Monday, 11 August 2014
Last Week: 1. The Attraction Tyranny
Arguably the Sexual Revolution is a major catastrophe that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of eligible men and women by making them ineligible until they are well over thirty, but we'll leave that aside for now.
Unfortunately from early childhood women are taught to worry about how we look and if we are sexually attractive to boys and men our own age. But as a matter of fact, it is completely irrelevant if we are sexually attractive to men until we are old enough to get married. What is much more important is that we get along with people our own age and that they respect and like us for our characters. To grasp this is to be rooted in reality and--incidentally--adult life. As a married woman myself, it doesn't matter a darn if men-not-my-husband think I am sexually attractive. Indeed, it is probably better if they don't. But I would like the men around to respect me and like me for my character, so I dress and try to act accordingly.
The fault for this attraction obsession lies with advertising and the industrial-entertainment complex. If you read literature written before the First World War, you realize that once upon a time girls were discouraged from thinking about their looks, let alone wearing cosmetics. (In the eighteenth century powder and paint were for aristocrats. Are you an aristocrat? Probably not. So don't assume you would have been one in the eighteenth century. And you would have had as much chance of winning a "Mr Darcy" then as you have a shot at a billionaire today.) In the English-speaking world, girls were told to read their Bible, and girls' deportment was compared to the deportment mentioned in the Bible, and the only readily available public entertainment for girls was the Sunday sermon--and they could be very long. We become what we hear because most people unthinkingly accept what they hear over and over again as Gospel, which is why people who watch television for three hours a day start repeating what the television tells them. No "Will & Grace", no "g*y m*rriage."
And yet despite being discouraged in thinking about their looks, ordinary Christian women got married in droves for centuries. (If only the unusually pretty ones did, we'd all be supermodels, wouldn't we?) It helped, of course, that Christian men were told day in and day out that charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs thirty-one:thirty). Allowed to develop into mature, decent human beings, the vast majority of men in general are sexually attracted to women of child-bearing age in general, very much so to perhaps some dozens--which dozens depending on the psyche of the individual man--and also capable of falling deeply in love with one or a few. P*rn screws up men's natural attraction to natural women and natural female sexual behaviour, which is why we should all scream like banshees about how horrible it is and not let our friends go to 50 Shades of Grey the movie.
By the way, I once met a pretty and yet very overweight black woman who married a Hispanic guy she met on an island holiday and brought him to Canada. In his culture, and in her country-of-birth's culture, there was nothing wrong or unsexy about a woman being very overweight. He thought she was kind, fun, generous, sexy and (being Canadian with a job) rich. He thought he was a very lucky fellow until he got to Toronto and got a job in construction. He was a good-looking man and, alas, his co-workers wondered aloud he was doing with his wife, she being so fat and, in their minds, unattractive. They gave him a hard time about her, as that sort of man tends to do. And the Hispanic guy, being rather a simple guy, as most of the three billion men in the world are, actually, took what they said seriously and began nagging my co-worker to diet. It's a sad story, and it leads me to my next point.
Being male and being female (or, very rarely, being a hermaphrodite) are not social constructs but biological facts. But physical beauty is indeed a social construct, as are standards of modesty and dress. And when in Rome, do as Romans do, as long as it is not hideously immoral, unhealthy or stupid. If it is the norm in La Porte, Indiana to be twenty pounds overweight, you are probably going to attract men when you yourself are twenty pounds overweight (and the men are going to be at least twenty pounds overweight, too), but it is a bad idea to be twenty pounds overweight, just as it is a bad to starve yourself into anorexia just because it is the norm at your college to be super-slim and throw up after meals.
If I had a daughter, I would want her to have a healthy weight (which can usually be determined by a BMI calculator), clear skin (if possible), shiny hair and clothes that did not make her stand out as anything other than well-dressed. If she were under 21, I would come down on her like a ton of bricks for wearing any make-up other than Chapstick. "Why?" I would nag like mothers everywhere. "You don't need it. You have perfect skin. I would kill for skin like yours, and I have great skin for my age. You don't need to attract men yet."
"Mother!" wails this imaginary daughter. "I don't want to attract men. I just want to bring attention to my eyes."
"Whose attention?" I shriek. "At your age everyone notices you anyway; they just pretend they don't. It's oldies like me who have to draw black circles around our eyes not to feel invisible."
"But I want to EXPRESS myself," shouts Seraphic Junior, fatally.
"Then draw on a piece of paper, not yourself!" I cry triumphantly. "I spent umpteen hundred quid on your sketching classes, you know!" But then Seraphic Junior brings out the big guns.
