Who do you love?

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in lgbt 03 May 2015
me and kyle 2014

My friend Kyle and I at a recent Men’s Retreat

Do you ever read those little magazines that tell you all about porn stars and their latest movies?

I do.

I read just about everything in front of me: you never know what you might learn. I found an interesting article in one of them. The basic premise of the article: don’t get fat or your lover will leave you.

“Really?” I said to myself as I read this little piece of alleged wisdom, “Is that true? If your body changes, will your lover leave you?”

Needless to say, this is not an example of good mental health. So I was inspired to write this column, to ask the question: Do you love a body or a person?

As we age, what is most likely to change? Our bodies. Only with massive plastic surgery and intense daily workouts are we likely to avoid any physical changes. And, even then, we’ll still get older. Look at Cher, God Bless Her, she does it all and even she looks older…well, a little older.

Beautiful bodies are wonderful to look at, feel, make love to. No doubt about it. I too am drawn to those gorgeous young 20-somethings at my gym: they are visual perfection. How could you not be attracted to them?

The only problem is: would they be good love objects (Freud’s words) for you? In other words, could you love them well and could they return it?

Over the years I have been privileged to be a psychotherapist to porn stars, go-go boys, escorts and even a male madam who asked me to do psychological evaluations of candidates for his stable of escorts. (I declined). Many of these young men and woman were bright, creative people who were experimenting with their sexuality and supporting themselves by doing so. Most of them ultimately left their sexually-oriented work and moved into other fields.

It is clear to me that even porn stars and go-go boys realize that their amazing bodies are temporary assets. None of them thought they would be able to sustain their beautiful, fat-free bodies for long: they all accepted aging and the physical changes that go with it.

So why can’t we?

Do we expect our partner to look as amazing in a year, two or three as she/he does now? Do we start to hint “You better not get fat baby; you know I like those muscles.” or “Isn’t it time you went back to that trainer?”

Some people claim to fall out of love with someone when their body changes. In those cases, it’s clear who you love: the body, not the man/woman who inhabits it.

Have you ever talked with older couples who have happily stayed together for years and years? You may look at their bodies and not find them to be your physical ideal. But, guess what? If you live long enough, this will be you. And your partner.

Former beautiful boys and girls become elders who are beautiful in their own way (if you’re willing to see it). These folks may have been brought together by physical attraction, but that’s not what kept them together. They learned to love their partner as a whole person: body, mind and soul.

A dear friend of mine has been married five times. She said that the first four were “all about the bodies. I loved these hot younger guys” but that the last one was about friendship: “In the end, all you have left is friendship…that’s why (#5) lasted.”

Sometimes, by focusing on our partner’s aging/changing body, we are pulling a fast one: by doing so, we avoid looking at our own body, our own life, our own unhappiness. We get to blame our dissatisfaction on them: “How can I be attracted to you if you don’t take care of yourself? I’m not into you anymore.”

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about an unhealthy body, I’m taking about a body that ages: hair goes gray, thins or disappears; waistlines get larger, biceps aren’t quite as big and that perky butt isn’t quite so perky.

Who do you love? The body or the person inside it? What you choose will determine the kind and quality of relationships you have.

Choose carefully.