“Strong is the new sexy.”
“Skinny is the new sexy.”
“Smart is the new sexy.”
“Happy is the new sexy.”
Wait. So which is it?
Intellectually, we can agree that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way. With 6 billion people on the planet, it’s likely that someone, somewhere will be attracted to the things that you are. Yet still, we are completely obsessed with understanding what the trends are in sensuality.
Every time I come across one of these headlines, I search for traces of my own personality in the latest trend. When I find it, the validation feels good. Really good. Like a cheap hit of self-confidence. When the “new sexy” doesn’t quite fit, I quickly explain it away as a media farce.
I am still waiting for “Chubby and anxious is the new sexy.”
The truth is, every one of those labels is completely right. And completely wrong. There are people who are turned on by strong bodies. There are others who find big booties and wide waists irresistible. There are short people who want to make love to tall people. There are people who can’t help but fall in love with nerds. Everyone has a type. Most people have many.
Don’t get me wrong, this article is not intended to be inspirational. There is a harsh and cruel reality of which I unfortunately have to remind you. Although it may sting at first, understanding this may help you let go of rejection and move on from disappointing relationships.
There is no singular sexual trait that pre-qualifies you for love. Even if you are strong, skinny, smart and hilarious, there are going to be people who aren’t attracted to you. Sorry.
It’s impossible to be everyone’s type. There are going to be people who care about you or even love you, and who are still not attracted to you. Even if you’re gorgeous or stunningly handsome, you can’t be everything to everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or ugly or unlovable. It just means a person has a type, and that type isn’t you.
And it’s not his or her fault. As far as I can tell, sexual attraction is wildly irrational and unpredictable.
Most of us have been on both sides of this conundrum. I’ve dated men who, on paper, were everything I could ask for: tall, handsome, brilliant, funny, they even smelled great. But I just didn’t want to make out with them. I tried—but I just couldn’t. I’ve also been “friend-zoned” more times than I count from men who swear they loved me, but just didn’t want to tear my clothes off. It’s hard not to take it personally.
It’s also tempting to want to change how you look and what your interests are to fit someone else’s type. Too many people spend a first date (or the first years of a relationship) trying to sniff out their partner’s predilections and shape-shifting into what they think their partner wants. While this skill is impressive, it’s easy to lose yourself in a constantly shifting personality.
And it’s usually pointless. As any ’80s teen movie will prove, people inevitably see through the lightly veiled illusion and are turned off by the ruse. Nothing is as unsexy as dishonesty.
A good relationship starts with being honest with yourself. Know what your type is. And be open to the fact that who and what you’re attracted to is constantly changing. Having a strong sense of self-awareness is not just good for your own sanity, it also helps you “swipe right” on people who are actually your type.
Being able to show up as yourself will save you time and heartbreak.
Yes, it will be horribly awkward when you tell someone, “I’m not that into you.” And it will be disappointing to hear those words from someone else. But we are all in this strange world of unpredictable sexual attraction together, so we should consider being brutally honest for the greater good and maybe even cutting each other some slack.
Because if there is one universal turn on, it’s basic human decency.
Emily Straubel is a writer and ceramic artist living in Portland. Writing about design and technology by day, and the unpredictable world of love and dating by night, her work is driven by curiosity and FOMO.