“Rules of Attraction”
Wanna know the main problem of a guy who is too fastidious about women? It is rare that he wants to fuck anyone, even when he wants to fuck a lot, but when he does meet someone he wants to fuck, he loses his mind. All that other women have not received over the years is given to his favored one in a single carte-blanche: all at once, without compromise. But nature cares for nothing more deeply than for equilibrium, so the blank check winds up uncashed. That paradox vexed me for a long time: I was practically running up the wall solving it. Then I did, and couldn’t accept the truth. Then I searched for more evidence, and when I’d gathered plenty, I stopped thinking about it. Then I accused myself of cowardice, analyzed everything again, and had to admit that I was right. Alas, none of it didn’t make me feel any better.
Should I share? I honestly don’t know. See, this is super-personal stuff, like a forbidden sexual practice you can engage in only with those whom you completely trust. The fact that we don’t know each other and are unlikely to meet doesn’t change anything because shame is what a person feels before him- or herself. But now that I brought it up, leaving the subject would liken me to a scared ostrich sticking his head in the sand. By the way, that’s a myth: in reality, ostriches only bend their heads to the ground so that it’s easier to run.
Before I begin turning my soul inside out, let’s answer a simple question: what do women want? I have heard the best minds of mankind break over it without any success, and I’ve always been surprised by that, since the answer seems very simple to me: what a woman wants is to be the only woman beloved by the man (or woman) she loves. And this is where my confusion began: my beloved women, copying each other to the letter, invariably neglected me in favor of men for whom they could never be the only ones, even theoretically, while I offered them love in its most unadulterated form. This meant that the cornerstone lay not in their desire for singularity but in the fact that these women did not consider me desirable.
Well, some did—but I can’t think about them without self-irony. Although I’d probably remember Martina in the same way. There is something endlessly vulgar in the realization of love, and I don’t mean sex. Sex, if it’s good, works as a veil, covering the ugly earthliness. It is only maniac couples that escape the mundane, but I doubted that Molly and I would make one. To keep the flame going, you have to recharge away from each other, and for that to happen the two of you must be on the same wavelength. We were perpetually on different ones, so our best outcome would be to burn out in a series of compulsive explosions, each causing a lot of trouble to everyone involved … although, in any case, our sex life would still be beyond reproach.
But I got distracted again, didn’t I? This crazy sexual thing, always looking for ways to screw with the honest man’s head! When I saw that I wasn’t desirable to Molly, I had no choice but to become so. To do that, I needed to understand the mechanics of male attractiveness and the female drive. Having analyzed the entire cohort of guys with whom she was in romantic involvements of various degrees, I broke them down into three categories. The first comprised the rich: those whose parents had money, power, and status. I had none of these, but when I learned that the illegal cigarette trade flourished on campus, I made a quick arrangement with my folks back home and was soon receiving a steady flow of parcels. Due to the low cost of such merchandise in my homeland and its surprisingly high quality compared to that being offered by my competition, I made a lot of money and could consequently go all-in when it came to chocolate, alcohol, potato chips and other indispensable groceries, all of which I gladly shared with anyone who wanted them. I am positive those goodies, liquid and otherwise, made it to my dear on several occasions, along with rumors of a level of generosity hardly befitting someone on a full scholarship but, much to my relief, this did not change her attitude: I wouldn’t have taken it lightly if she’d started liking me for candy, let alone vodka.
The second (and also narrower) category was comprised of those with leading-man looks. Before Atlantic, I thought I had it; then I realized the physique was an indispensable part of the package. I developed some discipline, started going to the gym three times a week, and spent some of my black-market money on protein-rich foods (AC was stingy about feeding us: less was spent on our daily rations than in the average British prison), but I gained only a few pounds. I was incensed: I could win any realistic bet on pull-ups and push-ups, but my muscles remained thin. Then again, my dear would certainly have lost some of her shine if I’d caught her admiring my six-pack instead of my personality.
The third—and the smallest—category was made up of boys with charisma. And that was the most challenging territory for me. I could accept that my socioeconomic background disqualified me for some women. I could even agree that my appearance was less than irresistible. But, goddamn it, I could not believe that I was not the most charismatic guy any of those girls had ever met. It took me years of self-analysis to understand why, but when I finally did, I saw that the kind of treatment I had received from Martina was completely predictable.
My fundamental problem had been that I was a man who gave up his status to make others feel good about themselves. Noble though this may be in intent, it leads to a major misunderstanding of your persona. People (especially women) are unlikely to see the magnanimity of your soul: rather, they will assume you are a wimp and treat you accordingly. This was more than upsetting. Bolstering others at my own expense, I wanted to elevate them to my cognitive level and introduce them to a beautiful reality. Instead, they fed on my energy to get grounded on their own level while I would get exhausted and fall from mine. And as soon as I fell, those whom I had nurtured began to trample me, no one doing it more aggressively than the girls I fancied, and none with more disdain than Martina.
When I realized this, I forced myself to acknowledge that the girls were right. The portrait of weakness, the frailty of my body, my subtle humor, my quest for the unknown … it made perfect sense that I made no sense to them. But there I faced a dilemma. On the one hand, I did not want to remain on the same trajectory, and on the other, I did not want to give up my personality, which I considered superior to any meretricious alternative. Finding a balance was such a long and excruciating process that I could write another novel about it except, much like the AC times themselves, I’d hate to relive that struggle again. I was unsuccessful more often than not, suffering bitter defeats and letting glory slip away when I thought I had it bagged, and if in the end I reaped marvels it was only because I never doubted that I deserved everything I desired, and then some.