The hot of him is purest in the heart

by gaytaylor


I don’t understand the nature of desire. And I mistrust anyone who says she or he does. Social scientists claim we each have an individual grid for who attracts us—meet someone who matches closely with the points on our grid and wham! we’re captivated.

Social scientists also swear we’re attracted to faces—though that’s not always the first thing some gay men of my acquaintance look at.

We’re similar the experts say say; and we’re also different. While there are general trends, there is much room for variation. I see this at home. The specific male body type that most attracts me is not the one my husband finds hottest. But then, he gets mesmerized by details (cowboy hat, scruffy beard, swagger) that mean little to me. I’m a sucker for a vulnerability, a thoughtful expression, long luxurious hair. (Defined pecs don’t hurt, either.)

Granted, the men who figure in my mental fantasies often skate by on their looks alone; I don’t necessarily give much thought to their personalities. But in my waking life I find I look for more in a man than looks alone: personality, heart, soulfulness, attitude, intention.

Did I learn this in church? Is this a gift of my evangelical upbringing? My Sunday School teachers taught “God looketh on the heart” and told me I should do the same.

Maybe the late American poet Wallace Stevens had the same Sunday School teachers I did. In his long poem, “Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction,” I stumbled upon a line that made me wonder. After describing the physical splendor of a specific man—“so bright, so moving”—the poet cautions his listener not to fixate on the outward appearances:

The hot of him is purest in the heart.

Eeow. Really!? So just as Miss Fox did when I was 12 and sitting in her curtained-off classroom in the northwest corner of the church basement, Stevens is telling me to look past outward appearances, to value what’s inside. “The hot of him is purest in the heart.” Hmph. I like this turn of phrase. Maybe I can figure out how to use it on my husband the next time we’re guy-watching together.

“Oooh, how about that one?” he’ll say.

I’ll respond, “He’s like you. The hot of him is purest in the heart.”

Should score me some points, don’t ya think?