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Added: Maeghan Holding - Date: 08.09.2021 22:48 - Views: 33617 - Clicks: 2258

I have a friend who dates only exceptionally attractive women. They are just really, notably good looking, standouts even in the kind of urban milieu where regular workouts and healthy eating are commonplace and an abundance of disposable income to spend on facials, waxing, straightening, and coloring keeps the average level of female attractiveness unusually high.

For years, I assumed that it was just his good fortune that the women he felt an emotional connection with all happened to be so damn hot.

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Over time, however, I came to realize that my friend, nice as he is, prizes extreme beauty above all the other desiderata that one might seek in a partner. I have another friend who broke up with a woman because her body, though fit, was the wrong type for him. Some people would say these men are fatally shallow. Those in the first camp would probably say that my friends are outliers—uniquely immature men to be avoided.

Many in the second camp argue that, in fact, all men would be like the man who dates only beautiful women, if only they enjoyed his ability to snare such knockouts. In my experience, people on both sides are emphatic, and treat their position as if it is obvious and incontrovertible.

To me, these stories highlight the intense and often guilty relationship that many men have with female beauty, a subject with profound repercussions for both men and women.

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But, in fact, many novels fail to meaningfully address the issue of beauty. Their good looks are like a convenient afterthought. This is, unfortunately, sentimental: how we wish life were, rather than how it is. In life, beauty is rarely, if ever, just another quality that a woman possesses, like a knowledge of French. When a novelist does examine beauty more closely, the are often startling. Two of my favorite male novelists do not fall into the trap that Shriver delineated. They are clear-sighted and acute chroniclers of the male gaze.

His father was a lifelong salesman; during the Depression, his parents struggled to hold onto their modest lower-middle-class existence. One had been very pretty except for unpardonably thick ankles, and one had been intelligent, though possessed of an annoying tendency to mother him, but he had to admit that none had been first-rate.

For Frank, April represents success. April, for her part, likes Frank O. To be so close to the woman who represents so much but to also feel her perpetually holding back maddens Frank.

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When April gets pregnant, she wants to have an illegal abortion, which Frank interprets as a rejection of him. And this is intolerable. In other words, he is driven, if unconsciously, by an impulse cooler and more calculating than lust.

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They both would have been better off if he had let her go. Jump ahead several decades, and we see a similarly keen eye in Jonathan Franzen. When the svelte, stylish thirtysomething Denise Lambert sits down for lunch with her parents, Franzen notes that her less svelte mother.

It develops alongside a consciousness of the male gaze, the sense of being constantly sized up. Women level this gaze on each other as well. Walter is as feminist as feminist can be. The guy is a real mensch. For pretty and well-formed. Walter, we think, wants to prove something about himself, about his own desirability, by winning the kind of girl that men agree is a prize—that is, an unambiguously attractive one.

He mistreats them in other ways. If only. Then we could simply write off men who evaluate women by their looks as scheming social climbers. But the human response to beauty is also visceral, and Franzen reminds us of this, too.

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With Jenna Good looking female searching for an airport, Joey realizes, men were. He forced himself to stare down each of them in turn, to mark Jenna as claimed. It was going to be tiring, he realized, to have to do this everywhere they went in public. Men sometimes stared at Connie, too, but they usually seemed to accept, without undue regret, that she was his. Soon after, Franzen has fun with the disconnect between beauty and desire, even when desire has been stoked by beauty. When Joey finally gets together with Jenna, he finds his attention drifting away at the very moment he should be most fully engaged in bed.

Joey notes that Jenna. He kept telling himself that he was finally getting Jenna, that this was JennaJennaJenna. But in the absence of visual confirmation all he had in his arms was a random sweaty attacking female. As it happens, Jenna is a vacuous, spoiled drip, with little to recommend her other than her good looks. Neil is increasingly disdainful of Brenda and her family, whom he sees as vulgar and materialistic. As a narrator, he seems bent on showing us how terrible they are. The high-mindedness that he is capable of elsewhere is not really in play in his pursuit of Brenda.

Eventually, though, he could no longer forgive her for who she was and for what her family was like. Of course, women no more deserve contempt for their beauty than they do for their lack of it, and to be initially adored and then, when better known, to be found wanting can be punishing, too.

Beauty is often treated as an essentially feminine subject, something trivial and frivolous that women are excessively concerned with.

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Men, meanwhile, are typically seen as having a straightforward and uncomplicated relationship with it: they are drawn to it. This seems more than a little ironic. Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny—they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.

The reality is, of course, far more complicated, as our best novelists show us.

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They train our gazes on men at not only their most shallow and status conscious but also at their most ridiculous the clenched jaw. That was my lunch. With Jenna at an airport, Joey realizes, men were checking him out resentfully.

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Survival of the prettiest: The mysterious power of attractive people