I am in a relationship with my sweatpants. It is not monogamous, since I have several pairs that I am involved with on a rotating basis. They have been loyal to me, my sweatpants. They have guided me gently through countless naps, walked many miles with my beast of a dog and I, nurtured me through endless hangover days, and have never, once, offended me by requiring me to wear undergarments with them that squish or invade parts of my anatomy that should never be squished or invaded.
However, dependable as they may be, my sweatpants are not sexy. Not, at least, in the conventaional, don’t wear faded, saggy, stained and eleven year old items of clothing if you want to remain attractive to the person you live with sort of way.
Is sexiness important to a relationship? Or is sexiness too narrow a term to describe what keeps us tethered to someone over the long-term? Does sexiness include the broader scope of attraction, like someone’s sharp mind or kind heart or quick sense of humour?
Of course it does. These are the things that grow our relationship, keep us hanging around despite all of the cover-snatching and snoring and throat clearing and socks on the floor and open containers of orange juice that you go to shake and get literally all over your kitchen ceiling because the lid was, ONCE AGAIN, not screwed on properly. These things calm the anger and mitigate the endless irritation that simply living with another human being inevitably brings. They remind us why we were drawn to this person in the first place, when there is a sea (pond) of other mates available to us at every turn.
And then time goes on. The nerves go away., You don’t have to run the water when you pee in the same house as them anymore, or pretend you aren’t hungry because god what kind of an attractive person eats food in front of someone else, or frantically wash your feet in the bathroom sink at work after an 11 hour shift before you go over there. You pee with the door open. You eat regularly and probably not with a conscious awareness of how much food you are getting on your face, the floor, or your shirt. If your feet have that 11 hour shift smell, you aren’t worrying about it.
But if you were a French woman, you would be. The door to your bathroom would remain closed. Your feet would probably not be smelly, and if they were, no one would ever know, because you would swiftly and elegantly take care of the issue before it even had time to become one.
French women (and this is a bit of a generalization I am not saying all French women are any one thing in particular because I realize all people are varied and unique and vastly different regardless of geography, race, class, ethnicity, gender, and every other possible category so relax everyone) view marriage and relationships differently than we do here in North America. In France, extra-marital affairs are more common – often even expected since the tight-assed view of monogamy that we hold here isn’t the norm there. The way that French society views sex and cheating and seduction and marriage and everything else that encompasses the way that humans in love and lust connect with each other hugely affects how women in relationships behave. Does every French woman have a spouse who cheats? Probably not. But because the expectation is there, women, like in so many social situations, have to be reactionary. So what do they do? Do they go Carrie Underwood on their partners and key their cars and take a Louisville Slugger to both headlights?
They wear lingerie. They flirt. They use little jealousies to their advantage, seducing their partners over and over again by reminding them of their own attractiveness to others. They remain unavailable sometimes, both emotionally and physically. They fulfill their own needs, under the assumption that an intelligent, well-rounded woman will always be the better bet.
They behave like their spouses’ mistress. Because if he already has one, why would he go looking for another?
Part of me loves this whole French woman philosophy. But another part of me wants to know that there are French women who are insecure and afraid and sometimes have bad breath or prickly legs or shitty temperaments when they see their partners looking casually at a 23 year old woman who seems to be able to pull off this stupid crop-top trend that should have died in the 90’s pretty bloody well. I can’t believe that they all have Bridgette Bardot bangs and Catherine Deneuve eyes and roving husbands who slink around at night looking for and finding illicit sex.
Maybe we need to reach a compromise here in North America. Like, a little less sweatpants and a little more lingerie and I’ll TRY to flirt sometimes but only if YOU try to stop making that stupid noise when you’re concentrating on something and if you DO cheat on me maybe I won’t LITERALLY kill you but I WILL ruin your life somehow make no mistake about that and I’m not emotionally unavailable but I AM exhausted so I’ll maybe play that off like I’m teasing you but in reality I just want to go to bed so don’t get too interested over there.
Based on my own staggeringly legitimate credentials of exactly one failed marriage, I feel like I have the authority to say this – marriage, raltionships, need to be largely about compromise. You do the dishes, I’ll do the laundry. You walk the dog, I’ll clean the toilet. So if I am going to behave like a lofty, liberal French woman with great hair and swinging morals wearing underwear that hurt and chafe me in spots, you are going to avoid getting a pot belly. You will never wear socks with your sandals. You won’t putter when you’re 58, getting in my way and accomplishing nothing. You will stay sexy, too.
And I am keeping my sweatpants.