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Bald Men, My Brain and Sex.
Discovering My Problem
After I had my first son, I joined a gym for the third time in ten years. Only this time I actually went. Amazing, I know.
It was awesome. I left my hyperactive toddler, aka ricochet, in the hands of some unsuspecting nursery worker. After I was sure the poor lady could keep up with him, I went to enjoy some quiet time.
My favorite activity was walking around the track. It was basically a hallway with no natural light encircling the swimming pool. Not a lot of people used it. Other gym members seemed to prefer a treadmill in front of the televisions instead.
I loved walking there because I could meditate, daydream and run through scenarios of being a pop star secret agent ninja with magical mutant flying powers.
What? You don't do that? It's just me? Ah, well, I was really into Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon at the time. (As well as being a huge James Bond and Batman fan.)
After a few weeks, I settled into a routine. I walked around the track at about the same time every day. Eventually I started recognized the other faithful members who did the same thing.
One man I did notice in particular was another track afincianado. I would say "Hi" here and there, but mostly I would avoid eye contact.
When I first realized what I was doing, I was embarrassed at myself. I knew the reason I couldn't look at him was because he was loosing his hair.
That was annoying. We all age; there's no avoiding it. I thought about how self conscious I was about my stretchmarks, so I decided that I was being unfairly critical about his appearance.
I thought it was because I was judging him negatively based on his hairline. I felt that made me a bad person, so I wanted to change.
At the time, I was reading Rational Emotive Therapy in an attempt to rid myself of a phobia. The book explained that we are ruled by beliefs we don't even realize we have.
Those beliefs can create fears that aren't based in reality. When we are able to pull those beliefs and thoughts out into the light of day, we can see them more objectively which allows us to make more informed choices. That was the theory.
So I tried to find a way to short circuit those unwanted thoughts. Ultimately, I must admit, because I wanted to feel smug about how open and accepting I was.
See the technique works! Wait, was it supposed to make me a better person or just feel like a better person? I may have gotten that confused.
After deciding to better myself, I paid attention to my reactions when I was around him and other bald men.
I had gotten pretty good at slowing down my thought processes, or maybe they were just that slow to begin with.
In any case, I had some practice at catching those elusive meandering thoughts I didn't consciously acknowledge.
I realized, of course, that it wasn't just the one guy. It was every bald or balding man. I also observed that age didn't figure into it at all. The man who ran around the track was 30 something. Not what I considered old.
As I picked apart each thought I had when I glimpsed him and other men who were there, I noticed a pattern. The men I didn't think I would consider good looking even with hair made me even more uncomfortable. And, if I'm honest which I am for the moment, they kinda made me, well, mad.
Please don't jump on me for being totally evil and shallow yet. Or do. But remember I'm just relating how I discovered that my brain hates me. It rarely does what it's told. Now that I know what it's doing, theoretically, I can change it.
Okay, so at this point I still hadn't found the underlying problem.
The guy who kept lapping me on the track was what I would considered good looking. I figured the problem must be that I had an issue with bald men.
I was only walking around the track while he was running. So he ran past me a lot. It gave me plenty of time to consider my thoughts and responses to his appearance.
Discovering the Truth - It's even stranger than fiction.
As I slowed down my thoughts. I figured out something that actually bothered me even more than if I had just been a shallow idiot.
I was almost exactly 3 feet behind my study subject when I realized why looking at him bothered me so much.
Are you ready for this?
It's because I was mentally undressing him.
Yes, that's not a typo.
I was visualizing a random guy jogging in front of me totally naked.
It was usually for just a split second so I didn't usually register it enough to do anything but look away, but this time I had slowed the process down so I could see it in all it's glory.
I felt like I was going to die.
I must explain that at the time I was really religious. So as a religious married new mother, I felt that this was probably the worst thing I could have done in this situation.
Okay, no, the next thing was the worst thing I could have done which was to ponder whether or not he was any good at sex.
Now that I had slowed my brain down, it would not stop. I stopped walking, cringed and sang a hymn or something to make it go away.
I had to wait for him jog out of sight before I felt like I could breathe again.
The sexy sexy naked jogging man was making me very uncomfortable.
The Conclusion - I am just a big pervert
It took a little investigating, but I finally figured out what was happening.
Somewhere in my brain is a recognition of when a person is fully clothed or nude. There appears to be a tipping point at which my brain decides that enough skin is showing that a person might as well be naked and tada! It produces that image for me.
"You're welcome," says my brain.
What I figured out was this:
When I see a bald head, my mind recognizes that not everyone has that much skin showing and flips the nude switch unbidden by me. It's not on purpose, I keep telling myself that anyway.
Here's the truly politically incorrect part. Remember when I said unattractive bald men made me kinda mad? Yeah, that same process was happening with them too.
My brain's internal (or infernal, whatever) dialogue sounds like this:
"Hey! That guy has more skin showing than I'm used to.
"Hmm. He looks like he's practically naked.
"Let's get rid of that practically part.
"Okay now he's naked. Would I want to have sex with him?
"Oh no. I don't think so. Why don't we get mad at him for making us uncomfortable.
"Very good, my job is now finished. Go ahead and hang your head in shame."
I am aware that this is irrational and that it's not the guy's fault. I recognize that.
The upside to this discovery is that I don't have to feel bad about disliking bald men for being bald.
I just get to feel bad for objectifying them sexually.
That's so much better. I feel like a jerk now.
Thanks brain. Thanks a lot.
Well, maybe knowing that the crazy lady in the corner can't make eye contact because she thinks you're too sexy would be better from the man's point of view.
I don't usually ask the guy if it's okay to continue visualizing him nude.
I just tend to shut down that train of thought as quickly as possible because imagining my kids' teacher's prowess in bed makes for a distracting parent-teacher conference.