My Ideal Man

An image of a muscular man, in a bedroom white text on a black banner reads "My Ideal Man"

Warning: This post mentions topics of domestic violence, physical and psychological abuse.

I had no intentions to write so soon but, well, one thing led to another, my mind started working on overdrive and now here we are, another blog post later. We often hear in the media what men want, or what women want, but what does this woman go after? That’s what today is all about.

Last night Matt and I sat down to watch Naked Attraction on Channel 4, and there was a guy on there that I perhaps should have been attracted to: he was tall, muscular, bearded, tattooed. He is ex-miliatary too, what’s not to like?

I didn’t though, something about him just felt “off” for me. He was quietly spoken and he seemed uneasy, even if he put on a strong image. He was red in the face too, though I couldn’t tell if that was from embarrassment or anger.

For a start I know that I’m not attracted to overly musclar men anyway. I have a simple rule in my life, and it’s one that stems from overhearing domestic violence coming from my neighbours – if they can lift you, then they can throw you. It sounds sexy and kinky to some to be thrown by a man I’m sure, until it’s not.

I have trust issues, I know I do, but my trust issues are more to do with my physical safety than they are to do with my precious little heart. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I always have done, I see no point in being guarded with my emotions. When it comes to my physical safety though, I have been pinned down and sedated, I have had doors kicked in and been hauled out of the room simply for saying “no”. I have had someone try to drown me and I have been thrown around just for fun. I have heard bangs, screams and shouting and I have seen the shadows and dents of things no child should ever see. You can understand now then why I don’t want to feel physically intimidated in my relationships, I want, need and deserve to feel safe. We all do.

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Add to that, I find too many gym goers have huge egos and terrible insecurities anyway, and insecurity is a huge turn-off for me. Their problems become your problems, and that becomes a whole shitfest that nobody ever deserves to be caught up in. Active and outdoorsy? Sexy. Gym buff? Not for me.

A little later in the show our guy said something that, for me, is the death knell to any potential attraction. He said “it’s whatever she wants” and immediately I winced. Fine for some I’m sure, because there are some women (and men, and non-binary peeps) out there who actually do want to take charge in the bedroom, but for me? And in my own words? There are a few different things that turn me on:

“I like a man with a sense of humour, a man who can cook and a man who goes after what he wants” I say, “in fact, the latter there is probably my biggest turn-on of all.”

It’s not that I want to be chased (though maybe), but I like a man with a sense of direction, a man with his own opinion, with his own voice. I like a man who knows what he stands for and who knows what he wants. That to me is very attractive indeed.

“Oh, and must love dogs” I add with a grin. Dog Dads are just… gah.

Many years ago, before Matt, I dated another Matt, Matt H. Matt H told me that he was a switch but really, I think he was deeply submissive. Matt would give me anything I wanted if he could, he even said so several times himself. It was fun for a time, but I got bored fast because where was the challenge? Where was the doing or trying something new? He didn’t introduce me to anything new and exciting because he was too afraid to upset me, so instead he was just happy to do whatever I wanted to do. I wanted someone who would challenge me sometimes because I like to be challenged. Sometimes I don’t want “whatever she wants” – I want what he wants instead.

Perhaps I could still like myself a man in uniform, then? Err…

Over dinner on Saturday, my mother told me that she is meeting someone again soon (despite saying only about a month ago that she was taking a break from dating, but hey) and twice I rolled my eyes. Apparently he’s ex-military, and while I respect her choices, I also know that military personnel are probably not for me anymore. I’ve been there, I’ve had my taste. While I could still be like her, I’m also glad that I’m not.

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Both of my parents were army reservists, and I had that way of life drummed into me from day dot – up at six, breakfast by seven, ready for school and on the doorstep for the taxi/bus by eight. I was used to having a cold wet sponge thrown at me or having my bed upturned if I got up late, I was used to having my bedroom inspected regularly and I was used to finding my belongings in a black bin liner on my bed – a dire warning that, the next time I didn’t tidy up before leaving my bedroom, my belongings would be binned. We weren’t motivated through compassion and reward, we were motivated instead through intimidation and fear. We were given “tough love”.

The same “tough love” that Will tried to give me.

