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February 08, 2007

Beauty And Women And Men -- Well, Mostly Women

Here follows my entry in a long-running series of posts on the subject of how women shouldn't be altering themselves to please men.

FbL was kind enough to send along this story showing that women will gladly forgo sex in exchange for a new wardrobe:

For most women, the choice between sex and a new wardrobe is simple — they go for the clothes.

Women on average say they would be willing to give up sex for 15 months for a closet full of new apparel, with 2 percent ready to abstain from sex for three years in exchange for new duds, according to a new survey of about 1,000 women in 10 U.S. cities.

This should settle forever the debate Cassandra began and I joined against my better judgment.

For those keeping score, the question was: women do terrible things to themselves in pursuit of beauty. Are they doing it for men (the bastards), or for themselves and other women?

The answer: it's not for men.

On the same topic: Virginia Postrel's article in the Atlantic Online argues that beauty is beauty, period. It is a short two page article, with a neat video from Dove cosmetics' viral marketing showing just how much prepping and actual video editing goes into making a model a model.

I'll leave aside my amusement at Dove's marketing gimmick, by which they are attempting to sell you cosmetics by accusing other cosmetic companies of suggesting you need cosmetics. I'll also set aside my even deeper amusement that this baldly manipulative campaign is so wildly successful. Dove is actually managing to sell cosmetics by telling women that cosmetics manufacturers are immoral. Help every woman feel beautiful without makeup! Buy Dove!

The point of the article is that every woman is not conventionally beautiful; even babies, male and especially female, look longer at pictures of those accounted beautiful by adults. But every woman wants to feel beautiful, for reasons evolution has implanted deep in her core.

Men aren't the source of this longing in women, and for those who can't ever quite satisfy it, it's not male expectations that are to blame. It was there when you got here, in that common human genetic code, and it's not going anywhere.

Those of us who love you, however, will accept that this is part of you and try to help you feel the way you want to feel. For example, we'll wait thirty more minutes while you get ready, before we go out to the grocery store to get some baking soda and milk. We'll tell you that you're beautiful, and indeed, to us you are. No one I've loved has failed to be beautiful to me.

The fact that this answer has never been satisfying -- your own eyes still judge you against that genetic standard, whatever we say, and however we feel -- goes to show that it's never really been about us at all.

That's no condemnation; I'm as much a prisoner of the genetics as anyone. But it is the truth.

UPDATE: "And then finally, everyone will be able to see the real me."

Posted by Grim at February 8, 2007 09:28 PM

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You beat me to it, Grim! ;)

One caveat, though: the article points out that this was an unscientific, online poll. As such, it's going to attract a certain segment of the population that will not be representative of the whole.

I'll probably say more tomorrow, but I'm too tired and I want to read that second link you put up before I do.

Posted by: FbL at February 9, 2007 12:42 AM

This poll is the silliest thing I have ever heard of and I am going to ask every woman I meet today.

Grim - On the statement that women will do terrible things for beauty........you've got me there. I am a woman who allows another woman (trained esthetician, let's not get too kinky here) to smear hot wax on sensitive skin, wait a moment and then RRRIIIIPPPPP it off. LOL And yes, once I catch my breath, I would tell you that it is worth it.

Posted by: Maggie at February 9, 2007 09:27 AM

"No one I've loved has failed to be beautiful to me." And that's how it should be.

Personally, I like to look my best - for myself. Sometimes "my best" is sweats and my hair in a ponytail on top of my head!

Posted by: Kris, in New England at February 9, 2007 09:27 AM


What's for dinner?

*running away*

Posted by: Masked Menace© at February 9, 2007 01:17 PM

I agree in principal, Grim. Women dress and beautify themselves for themselves and other women's approval. But hearing 'You look great" from another woman is never as satisfying as hearing it from my man.

Posted by: Sloan Morganstern at February 9, 2007 05:36 PM

Beauty. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. -Ambrose Bierce

Sophia Loren.

Posted by: spd rdr at February 9, 2007 05:50 PM

I'm a slave to fashion!

I'm neekid.

