The (Sex) Appeal of Jon Stewart

jon stewartOver the years I have had conversations with women who would do Jon Stewart in a heartbeat.

It’s true. And I don’t mean gold diggers. Lord knows there are plenty of those in my gender. If that’s your sport, by all means check out the many reality TV shows dedicated to reinforcing that life’s goal. Case in point, the front page of a tabloid I just saw while checking out at the grocery store had a blaring headline about the ‘Real Housewife’ who’s in jail declaring she’ll be rich again. Excellent. Thanks for keeping us updated, you beacon of all that’s right with the world.

But back to the sex appeal of Jon Stewart. It’s worth looking at in the context of Valentine’s Day week because I think it’s instructive in the dating/attraction realm. This isn’t about objectifying Stewart; in fact, quite the contrary. And I mean no disrespect to his wife.

The swooning that many of us – yes, count me in – do over The Daily Show host is more about self-actualization than it is about cash. I don’t even think Stewart gets that. Over the years he’s made jokes about leaner financial times and not exactly having the women lining up and how getting your own show sweetens the pot.

Sure it does. But focusing on the money discounts a huge part of this attraction equation. What we like – and by ‘we’ I’m talking about mostly women I know in their 40s and 50s – is a man who is in synch with his purpose. When human beings are in a zone, when talent masterfully lines up with a job, it’s heady to watch. It is.

Jon Stewart found a sweet spot at Comedy Central. His work has helped set the tone of many a national conversation. He may be on auto pilot these days – likely contributing to his announcement that he’s leaving the show – but even his ‘rote’ has some nice swagger. He gets it on a deep level.

A lot of women find this sexy. We don’t watch because of his sex appeal. We watch because he makes us think and because he knows who he is and because he’s …

Smart. Check.

Funny. Check.

Compassionate. Check.

Interesting that if he was a random guy and had an online dating profile, a lot of women wouldn’t get past the fact that he’s 5-foot-7.

A few years ago at a small gathering of women I graduated high school with, one of them asked if I’d dated a particular one of our classmates after graduation. I said I had. Another chimed in with a scrunched-up look on her face and said, “But he’s short.”

And your point is?

Wow.

This brings me to a show called Science of Sex Appeal that I happened to catch about five minutes of (Discovery TV) while channel surfing the other night. I was horrified, but not surprised, to see the results of some research where women were asked to rate some men from 1-to-10 based on a picture. Later another batch of women was asked to rate those some men, only they had jobs and salaries listed next to the photos. Do I even need to mention that the guy in retail making $20K-ish had a much lower rating than when it was just his photo? And that the guy in the over $350K category got a gleeful 10? I’m not even sure she looked at him after seeing the salary.

I’m not a scientist. I have no research. It’s all anecdotal. I know in many cases we’re simply attracted to who we’re attracted to for a myriad of reasons. But sometimes we have to ask ourselves who we’re eliminating and why. While the gold diggers are unabashedly chasing the jewelry and the car, many of us are drawn to the essence of the man.

The last guy I was hopelessly in love with was unemployed and felt like a shell of himself because of it. He didn’t feel like he was bringing much to the table. He was not prone to letting a woman pick up a tab and wasn’t comfortable going Dutch. I once asked him if he wanted to join me for a sound healing meditation in my town knowing it might be soothing for him and because it was something we could do together that would cost very little.

His response was nearly an outburst.

“Nancy, I don’t want to say this, but I have to. I can’t afford to put the gas in my car to get there.”

It was clearly hard for him to admit. I felt awful and yet was happy that he’d leveled with me. Our struggle was about his lack of money, but not in the way one would conventionally think because the struggle was mostly within him. His push-pull. Not my need for him to buy me things. His need to be in a position to buy me things. He was an extraordinary man in many ways.

In a lighter moment I once told him not to call me at 11 o’clock because “I don’t cheat on Jon Stewart.” He laughed and respected that.

The other night when the news of Stewart’s retirement had spread, but The Daily Show where he’d announce it hadn’t yet aired, I tuned in to see what he’d say. Just a few minutes in, I Tweeted, “Leave it to Jon Stewart to be extra irresistible on the night he’s going to tell us he’s leaving us.”

I know I don’t know you, Jon, but I still feel compelled to thank you for being there, steady, vulnerable, and cool.

It’s a mighty nice combo.

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