I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Since her online dating profile only had a few pictures, I sent her a text asking if she had any more recent pictures. She texted back, “Well, I only have a few risqué ones on this phone.”
To which I responded, “I think I can handle it.”
I knew what the deal was. I was playing coy and she was pushing the sexual innuendo of our budding relationship. Usually it goes like, I ask for a picture, they ask what kind I would like to see, and based upon my response and how I phrase it, well, it kind of let’s people know where you stand. And we all know this. Rare is the occasion that a guy will respond with, “Oooh, could you send me pictures of your cat or your grandfather?” Now, I’m sure it happens but we all know how most guys operate. Even if they think you’re awesome and inspiring and could see a future with you – at the end of the day, we are still men with a healthy visual sex drive and we are not upset to see a provocative picture of you. And in our defense, why shouldn’t we? We obviously find you attractive. It would be odd if we didn’t want to also see you in that light, right?
But that’s not what this is about. This is about a woman who asked if I would like to see some scandalous pictures. She sent a few over and I was beyond thrilled. Her body was incredible and she was ridiculously sexy and I told her that. She said that I had taken a little too long to respond after such a revealing and vulnerable moment and I apologized and said that I had been in the shower. She went on to tell me she was trying a new thing with her interactions with men. She wanted to take more chances and “live a little”. I asked what she meant and she said something like, she had been the quiet and sky kid all her life but now that she had recently gone through a divorce she wanted to “start saying yes to more things”. I guess that meant things like sending half naked pictures to guys she meets online. She told me that she had no intentions of jumping into another serious relationship and she was using online dating to build her confidence to help her get back on her feet. I thought it was an interesting take but I respected her bold honesty.
I asked her what made her feel so vulnerable and she said that her body didn’t look as good as it once did because she had two children and things weren’t as “tight” as she would like them to be. I said I could relate to not feeling comfortable with her body image. That I felt a similar way to my own body. She was surprised that a man could identify. I said that if she felt like she needed to work on her body to feel more confident that I could understand, but from where I had been sitting, I thought she was the essence of sexy. She positioned her body with such confidence and she was gorgeous. I couldn’t believe someone with such classically appealing features couldn’t see what I saw. But then I remembered just how deeply rooted body dysmorphia issues run and it isn’t about the opinions of others but the amount of confidence or insecurity or damage inside of us.
She asked if I was her “type” and I asked her to clarify.
“Well, what you usually find attractive.”
I said, “The only commonalities I have are a level of confidence. I think sexuality is conveyed through owning what you have.” I told her that what I found attractive differed from each person depending upon how it was presented. I told her that I had dated women with stretch marks and non-symmetrical boobs. People with cankles and moles. Freckles and love-handles. Alopecia to lazy eyes. And absolutely none of that mattered when we were having sex or when I began to develop feelings.
“And besides,” I said. “My opinion shouldn’t matter anyway.”
I told her that she should try to not look for the approval of others and recognize the only true validation comes from yourself. But also because every person you encounter has completely different taste and it would be impossible to appeal to every man out there. Because the idea of what we find attractive differs so much with each person that it would be unfair to say that we have a specific “type”. Sure, I have dated primarily blondes recently. But that is only because the people who I have found intriguing and captivating, and who managed to connect with me on a higher level of compatibility, just happen to have had blonde hair.
She sent another picture, it was a close-up of her stomach. I think she expected me to be scared off because she followed up the text with, “Who wants to see this?” I told her to stop. I told her that the only way she can begin the journey to self-confidence is through acceptance. And self-depricating texts weren’t the right step.
“And with that said, I think you’re already working towards being more comfortable in your skin.”
She asked, “How?”
I knew it was unconventional but I said, “There is a positivity in sending those pictures. If taking pictures of yourself empowers you and makes you see how beautiful you are, then by all means, continue to do so. And when you send someone a close-up picture of one of your most vulnerable attributes, you take back that power. Instead of allowing a person to make you feel ugly, you shove it in their face and say, ‘Here, this is me in all of my glory. Take it or leave it.’ And there is real and valid power in that.”
I explain how in that power lies confidence. It might be covered in the slime of self-doubt, but if you can manage to realize the true extent of your sexuality, it is an entirely new level of courage.
“So what you’re saying is that I should send more naked pictures of myself to random guys? Haha.” She joked.
“No.” I said, “But don’t discredit the strength it takes. If you are insecure about your body, I would suggest to find what works for you to becoming more secure. And if that means taking pictures of yourself to help see how stunning you are, well then go for it. But I would never tell you how to do that because I am not a woman and I won’t pretend to understand the pressures you face or the worry you have to overcome. But what I do know is that sending those pictures has lead to this conversation. And talking about these things is important.”
We ended our texting that afternoon. But I still remember as clear as day while I was lying in bed that evening, I sent her a late-night text that said, “Kids, stomach, love-handles – none of that matters. Sexiness comes from confidence. And the way you turn flaws into strengths is by not asking someone if you’re sexy – it’s by telling them.”