We want to be wanted by the people we would want to want us. For myself, I’ve never felt enough of this, but I’m sure that’s because it’s an insatiable desire. I can imagine being Marilyn Monroe, and becoming weary of being universally lusted after (okay, not Tony Curtis). But she powerfully wanted all the other kinds of desire that weren’t about her figure and lips and hair and skin – she wanted people to be intimately focussed upon her as a person, and reduced to the form of one man who could make all the other men go away. Hence Arthur Miller, hence Clark Gable.
We desire to be desired by those we would desire to desire us. That was the other version of the opening sentence. I’ve been thinking I haven’t written enough about wanting and being wanted. In a way, in my fiction, I’ve been shy, embarrassed of confessing to such preoccupations. But it’s there in the novel I’m avoiding writing; that, if it’s ever finished, will be very much about wanting to be wanted. (‘I want you to want me. I’m begging you to beg me…’)
Strangely, since I’ve grown a big beard, I’ve felt more specifically attractive. Not because beards are a feature lots of people go for, but because it’s a thing, a kink. It makes my appearance more excessive, and fun – I look like I’d be more fun, humorous, characterful, both generally and in bed. It’s also (my beard) a lot more gay, though it’s not kempt enough to signal that properly. To straight men, I might look gay.
For years, before now, my main concern was self-absencing. On the street, any street, I didn’t want to be an object of attention. I wanted to be able to look, take notes. Now people sometimes smile at me, and even – I sense – seek my approval.
You’re a presence here, beardy man – do you acknowledge my presence, too?
I do, beardless man. I do.