Few people intimidate me. I don’t seem to meet many who even impress me. But when I find a woman who intimidates me, I know I’d better pay attention. I might fall in love with her.
It started when I was a young teen. Girls had just been interesting classmates or neighborhood friends until then. And then I met one girl — near the beginning of the eighth grade — who left me nervous and speechless.
The boy who was trained to be socially charming was suddenly a babbling idiot when she was around.
I understand now that this is a common pattern for straight guys. As a boy gets old enough to be attracted to girls, something changes for him. Even if he’s always been confident, this rush of attraction and need overwhelms him. That’s the way it was for me. That’s the way I’ve heard others describe it.
What I didn’t realize was that this intimidation was always going to be the first stage of falling in love with a woman — no matter how old or sophisticated or confident I got.
When I first felt this giddy rush of intimidation in the eighth grade, it was because I recognized something in this particular girl as my ideal. At that moment — through some process I’ve never understood — I saw her as the ideal girl.
It wasn’t that she was the most beautiful or most sexually desirable girl I’d ever seen. If it were completely about hormones, you would think it would be purely sexual attraction, but that wasn’t the way it worked then — and it’s not the way it works now. At least not for me.
Something in me — intuition, gut feeling, guardian angel, whatever it is — whispers to me that this is my ideal woman. In that moment, she is perfect to me. I see her as flawless. She represents everything I want to attain in this world.
When I recognize a woman as my ideal, I see her as symbolic of all that is right and good in the world. I’m willing to slay dragons or fight wars or make a fortune. Whatever it takes to win her. It’s like something from an ancient heroic tale. And I see now that this is what has always pushed men to want to compete and win and conquer.
It’s all the same thing that makes a young teen want to impress the 13-year-old girl who’s caught his eye.
I went on to date that girl who struck me as my ideal back in the eighth grade. It wasn’t until we were freshmen in college, but we dated for almost three years. Something in my young self had seen something in her then — and it stuck around just waiting for five years, until I finally had my chance.
This has happened only a few other times in my life. In a couple of cases, it fizzled into nothing. In others, I fell in love with the woman. When that happens, I never seem able to change it. I’m hopelessly devoted to that woman — until and unless another “ideal woman” comes along to take her place.
I hope to marry one of these ideal women who has intimidated me so much at first, because that would mean the long process is finally over.
The most recent time this happened was about 10 years ago. I had actually met her before then, but I hadn’t talked with her for awhile. I had been crazy about her when we first met, but I never seriously pursued her. Then she was seriously dating someone else and I was busy with other relationships.
Then I was single again — and I noticed that she was single, too. She still seemed like my ideal woman, but she intimidated me too much for me to approach her directly and pursue a relationship with her. I turned chicken and let the chance slip away.
(I wrote about this nearly two years ago when I found some old messages between us and found that my memory about what had happened between us was wrong. I had thought she had brushed me off, but I discovered that wasn’t true.)
It took me awhile, but I finally discovered that there was one necessary step between the intimidation of the ideal and a love that can last. For the heady desire for the ideal to last, I have to see this ideal woman — whoever she is — at her worst. Then I have to integrate the ideal and the worst she has to offer into a real, flesh-and-blood woman who I can love.
If I can see her at her best and feel awe and reverence — but also see her at her worst and feel grace and empathy — that’s the place where real love can begin. That’s the sort of love that can last, for better or worse.
I eventually did fall in love with the woman who intimidated me nearly 10 years ago. She still lives in my heart as a delicate balance — still the ideal woman in theory yet also one with flaws and failings that make her just as mortal and fallen as I am.
And that’s the sort of love that can last — when I’m not intimidated by the ideal of perfection but I’m also not scared by the failings of the dark corners that we all try to hide in ourselves.
She’s not in my life, by her choice. The details don’t matter to my point here. I’ve alluded to it before. I still love her, but the best I can hope for at this point is that another woman will come along and intimidate me so much — as my new “ideal woman” — that maybe this new woman could take the place of the old one.
I never expect it when it happens. It could be tomorrow. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. Maybe never. Maybe I’ll go to my grave with a love that’s unfulfilled. It’s impossible to say.
For now, she’s always on my heart and in my thoughts. Every day. Every hour. More than I like to admit.
But if she never returns — which seems unlikely — I can only hope that someone else will finally catch my attention one day and leave me giddy and flustered intimidated.
I’d like to fall in love again. I’m tired of traveling through this world alone.