Drafter's Note: One eye is nearly shut from exhaustion, so if this doesn't make sense... Try closing one eye and read it again. And NaBloPoMo has become a personal bet with myself--what date number will be the first without a post?! We shall see...
Some friends and I know a lovely older man, who is--really, there's not a better word than lovely. But a couple times when we've hung out with him, he's brought his son, who we now refer to as Joe Schmo's Problematically Attractive Son (names have been changed to safeguard the less attractive). Addressing first things first, it's Problematic because he's married. We're sure his wife is completely lovely, and we have no wishes to cause fracture with their union, so we keep the word in his title to remind ourselves that he's off limits.
My favorite element of our history with Problematically Attractive is the second time I spent time with him, along with a friend of mine who, to be fair, was a little circumspect of how attractive he really was. I could see it in her eyes: "Sure, Chandra. Poor Chandra. Her opinions have been skewed by too many New Englanders overly swaddled in Reny's woolens." We had dinner, the group of us, and at some point Problematically Attractive excused himself, and as he did Jill leaned over, keeping her wine glass between her mouth and our unsuspecting guests, and mumbled something to the tune of, "Holy SHIT. You weren't kidding."
And to understand this you have to understand what attraction really means. A man can be handsome, can be muscular and perfectly shaped and a downright Greek god... But might be an idiot, or a jerk, or disinterested, or boring. What makes Problematically Attractive problematically attractive isn't his face or his body. (This isn't to speak ill of either--both are perfectly nice. Better than nice.) What puts the attractive in Problematically Attractive is how he listens.
I know. You think I missed a crucial day in Being a Modern Woman class. But just hold tight for a second.
You are making small talk, just shooting the crap over appetizers, making conversation, and if someone interrupted you or changed the subject you would barely notice--even you don't care that much. But gradually, without affectation or guile, the man across the table is stopping what he's doing, leaning across, asking follow-up questions and following them up with, "I never thought of that!" and "That is so interesting." Every statement you make is the most fascinating thing he's heard all night, maybe all week. He is engrossed--more importantly, it's you who is engrossing. You find yourself agreeing with him: You're right, this IS fascinating. Thank you for noticing. It's about time someone did. Everyone else at the table disappears because the only thing there is any room for is the utter mind-blowing interestingness of your words. Food goes cold. Other guests feel left out. And you regret nothing.
There is absolute, gut-wrenching power in the art of listening well. I can't overstate how selflessly well Problematically Attractive listened, and how that's all he did. He didn't compliment me or use code words, he didn't pull out my chair or bring me flowers. And, no exaggeration, I still remember that night years later. Have I met more physically pretty men since? Probably. But all of them pale in comparison and are now long-since forgotten.
I write all that as a tip to the fellas out there. I loathe generalizations, especially gender-based ones, so I won't make any claims about how this is how all women tick. And I'm not suggesting you fake it, because that's easier to spot than you think. But if your aim is to be appealing, romantically or otherwise, just be engrossed. Put away your phone. Don't people-watch. Do your best to back-burner the mental grocery list, that actor's name you can't quite snag. Just stare into the person's face and listen to them. Gather every trace of information you can find and retain it. Be someone else's Problematically (or, better yet, Uncomplicatedly) Attractive.
You can do it, pretty face or no. Just listen.