347 – The Sex Appeal

Something I don’t understand–that I’m not sure anyone truly understands–is when people describe inanimate objects as ‘sexy’.

I understand what the word means but don’t see how that translates to, say, Jeremy Clarkson describing a car. It’s one of those bastardisations by which one word comes to mean something entirely different, only in this case the two meanings aren’t as clearly delineated as when talking about gay people as opposed to a gay summer’s morning. More often than not, the people who describe cars as being sexy seem exactly the kind of people who’d copulate with them p the exhaust–and that includes Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear crew.

Not that this is something they actually want to do–God, I hope they don’t; can you imagine?–but for gear-heads the only thing separating cars from swimsuit models is that cars don’t talk back. Basically, it’s in Michael Knight’s best interests to keep K.I.T.T. away from Richard Hammond.

This fetishisation of the inanimate is both a frightening and fascinating subject. Some artists make their cartoons, comic strips and scultptures deliberately provocative, but they’re no more human than automobiles. Sure, they might look a little more human, but if you saw some big-bosomed Anime schoolgirl wibbling down the street you’d run in fear. Eyes that big–and indeed bosoms that large–have no place on a human being. It’s all very well talking about how sexy Jessica Rabbit is in the context of Who Framed Roger Rabbit but in the flesh she’d be a repulsive freak.

Part of Jessica Rabbit’s appeal is, of course, her husky voice, but even that comes from someone who in this day and age you probably wouldn’t touch with somebody else’s. Kathleen Turner might have been sexy in her Romancing the Stone days but since then she’s played Chandler’s drag queen father in Friends. Today she’s bloated, thin-lipped, wrinkled–I sound like I’m putting the boot in but she’s an arthritic woman in her late fifties: she’s not going to be the sex symbol she once was.

Yet beneath the image, a little more hoarse, her voice is pretty much the same as it’s always been. She could voice Jessica Rabbit again tomorrow and be as sexy as she was back in 1988.

You know, if you have a thing for rabbits.

I never found Jessica Rabbit particularly alluring, and always thought Ms. Turner’s appeal topped out in The Man With Two Brains. But after thirty-three years, now I’ve settled down with the love of my life I’m wondering: what do I find sexy. It’s not cars, it’s not cartoons, and despite claims my wife might make to the contrary, it isn’t board games either.

Not to sound nauseating but I find myself so entrenched in wedded life it’s difficult to make judgements as to whether other women are attractive or not. Yes, I know how that sounds, and no, I’m not just saying that because my good lady wife happens to read this blog. My parents philosophy was always “There’s no harm in looking at the menu when you’re on the diet” although it was hard to fathom what kind of person either of them found attractive. They never really let on, especially not my dad, who apparently liked the Servalan from Blake’s 7 school of short hair on women, but whose penchant for this style I only found out through my mum after she’d had a haircut.

Mum’s tastes tended toward the typical mum’s favourites–Tom Conti, Dr. Mark Porter—though I could never be sure whether this was through choice or what was expected of her. If either of them ever ‘looked at the menu’ as it were, they certainly never smacked their lips over the dishes.

Even stranger, my sister ended up marrying the least likely candidate for her affections: a short, effeminate, runt of a man, who’s currently wearing a shock of dyed-black hair in an attempt to disguise the ever-growing bald spot at the centre of his pate. It’s possible after her previous boyfriend she wanted someone so meek and non-threatening she’d never be scared again; it’s hard to imagine my brother in law standing up against anyone, and even more unlikely that he’d become abusive.

As for my tastes, my girlfriends have seem rather diverse both in personality and looks. Having had so few I’ve never felt the need to open my net wider and collect conquests by the dozen; now I’m married any days I might have spent trawling Plenty of Fish for a date are firmly behind me.

It’s just as well. Not being blessed in the looks department I would never have been able to pick and choose. I’ve never been chatted up nor hit upon, nor looked at with anything other than disgust. Maybe I’ve dwelt for so long at the bottom of the ugly tree I’ve stopped finding other people attractive.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t people I might in theory find sexy; I just don’t see that many of them.

Maybe it’s because I’ve started socialising so late in life that all the butterfly nerves have been used up, or tangled around my spouse. As so many of her friends are female since moving here I’ve spent far more time talking to women then I have men. It’s possible they’re attractive. It’s possible they’re not. None of them have made me gag on my own revulsion–something people tend to do when around yours truly–but I tend to look through any attractiveness and only see the person beneath.

It’s been so long since I’ve been too nervous to chat to a girl that I wonder why I ever had a problem doing so. Maybe my younger self couldn’t regard girls as people too–a problem that persists on various Internet forums where help threads for lonely young men are as common as daisies in a meadow. Rather than be shy around the most beautiful woman in my life I’m completely comfortable talking to her, more comfortable than I am talking to anyone else. Our more refined days of denying gas from passing and alluding primly to lavatorial doings have gone out the window; we now announce proudly our bowel movements, and if we don’t let passing gas out with the loudest trumpet possible then at least we’re a little less embarrassed that our digestive systems are in working order.

It might sound disgusting to those of you still giddy to find your other halves, but let me tell you: this kind of behaviour is absolutely necessary in a relationship. The romance doesn’t have to be any less magical, but at times you’re going to have a stomach upset that has vile liquids pouring out both ends like a stomped-upon tube of paint. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not sexy, but on those never-ending nights when you’re yawning your lunch into the toilet, it’s nice to have a soothing hand on your neck, helping you through the dark times. It’s far and away more appreciated than a tiny negligee (which isn’t to say those aren’t appreciated as well).

I’ve never had to deal with seduction, or worry about when to make the first move. First kisses came easily and what came after was as natural as two people falling into bed. For a long time I was abstinent (not entirely by choice, but not entirely otherwise, either) and sexless. People said they found it difficult to believe I’d ever be or find someone sexy. I agreed.

I don’t suppose I’m any more sexy now. I don’t flirt, I don’t draw appreciative glances. Being off the menu hasn’t made me any more attractive: I’m just as invisible as I’ve always been.

To everyone but my wife, that is.

And why should I care otherwise? The simple answer is: I don’t. Even out-of-reach Hollywood starlets have gone off the boil for me and I’m fine with that. I’ll leave all my sexiness for the privacy of the bedroom, thank you very much, where I’ll share it with the only item on the menu I’m interested in eating.

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