Monday, August 10, 2009

Of Men & Music

Have you ever noticed the way some people seem to seethe sex through their skins? On the first day of running club one year in college, I made eyes with one such creature, and was immediately captivated. As we breezed down Broadway, I was high on endorphins from two potent sources—running and sex. Not long after, he became my number four.

Everything he did seemed an allusion to a sexual act—nay, everything he did was a sexual act; that was the whole point: for him there was no distinction between the arenas of sex-life and life-life. He moved through the world with a physical integrity that bespoke heightened sensual awareness; with a hyper-expressive face and mischievous smile, he seemed more fully in his body than others.

With guys like this, to interact with them is to think about being in bed with them. Everything is on display; nothing is hidden. They're like walking advertisements for themselves as sexual partners.

And as with advertising, the effect is instantaneous. With Four, all it took was a glance and a smile.

* * *

Sasha and I used to talk about how some songs you love right away, and other songs take longer. She’d make me mix tapes and sandwich the tougher-to-love songs between two instant gratification songs, knowing that I’d suffer through the weird, unfamiliar notes because it was a hassle to fast-forward. It worked—after listening to a new song enough times, it would transform into something entirely different than it had been when I’d first heard it. I wasn’t that I’d changed my mind about the song; the song itself had changed.

Often I ended up loving these ugly duckling songs even better than the instant-loves, which started sounding insipid if I listened to them too much. You could say that Four was like one of those songs, but the analogy is limited, because my attraction to him never dulled. With Four and others like him, when it came time to cut ties, it was never for lack of passion.

There’s a better parallel between men and songs that take longer to fall for. Sometimes a guy doesn't do much for me at first, but things change after I get to know him. It’s hard for me to reconcile this phenomenon with my belief in the integrity of physical bodies. I like to think that we are what we are, through and through: no soul behind the body, no life after death—as Nietzsche said, “Body I am entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.”

It follows that I would know automatically upon meeting someone whether I’m attracted to him or not, and this is often the case. But when the opposite happens—when I’m not attracted at first and become so later—it’s not that I become so enamored with his personality that I decide to look beyond looks. No, he actually starts to look different.

I don't really know what's going on here. Why does becoming more familiar with something cause it to become more enticing? It seems that the opposite should be true. How is it possible for a song to go from unappealing to play it on repeat, and a person from forgettable to fuckable?