Monday, 10 August 2015

We Could Care Less

Helen of Troy
This post is inspired by Australian Julia, who described her bout of anxiety over her looks after mentioning another girl's beauty to three guys. Going nuts with fear that we have lost the genetic lottery in the eyes of all the men around is something I am sure all we modern girls can understand. My solution is that we care less about what men think. After all, they don't care as much about what they think as we too often seem to do. In fact, sometimes they don't even think.

 Female thought process
I'm serious. One of the big differences between men and women is that men are capable of switching off thought. When you ask a man what he's thinking, and he says "Nothing," he's actually telling the truth. When you say "What do you think of Sharon?" and he says, "I don't," he 's not being bitchy. He just doesn't think of Sharon. And the fact that you think about your looks all the time doesn't mean that men think about your looks all the time. Male thought looks like this: A-->B-->C-->D-->E. Plod, plod. Female thought looks like this (see photo):

Besides all the other signs that Bruce Jenner is a man, his fond belief that womanhood can be achieved with a lipstick, knife and silicon (A-->B-->C) is pretty obvious. But it is not nice to make fun of the mentally ill, so I shall return to the only people over whom we have real control, and that is ourselves. 

Our inner selves, I mean. We could have whole new faces carved on into our own, risking scars and horrible misshapen silicon shifting under the skin, and even if they looked great (doubtful), our inner selves could still be wailing away: oh, but what do men think?  A better question is, DO men think? That is, DO men think about me? And the answer to that is, Why should they? I know a gazillion men, and I think of very few of them, and even then of most of them only occasionally. 

"I owe it to the public to look my best," said some celebrity or another. "They have to look at me." And I think this is the right point of view from which to see your grooming habits. It is a duty not to offend against community standards. Therefore, you must wash and tidy your hair before you run for your bus. You must put on clean clothes that proclaim you to be an inoffensive, if interesting, member of society. If you are twelve, you shouldn't grieve the middle-aged ladies on the bus by wearing "sexy" clothing. If you are fifty-two, you shouldn't embarrass the twelve year olds (and everyone else) by wearing the same thing. If you are going to a wedding, you wear a pretty dress--not white--and shoes. If you are going to a Sunday church service, you cover your shoulders and cleavage. If you are going to a Goth bar, you wear black. (Wearing blue jeans to any of these places is just rude. Daily Mass, okay. You pop in between this activity and that. But Sunday Mass? Come on. Even if you just milked the cows, you surely have time to wash your hands and put on a skirt.)

But as far as "beauty" goes--try to forget it. Either any given man is going to be attracted to your face and figure, or he is not. End of. Apparently men are attracted to faces brightened with makeup--duh, lipstick is red, and our eyes are drawn to red--but I have never heard a man who wasn't a homosexual make-up artist say to a woman "I really like your make-up."  (Usually women say it to each other, and then there is a conversation about make-up tutorials on youtube.)* And the British press is full of unkind remarks about features that have obviously gone under the knife or needle: "trout pout" is the one that first comes to mind. 

Actually, I take back the "End of". A man can be attracted to your face and figure without liking you. All unusually pretty (or "common denominator" pretty) girls know this, and by the age of 21 are experts at identifying it. A man can even hate a woman because he is attracted to her face and figure, for he sees his attraction to her as her power over him, which he must resist by punishing her. So on, so ISIS. A man who honks his horn and says, smiling with every tooth, "Hey, looking good, baby" is not lying about being attracted to you, he is lying about LIKING you. Obviously he doesn't like you; he doesn't even know you. 

So either any given man is attracted to your face and figure, or he is not. Start of. If only a few men appear to be attracted to you, then you are more vulnerable to anticipate foolishly and just hope that (rather than discover if) he likes you, too.  But whether a guy likes or dislikes or hates you, on top of being attracted to you, can be known only from social interaction. And by social interaction, I mean around other people in the community. The guy on the Boston street who forced his phone number into my hand saying, "You gotta call me! You just gotta!" probably would not have recognized my voice had I been silly enough to call him. ("Sandra, right? No--Charlene! Oh yeah, of course, baby, just havin you on. Of course I remember you! Heh heh heh!") Actually Facebook most definitely counts. You meet a guy, he befriends you on Facebook, and he has fewer than 200 Facebook friends, or he actually sends you a message... Well, I think that counts as social interaction in the community.

If, however, all the guys you know who seem to like you don't seem to be attracted to you, don't sweat it. Big fat deal. Are you attracted to all of them? No. But you still like them okay? Well, great. You're more than a sexual object, and they're a lot more than sexual subjects. You're a sexual subject, too, by the way, and you'll notice men don't browse the make-up counter, wondering how to make their eyes look bigger. You're just attracted to any given man, or you're not. 

