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Issue #7: Eye Candy Or Mind Candy?

April 30th, 2012 by

eye candy or mind candy?

A lot of men out there like to claim all rights to ‘visual creature-dom’. But I’d like to vie against those men for a portion of those rights. As a species, we rely on sight more than any other sense on a given day. I think we’re all very visual creatures. Aside from being captivated by brilliant images, I personally translate everything I think, hear, say, read and write into a visual medium– and that’s not necessarily by choice. If someone decides to tell me the details of their weekend war with food poisoning, I’m not just wincing because I sympathize; I’m wincing because I’m visualizing the spoken play-by-play of their night in the bathroom.

Last week, while waiting for my friend to hurry up in the lingerie department, I happened to glance over at a shelf of Calvin Klein briefs. Queue inner monologue:

‘Hey, what’s up, Underwear Model Dude? Do you actually prefer briefs when you’re not modeling, or do you spend your days in boxers? How many crunches do you have to do per day to get your abs to look like a rock quarry? Does your girlfriend look like your sculpted, female equivalent, or is she more of an average, down-to-earth girl? Look at you, you look like you are really digging those briefs… and every unassuming woman that passes down this aisle. Let’s make a deal: I’ll buy your briefs if you’ll teach my future husband how to make that face…’

I’m totally gazing. Not in a drooling/fantasizing kind of way, just contemplating. I mean, I don’t see Underwear Model Dude everyday. He’s certainly nothing I go looking for, but if my friend just leaves me in front of him and there’s nothing else to look at…

“Hey Claire–”

Whoa! Hi! Oh, I was just–”

“Ready to go?”


I could make excuses all day, but let’s face it: Girls have their visual space-out moments too, maybe just not as often. What I see with my eyes is very important to me– let it be known that I wouldn’t trade my sight for anything. But when it comes to people, the visual characteristics become important for reasons beyond just the fact that they exist.

Which leads me to Ryan. Ryan and I work for the same company, but in different cities. Not only do I happen to be one of Ryan’s administrative contacts, but I also have to make the occasional visit out to his office just to make sure everything is up to par.

Ryan seems to have no qualms when it comes to confidence with ladies, and rightfully so– his Facebook profile broadcasts a photo of his statuesque self posing shirtless beside a lake and sporting a perfected tan– the kind of tan my fair, Welsh skin will never be able to match. I’m quite sure he’s never had a problem catching a girl’s eye.

Me? Pffft… Let’s just say I was never very good at attracting guys in my younger days. Middle school was a dark, awkward nightmare that I’ve mostly blocked from my memory, and while all my friends jumped headfirst into that big queue of ‘trading relationships’ during high school, I never really pushed past one or two dates. Plus, of the boys who did approach me, there was certainly never the captain of the ridiculously ripped Men’s Varsity Soccer team. Nope. Instead, I just sat on the sidelines twice a week and photographed each and every one of them…

…for yearbook, you pervs.

I may be all snark and grins, now… but back then, I was probably the shyest, most unpopular cheerleading captain that ever graced a high school hallway. I was enrolled in college before a certified relationship hit me, and even at that I was still trying to figure out how to quit poking myself in the eye with my eyeliner. Receiving attention from someone like Ryan in high school never once crossed my mind… which was fine, because if I had received that kind of attention, I probably wouldn’t have known what to do with it, anyway.

I have a much better handle on myself today, but old habits and expectations die hard. If I catch a guy staring at me, I’m going to think I have ketchup on my face long before supposing he might be interested.

Here’s the problem:

When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see a specimen capable of persuading a handsome gentleman. When I look at myself in the mirror, I often catch a pretty wide spectrum. I see…

A six year old bawling her eyes out at the edge of the high dive during mandatory swim class…

A nine year old struggling, then failing to fit in with her new peers after moving back to the States…

A ten year old having her face slapped and hair ripped on the playground…

A fifteen year old grief-stricken for the first time and unable to get out of bed for days…

A seventeen year old trembling so badly in front of the class that she can’t see the speech shaking on her paper…

And a nineteen year old lying awake in a vacant dorm room, hitting the lowest point of depression at three in the morning.

However– I also see that same girl strapping herself into a skydiving harness the day she turns twenty, intent to take back that day on the high dive.

I see a twenty three year old, heartbroken and unable to get out of bed for days, followed closely by the twenty four year old who rescues her and keeps going…

Keeps working to secure a career…

Keeps running to win her 25km age bracket…

Keeps striving to become a twenty five year old officiant who cashes in her fear of public speaking and delivers one hundred and fifty guests into sniffling tears of joy.

I see a girl who doesn’t quite get the game we’re all playing, but manages to keep her head above water and remain a pretty formidable contender, nonetheless. If I’ve somehow managed to establish myself as a proven young woman along the way, I guess I must have missed it. After all, it’s hard to watch the race when you’re busy jumping hurdles. Some days I still see a couple bruised elbows and skinned knees.

