According to a study I recently read about, women who are on the Pill have different taste in men from women who aren’t. Apparently, when they’re ovulating women get hot for the macho, highly sexual type. Since the Pill evens out their hormones over time, women taking it don’t go into heat, so to speak, and therefore are less likely to obsess over Hugh Jackman and more likely to settle for the softer features of a Donny Osmond, say. Not coincidentally, the study found that such men are more likely to stick around to make attentive husbands and fathers—unlike their macho counterparts, who will be onto the next conquest before the sheets have been cleaned.
I have to admit, I’m of two minds on this one. If the whole point of the Pill was to liberate women’s sexuality from the threat of pregnancy, I’m not sure it’s been such a success. This study makes the Pill sound a bit like Lithium: Yes, you’re more functional in the midrange of emotion it creates, but where’s the aliveness of the extremes? Is boring sex an appropriate compromise? Not to mention the evolutionary implications. If women all settle down with milquetoasts before getting reproductive, aren’t we setting up the extinction of macho men from the species? Do we really want future generations devoid of George Clooney and bears? O brave new world, that hath no chest hair in it.
On the other hand, given my own dating history, I can certainly appreciate the attraction of a drug that would steer one toward more sensitive lovers. Macho men might be great in bed, but they can be a little slippery when it comes to intimacy and commitment. If only the sensitive ones weren’t so often … well, dull.
Truth be told, I’ve never been able to settle with a conventional nice guy. Several years ago, I dated someone whom most would label Mr. Right: he was kind and generous, and he thought I was the bee’s knees. Everything was fine until he came in for a kiss. Then, seeing the intensity on his face—the almost pained look of passion that creased his cheeks above those yearningly puckered lips—I found myself having to stifle a laugh. There was nothing funny in the look: Glenn was a handsome man, and his expression in those moments was nothing if not serious. But still it went straight to my funny bone. And once I’d noticed it, even closing my eyes wasn’t enough to solve the problem.
My reaction, I see now, was simply the result of nervousness: I was uncomfortable being so important to him, being desired that much. I had recently come off the worst relationship of my life, a year and a half (god help me) with a superficial narcissist whose emotional range went all the way from A to A. Being with Glenn, someone who actually loved me, was like being plopped into a foreign country, where I didn’t speak the language and had no idea what the currency looked like. I had a hard enough time believing that nice guys like Glenn existed, let alone that little old me could inspire such deep feelings in one of them.
Bad boys are sexy—no news there. Maybe one of the things that make them sexy is that macho indifference they affect. They act like they don’t need anyone, and that makes you need them all the more. And when they do let you get close, and you see what’s really going on under the surface—that they’re little boys inside, just like the rest of us—they ironically become even more attractive. Now they’re not just playmates, but projects: you start to think that, with proper guidance and tender loving care, you can fix them, mold them into the ideal combination: sexy and sweet. They can become Clark Kent, sensitive on the outside and a superhero underneath.
Only they’re really the reverse: the Spandex outfit and cape are on top of the nerdy suit, not under it. They’re not hiding Superman; they’re flaunting him. It’s the Clark side of their personalities they try to keep under wraps.
In my weaker moments, I fall into thinking in terms of binary opposites: men are either sensitive or unemotional, tops or bottoms, conservatives or liberals. But I’ve been learning lately that that just isn’t the case. While it may be the rare man who can be both emotionally available and sexually uninhibited, they do exist. People are complicated. And men, despite what some feminists might think, are people; they’re not just big brainless penises. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
And one of them, I’m happy to say—one of those complicated, multidimensional human beings—happens to love me. I could write a whole book about my lover’s complexity—and I suspect that one day I will—but for now, I’m just reveling in the lessons he teaches me. Whenever I’m tempted to see him as clueless—he doesn’t say just the right thing at just the right time, he refuses to follow my script for life—he comes back and surprises me with insight worthy of Deepak Chopra, or a romantic gesture that makes my heart bounce in my chest like a basketball. And I realize that men aren’t the problem: my expectations are the problem, my impatience. And I remember that I’m a man, too, and I’m probably driving him bananas.
As Diana Ross used to sing, “If there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it.” They didn’t call her Supreme for nothing.