I was cornered. The gym had been empty when I got there but the former Israeli soldier, now personal trainer, showed up out of the blue at my side while I was unstringing my headphones to begin warming up. At first, these “chance” meetings at various A.M. hours when few other patrons were present seemed harmless; they were accompanied by shallow conversation, equally shallow flattery, and a complete lack of assumptions on my part. It was too early in the morning to deal with any trouble, I thought. Besides, he was just a nice guy doing his job. Or, so I believed, until surface compliments about muscle tone and complexion turned into invitations and blatant expression of intentions. I would have been flattered if I knew he was a man of character or if he knew anything about me except the way I look.
I was stuck again… in a dimly-lit, dead-end hallway outside the lobby restrooms at our hotel in Miami. It’s the kind of city you have to be careful in anyway but you’d think a girl with her entire family of 5 would be an unlikely target for trouble. I’d just come back from dinner with my family and ran into the handsome, young, Cuban bartender who’d just recommended the restaurant we tried. He was-to put it bluntly-strikingly attractive, like he’d just walked off the set of Smallville or some other TV show where everyone is physically flawless; but the way he looked at me was long, intense, and made my skin crawl. In the low-light of the hallway, my heart beat hard and my head screamed warnings as I kindly responded to his questions about our dinner. When he advanced a step and said, “You are so beautiful,” I graciously smiled, said “thank you,” and walked away immediately before he could say anything more. I wanted to feel flattered by the attention but I realized there was no investment of time or emotional depth in the compliment. It was empty.
FYI: It’s usually my practice and advice to avoid any situations where one is alone and vulnerable. Both instances were deeply concerning and inspired increased vigilance on my part.
These two scenarios from the past week could be interpreted more positively. The encounters could have been sizzling, “love-at-first-sight” scenes in any one of today’s sex-driven romantic movies or television sitcoms. If we didn’t know better, we could be drawn into thinking this kind of interaction is good. “Hot” or “sexy” is what society tells us is desirable today, potentially even leading to love, but is this the kind of attention we’re supposed to be looking for? You can’t pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to a song, or glance at an ad that doesn’t tell us “sexy” equals “beautiful.” The message is that sexy/beautiful people are more loved. Neither assumption is true but we believe it because everyone else does. Sexual desire (aka: chemistry) isn’t love. It’s a selfish counterfeit.
As a result of all this emphasis on skin, physical attraction has been elevated to such a dominant level in romantic relationships that our concept of love between a man and a woman is morbidly shallow. I was struck by this even more when I heard the perspective of several men attending churches we’ve been with recently. A young pastor’s aid commented that the girls he’d just met at a particular church were “fine.” The emphasis on appearance was similar to what I’ve come to expect from many if not most men, regardless of their theology. Girls are also guilty of perpetuating this cycle. It’s tragic and sad.
How different are we really? How different are we supposed to be?
We are so much more than just skin.