So, when Ryan corners me outside the office and asks me about my weekend plans, I’m a little lost for words. All I can think is, “Well… Huh. This is new.” It takes me a while to fathom why on earth guys like Ryan would start to sit up and take notice when I walk into an office. Regardless, you’d think I’d be I’d be excited, right? I mean, I always figured that if I was ever approached by such a physically attractive guy, I’d probably get at least a little excited.

But I don’t. I feel like I should, but I don’t know anything about this guy. He’s just a photo on a page. A handshake in a corporate office. Maybe it’s a pleasant photo and a smooth handshake, but for some odd reason those adjectives just aren’t making a difference.

Ryan and I go out on a date, but I’m leery. If this man grew up as Varsity Soccer Guy, I get the feeling that we’re probably not going to have a lot in common.

And we don’t. I spend the whole evening trying to get a healthy conversation past that attractive façade, but all I’m getting in return are some one-word answers, a couple of cool looks, and the ever-aloof shrug. Come on, Ryan… we’re both human beings, we have got to have some common ground. Finally, I resort to discussing work, and Ryan bites. Apparently our place of employment is one of the few things he’s up for talking about. As the night wears on, I realize that the attractive façade might just be all that he is– or at least all that he’s willing to show me.

I’ve been through a colorful array of emotional challenges and situations during my short lifetime, so maybe acting ‘cool’ and ‘aloof’ is just not the way to my heart. All the man’s showing me is that he’s physically charming, and I need more. I need to know a person. I need to get to know something underneath that flawless skin in order to kindle a spark, and that has never been more evident, more crystal-clear in my mind than it is now.

Some girls would be disheartened to hear that I was not able to enjoy my date with such an attractive man. Some girls might call me nuts for not accepting more than a second date with Ryan, or even the following invite to share his bed, but I’m rather relieved. Relieved to know that I really do value all those depths and traits in others above appearances, just the way I always thought I would. Relieved to know that social media still hasn’t broken through to my core. I’m still rooting for the soul, not the shell. And so, with all the irony in the universe, it just so happens that the most male model-esque guy to ever proposition me wins the most platonic of my reactions.

You’re nice to look at, Ryan. You too, Varsity Soccer Guy… and Underwear Model Dude… but I’ll always prefer to keep my eyes on a man I can truly connect with. I will do my best to try and remember you for being kind enough to ask me out… not for scoffing at me in the halls of my adolescence. And I hope you won’t take it personally the next time a girl turns you down when you offer her your bed. I promise; it has nothing to do with appearances.

Some people do value a lean, attractive physique over much else, and that’s okay. I think everyone has the right to prefer and not prefer qualities in the one they plan to share the rest of their lives with. Do looks matter? I think they do and they don’t– it just depends on who you are and who you’re with. As a population, our needs and preferences span an entire spectrum. While the thought of such a limitless sea can be daunting, I think it should give everyone hope that their match really is out there, and they shouldn’t have to change their appearance into something they don’t fit in order to find their other half. If you take the time to foster all the characteristics you value in yourself, chances are you’ll eventually attract another who feels the same.

Pure physical attraction, while certainly inspiring and enjoyable, rarely amounts to anything more on its own. While it can certainly intensify infatuation, infatuation and meaningful love– the kind upon which marriage and companionship is built and sustained– are two entirely different entities. I think physical attraction plays its best role when you get to know and develop an affinity with a person who happens to take care of what they’ve been given… not when you search the vicinity for the hottest babe and then try to contrive something from there.

I see a lot of things when I look in the mirror, and a flat, perfect surface has never been one of them. In the same light, I don’t need to see a flawless face when I look at the man I intend to share my life with. Rather, I’d like to see the stories and the journeys that make him real, even if they are to be told in scars and imperfections. That’s the kind of beauty that speaks to me.

Author: Claire

Claire writes Sexless And The City,'s bi-weekly column detailing the thoughts and experiences of a woman who's twenty five and waiting. Currently, Claire's starving artist soul lives inside the body of a corporate woman, but she's okay with that for now; it just means she gets to stay up late working on her own projects with a bowl of shrimp curry instead of Top Ramen. Aside from creative endeavors, Claire loves trail running, learning, history, and traveling.

3 Responses to “Issue #7: Eye Candy Or Mind Candy?”

  1. Marriage Material says:

    Wow, well said Claire. I think your articles are amazing.

    It is so true what you said about physical attraction deepening when you get to know a person. I never feel an intense attraction to a man unless I get to know him and connect with him on a deeper level than just how he looks.

  2. Sally says:

    Wow Claire that is great! I like how it is really deep and reflective, but you still keep it light :)

  3. Jay says:

    Okay, I’m going to say it. Why the heck can’t more women be like you? Girls today are professional conformists; anyone else would have notched Mr. Soccer Coach in a heartbeat, I assure you.

    At the risk of sounding like a moron…
    You are inspiring.

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