There is no male equivalent to the female “five minutes of alpha” heart trap. Men simply don’t experience the same intense urge as women to constantly compare and contrast present lovers to past or potential future lovers. The hypergamous instinct, while technically a property of both sexes, is most pronounced in women. To reiterate why: Women have 400 viable eggs, men have billions of sperm.
However, wistful remembrance of old lovers, less an exercise in regret than in appreciation, does lay claim to frontier outposts of men’s hearts. The swell of erotic nostalgia will vary from man to man, and reach crest heights directly proportional to a man’s breadth of bedroom experience. The more women a man has lain and loved (and labored under), the greater his predilection to cynically scour his past for discarded perfection.
But it’s not the prettiest women in his past that such a man might fondly recall. Instead, it’s those “first movers” who move his memory. There is something lustfully osmotic about the late teenaged man’s brain that when permeated by the heartsmoke of that first or second lover seals the memory hard in neural carbonite. The ethereal aura surrounding one’s first love only vibrates stronger with passing years and passing lovers, until the enfeebling effect of old age finally defeats its crepuscular magnetism.
On that subject, reader Trainspotter eulogizes,
No matter how many girls you date/bang, when all is said and done, only a few will matter. Maybe only one. Everyone else is background noise. In time, you’ll literally forget almost all of them, as they are utterly irrelevant to anything you care about in life. But there will be a few Great Ones (yes, I’m stealing that from A Bronx Tale). You never forget them. Those are the ones you miss. Those are the ones that haunt!
Talk to a guy who’s banged two hundred girls, and ask him which ones were really important to him. He’ll probably give three names. Maybe a couple more, maybe a couple less. I could give five names that matter to me, but two stand out the most. Everything else is mere clutter. What the hell was her name? Who cares!
And here’s the bad news: chronologically, his top names will probably be mostly concentrated in the first ten percent, maybe twenty percent, of those conquests.
Something to think about. We often make the most intense connections when we are too immature to appreciate them, and most cavalier at throwing them aside. There is a paradox in there, somewhere, and also, I think, a lesson.
The searing chemical reaction of first loves requires two reagents: The unformed mind, and youth. Familiarity with the opposite sex may breed facility with them, but it also breeds ennui if one is not careful to exercise refinement of taste with the accumulating lessons. From the teens to mid 20s, men’s minds are ripe for imprinting, and the imprinting will be especially powerful in men with little prior romantic experience.
The other reagent, and the one Trainspotter hinted at, is sheer feminine youth. As teenagers, we men don’t appreciate the unearthly beauty of our female cohorts. Truly, a woman will never be as breathtakingly captivating as she is between the ages of 15 and 25 (and this range is skewed toward the younger age). A woman can still be beautiful well into her 30s, but as exquisitely beautiful as she was at 17? No. (The only exception to this rule with any practical significance is the obese teenage woman who loses the weight and transforms into the slender 28 year old yoga queen.)
The male appreciation for precious female youth doesn’t pick up steam until later in life, when younger women become more distant and older women more his dating partner norm. We as a species are cursed to value the good things in life with the clearest mind only in hindsight and when bedeviled by the less good things.
Imprinting + female youth = transcendent memories of first loves.
But there are other women who stir men’s longings, and who could properly rate alongside that first love. These are the women a man has just left behind, the nearest ghostly competitors to the woman he is now dating. Recent conquests linger in men’s thoughts because of their freshness, and if they were (at times) true loves, there will invariably follow flashes of padded regard. Men must wrestle with divinely received compulsions for sexual variety, and given that acquiring new variety is harder than tumescing on the laurels of past variety, men tend to accommodate their compulsion with the easy insertion of nearly corporeal memories.
The first ten percent, and the final ten percent. And somewhere between those two may hover aloft an outstanding lover or two who, through fateful circumstance, diverged from your shared path. Every other woman is, at best, recalled to dendritic apparition with strenuous mental exertion and, at worst, utterly forgotten. And as the years pile higher, the forgotten loves grow in number, though you’ll know this only in the abstract. Pain yourself to hold onto your anthology of women — and they will always be your women so long as you once took them completely — against the rust of time.
I call these once and present lovers the ephemeral few. With you when you want them, gone when you don’t, never existing when you have left them for good.