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Relationship Resignation            April 3, 2000

On the merits of being superficial

by Jon Merz


I'm superficial.

Email to a FriendI admit it as freely as politicians give out campaign promises. I am attracted to beautiful women. Sexy and fun, or demure, or naughty and kinky, or prim and proper - if they're gorgeous, I love them.

Especially my wife.

And she's just like me.

Because we're both so superficial, we enjoy looking good for each other. A fresh shower, shave, and quality primping time always precede a night on the town or a trip to the movies. Even on days when we're feeling lazy, we still want to look good for each other. After all, there's nothing quite like looking around a party or club and realizing the hottest person is right beside you.

We seem to be a minority, however.

I can count half a dozen couples we know who have obviously given up on physical appearance. 'Obviously,' in one case, means attending our upscale Christmas party last year decked out in matching collegiate sweatshirts, ripped jeans, sneakers, and hair that was no longer on speaking terms with its brush.

Now, despite being nervous and in a moderate state of shock during my marriage ceremony, I can confidently recall never hearing the question: 'And do you, Jon, promise to forswear razors, develop a beer belly rivaling the land mass of Texas, and lounge in old grease-stained sweat pants and tank tops?'

What causes this lack of physical upkeep? Is it blatant boredom? Perhaps. Or maybe it's an underlying attitude of resignation about relationships in general.

Maybe your close friend Sandy dates Jeff only because she's waiting for someone better to come along. Roger's dating Julie, but really wants this girl at the coffee shop. And gosh, Vicki hasn't had a date in over a year, so she'll pretty much settle for anyone who doesn't look like a poster boy for the Manson family.

People settle for less than they think they deserve.

And with this attitude, is it any surprise vanity suffers?

It's almost as if once they've given up on finding the right person, they might as well give up on appearance. The woman stops exercising regularly. Once silken tresses grow stringy and unkempt. Clothes degenerate from sleek fashion to dumpy overalls, jumpers, and other mass-concealing burlap sacks. Cosmetics become a bothersome ritual followed only for the office.

The man obsesses about work. Long hours on the job mean less time in her company. He refuses to dress nicely outside of work, usually on the excuse that he 'wears a tie every damned day, anyway.' What may once have been a reasonably fit physique has accumulated an extra thirty pounds of 'cubicle fat.'

Or does marriage excuse this lack of vanity?

Even if people find the right person, do they no longer have to look as good just because the chase is over? Maybe by settling, by accepting their fate, couples are allowed to concentrate on everything except pleasing the spouse. Why bother trying a new hairdo when that same money can go to a subscription to Martha Stewart Living?

Take the dashing pair from our Christmas party, Brad and Ceilia. They were the couple everyone envied in college. Ceilia used to be one hot-looking lady. Voluptuous figure, pretty smile, sensual, limpid eyes, and a flirtatious inclination for sexual adventure sparked by reading Penthouse Forum. We enjoyed her company. And while Brad never really outgrew puberty, permanently stuck in that Ralph Macchio syndrome, he at least used to dress better. Then they got married. They changed.

Ceilia put on forty pounds, and replaced her interest in fashion with an obsession over mortgage payments for an ugly brown house that plunged them into a cool quarter million dollars of debt. Brad lives at his job, refuses to put in for any over time pay in the mistaken belief it will help him get ahead, and avoids spending money on anything except a truck with enough capacity to haul his massive inferiority complex.

My wife and I shake our heads in wonder and disgust.

I can't imagine letting my physical appearance deteriorate to the point that I'd wear sweat pants and a T-shirt everywhere. My wife thinks it's disgusting to use marriage as an excuse to abolish personal hygiene.

We have friends who think like us. We have friends who disagree.

We have friends who think Brad and Ceilia are just losers.

Or aliens.

Marriage doesn't mean the end of vanity; it doesn't mean impressing your spouse ceases to matter. It's not the proverbial home base in a game of social hide 'n seek.

I want my wife to look at me and say, 'what a handsome man I married,' not 'is he ever going to trim the hair growing out of his ears?'

And when I look at my wife, I want to think about how exciting she still looks despite how ever old she is. I want to have sex, lots of sex, and not fumble around looking for the light switch so I can spend the next hour in the dark fantasizing she's someone else.

So, we continue to take care of ourselves. We continue to look good for each other.

We refuse to let our physical appearance suffer.

Trivial? Maybe.

But marriage is a discipline. Spouses support each other, help each other through the rough times, love each other, appreciate each other, and yes, show respect for each other by looking good and taking care of themselves.

Let your appearance slip and the rest of the marriage may follow.

Superficial?

We don't think so.

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