I once dated a Beautiful Man. Not a handsome man, not a good-looking man, a Beautiful Man. He was all cheekbones and deep-set blue eyes and soft, curly hair. When we walked down the street together, women would stare at him, and men with girlfriends on their arms would turn around to get another look before he turned the corner. Before we would go out, he would change outfits three times. “I feel fat,” he would say, pinching his stomach. Checking his wrinkles in his rear-view mirror, it would sometimes take 10 minutes for us to leave the car. In every way, he was beautiful. He was fragile, he was delicate, and everything about him could shatter with an offhand comment.
Have you ever dated a Beautiful Person? Have you felt the way their beauty — and their deep sensitivity about it — seems to seep into your pores as you sleep next to them? Every cell in your body is aware that they are too good-looking for you, that people ask themselves silently what this person is doing with you. When they stare at themselves in the mirror, fretting about being just a fraction less lovely than yesterday, you can’t help but feel the same fear. What will happen if they stop being so wonderful to look at? What will they become? And as much as it feels like a victory when you first touch them (they chose me, of all people!), there is something very scary in feeling it next to you every night. Because there are people who are lovely, who turn you on and catch your eye from across the room, but who are not Beautiful People. There is something precarious in loving a Beautiful Person, a part of you that feels that something is bound to evaporate — either their looks, or their temporary insanity in choosing to be with you.
The world isn’t gentler to Beautiful Women, per se, but it’s more set up to accommodate them. We understand the place of captivating female beauty, and are so inundated with it in advertisements and movies that we are almost numb to it in daily life. Sure, we still turn our heads when a real, live model walks by us in a bar, but we know where she fits in the grand scheme of things. A Beautiful Man, someone who takes our breath away the way an Elizabeth Taylor or a Brigitte Bardot would, is not to be trusted. Somehow we resent him for drawing us to him in such an oddly feminine way. More than one man told me, when I went out with the Beautiful Man, “He’s going to make me gay.” We see Beautiful Men as some kind of trap, as though there is something less male about him because even other men must universally recognize his desirability. Besides, we think, shouldn’t men be remarkable for their wisdom? Their strength? Their business savvy?
He told me once that he didn’t know how to be anything but wanted. He questioned every promotion, every friendship, every love, because he felt that it was somehow an elaborate method to get closer to his body. And honestly, he may have been right. I remember feeling like I had climbed some kind of mountain in being with him, that it meant something important about myself that my six-and-a-half-on-a-good-day self was able to capture the interest of someone who was recognized as a star in a very primal, pheromonal way. And, as he expected, we didn’t last very long. Once the great rush of newness wore off, there wasn’t a lot that made sense about the two of us together. He was back on the market, the kind of man who gets approached ten times in an hour at a bar, but who couldn’t find much of anything past the thrill of being someone’s trophy.
One day, he won’t be so beautiful anymore, and the world will be as indifferent to him as it is to all of us. Slowly, the breathless kindness of strangers will fade away, and someone will choose to love him simply because he is a good man. I asked him what he thought of about getting older, about no longer being so Beautiful, and he was silent for what felt like forever. “Honestly?” he asked, meeting the eye of a man staring at him from across the bar, “I think I’ll kill myself.”