February 24, 2009

Come for the Personality, Stay for the Personality

You will notice a common trend in my anecdotes of telling other people I need to shave my face every day. Absolutely no one says, "WHAT?!" No one laughs. No one wrinkles their nose or ostracizes me. They treat my confession calmly, with sympathy but without pity--perhaps because they don't know whether or not to be sorry for me--and they are always respectful.

If you're worried about telling someone about your excess hair, you should try to imagine what you might do if a friend told you one day that they had been hiding something like that. If it was somebody you had terrific rapport with, who you admired and appreciated for all their qualities, would it really change the way you felt about them?

But when it's a romantic interest and not a friend, the stakes are admittedly a little different. And at the beginning of a relationship we often spend so much effort trying to impress the other person. Knowing what a superficial world we live in, we've come to expect that the smallest hitch could make or break a relationship. ("She had man hands!") We stress over whether they can tell already, whether they might accidentally find out, and how they will react if or when we tell them. And the longer we hide the truth and the more attached we become to the other person, the bigger and more volatile our little secret can seem.

Still, at the very heart of the matter is the person, not the body. We're probably all tired of hearing the old homily "you can't judge a book by its cover." But worn out as it is, when it comes to love it is still true. Outward beauty as defined in magazines and on TV may attract the eye but the personality is what draws people--or at least, the sort of people one would want to date. Really, how healthy or fulfilling would a relationship be with someone who only liked others for the way they looked?

Perhaps we bearded women are lucky in that regard. Our excess body hair is like a built-in test; if it makes no difference to a man, it's a sign they might be a keeper! (Stretching for the silver lining, aren't we, Allerleirah? Yeah, I know.)

I definitely don't find it any easier, knowing this. I only ever told one man about my struggles. We never dated for various reasons, but we were quite close. Had we been in the right circumstances we probably would have got together, but as it was we settled for a rather charged friendship always on the cusp of romance. It might be pertinent to note that, cliche as it sounds, intelligence and sense of humor initially attracted us to each other. After eight months of amazing chemistry, I found myself wanting to tell him, if only to explain why I tensed up when he would try to touch me. Over the time we had known each other, I had been getting laser treatment done, so he had seen me holding an ice pack to my jaw and knew that every month I'd disappear off to a mysterious "appointment." So one day, staring fiercely down at my lap, I told him what I had been hiding.

"I kind of thought that might be it," he said, very gently. It was strange to feel almost disappointed that he didn't recoil--wasn't even surprised. Though I had not been able to imagine how he would react, I should have known I could at least trust him to be polite and sensitive to my feelings. And not only did it not shock him, it didn't change how he treated me at all. It really made no difference to him, even with a dramatic confession. It certainly felt strange to receive a rather anticlimactic reaction to something I had worked myself up about so often in the past.

Even though I had thought about it in the past, his reaction (or lack thereof) really made me consider: having an excess of colored protein filaments really doesn't affect the things you like or the things you're good at. It doesn't have any bearing on one's generosity or forgiveness or intelligence. It doesn't make a difference in how we care for others. So we should all try to prevent it from interfering with the way we feel about ourselves. It may not always be possible, but we should try.

It seems I'm not the only one thinking about the subject of body hair and relationships. Ayrton over at the Hypertrichosis Blog composed a dating entry for February 5, which I happened to hop over and see last week after I had finished my own post. (And boy, was my face red when he mentioned this blog in one of his earlier entries!) Ladies, it's one thing reading about what really matters in a relationship from a girl's perspective. It carries more weight coming from the other sex. I encourage you to have a look.

See you all next week!

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