’d never had a date. Once I was actually in a position where girls started liking me, I was able to gauge where exactly I was in the dating queue. Before that I was nowhere, but then a lot of people were nowhere, and one could realistically see that he or she wasn’t going to be nowhere forever. Waiting sucks when you’re fifteen.

The problem doesn’t go away, though, when one never does enter the dating scene for whatever reason. Their perspective becomes truly warped by media perceptions as David Alexander’s appears to have by pornography. Fortunately for me, I met a girl named Delsie. Through Delsie I discovered that real live girls were actually pretty cool even if they didn’t entirely measure up to my fantasies. Before long I discovered that Delsie lacked something that I needed, so I moved on and met Julie. After a long relationship I discovered that I needed something more than that, too. But even those flawed experiences were infinitely better than the perfect ones in my mind and I adjusted my expectations accordingly. Before long I learned that attractiveness comes in many shapes and sizes. The ones that I fell for the hardest were actually further from my earlier ideal than the ones that I left.

Clancy was offered a full-ride scholarship to Southern Tech when she graduated high school (a couple of years before I did). I sometimes wonder what would have happened if she’d gone to Sotech and we’d met in Colosse when she was 19 and I was 17. I’ve come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t have worked out. We both would have thought we were too good for one another.

Unfortunately, some people don’t get there. They hold on to the pop culture miscues and then become bitter when it doesn’t work out for them.

Category: Coffeehouse

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3 Responses to Beauties & Beasts

  1. Datexpectations says:

    I don’t think it’s a myth that love goes a little further than skin deep. Obviously first impressions can be a real put off, but I think most people get a little more sophisticated on that front as they get older.

  2. abel says:

    I was pretty much dateless throughout high school. Whenever I saw a movie or tv show that depicted a nerdy guy somehow becoming freinds with a hot cheerleader-type chick, I always held out hope that I might be able to get lucky and find some prety girl to fall in love with me.

    Though pop culture gave me hope, it never really told me that the reason I was pretty much dateless was that I was 1) shy and 2) lacked the confidence to even consider asking a pretty girl out. It wasn’t until college that I was able to put both of these behind me and my luck with women changed.

    If my teenage self could have looked into the future, I think he’d be floored to learn that not only had he been married twice, but that his late wife and second wife were both VERY attractive. Hopefully he’d be able to figure out why his future self was able to attract such beautiful women.

  3. Peter says:

    I was pretty much dateless throughout high school. Whenever I saw a movie or tv show that depicted a nerdy guy somehow becoming freinds with a hot cheerleader-type chick, I always held out hope that I might be able to get lucky and find some prety girl to fall in love with me.

    Movies and TV shows depicting fat/nerdy/otherwise undesirable men with hott chix actually may do these men a major disservice. Your experience seems to bear this out. By making it seem like any man can snag a cheerleader type if he really tries, these fictional depictions lead some fat men/nerds/etc. to hold out for the cheerleaders – usually with no success – when they’d be far better off date women who aren’t on the top of the scale.

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