I met my future husband in an office and I was immediately drawn to him and some of the other boys around him. They were relaxed, flippant even, and I found that fascinating. How could they be so relaxed? Didn’t we have work to do?

They laughed at me, sure, but my dedication to my work got me noticed and flirted with. I was not unpopular, because when these men messed around with me then I messed around a little back, but I still had my limits. When Matt fired elastic bands at me, I picked them up and I fired them back. When a co-worker asked me if I’d like a cup of tea, I winked at him and said I thought he’d never ask.

So what was it that made these men so… different?

When I first met him, I was surprised by what my father-in-law-to-be did for work: he was a cleaner, a janitor. He was so laid back, so cool and casual, he wasn’t bothered by anything. His home was tidy and mine wasn’t, and the way that he and Matt were together, it fascinated me. They were more like best friends than father and son, but there was so much obvious love and respect.

Hell yes, I was envious. Why didn’t I have that at home?

I can remember staying at Matt’s home once after a night on the tiles, and I got up at half nine. I bolted out of bed and apologised profusely to Andy, I was expecting and waiting to be in trouble. I was ready for Andy to be mad at me.

He wasn’t though, instead he simply asked me if I’d slept well and if I wanted any breakfast. That was new for me.

That was when the change began for me. Slowly but surely, I pulled out of a life in the fast lane and I swapped it for a life in the middle one. I didn’t want to go slow and do nothing for sure, but I didn’t want to be constantly stressed and on the go, either.

So I became one of them, I became one of the crew. I became unconditionally loved.

And once I was full of unconditional love, I was able to give it too.

This morning I had a grocery delivery, and as I do when I’m unpacking these things, sometimes I like to have some small talk with the courier because it passes the time. Sometimes they really appreciate the chat, sometimes they remember me and we catch up again another time, and other times they don’t want to chat at all and that’s okay. If they want to chat, though, I engage them in a chat.

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So today the chap and I started chatting, and we got talking about working from home and where Matt and I met. He said that “it must be nice” working from home, and I explained that it requires self-discipline, but also that Matt and I met in the office so we’re sort of used to working together anyway. We’d had to adapt for sure, but fortunately it hadn’t been that hard for us.

We then got talking more about self-discipline, and I realised that I was talking to a fellow military brat, so I told him about some of the military-style disciplines that I’d been subjected to as a kid that made me who I am today. We talked about how military-style discipline makes you more respectful, but ultimately, that respect comes from a place of fear. Then he said something that no survivor ever wants to hear:

“I had it worse than that.”

Tragically, I find this attitude so deeply ingrained in military brats of my generation. There is a toxic masculinity culture, a noteable lack of empathy. My uncle is a retired paratrooper and he too has a similar attitude. We will never get along, no matter how hard I have tried. I am forever a “them” to him.

But what if we changed this attitude? What if, instead of competition, we turned to co-operation? How would it feel if, instead of competing to decide who had it worse, we use these experiences to say “wow, that sounds horrible. I’ve been through something similar myself and I’m here if you ever need someone to talk to”? What kind of force would we create?

I don’t say this badly of military personnel, because I think what they do is remarkable, extremely challenging and incredibly respectable, but it’s attititudes like this that perpetuates this “them” and “us” mentality. When you treat a civilian like a “them” and not an “us” in your everyday interactions, you won’t recruit them so easily if, God forbid, you ever need them in times of conflict or catastrophe. Even if we can never fully empathise with one another, our common humanity is surely a reason to treat one another better than what we sometimes do.

And so this is something else I look for in a partner: a team player, not a team leader. Sometimes I lead, and other times I am led. That’s okay, I’m not afraid to hand over the reins sometimes to someone more knowledgeable than I, so long as they understand that it does not make them better than me.

But ultimately, and for me personally? I’ve always been drawn to office workers.

It has absolutely nothing to do with strength, money or skillset, instead it has everything to do with knowing that in the office there are rules, and outside of the office, they make the rules. It is in knowing that in the office they are constrained by propriety, and at home they’ll be as improper as they like. For me that’s a turn on, that’s something that I enjoy imagining – not being thrown around by a muscular man in uniform but learning, perhaps, what my fellow colleagues and associates can really do after hours, with nothing more than a leather belt and a silk tie.

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