How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘body image’

Don’t Be a Body Freak

The price of perfection is prohibitive.
—Jayson VanVerten

In the past, women complained that the image of the ideal woman was the Playboy model: eighteen or nineteen years old with gargantuan breasts; a vacuous, cocotte smile; and smooth, unblemished skin. She was young enough to give the illusion of virginal innocence but old enough to give consent. She was epitomized in the sort of showgirl made famous by Vargas in his provocative cartoons for Esquire magazine years ago.

Today’s ideal image is that of the Barbie doll with huge, surgically augmented breasts, legs that go on forever, and an anatomically impossible tiny waist. Whatever the ideal image, such women are quite unlike the girl next door and, in fact, are quite unlike even very beautiful women seen in real life. All of their imperfections and flaws have been airbrushed away by an army of photographers and technicians using the latest photographic equipment and digital software. As the noted sexologist Simon Van Velikoff observed, “The Playboy bunny discreetly has no pubic hair. She also has no moles or stretch marks or vaccinations. In the heat, she does not sweat. In the cold, she does not shiver; and probably, she never has a period.”

In real life, real women—like real men—are a walking collection of imperfections. Do you have fillings in your teeth? Do you have crooked teeth or braces to correct them? Do you wear glasses, or have you settled instead for contact lenses and tears? Do you have bags and dark circles under your eyes from insomnia? Do you have worry lines on your forehead? Do your feet sometimes swell? Can you pass the pencil test for sagging breasts and buttocks, or does the pencil you place there nestle in snuggly. Do you have scars from a trauma, appendectomy, or C-section? Do you sometimes feel like the “before” part of an Oprah glamour makeover? And even if you are cursed with all the above, do men still love you? Of course they do.

A man cannot go to bed with the idealized Playboy bunny unless you are willing to count the imagined couplings of his juvenile fantasies. That paragon of airbrushed perfection does not exist. And even if she did exist and even if he could find such a paragon of female beauty, he would not necessarily want her.

Too much perfection is intimidating and is in itself a barrier to intimacy. It is more than possible for a lover to flinch slightly at some of your imperfections (without making it apparent, of course) while still accepting you as a whole
and desirable woman and loving you both erotically and tenderly. “Love me, love my nose,” says Barbra Streisand, and so we do. It is important for all women to learn to do the same.

English: Screenshot of Barbra Streisand from t...

Image via Wikipedia

No one denies that a beautiful body is a wonderful thing. Yes, a man with a flat stomach and washboard abs is nicer to look at, and nicer to touch, than a man with an abundant jelly gut so common among middle-aged men. Yes, strong arms that can sweep you off your feet, literally and figuratively, are nicer than the undefined and soft arms of a desk jockey. But neither wonderful arms nor a full head of hair are essential. In fact, some women even prefer a little extra flesh on their men. Many women even refer to that extra weight affectionately as “love handles.”

If you want a loving lover who provides fulfillment on many levels, you cannot afford to be a committed body freak. Your lover does not have to have the body beautiful; he only has to have some features you consider exactly right. A teenager, proudly showing her boyfriend’s picture, mooned to me, “Doesn’t he have the most divine earlobes?”

Your lover doesn’t have to be physically perfect: he only has to have enough attractive characteristics that make him physically appealing to you. He does not have to have the whole package and certainly not the whole package as judged by the standard of the beautiful boys that adorn the pages of Playgirl magazine. In fact, it is rumored that many male models are gay, but since it is all fantasy anyway, perhaps that does not matter from a purely aesthetic standpoint. What you need in a lover is warmth, tenderness, passion, versatility, and sensitivity. A great body is merely icing on the cake.

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What Gives a Man Sex Appeal?

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.

—William Butler Yeats, “A Drinking Song”

If you pick up any anthology of sayings or jokes and look up the topic of sex appeal, you will find lots of references to physical traits: perky breasts, long shapely legs, full lips, and round buttocks. There are laudatory comments about long blond hair, or long hair of any color, and effusive praise for peaches-and-cream complexions and big blue eyes with long
black eyelashes.

What you will not find, interestingly, are many direct references to what makes a man physically attractive. What gives a man sex appeal? If women have had opinions about a man’s sex appeal, they seem to have made it secondary to their opinions about his material standing. More often than not, a man’s appeal seems to be based on his pocketbook.
Traditionally, as many women have recognized, and rightly so, her fortune is often dependent on his. If his bank balance is large enough, he is attractive; if he is poor, he is not. As the saying goes, “There ain’t no such thing as an ugly millionaire.”

I laughed so hard I was crying during the whol...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Maybe not. But what happens when women begin to focus on the attributes that constitute masculine appeal rather than on an assessment of wealth or achievements? The idea that women should do so at all is somewhat revolutionary for many people. The standards for what is or is not sexy or appealing in a man vary widely from one woman to the next, just as they do when men are judging women. There’s an inexplicable alchemy that is enhanced by a combination of basic physical equipment, clothes and sense of style, and a certain kind of personality and manner.

Let us begin by considering masculine magnetism in terms of its most obvious component—that of physical appeal—because, in truth, love really does “come in at the eye.”

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