“& they lived happily ever after” is where most love stories end, but I will always hold true to my belief that this is precisely where meaningful love stories begin. It is here that the work kicks in, because capturing someone’s attention is the easy part. As easy as it is to take them for granted, and forget to see everything which they bring to your table – from heart, to spiritual elevation, physical excitement and engagement, right through to beauty, grace, and kindness, inshAllah.
But first, let me share with you that I am a size 6, and often wonder if maybe I should be smaller. I work out and eat healthy equally for vanity as I do for internal well-being (and because if I am to grow old without a family, I wish to take care of myself to the best of my ability, in case there is no one on whom I might rely). I have an above-average face (being fake-humble is nonsense), which I love, but as it ages, I wonder which new serum I might use to make it appear more youthful. I have a wild mess of naturally, once blue-black hair, the crown of which has been silver since my early twenties. I dye it because I am not yet able to accept looking my age.
Even though every single woman I know has an unbelievable reserve of self-awareness both in terms of ability and beauty, each one of these women – myself included – also has (an unsurprising) inclination to insecurity with regards our looks because we exist in a culture that places so very much emphasis on a woman’s outward beauty, and pushes her to look like she is forever 18. No matter how much we are academically aware of this consumerist-driven, and bordering-on-paedo beauty standard, it is a daily exercise for so very many of us to undo its repercussions in our heads. Living and breathing in a society saturated with, and by this male gaze upon our female bodies, it should be no surprise that the words of our male partners, an articulation of how you see us, affects us.
Crystal clear is the memory I have of the first man who ever told me I was beautiful. At university in sweats, zero make-up, runners and a t-shirt, with my hair a mess, I walked past this dude while he was working the bar at Oliver’s on campus. He pulled me over and nervously said “I just have to tell you that I can’t stop looking at you. You are so beautiful.”
I stood dumbfounded.
No one had said that to me (except my momma) prior and so to hear it from a man whom I in turn saw as insanely hot set off a light show in my nervous system. Truth told, I almost projectile vomited and passed out in front of him; that’s how the combination of him and his words made me feel.
Fast forward 20 years to early this year when my then crush called me “bella.” Only once did he do this, but the moment remains seared into my brain – I remember what we were doing, where he was standing, and even how he was standing. It was so casual, but it weighed like a ton of bricks. If we had been dating, my response to him would have resulted in a very different afternoon for us both.
Are you belittling the weight of either of these two experiences? Okay. Let’s look at your Instagram stories instead. How often are you scrolling through who has looked at them, to locate your crush? And what happens when you see their name? The Instagram team understood the endorphin rush generated by this being seen (no matter that it’s in fact 99% meaningless in your real and actual life). In fact, they literally put their money where this belief is and they continue to reap the rewards. Because humans are, at our base, very simple creatures. And always, we want to be seen. Most especially by those we adore.
Feeling as though we are being seen is one of the ways by which we understand our own value, whether articulated as a reference to good work, a dinner cooked, a dress put on, a car fixed, a grocery run complete. From the very unusual, to the mundane; it is that we are not being taken for granted, existing as another item which melts into the background. And the taking for granted, it is the first step to the end of a relationship. Help you God if you don’t by now understand that dismissal of your lover will eventually turn them out.
For those who have lived here long enough, you know that a recurring theme is our inclination to taking one another for granted; this, a thing absolutely not permitted in my world. I am so grateful for everything, and everyone, even when I wish to bloody fists against syllabus. I spoil everyone about whom I deeply care in my life, and shower them with both gratitude and care; my physical affection outmatched only by my always ready words of affirmation. Regularly, you will find me I love you, Hoe; you’re f.cking gorgeous!, for no reason other than because this world needs as much love as possible. (No. I do not say it if I do not mean it.)
With men I adore, I express, and absolutely expect the same in kind.
Which brings me full circle to –
Dear fellas, and based on countless conversations recently had with my (cis straight) broads:
Tell your woman out loud that you think she’s hot. Don’t make it the only thing you mention, but for the love of all things imposed on women, most definitely make it one of the things which you do regularly. Meaning, notify us that you are still sexually attracted to us. Put it in a newsletter, send us a smoke signal. A carrier pigeon even. Just get it done regularly. (1)
If the reason that your woman likes it and so appreciates your attention to this worldly detail isn’t enough of a reason for you, then let me break it down and make it all about you instead: When you tell your partner she’s gorgeous, it will turn her on physically. In that, there is benefit for you. (I am rolling my eyes that I need to write this out, but there it is.)
Your words can be exchanged quietly, in earnest vulnerability. Whispers sent across pillows, said into necks, branded into curled backs and across collar-bones.
Or. They can be splashed across rooms full of others when you “God DAMN!” us for the first time that evening.
No matter how, do understand their necessity, and action this item. Tonight. And as often as possible. While remembering that it is only one of the things at which you must nod, because I imagine that she, your lover, is so incredible in a million different ways.
PS. To those who would say that the above is a slight to women, and women don’t need a partner’s accolades to feel good – I imagine you read self-help writers who tell you that everything must come from within or else it is meaningless because they have snorted the lie that we are all Russian novels, islands unto our sad and stupid selves. You are lying liars who lie and exist in a perpetual sea of self-delusion. Hugsies.
(1) Yes. Please also tell your men that they’re a smoke-show. Remind him that he is still an animal to you, if he is. (Why are you with him if he is not?; I am confusion.) But recognize that a man’s worth and value is far far far more disengaged from how he looks than that of a woman’s. (Also, raise your boys to see a woman’s value not in her physical appearance, please and thank you.)
Image © Kyle Monk