Dubai Diaries: The changing laws of attraction
Attraction has always been complex and layered but the lack of an emotional and moral fibre can be its undoing.
What do you do when you find yourself truly, madly, deeply drawn to a person, without exchanging words with them? Attraction has always been complex and layered. Possibly, in the pre-pandemic time, it had a different meaning too. You met someone at a gathering or even online, spoke to them, something else apart from their good looks made them attractive to you.
But could this have changed now? The thought came to me as a dear friend called to say how she had been fiercely attracted to a man she had seen at a webinar. He hadn’t spoken or given a talk, but there was something about his demeanour that had drawn my friend to this man.
“I cannot forget that face,” she told me. “But is that enough?” I asked her. “What else constitutes attraction?” she charged at me. Conversations, emotional compatibility, empathy. I was about to spew a few more words before I realised that I might have been imposing my terms of attraction to someone else. I first met my partner on Google Chat after being introduced to him by a common friend.
I was in Delhi and he was in Bombay, and neither of us planned to move cities. The ‘romance’ began with words, arguments, showing each other perspectives on art, music, history that we hadn’t been exposed to. But this was 10 years ago. And today, the laws of attraction have changed. Almost all my friends in India who are on dating apps rue about how the shorter attention spans mean you are a replaceable romantic prospect.
Those who want to get married and look for ‘permanent settlement’ either end up registering themselves on matrimonial sites, whereas others keep swiping in order to find that certain someone who can be interesting enough for companionship. The latter’s parameters almost always begin with how a person looks, conversations can come later.
If I have been most baffled by this, it is only because attraction that culminates into companionship needs something more to it. What we so often (and so loosely) call chemistry is also premised on empathy, trust and respect. You can see the most beautiful human being and yet not find yourself drawn to them if they fail to tick these boxes. But what happens when you do, in fact, find that someone who is externally irresistible?
I found my answers in a film I watched recently on Netflix. Damage, starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche, was recommended to me by a colleague who said this could indeed be a possibility. The film revolves around an older man falling in love with an impossibly beautiful young woman. There is passion, desire and everything that fuels attraction between a man and a woman. But what ultimately undoes the affair is the lack of an emotional and moral fibre.
We expect allegiance even from those we are attracted to, but a relationship that’s based on everything else except emotional connect can rarely afford us that. That’s the idea at the core of Damage. A lesson we often keep forgetting.