"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, January 7, 2019

What Do Men Want? And Why Marilyn Monroe Is Every Man’s Dream

Lauren Getty was not a particularly attractive girl, but she had signs of maturing into a woman of classical beauty.  Her bone structure, facial symmetry, and the classical features that have been admired ever since antiquity would single her out as one in a million.  Her genes were configured with bits of her ancestors who were not themselves particularly handsome or beautiful, but who had physical traits which when combined with others, would contribute to Lauren’s golden mean.  The almond shape of her eyes, her aquiline nose, her fine mouth would all come from relatives long forgotten, but it was some other Mendelian miracle that sorted them out in perfect proportion. 

The ideal of feminine beauty has not changed in millennia; and statues, masks, frescoes of Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians have portrayed the same perfectly proportioned face.  Whether such perfectly formed features and their harmonious composition signified health, wealth, and well-being; or whether there was some innate human appreciation for and valuation of harmony, the historical record is clear.  While some women because of some unusually outstanding feature or a sense of presentation and theatre might have been considered attractive, they are anomalies. 

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Many Hollywood actresses have had the same classical beauty – Hedy Lamarr, Ava Gardner, and Vivien Leigh among them.

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Yet, despite her classical looks, Lauren was dissatisfied.  Her beauty was so perfect that it was intimidating and unapproachable.  As much as men might admire her, they did not desire her.  Something was missing.  For all her perfect symmetry, she attracted men far less often than classmates who looked ordinary –  blonde, blue-eyed, cornflower-wholesome farm girls who never stood out, were never photographed, and never sought after by Vogue, Harper’s Bazar, or Hollywood.  She had been gifted beauty but not allure; and allure is what every man wants.

It is no surprise that of all the Hollywood beauties who have appeared on screen since the beginning of film, Marilyn Monroe has had the most interest.   She was not classically beautiful, but had an unmatchable sensuousness and sensuality.  She had allure, an immediate, unmistakable and undeniable sexual appeal.  She – and Brigitte Bardot before her – embodied sexual desire.  Men were drawn to her not to admire her beauty but to make love to her.

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Popular screen actresses today like Scarlett Johansson  are Marilyn clones.

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In Woody Allen’s Match Point, the Scarlett Johansson character says to a man complimenting her on her beauty, “What I am is sexy”. 

“Do you know the effect you have on men?”, he asks.  She demurs, but the point is clear.

Beauty is destiny is the way one philosopher put it.  There was no way for Lauren to become Marilyn Monroe no matter how she tried.  She would always be looked at as a model, a symbol, and an ideal.  Fame, currency, and wealth were hers for the asking from the high-end of American culture.  Given her preferences she could be a model in Milan, the wife of European royalty, or a Park Avenue socialite.  She had the physical credentials to write her own ticket in those circles who prized her type of beauty and the carriage, confidence, and presentation which always seemed to go along with it.

Beautiful Black & White Photos of Women in Old-Fashioned, ca. 1940's (7)

She would be less likely to go to Hollywood, for because of Marilyn Monroe, classical good looks have given way to sexual allure.  Also multiculturalism has, at least in these, its early stages , altered current perceptions on standards of beauty.  Classical Western beauty is being given at least a partial, temporary by while social integration continues.  There is no doubt, given the historical universality of standards of beauty and the innate human appreciation of them, that particular racial characteristics will gradually disappear or be folded into the norm; but for the time being, Lauren’s looks have no chance.

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There of course is a large body of literature on the subject of universal standards of beauty; and while it is obvious that the image of the ideal woman varies greatly from culture to culture, universal standards of symmetry and balanced composition suggesting a common appreciation for a certain, appealing form, are expressed everywhere – and not simply in the eye of the foreign photographer.

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The arguments against universal standards are based on a more general philosophy of relativism.  There is no such thing, say proponents of this theory, of universal anything – no all-inclusive morality, ethics, intelligence, or beauty.  A priori has no meaning, no relevance, and no purpose other than to promote a particular, Euro-centric world-view.  Even the most casual look at history belies this notion.

In any case, Lauren did her best to disguise her classic beauty to become more like Marilyn Monroe – she accentuated her lips, and eyes, adopted a pouty, come-hither pose, dressed provocatively, and made not-so-subtle passes at boys.  Of course none of this worked, for not only was Marilyn Monroe physically alluring, there was something about her personality which fit her body.  It was an indefinable, impossibly subtle, and completely irresistible quality of femaleness.  Men do not want to admire women.  They want them as sexual partners; and men for generations have wanted nothing more than to go to bed with Marilyn Monroe - not Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr, or Vivien Leigh.

Of course most mating goes on between the extremes.  Few woman have Marilyn’s sexual allure or Hedy Lamarr’s classic beauty; and while men may have Hollywood images in their mind, they settle for far less.  It is not surprising that most American women have run-of-the mill looks, but do their best to get the best pick of equally run-of-the-mill men. 

Progressive social critics complain about America’s false sense of values, placing Hollywood beauty above all else and in so doing setting impossible standards for young girls.  How can a plain, simple girl possibly compete with the fantasy images of Hollywood, Elle, Seventeen, and Glamour?

Some very few women, born unattractive and beyond the parameters of both sexual allure and classical beauty, have found ways to generate attention through style.  In her memoir, Diana Vreeland wrote about her physical unattractiveness, especially when compared to her beautiful sister.  Intelligence, will, desire, and talent helped Vreeland become an arbiter of fashion.  As the Editor of Vogue and Harpers Bazar, Vreeland set new, dramatic standards for clothes and accessories.  The beauty she created, she admitted, was in many ways an expression of the beauty she always wished she had.

More importantly, no one looking at pictures of Vreeland would think of her as unattractive or even ugly.  She expressed such a confidence in her clothes, her demeanor, and her presentation that she was attractive.

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Lauren Getty was one of the lucky few, given unusual beauty as a surprising, unexpected gift.  It was vanity that encouraged this stunning young woman to try to become what she was not; and in so doing was a living metaphor for the frustrated hopes of far more ordinary women.  Eventually, she came to her senses, realized her good fortune, and had a very successful career as a fashion model, wearing the best designer clothes on the most prestigious runways of Milan, Paris, and New York.  Since beauty is indeed destiny it was no surprise that after her career she married a scion of Wall Street, lived in a Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking the Park, wintered in St. Bart’s, and skied at Gstaad.  She never looked at picture of Marilyn Monroe without a momentary, wistful regret; but on reflection, she had led a good, charmed life.

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