Throughout my adult life, I’ve regularly had bottles of bubbly or wine sent to my restaurant table by men I don’t know. Once, a well-dressed chap bought my train ticket when I was standing behind him in the queue, while there was another occasion when a charming gentleman paid my fare as I stepped out of a cab in Paris.
Another time, as I was walking through London’s Portobello Road market, I was tapped on the shoulder and presented with a beautiful bunch of flowers. Even bar tenders frequently shoo my credit card away when I try to settle my bill.
And whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day.
While I’m no Elle Macpherson, I’m tall, slim, blonde and, so I’m often told, a good-looking woman. I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being pretty — the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.
If you’re a woman reading this, I’d hazard that you’ve already formed your own opinion about me — and it won’t be very flattering. For while many doors have been opened (literally) as a result of my looks, just as many have been metaphorically slammed in my face — and usually by my own sex.
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first: It takes a certain amount of brass to write about oneself in this fashion, and not everyone will regard it as good manners to do so. But Mrs. Brick's tales of female resentment toward her ring true to me; I've observed much the same these past four decades, in venues beyond counting.
There are several facets to this. First, the specific lady in question, while unlikely to win a Mrs. America contest, is trim, well groomed, and dresses in an attractive, feminine, age-appropriate fashion. All by itself, the obvious care she takes of herself and the way she looks is enough to stimulate quite a bit of envy from women who don't trouble themselves so.
Second, female attractiveness differs qualitatively from male attractiveness. A dear friend -- a woman -- once admitted candidly that "men all pretty much look alike to me." (No, she wasn't drunk, and we weren't about to "get it on.") It partakes significantly of non-material qualities: happiness, vitality, conviviality, and purpose. These things are visible, and men will gravitate toward them. Give me such a woman any day -- and Mrs. Brick appears to be such a woman.
Third, it's an old bit of wisdom that a woman can have any man she wants if she can learn how to take a sincere interest in him and let it show. This is an aspect of character women have literally been discouraged from developing these past forty years, and the whole of Western society is poorer for it. A woman who takes a sincere interest in men generally has a huge edge in attractiveness over others of her sex -- and that interest manifests itself in a woman's dress and grooming.
Fourth, I can't let this go without mentioning the "youth culture." Yes, women have such a thing; read a few "women's magazines" and ponder the explosion in cosmetic surgery if you need hard evidence. But that's not news. What's under-discussed about it is the imbalance between pursuit of the physical attributes of youth and the cultivation of the characterological qualities that make mature women attractive to mature men. The former gets a lot more air time and column-inches than the latter, even though developing one's character and personality are objectively easier, cheaper, and require less closet space.
There are obvious threads connecting this to gender-war feminist attitudes toward men, which have infected far more women than are aware of it. But another aspect of contemporary Western society factors in at least as powerfully: the pressure on women to contribute financially to their households.
A woman who puts in an eight-hour day in an office environment -- fess up now; how many female coal miners do you know personally? -- will come home quite as weary as her spouse. She's unlikely to feel enthusiastic about making herself attractive for him. Besides, she's already "done her bit" for the day, so how dare anyone, even her husband, expect more from her?
Now consider the environment from which he emerges to come home at five: One in which the women are professionally courteous, generally well groomed, and if not femininely garbed, at least forbidden to slouch about in sweat clothes. It takes a mighty effort not to compare those surroundings to what he confronts, evenings and weekends, in his own home. (This article about "work husbands" bears on the phenomenon as well.)
I continue to maintain that chivvying women out of their homes and into the workplace -- specifically, making them feel an obligation to contribute financially to their families' support -- has been a bad thing for relations between the sexes, however urgent it might have been economically. From Samantha Brick's story, and from similar phenomena we can observe every day of our lives, it hasn't done women's relations with one another a lot of good, either.
(Applause to Charles Hill at Dustbury for the link to Mrs. Brick's article.)