In our cultural context, sexy has a very narrow definition, which means that 6.916 billion people, and most importantly me, have no chance to appear on the cover of People. However, for those of us who don’t fit the narrow definition of sexy, I have good news. Sexy doesn’t have to refer just to the carnal domain. Sexy can be a metaphor for appealing, exciting, desirable, attractive, educated, wise, fair, interesting and stimulating. I’m aware that this theory may well be perceived as an apologia for my big ears, but I trust the reader will see beyond them. I’m also aware that my argument may grow out of my charming personality, but I hope you will not get distracted by it.
In our culture, we all want to be physically attractive. Women spend billions of dollars on cosmetics, plastic surgery, clothes and colonic cleansing just to be beautiful and sexy, on the outside and the inside. They spend inordinate amounts of money on nail salons staffed by girls from a particular country I cannot name due to fear of stereotyping, discrimination, and my wife’s looks when she reads this. Men go to gyms and buy supplements to build muscle. They color their hair to look their best. Some now even shave their chests. Many go to tan salons to look gorgeous while they fry their brains and acquire new kinds of skin cancer. We spend countless hours in front of the mirror, just to look right. I get that. We want to be striking. We want to feel good about ourselves and we want to impress others. It is just human nature to conquer the object of our sexual desire, as it is to run through red lights in Miami.
But this conception of sexy is way too narrow. Instead of this constricted definition, I embrace a comprehensive meaning that implies likeable, striking, clever, titillating, well-educated, and cultured. When you think about sexy in these terms, there are countless possibilities to increase our beauty quotient: You can buy a fake Ph.D., read the New York Times book reviews and pretend that you have read the entire book, and use foreign words nobody understands, including you. Unfortunately, we often focus strictly on erotic sexiness, at the expense of psychological or interpersonal charm. My aim is to cultivate a wider array of attractive features that (a) go beyond physical allure, and (b) distract people from looking at my ears.
I may not have perfect facial features, to say nothing of my girly voice and graying hair, but I can perfect other aspects of body and soul, such as the ability to come up with innumerable excuses for my horrible physiognomy.
The obsession with sex is not surprising though. It is the perfect storm. Businesses market seductive products. We crave attention. We think that looking sexy will make us stand out. Standing out among a crowd feeds our hunger for attention. We are rewarded with praise. We think of sex as a shortcut to mattering, but authentic mattering is so much more than erotic encounters. Mattering is also about being appreciated for virtuous, kind, and ethical behavior, and being loved by your wife despite a barely noticeable gluteus maximus.
Unless we cultivate other qualities, popular culture will continue to foment the cult of sex and narcissism. Unless we nourish our spiritual and relational beings, we will remain fixated on erotic attraction, self-absorption, and selfies. But until we reach such evolved cultural stage, there are a number of things we can do:
1. Trigger alert I: Every time people are going to talk about someone attractive and remind me of my imperfections, I want them to let me know in advance so that I can decide whether to participate in the conversation or not.
2. Trigger alert II: Every time people are going to talk about someone unattractive and remind me of my imperfections, I want them to let me know in advance so that I can crawl under a table in fetal position.
3. Safe area I: Whenever other people are talking about someone attractive I want to go to a safe zone and play with stuffed animals.
4. Safe area II: Whenever other people are talking about someone unattractive, I can hug Dumbo.
5. Safe area III: I can go to a waxing salon and remove these annoying pieces of hair sticking out of my right ear.