Help! I’m Wasting My Spectacular Looks on a Mediocre Man.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 30 2013 6:10 AM

Sexy and I Know It

I’m engaged to a great guy. One problem: I’m way too pretty for him.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I'm recently engaged to the most honest, thoughtful, and loving man I've ever met. He has supported me through many hard times, including losing my job and being assaulted. Here's the but about him: He makes no money. He has ambitions, and he's smart, but will likely only bring a middle-class income at best. I have an OK job and I'm self-sufficient. Now here's the but about me: I'm really, really pretty. My whole life people have told me I could get any man I want, meaning a rich man, and are shocked that I'm engaged to my fiancé, nice though he is. I’ve never dated a rich man, but it does make me curious. So part of me thinks I'm squandering my good looks on this poor man, and the other part of me thinks that I'm so shallow that I don't even deserve him or anyone else. Am I a fool for thinking that a poor man can make me happy, or an idiot for believing a sexist fantasy?

—Sincerely Shallow

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Dear Sincerely,
It’s a delicate thing to sing “I Feel Pretty” and keep the audience charmed. Many people will be repelled by your acknowledged superficiality and wish that a string of rich men use you, then dump you when you start to lose your looks. But surely your fiancé delights in the fact—and surely his friends have noted—that he’s nabbed one the prettiest girls in the room. When considering possible life partners, people should bluntly assess each other’s intangible and tangible qualities. Of course character is central, but if the person you’re dating is a wholly admirable person who doesn’t attract you physically, that’s a serious problem. So, too, is being with someone who gives you pleasure in and out of bed, but who’s hiding from creditors. You have asked an unattractive question about monetizing your beauty. But I think there’s a more accurate way to look at what’s troubling you.

You’re really wondering whether you can be happy in the long run with a guy who treats you great, but who’ll never satisfy you financially. “Middle class” is a very elastic term, but I assume you mean that while you and your fiancé will be able to meet your basic needs, you’ll mostly be living paycheck to paycheck. You say he’s smart and ambitious, and I’m assuming you both are young, so you haven’t made it clear why these two qualities can’t propel him further professionally. Maybe he’s prone to pipe dreams the marketplace rewards with minimum wage. It's fair to want a fully contributing partner in life, but if you think the bulk of a couple's earning should come from the man, you either need to re-examine your assumptions, or clue in your fiancé. You and he need to discuss what kind of life you’d both like to lead and how each of you can map out career choices that will make this possible. Of course there are no guarantees of financial success, just as there are no guarantees that good looks will lure a guy with a bulging wallet (or that he’ll stick with you into middle-age). But if you’re filled with dread over the certainty that marrying your boyfriend will consign you to forever dreading when the bills come, this will tarnish your perception of his sterling qualities. You’re not a shallow fool for thinking that a life of scraping by won’t be so pretty.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Pining for Mr. Wrong

Dear Prudence,
I feel like a complete oddity, but I am a male who hates sex. I feel dirty and gross during and after the process. When I’m with a partner I do my best to help satisfy their needs and desires, but I almost always have to rush to the shower afterward. Some times I simply can't even be touched without jerking away and having a panic attack. But I do love going on dates, making dinner together, snuggling while watching movies. I've tried therapy and anti-anxiety meds, but two years of seeing a psychiatrist hasn't helped much and the meds just make me feel even more disconnected. Help!

—Asexual Romantic

Dear Asexual,
About half the husbands who write to me with marital problems would say their wives are looking for a guy just like you. Someone who wants to help in the kitchen! Someone who wants to get cozy during a movie! Someone who wants to get into bed in order to read and fall asleep! It’s interesting that while you recoil from the sex act, and sometimes even from another’s touch, at other times you are happy to cuddle. Given your distress about your situation, of course I would have suggested therapy. But you’ve been in it for two years with no improvement. You went to your doctor with a specific goal, and when it became clear no progress was being made the plug should have been pulled. Not every problem can be fixed, but it might be worth it to at least try a therapist with a different approach, one who will agree to a treatment timeline. But let’s say that whatever you do, you remain repelled by the physical act, yet desirous of a warm, loving partnership. I think you should take a look at the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network and see if it speaks to you. Humans are infinitely variable, and you may simply be someone who for whatever reason falls on the far end of the sexuality spectrum. AVEN even has a Meetup Mart, for people to connect (within limits!) to others who share their perspective. It may be a relief to you to no longer have to please partners whose needs so profoundly conflict with your own.

—Prudie

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