As I have said I zillion times, I am not (nor have I even been) particularly beautiful according to conventional standards. (My hair is by unconventional ones, and I used to have the muscles of a Greek goddess, weep weep.) Nevertheless, I have attracted more than one guy who actually liked me in the last thirty years, not including Paweł the wonder child who fell for me when we were six. I am not sure I attracted one guy a year--and knew about it--but maybe I did. I don't know. I care only for illustrative purposes. As men on the prowl for women like to say, "It's a numbers game." 

The chap who first said that me, a neighbour, used to chase chickens when other work was scarce, so he slapped a "Not My League" label on civil servant me shortly after we met. I rather liked him; he was a good soul, although prone to giving out his phone number to waitresses at the same bar and wondering why they didn't call. As women, we are lucky that we aren't actually expected to hand out our unsolicited phone numbers to men. At most, we have been expected to trail ourselves through crowds of men like fishing lures. I suppose we can still do that, as long as we are trying to catch the fish that are most attracted to "Nice Catholic Girl With Too Much Self-Respect To Say Nothing of Respect for Nice Catholic Men To Dress Like a Hooker." However, I think it best that even then we just dress for success, and then forget all about it. 

Fisherman (and fisherwomen) must get cranky when they stand knee-deep in frozen streams without catching anything, but surely they don't resent the fish. Still less do they freak out that they will never, in their entire lives, catch a fish. Of course, they will catch a fish---unless, of course, they stop going to the stream and take up gardening instead.

*All the same, I think men prefer women wearing an average amount of makeup because most men are by definition conventional, and women conventionally wear some makeup. If men are turned off by female leg hair, it is because women conventionally shave, wax or melt off the hair on our legs. WHY, o WHY did we start doing that?!

20 comments:

  1. Yeah, okay. But if the men I already know as friends are not attracted to me, how do I find ones who might be? I don't care if my male friends don't find me attractive but I'd like to meet some men who might find me attractive, and I have no idea how to do that. I already have an active social life and many friends, so I don't think that I need to "put myself out there". And, well, I look the best that I can at this moment. I'm no slob.

    Julia

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  2. And honestly I basically don't even care whether or not men like me anymore. When you get to 25 and there's been barely a glimmer of interest from men, you start to think, "Like me or hate me, just SOMEONE please find me physically attractive."

    Julia

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  3. Oh dear. Be careful what you wish for. Men who hate women and find us physically attractive at the same time can be very dangerous. You do want the men around to like you, or at least women in general, believe me.

    Have you never heard of Tahrir Square? I once had a friend who was "goosed" in Cairo by a 10 year old boy--she was veiled and everything, but that didn't matter a damn. There are places in the world where women are basically just for owning, protecting or raping, and not much else besides.

    My only suggestion today is that you may be scaring people with your intensity.You are certainly scaring me! Here I am thousands of miles away, and there you are thinking you would rather be around men found you attractive than who actually liked you.

    Please don't be naive about this. There are a lot of bad men out there, and they can almost sniff out a highly vulnerable women, and are especially glad to do so if she's still in her twenties.

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    1. IRL I'm really good at faking happiness and confidence when I need to, so I'm probably not scaring anyone (well, I hope I'm not.) I've been told that I'm a fun person to be around.

      The "intensity" comes from frustration and exasperation, not from resentment or anger or anything.

      Julia

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  4. Also, what does it matter if men are attracted to one? You mentioned that you have an active social life, so what's so horrible about being single? Life is what you make of it :)

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  5. Laika, I think that's much easier said when one has a boyfriend/fiance/husband than not. :) It's kind of like parents telling couples struggling with infertility to relax and enjoy their ability to travel/sleep, etc. There may be a grain of truth there, but it's just kind of obnoxious coming from someone who has the perfectly normal and beautiful thing that you desire.

    I don't see what's so wrong about a woman wanting to be found physically attractive by a man/men? It shouldn't become an obsession or take over your life or common sense, of course, but it seems like a perfectly normal desire to me.

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  6. Booklover, yeah. You're right. (I wasn't annoyed by Laika's comment though.) Being single isn't horrible. It's just confusing and exhausting.

    Julia

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  7. It's normal unless you think it is immaterial whether or not men attracted to you like you or not.Then it is indeed taking over your life and common sense. If it extends so far as deliberately trying to provoke men to sinful lust, through conversation, clothing or whatever else, then it becomes a serious sin.

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  8. Oh, and of course, it is normal only depending your state in life.

    When you are a married woman or a religious sister, you shouldn't want men-not-your-husband to be physically attracted to you. I mean, they will be or they won't be, whether or not you want them to, and it is better to think of it as flattering rather than disturbing (if you can).

    A Single Catholic woman serious about her faith and happiness will hope to catch the attention only of kind, likable men hoping to meet wife material, and to escape the risks inherent in attracting men who hate women and just want to possess them sexually. Life is not Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind", or all the boys (except Ashley Wilkes) gazing adoringly at Scarlett.