"But everyone else my age wears make-up," she says, and I freeze because I suffered the tortures of the damned in elementary school for "being different." "Being different" turns some people into saints, but others into self-absorbed eccentrics. Making your child stand out like a dowdy thumb is a big risk. Fortunately, I would have kept tabs on everyone my beloved child came into contact with at school, a school I had picked for its large population of devout Poles and hijab-wearing Pakistanis, and could therefore name some girls whose parents were just as strict as I.
"But you wore make-up at my age," sulks Seraphic Junior.
"Yes, but there was no internet porn featuring teenage girls back then", I say and Seraphic Junior is so horrified her own mother has said "internet porn" out loud that she rushes away to recount the whole conversation to her best pal by text.
This post is going on forever. To recap:
1. All but a few of you will get married, no matter what you think now.
2. Men are attracted to women, and the religious ones in particular want to marry. The others will want to marry when they grow up. If they grow up.
Three. There's a whole industry making you think you will marry only if you buy their stuff.
4. Beauty, like "normal", is a social construct but young and healthy are always attractive. If you are of marriageable age, looking to attract marriageable men, work on becoming as healthy as you can be. Healthy weight. Healthy complexion. Healthy teeth. Healthy hair. Healthy brain. (She suddenly remembers to get up and take her healthy brain pill.) Eat properly. Get enough sleep. Brush your teeth. Get some sun. Take up Pilates.
There is something so sad about young girls covered in slap (British for make-up), tiny and/or tight outfits, tattoos and piercings. I don't ask why they do it because I know: they think it makes them look good. They think it makes them look "cool", i.e. admirable, in the eyes of their peers. And I suppose it does, quite a lot of the time. But I am not sure it makes them look attractive to old-fashioned guys who just want to get married and have children. And I am pretty sure those guys want to marry girls who dress like the Duchess of Cambridge while being as approachable as their mothers.
One of the first rules of the writing trade is to think about your audience. Until you are old enough to get married, your principal concern should be that people like and respect you as a friend, classmate or neighbour. When you are old enough to get married, then you can put your books, sports and work aside for a moment to consider how you can attract male attention without demeaning yourself or men, if you have not been attracting male attention already, just by being a young woman. (If you have been attracting the "wrong kind" of men, you may ponder why that might be, or how you might handle them in future.) It may depend largely on the community in which you live and what "women who marry" are popularly supposed to look like. When I showed up in Edinburgh to meet B.A. I was wearing a pretty dress. Just in case. And when he fell in love with me, I was dressed as Jackie Kennedy c. 1962, pearls and all. Just saying.
I beat up on myself all through elementary school and high school for not attracting boys. But in Grade 8 I looked on at a game of "Spin the Bottle" in holy horror. And in high school I listened to tales of "he pressured her" in utter horror and was pretty horrified when at 18 I faced "pressure" myself. Strangely, I could not see that "attracting boys" could be a BAD, UNCOMFORTABLE THING. What was cool, what has been a joy in life, was and is having good male friends. And an important part of being friends with men is that they NOT be that attracted to you. Maybe a little bit is okay, but not enough to make them or you miserable. Of course, it is awesome if you and one of your good male friends fall head over heels in love with each other and get married, but this is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and who knows when it will happen? Love and attraction are not the same thing, and one does not necessarily lead to the other.
Meanwhile, I can never say it enough: your value as a human being does not rest in being found sexually attractive. Thinking that the more attractive you are the more value you have as a human being is a stop along the road to aborting Down Syndrome babies and smothering childless old ladies. Your value as a human being rests in being in the image and likeness of God and, like God Incarnate, being willing to give up your life for someone weaker. No man is more valuable than the man who gives up his seat to a child, woman or elderly man, whether that is on the bus or in a lifeboat. No woman is more valuable than the woman who denies herself a treat so a child can have one. One of the most pernicious things about euthanasia is that kindly elderly folk will think it their duty to give up their lives for the good of their children or the state because "my medical care costs so much." This is why we adults under retirement age must fight on their behalf.
Bottom line: the whole point to being sexually attractive is to get and keep a spouse and have babies. You shouldn't worry about this until you are over twenty (unless the normal age to marry in your community is younger), and you should understand that neither frumpy (aka "modest" in Pius V circles) nor trashy (aka "cool" on the Rough Bus) suggest "I could be the future mother of your children" to truly eligible men. But that said, your value doesn't lie at all in sexually attracting ANY man whatsoever, but in being a human being capable of self-denial for the sake of someone less powerful than you.
By the way, the young lady in the photo never married. That's Mother Teresa.