But I finished all the egg salad! :-o

Posted by: Real Life at February 9, 2007 09:16 PM

Giving up sex isn't an issue when you don't get it in the first place.

In regard to what women do for beauty:

I don't seem to get noticed, since I'm no longer the 135 lb. and curvy thing I once was (and was satisfied with my figure), and even then, I was not the one that was noticed first. I was never what I considered a great beauty, but I was definitely not ugly - I'd at least say I was pretty. But, I was never one to play the coquette with guys; I was always just me. If I tried to "act sexy", I think I ended up looking foolish instead.

Now, I weigh close to twice what I did when I liked how I looked. I never planned on getting fat. It just sort of happened. And once you get this way, it's not easy to fix, and keep fixed. I know I'm a great gal, and any man should be lucky to have me, but that won't happen until someone gives me a chance. And over the past many years (more than I care to admit), there haven't been any chances. So, tell me, Oh Wise Ones, if it's not about looks (and I don't dress like a sack of potatoes, even though I sometimes feel like one when I stand in front of the mirror), why haven't there been chances?

Posted by: so what do I get for 30+ years of celibacy? at February 9, 2007 09:31 PM

Why haven't you had chances? Ma'am, that isn't a question a gentleman would answer even if he could. I certainly cannot, not having had the pleasure of knowing you directly and over time.

Insofar as your question is about the role of beauty, however, the answer is this: if a man loves you, he will find you beautiful regardless of what you look like. If he does not love you, he will only find you beautiful if you adhere to that genetic standard.

It does not take beauty to make a man love you, though; and once he does, in his eyes you will have it. In my case, when I have loved a woman who would not be considered beautiful by most (though even now I shall defend her beauty against anyone who dared question it), it was because she unfailingly made me happy. Just to be with her did; or to hear her voice.

That is a coincidence of the spirit, I think -- our spirits, I mean, were harmonized. How or why is beyond me to say. But it was so.

Posted by: Grim at February 9, 2007 10:10 PM

When I refer to chances, I mean just getting a date, not having sex. Back when I was skinny, I had a boyfriend that would have more than willing to take care of things, as it were. I'm sure if I just wanted to get laid, I'd find takers, no matter what my appearance, but that is not what I am after. I want a relationship, one that will hopefully lead to sex when the time is right. So, my question is, being a woman without a man, and not being a man-hating, high-maintenance woman, what would be the formula to catch a man's eye? Without catching his eye, he won't have a chance to fall in love with me.

A very good email friend of mine, prior to meeting me in person, theorized I gave off some sort of negative vibes. I had the opportunity, a few years ago, to take a side trip to meet him when I had a weekend layover on a business trip to CA. He and his family (wife and 3 kids) took me out to dinner in the Gaslamp District. After dinner, they dropped me back at my hotel. After I was back to business, he emailed me that he had discussed this topic with his wife, and they both agreed I didn't give off any negative vibes.

When I go out in public with my younger (and much thinner) sisters, they are the ones who get noticed, the ones who get hit on. The older of the two doesn't dress like a tramp, but she does where things that show off her figure. The younger sister isn't as daring in her dress, but she does also have a nice figure. They are often mistaken for twins, even though they are three and a half years apart in age. I think I am sometimes mistaken for their mother - I was a freshman in high school when the youngest was born.

Lately, I will admit, I haven't exactly "been out there", having had other responsibilities over the last couple of years. But, I have attempted to do so before, becoming involved in things outside of work, and I still had no success. Things are a bit unsettled for me right now, but I hope that will change within the next 6-9 months, and I can actively attempt "being out there" again, but based on past experience, I'm doing something wrong because I haven't gotten anywhere, so I'd better figure out what that is. I never expected to be the age that I am now and still be unmarried.

Posted by: so what do I get for 30+ years of celibacy? at February 9, 2007 10:43 PM

I'm afraid that these are not questions I can answer; my theories based on the online discussion are no more likely to pan out than your email friend's idea of "negative vibes." He had occasion to get to know you far more than I have, and still was entirely off by his own admission.