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    1. Oh, certainly! I was mainly responding to Laika's 'it doesn't matter', because honestly, I don't see why it shouldn't, especially to a young, single woman. I'm trying to suggest that one should dwell on it or worry oneself into the ground about it :), but just that I do think the occasional wailing of 'why aren't men attracted to me?' is perfectly valid. I don't think I'm the only other person who has ever thought that! :)

      I tend to get annoyed when people dismiss things like that with "it doesn't matter," as though one were unreasonable for thinking it does. But that might not have been what Laika meant to convey!

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    2. And by valid, I mean that it isn't a ridiculous feeling, not that the person is actually unattractive.

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  9. Glad you weren't offended... I didn't intend any offense. Still, there's no point in wearing oneself to the ground worrying about men. Most aren't worth it, and the ones that are, aren't attracted to worry :)

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  10. I think we would all agree that it is certainly normal and natural, when of marriageable age, to feel sad (and a bit worried) that no man AT ALL has expressed interest. And what I think Laika is getting at, is that thinking too often (or saying at all) that one must be terribly UNATTRACTIVE is unattractive in itself. I have a nightmare image of some good-hearted friend in Julia's circle saying to a new boy, "Please talk to Julia. No man has ever been attracted to her, and it bothers her so much."

    When I was in Grade 7 (so 13), there was a school dance, and I asked boy after boy to dance, becoming unhappier and unhappier after every refusal. I had no idea whatsoever then that no boy was going to say "Yes" when he could see that all the other boys had said "No." I probably also had no idea that my pain and sorrow were becoming obvious on my little 13 year old face. What a spectacle I must have been. It's a very painful memory, so please don't waste it. Meanwhile, my classmates seemed astounded a year later when, at a joint religious retreat (which ended with a dance, ah, the 1980s), a boy from another school asked me to dance, chatted to me a lot, and asked for my phone number.

    My final word is that we cannot know that no man whatsoever has been attracted to us before, once we are over 16. Every day, some man on the bus or street or shop or street, presumably one of a private disposition, who is either shy or simply respectful, could be looking at Julia and think, "My, there's a handsome girl" or "I like girls like that" or "My dear departed Barbara Ann looked like that once."

    We have no way to know, but I think we are on safe grounds believing it, and I think it would be mentally healthy to believe it.

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    1. Don't worry. I don't tell people that men aren't attracted to me, so your nightmare scenario is unlikely to unfold.

      Julia

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  11. c'est la vie11 August 2015 at 13:46

    Men might be thinking you are attractive, but you might not be reading the signs right! I am fairly oblivious to signs of interest from random strangers (checking out on the street, turning to look after you, making random comments just to get you to say something) but my younger sisters are much more aware of that sort of thing and tell me when it happens, often when I didn't think anyone noticed me at all.

    Also I find mild flirting with safe people (cashiers, bus-drivers, elderly gents in line at the coffee shop) gives you more confidence in your general presentation of yourself to others. Just saying "How has your day been so far?" with a big smile can get you a good reaction, which boosts morale and makes you feel more attractive! People in service industries really appreciate it when someone takes the time to treat them like a human being, including the woman cleaning the bathrooms and the busboy! And a new hairstyle can do wonders in giving you confidence in your appearance. It makes you feel good, which is the key to looking attractive.

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    1. I firmly agree with all of this, except for the hairstyle part, which I can assure you is not universal. I usually leave a beauty salon feeling worse.

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  12. I may not be in quite the same boat, as I know some men have found me physically attractive, but as someone who has never been able to get any interesting guy to hang around for long enough to call him a boyfriend, I can tell you this Julia:
    I started feeling a lot better when I stopped caring whether or not men thought of me as marriage material. Things that help me in this are the fact that I have a comfortable home, a steady fun job, a good social life, hobbies I keep up as seriously as time allows, and a great family.
    Also, the flip side of what c'est la vie says above: men hitting on you doesn't necessarily mean they find you attractive. It could just mean that, for whatever reason, they think you look easy. Not exactly flattering. So it's not really worth it to hunt around for male sexual attention.
    Let it be THEIR problem whether or not they think you attractive.
    I hope this is helpful. Reading it over it looks a bit cynical, but actually I have felt much more at peace and generally cheerful with this philosophy.

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    1. Stellamaris, that does sound very sensible and true. My problem at the moment (at least partly) is that I am a recent masters graduate and the next phase of my life is not super clear. I am underemployed, and having to be patient and persistent.

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    2. Julia, I was exactly in your place about 8 months ago (for years really, on and off). It might be some comfort to think: this too shall pass. I well remember the longing for a husband would presumably provide some kind of stability or security. But I am sure you wouldn't want anyone to marry you for any other reason than your own outstanding quality. Remind yourself that you would like to return the favour.

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