When you start dating someone, two of the last words you want to hear in relation to yourself are “gross or disgusting.” Last fall I went camping with a guy I was seeing at the time, and we ate s’mores. Marshmallow goo inevitably got everywhere: on my hands, my face. He crouched down next to me to stoke the fire, and I leaned over, touching my head to his. This was strategic on my part: I wasn’t sure my face was yet clean of sticky residue, but I was confident there was none on the top of my head. He turned toward me, and I sat up.
“What a tease, I don’t even get a kiss?”
“I might still have marshmallow on me,” I said.
“Gross,” he replied. I think he was kidding, but I’m not sure?—?he didn’t lean in for a second try.
Disgust might be the antithesis of desire, but I think it’s fear that leads us to believe others are seeking a pristine version of a person. Boogers, bad breath, body odor, dandruff, flaky skin, stuff in your teeth, not to mention unwashed dishes, dirty counters?—?being a human provides a plethora of possibilities of grossness. And yes, we all have to take care of ourselves and our homes. But I think we hold ourselves to superhuman standards when we either don’t trust that others will understand or when we value the opinion of people who should be more understanding and aren’t.
I do not keep an immaculate apartment, and I have an amazingly cuddly but sometimes smelly dog. I have cellulite and can fart with the best of them. In other words, I’m not a Stepford wife, and my best relationships are those where I feel so accepted by the other person that I lose the fear of being gross.
Think about those you feel closest to?—?do you blush when you belch? Can you say whatever’s on your mind or pick a wedgie around them? I mean, we all have things we choose to only do by ourselves behind closed doors, but with our best friends or other healthy long-term relationships, we get to be ourselves without fear of judgment?—?we already know we’re loved as we are – wedgies and all.
But what about desire? Can we be fully ourselves and still sexy? I’ve various read Cosmo-style articles regarding intimate (seemingly gross) habits and keeping romance alive that advised to never pop pimples, pee with the door open, or cut your toenails in front of your significant other. Some feel strongly that women need to maintain an element of mystery in order to protect the flame of passion in their relationship. I recognize there’s a difference between letting it all hang out and being afraid of being yourself. Maybe it’s a thin line, and maybe it’s a gift you give someone?—?small ways you try to present them with the best version of yourself. Can this be an act of love? If protecting your partner from some of your more unsavory actions feels right to you, then go for it.
But I love it when I get to the point with someone where I don’t have to close the door and can keep the discussion going when I’m taking a piss. Because I feel accepted, because I feel close to them. When I can go from the toilet to the bedroom, and he or she still wants me, my comfort level soars. (I do, however, close the door for #2 . . . that’s my line.)
A friend often wears a necklace in the shape of a pig. I asked her why one day. She explained that it’s a reminder to not be fear being disgusting and to embrace it. She said she feels the most accepted and cam embrace the most pleasure when she feels repulsive and still wanted: grimy, covered in body fluids, unkempt and unclean. It felt like an epiphany?—?that embarrassment could be a choice!
Sex can be a litmus test for intimacy. It can inform you if you’re really as comfortable with another person as you thought you were. It can also act as a catalyst, creating new layers of closeness. I’ve realized that I shouldn’t sleep with someone until I already feel accepted by them. Sometimes this just seems to take a night (though it might be false acceptance/false intimacy) and sometimes it takes longer. Acceptance isn’t a location on a map that I simply arrive at, but the point is to slow down and let my heart tell me when it feels safe.
The marshmallow incident was so minor that I doubt M even remembers it, yet it seemed indicative of a lot more. I was worried didn’t completely accept me as I was. The fear never completely went away the whole time we were dating (another couple of months).
I accept some responsibility here: the first person who needs to believe that I’m good the way I am is me. But I also believe that it’s better to date those I feel comfortable around and to read the signs. Are they OK with my prickly legs? Do I feel good about myself around them? Feeling accepted leads to feeling sexy and, in my experience, it leads to more sexy times.