As for catching a man's eye, the women who've caught mine weren't trying. It wasn't beauty, though. I've seen lots of beautiful women who didn't interest me at all; but I've met a few women for whom I felt an instant interest and liking. I've felt the same sense for people I've met over the internet, so I don't think it's a visual or other sensory thing. I'm not equipped to explain just what it is, however; 'harmony of the spirit' is the best thing I can come up with.

That implies that trying to attract someone is a waste of time; a given person either will or won't be attracted. This suggests a strategy of not trying to attract someone, but simply trying to meet as many different people as possible. Your idea of getting involved with activities outside your usual circle seems the best one. The more people you meet, the more likely it is that you'll find someone who is drawn to you.

Posted by: Grim at February 9, 2007 11:20 PM

I thought I smelled egg salad.

Posted by: Carrie at February 10, 2007 10:39 AM

Grim, Very well said.

Posted by: unkawill at February 10, 2007 05:05 PM

Take heart, I have a coworker in your same boat. Over 30, doubled in weight since high school. She's getting married this summer to a guy she had known for over 4 years before they started dating.

It's incorrect to infer from Grim's post that guys aren't visual creatures. We are. It's just that the bar is a lot lower than the fashion industry would have you believe.

...and the guys who are checking out women at bars probably aren't the ones you would be interested in anyway.

A former coworker and classmate could walk into any bar and get a date at will. She often did, but then would complain that all the men she dated were assholes. I would tell her all the time that she wasn't going to find a nice guy living the fast life, nice guys, respectful guys, guys who will love you for you tend to be rather boring. She finally told me "I'm not dating no boring person".

"Well", I told her, "Expect to keep dating assholes then."

Posted by: Masked Menace at February 10, 2007 05:16 PM

It's just that the bar is a lot lower than the fashion industry would have you believe.

Is she breathing? Is she a she for real?

That'll about do it! :-o

I agree about the whole looks thing. I actually am turned off by constant fashion. When I met TLB 30 some odd years ago she had just gotten back from camping at Road Atlanta for three days. Bandana, jeans, and a dirty t-shirt. It was over right then and there but she didn't know it yet. I chased her hard until she caught me!

At the time I was dating a few very attractive young ladies. Nice girls too but so into wanting to dress to the nines. My idea of a great date was to head to Underground Atlanta and dance to The Platters. Down in that dirty place? Not on their life! Or climb Table Rock Mountain in the Linville Gorge area of NC. That was TLB and my first date as a matter of fact. She liked the things I liked and vice versas. And a Yankee to boot! Mom was mortified! Oh the humanity! ;-)

It's just when two people click is all. Yeah, TLB is quite lovely but that's not what attracted me to her. To this day I still haven't put a definition to it. It just simply is.

Fooled her boy! ;-)

Posted by: JHD at February 10, 2007 06:33 PM

I didn't realize she was a Yankee. You've obviously done well with her. :)

Posted by: Grim at February 10, 2007 06:35 PM

I learned long ago that the chances of finding "the one" in a bar are slim to none. When I was in college, my friends and I went out to clubs practically every weekend to go dancing, and since college, I've only occasionally gone out to bars. All they are, are meat markets. That's why I got involved in a singles group through church. But, as I gather is usually the case, there were many more women than men in this group.

In the job I had (I traveled fairly regular), I met lots of people (men and women), but none of the men I dealt with ever made a move (and this was before and after I arrived at my current weight). One of my male co-workers did hook up with a female customer, and they are now married, so that type of thing wasn't unheard of (not to mention the regional sales guys). I relocated and no longer have that job, and with what's been going on with me, I haven't rebuilt a network of friends to go do things with. If I wasn't/am not at work/school, I tend to spend time with family. I love my family and all, but I'm ready to step back from them a bit. I was away for so long, but I've been back long enough that it's time for a bit of separation. That all relates to the unsettledness I mentioned before. I may not be living in/near the same town within the next 6-9 months for employment reasons, so that makes me leery of building new attachments that I might have to break. I already know that long-distance relationships are hard to maintain. I tried that once before, long ago, and it ended up not going anywhere.

Only time will tell. But sometimes, I have to wonder why it's not happened before now.

Posted by: so what do I get for 30+ years of celibacy? at February 10, 2007 06:55 PM

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