How I look, and the state of my health and well-being, are factors that impact my on-going relationships, and enhance or restrict opportunities to form new connections.
That sentence took some work to bang out, mostly because I wish that it wasn't true. In my ideal world, appearance wouldn't be a factor in attraction, and everyone would be willing to put in whatever it took to support the physical challenges, or gifts, of their partners. In fact, I'm picking this post up again after a couple weeks of mulling on it. Apparently, I have some push-back emotionally on this topic. My feelings about it are rooted in personal experiences that were seldom consistent, and often painful.
I was a late bloomer. Never had a date that was willing to be seen with me in public during high school. Glasses, tall, braces, overweight, bad skin, bad hair, the works! Things improved. Then I got married just prior to my 20th birthday, and spent the next several years in a protective bubble. Due to the impacts of hormonal birth control, I put on weight again, about 130 pounds worth, then got pregnant. Around that point, the switch flipped. We opened up our relationship.
To say I was a bit apprehensive would be an understatement. What if we did this thing, and I was a millstone around the neck of my partner? What if no one was interested in me? Fortunately, the pregnancy had a positive impact on my body, like hitting the reset button. The extra weight started coming off, and I was in massive learning mode about this new relationship style that we had decided to try out. My former long-distance partner and I met online, and the safety of the screen helped me feel more comfortable. After all, this was someone that was getting to know the real me, and not just going off of first impressions of my body. That relationship was really helpful, pushing me outside my comfort zones on emotional and physical levels.
Cut to 10 years later: Dating someone who defines "physical attractiveness" (as defined by society at large) as a significant factor in their partner selection criteria is really uncomfortable for me. Ironically, S does have a set of physical parameters he enjoys, which can squick me at times. Fortunately, they aren't ones that are particularly conventional, or hard and fast rules. For example, I've seen him make exceptions about dating other taller women as well, and women with non-preferred hair, body shape etc, so while they might be preferences, they're ones that are flexible with other facets of attraction.
Typically, I don't date those who are conventionally attractive, and still have a big story in my head about adversity regarding physical attractiveness building character; character that must be lacking in those who have been blessed with conforming genetics. If someone tells me they really enjoyed their high school years, for example, I tend to write them off. They haven't suffered enough persecution to understand me, or my life experiences. This belief is limiting, a personal standard that I am not proud of, and something I continue to work on.
When I find someone that I'm attracted to mentally and emotionally, I find things about them to be physically attracted to. Without a mental and emotional connection, a beautiful face or body is a pleasing aesthetic devoid of attraction for me. I want a similar approach from partners. As I age, and regardless of my shape, I want to be seen as attractive based on who I am, and I want to consistently apply that same standard to others.