Dining with a friend tonight in a busy West Hollywood restaurant. She makes the comment, “There’s lots of pretty women here but almost no good-looking men.” I took a wide sweep of the crowd (including a glance of myself in a large mirror) and had to agree. Among the fabulous hips and breasts and smooth skin and cheekbones there was scarcely a man who would seem to rate one of these slim and sexy creatures. Drab, ordinary, older with failing pates, the men in the room were like the plain walls on which great works of art are hung, there to support but not attract to attention whatsoever.
And it’s so meanly unfair for both genders.
I studied what it took for a woman to produce herself as the amazing desirable thing she may be: the makeup perfecting the skin, enlarging the eyes, filling the lips and concealing everything from small lines, to enlarged capillaries, to gaping pores and offending blotches of pigmentation. The cleverly built bras and underwires, cup fillers and cleavage makers, body shapers and breakthrough stretch materials, and nose-bleed heels that lend height and sexiness where a squat, flat-footed profile wouldn’t. Hair color to rid the hated gray, jewelry to restore the sparkle of youth threatening by the minute to abandon its host. Then there is the sheer cost and TIME devoted to a hopeless attempt to freeze an image.
Men aren’t so fortunate when it’s simply an evaluation of the packaging that’s publicly at stake. For men the game of raw attractiveness is more a matter of retention than enhancement. Women are quick to notice the color blending, the ludicrous styling techniques for reducing an ebb tide hairline, the preposterous muscles that make short men wider, not taller and, heaven forbid, the suicidal Faustian resort to ill-fitting toupees and Hair Club For Men. There is little they can do but make the most of what they have. And that’s where the shiny objects of success are offered when the gifts of nature disappoint.
But how would it do if “come as you are” was the rule of beauty? How would the room stack up in comparison if all that stylish construction had to be left at the door? Men and women simply show up with what they’ve got—no paint, tint, supports, stitches, or impossible placement of hair. What would we see?
I can tell you exactly what that would be: one empty room.