The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Saturday, December 18, 2004

H.J. #5 Part II: The Beauty-Power Axis

This aspect of Lifewriting might be the most controversial. It suggests that our relationships reveal a huge amount about who and what we are.   If you like what you see across the breakfast table, pat yourself on the back.   And if you don't---you need to do some serious internal work, because that relationship, that man or woman, is the best you can do right now.   If  you could have done better, attracted a partner of greater intelligence, spirit, beauty, sensuality, power, or goodness, you would have.   Your relationship is YOU, turned inside-out, upside-down, and maybe flipped for gender. But you are, in some cosmic way, equals.   It is up to you to come to a mature understanding of how this is, what it means.
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In relationships before the 21st Century, the basic trade between men and women was X amount of power (usually in the man) will attract and hold Y amount of beauty (generally in the woman).  I'm not saying this is right or good (I'm not saying it isn't, either.)  Just that it is an observable reality
you ignore at your risk.   I didn't resent it when the most beautiful women in my school wanted to date the older, more powerful guys, stronger more athletic guys, or the guys with the fancier cars.   I just saw it as a reality.   If I wanted to date them, I would need to manifest more power.   That's simple, basic chakra stuff.   And I don't think that there is basically anything unfair about this.   It's not entirely honest when women over fifty complain about men their own age dating younger women.   Wait a frigging minute! I was one of the young men who watched women my own age dating older guys, and the women thought that was just fine...until they were no longer young.   Then suddenly the rules are supposed to change?   Why don't older women criticize the YOUNGER WOMEN as much as they criticize the older guys?   Because they used to BE those younger women.   It's not about what's fair.   Women, like men, would like to have all the options in life.   And guys--if you pump slurpees at the 7-11, you ain't gonna date Halle Berry.   Sorry.   You won't.   Maybe if you own a string of 7-11s you will.   Why is this fair?   Because success is an external measurement of drive, intelligence, energy, focus, vision, self-confidence, creativity, endurance, and self-love.   Not the only measurement, but a damned fine snap-judgement assessment.  And beauty as generally defined today equates to a healthy immune system (clear skin), good posture, discipline (diet and exercise), self-love (discipline), clarity, focus, emotional control and other perfectly reasonable factors.  Do you find crazy attractive?  Lazy?  How about sick?  How about self-loathing?  Stupid?  No, I didn't think so.  But each of these things makes an impact on these two areas: demonstrated power, and manifested beauty.   THERE IS NOT A DIRECT ONE-TO-ONE CORRELATION.   No.   But there is enough that in every culture in the world that anthropologists have ever studied, "beauty"  and "power" as they are adjudged in that culture, gravitate toward each other.   It suggests that this is a normal human drive: woman seeking security for their children, men seeking healthy women to bear those children.   Women complain about men being "shallow," attracted too much to the visual. You know what, ladies?   We didn't design ourselves.   Men are visually stimulated quite easily--it's just the way our brains are wired up.   Men have no conscious control over when we do and don't get sexually aroused.  Women have understood this for thousands of years, and have gotten quite good at manipulating their visual image to create maximum stimulation.   Men have understood that women are attracted to power, and will move heaven and earth to place themselves high on the hierarchy.   That's just the way it is.   You can almost always look at a relationship and see the beauty-power tradeoff.  
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In the late 20th Century this began to change a bit.  As women gained more power, they began to demand more beauty from their men!   Note the male movie heartthrobs--they tend to have FAR better physiques than stars in the 30's and 40's.  And that's just fine.   The equation now encourages EQUAL amounts of beauty and power in both partners, and that's just fine.   I have seen damned few relationships where the woman has the power and the man has the beauty.   A few, but it usually doesn't seem to work too well.  It's like the Househusband scenario.  Looks good on paper, but 90% of the time (that I've seen), it ends badly, with the working mom growing slowly discontented with her husband, finding men at her job slowly more and more attractive.  (This applies to men who are SOLELY taking care of the house--not men who work at home.)  I've seen about five marriages break up over this very problem, and it's sad.  The woman begins to withdraw sexually, the man feels unappreciated...yucka.  We haven't evolved socially or biologically to deal as efficiently with this. 
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By the way--personally, I prefer the "equal" model.  I would tell my son or daughter to be both as powerful and beautiful as possible.  However, I will also be blunt: in the relationship market, Power is to men as beauty is to women, and it's likely to stay that way for the next ten thousand years or so.  We may get close to equal, or achieve it, but the proportions will never flip in the other direction.  Of course, as Dennis Miller used to say, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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