I had coffee with a friend this morning and we got on the topic of past relationships.
I sipped my Starbucks imitation concoction of a nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and oat milk latte, when Natalie asked, “What would your ideal man be? Like, the dream.”
I looked upward as I ruminated, and began listing.
“He has to be funny.” The ease of laughter and shared humor that forms a connection between two people has always been first on my mind when I imagine what I need in a partner.
“Emotionally intelligent…and mature.” By now I’d learned that I had no room for shallow hearts and minds, or ones that couldn’t communicate their needs and wants in a relationship.
“Sexual open-mindedness.” Another gift of wisdom from years of experience and experimenting was that sexual exploration was not something I saw stopping for me. I needed someone who accepted and encouraged my diversity. Someone who welcomed a passionately curious, non-judgmental intimate relationship.
“Confidence.” As someone with past trauma from being bullied and ostracized in school, positive self-image and self-esteem had always been a challenge. I admired those who exuded the self-assuredness I always craved. This one was a no-brainer.
After that fourth trait, I stopped. I realized I hadn’t listened anything in the physical—only mental and emotional dream qualities.
I knew how accurate that was for me when I thought back on my past relationships. If you lined up my exes, you could see that their outward appearances had nothing in common. Though I liked to think I had a type—tall, lean muscle, brunette—rarely was it the case that that was who I’d end up with. My heart never landed on a look, and it certainly never stayed for them.
I thought back on those relationships and knew that my partners did have some things in common: they were all extremely extroverted, the life of the party, able to talk to anyone in the room or even strangers at the gas station; they were sweet, thoughtful, and kind (usually), putting others needs before their own; they were hilarious beyond measure, their jokes and antics and mannerisms leaving me in stitches with every exchange; and they made me feel at home simply by being in their presence.
In high school, there was always so much pressure on the physical and materialistic possessions each person presented. If you were a girl, you wanted to be a size zero but have huge boobs. You wanted straight hair and celebrity status handbags. You wanted to be hot, popular, cool, with an unfazed attitude. If you were a guy, you wanted to be the jock with big muscles, towering over everyone else. You wanted the cool car, skate and surf brand name clothes. You wanted to be hot, popular, cool, and have a “no cares” mentality.
The reality of what we should be searching for in a boyfriend or girlfriend came too late, and years were wasted, at least in my experience, on the wrong people. I didn’t want someone who didn’t know how to communicate or didn’t take my feelings into consideration because it wasn’t the cool thing to do.
I wanted someone who understood me, who respected my time and energy and matched my efforts. And I didn’t actually want the “hot” guy, the player, the guy who was invited to every party and never gave you attention or affection in any public scenario.
I wanted the guy who had his own interests, didn’t follow the herd but instead followed his dreams and passions, and didn’t give a f*ck what anyone else thought about that—because it’s what he loved.
I began to understand that I wasn’t looking for a partner who would look good standing next to me; I wanted a partner who walked with me through life and helped me grow while journeying through their own self-growth. Someone who would support me, build me up, and honor my truths—just as I would honor theirs.
Natalie asked a follow-up question after I finished my list, “Do you find yourself more attracted to guys or girls?” This inquiry only affirmed what I’d just said. I knew that it had nothing to do with the outward and everything to do with what was inside.
“I think I’m more attracted to guys,” I started, “but then again, it really depends on the person. I don’t really care about looks—personality is what matters to me.”
Part of sexually identifying as anything other than heterosexual, I feel, offers you more perspective on where you’re willing to bend when it comes to the expectations you have for your partners. When you break down that wall and stop closing yourself off to only one sex, something else shifts. You start to ask yourself—what do I actually care about when I’m dating? What do I need from somebody else?
When I came out, I realized that my heart had always been in the right place, aligned with accepting a person for who they are, not their body parts or physical appearance. And that much had remained true throughout the rest of my dating history.
Because when it comes down to it, beauty and muscle don’t help you through the tough times. High cheekbones and full lips don’t help you to empathize or support your loved ones. Strong arms and a tall frame don’t offer guidance or tenderness. When you need someone to lean on, it’s not their physical body that will provide the solace that you seek, as nice as it might be to cozy up with.
What we need is what we can offer from our own hearts, one tired soul to the next.
In my experience, types are a myth.
We can list off the qualities that we dream of, like we can imagine our dream home, or our dream life. But often that isn’t what we end up with, and the reality is far, far better than we ever could have imagined.
And why would we want to stop that magic from happening, all because we had an idea of what it should look like in our head?