What First Attracted You to Your Mate?

There’s a line in an old Beach Boys song that snagged my attention in high school.  The song was, When I Grow Up to Be a Man.  But the critical line was:  Will I look for the same things in a woman that I dig in a girl?  Remember it?  

At the time, like most of you, I was attracted to the cheerleader-type, pretty girls, scantily clad, jumping and twirling around.  Hard to beat that.  And yet as a slightly weird, introverted teenager, even then part of my mind asked, “Is this the high-water mark?  When I’m 30, 40, 50, is that what I’m going to be wishing for?”  Thankfully, the answer to that was and is:  No…though I have a funny feeling that not all mature men learned that lesson.

This is how Pam dressed in those days

In college,  “Hey, Hey, Whatdya say…Let’s Go back the Other way,” gave way to girls dressed a bit differently, more up-town, girls who wanted to have challenging conversations before ripping each other’s clothes off.  Even then, just a few years down the time line, I discovered that a gal who wanted to communicate, banter, try new wines, and clothes and most of all, concepts, was just more challenging.  You can only fumble around in the back seat of a ’65 Chevy for so many hours.  Ultimately, you have to talk.   And once again, I thought,  “I guess this is the ne plus ultra,”  the highest peak you can achieve.

And once again, thankfully, I was not only wrong, but dead-wrong.  It was at this time, however, that I was doing what I now call my serious dating.  I was looking for a mate, someone to spend the entire rest of my life with.  And, like most of you, I dated my brains out, trying to figure everything out.  And there were some important keys that I noticed at the time, but didn’t know what to do with them.  …more in a minute.

All through high school,  I attended a bunch of football games……though not nearly as many as the number of ballets I attended, which involved driving into Manhattan, spending virtually all my allowance, to see…ballerinas, exotic as strange birds, dancing humanly impossible dances to music which can still make me weep.  I’d wait at the stage door, as the girls from the Kirov, the Bolshoi, the Royal Ballet troupes would come out.  I’d hand one a rose and they’d smile.   They seemed to me to almost be from another planet.

At college I drove up to Centenary College for Women one Friday night, and ran nearly literally into a girl who was racing way too fast back from dance class.  The meeting was the oddest in my life, but I managed to track her down, hiding behind some rose bushes.  Like a frightened deer, she didn’t know what to do…nor did I, so I asked if I could buy her a coffee.

Pamela dancing Swan Lake

I learned that she was, indeed, a ballerina, was dancing with Harkness Ballet in New York, and, oh by the way, was Hungarian, and sort of like the Sugar Plum Fairy, had a penchant for wearing lavender.  That first night, when I held the car door for her, I immediately pulled out my 8-Track and clicked in Swan Lake.  Later, I learned that that had garnered some points.

On our second date, I noticed my first Key, that I mentioned earlier.  Just as we were getting ready to kiss good night at the entrance to Centenary, I noticed that one of her eyes pulled in just a tiny bit.  Later, I learned it was an astigmatism.  I know now, that it was that moment, when I fell completely, though I didn’t know why.  I had no idea.  Looking back, it was this:  For me, and I think for a number of people, part of falling in love, is wanting to protect someone…with your life if necessary.  Pamela was, and continues to be funny, sexy, a great dancer, but there was and still is something that makes me want to protect her.

Pamela, the mid years, bushy hair, spraying me with water

Scroll ahead.  We were talking about what attracts us, changing over time.  Most recently, with the cancer and the crap Pam and I have been through, she developed a tiny quiver in her hands, not always, but once in a while.  No matter what the day has been like, seeing that, breaks and also melts my heart.  I think it’s programmed into my genes.  I absolutely have to protect her…and I think that’s part of love, sometimes a big part.

Looking back at  cheerleaders at this point in my life, I can still appreciate the healthy curvy body parts twirling around…I’m not dead, but when I go to a get-together, I see Pamela and her friends, and women who have chosen to let their hair go silver, who are no longer a size four or weigh 117 pounds, and may on occasion need a cane, or quiver in pain getting up from a chair.


Don’t know if this is a southern thing, but lately, all the mature beautiful women now have silver hair

It simultaneously breaks my heart just a bit, but it is also the most attractive part of the female humanity… the vulnerability mixed in direct proportion to having survived these weird, sometimes painful, always challenging lives we’ve been given.  Each of these women…is a survivor and they’ve done so beautifully.

Lately, I see a trend of women being treated poorly, being cast aside, being minimalized and it makes me sick.  Without women in this world, there is absolutely no point to the whole thing.


Henry, early college, taking a break before a philo exam


P.S.  Okay, okay…  I told your my secrets and tastes…mostly because no one is sitting in this room to tell me their predilections.  But y’all know how to respond.  Please share your perspective.  Women,  I understand six-pack abs are a bit overrated.  Is there a chance for us men?



8 Responses to "What First Attracted You to Your Mate?"

  1. Penelope Martin says:

    What a sweet blog. I enjoyed your dating progression and love the photos.
    I have been a violinist forever. At college I met a cellist in advanced music class. We were instantly attracted to each other. I was a goner when he said, “What beautiful music we could make together.” That was 45 years ago next month. Like you and your wife, what a ride. No regrets.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    The big question of the day, however, is….Can you fiddle? One of my favorite You Tube videos is Mari Samuelsen playing Vivaldi (winter) So beautiful, it’s almost inhuman. Congratulations to your musical mate.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Yup, that’s at the top of the heap…along with TRUST. The older you get, that sense of humor thing rises to the top as well. You really need a sense of humor as you get older, or you’ll just get BITTER.

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    It was simply his strength and kindness. We were together 35 years.

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Thank you, Linda. Kindness is at the very top of the list.

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Sherrell’s smile was intoxicating….it wasn’t the scotch….well, scotch never hurt a gentleman.

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    You just can’t beat a terrific smile!

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