Jezebel‘s weekend editor got pretty angry at Saturday’s “Just Hot Enough” piece and went after me pretty savagely in a Sunday piece called “Jeffrey Wells: ‘Life Would Be Heavenly And Rhapsodic If Women Had The Personality And Temperament Of Dogs.'”
I posted a reply on Jezebel but this is just a variation on the old line that reads “if you want a friend get a dog.” We all know what this means. Hetero relationships are always being reassessed and renegotiated. Your stock goes up or down with your wife/girlfriend depending on various evolving factors. People fall out of love in relationships. (And sometimes back in love.) Ardor fades. People get fat, lose jobs, lose their love of life and sometimes turn to drink. Expectations are unmet and disappointment ensues. All to say that “love” is definitely conditional. Whatever kind of “love” you and your significant other have going right now is not necessarily going to be there tomorrow or next week, let alone a year or two from now. Nothing new in this.
The point is that dogs are cool with you no matter what. What’s so godawful in dreaming about unmuddled loyalty and unmitigated affection from a mate? Everyone does this, however unrealistic.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote this morning:
Jeffrey Wells to Hortense:
I think you’re being somewhat strident here. You’re flying off the handle and you’re not being fair. The proof is that you’re selectively quoting from my piece. You’re posting only the pizazz lines without considering the modifiers. And that’s not cool or professional.
Is it really that sexist or crazy to say that life or biology is unfair or unequal according to certain tastes and standards? We all know that it is. Some of us are generally considered more attractive than others. Most if not all of us would agree that, say, the young Helen Thomas isn’t/wasn’t as conventionally alluring or fetching as, let’s say, Michelle Obama or Angelina Jolie or whomever. You know what I mean.
All I said was that many of us refer to certain measurings and gradations of allure and attractiveness, obviously based on our own standards. That’s shocking to you? Are you going tell me that women don’t rate guys according to looks (among other attributes)? Please!
A person who fails to look within and beyond what a person looks like is truly walking around blind and polluting the world with their short-sightedness. I learned this when I was seven years old, and it’s really quite unfair and malicious of you to try and paint me with this brush.
I would ask that you not only read what I wrote more carefully, but quote from the piece more fairly.
What I wrote was inspired by having seen Neil LaBute‘s “reasons to be pretty”…a great play. (Have you seen it? Something tells me that Jezebel readers are persuaded that a LaBute is a ferocious woman hater and that his plays are therefore off-limits.) I won’t get into the whole LaBute thing but you really should see the play.
My piece was basically a sympathetic rationale for the lead male character in the play having called his longtime girlfriend “normal.” I don’t believe that he used the word “normal” in a malicious way and I was trying to cut him a break or at least explain how how it might not have been meant as a hurtful remark.
You didn’t quote a key line in the piece which acknowledged that “most of us think of ‘normal’ as one step up from homely — obviously a hurtful thing to say about anyone.” That’s a fairly central and fundamental statement to make in such a piece, wouldn’t you say? That it’s wrong and cruel to hurt people’s feelings, and we all should refrain from it? But you left this out.
What I wrote, to repeat, was basically a positive spin on that “normal” remark, saying or rationalizing that “calling a woman a B-type can be, in a manner of speaking, a kind of compliment.”
I tried to explain why describing a woman as a B or a high-C can be seen as a kind of compliment — because one is saying in effect “that the woman in question probably has good internal qualities as well as looks. You’re saying that she’s probably a good person inside, good all around the track, keeper material, etc.”
I began the piece by referring to two well-known quotes. Albert Brooks‘ character voiced the first in Broadcast News: “Always choose a woman who’s just hot enough to turn you on.”
Brooks could have continued by saying, “Reach a little bit higher than that and you’re flirting with trouble. Go much higher than that and you’re flat-out asking for it.”
Do you honestly think that James L. Brooks is a sexist dog also?
Do you honestly think that there is something deeply flawed and repulsive about a guy who would say this or feel there is merit in this view? Honestly — it feels like I’m in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. You guys are rabid about such matters.
The other quote is from a famous early ’60s Jimmy Soul tune that goes “if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, don’t make a pretty woman your wife.” It’s an old pop tune that people laughed at way back when because they knew there was a grain of truth in it. Or at least a grain of truth according to experience.
Drop-dead attractive women tend to get more from life and tend to expect more from it. They live, think, assess and strategize according to the laws of their own realm. Me me me me me. Condo condo condo condo. Money money money money. Better apparel, better cell phone, better vacation next year, better private school for my seven year-old etc. “A woman must have everything” — Joni Mitchell.
Women who are not quite in the A-level magazine-cover class (in a good way!) therefore tend to be less of a handful, perhaps a tad less obsessive or myopic, a tad more accommodating or down-to-earth. Not necessarily (exceptions abound!) but more often than not. That is what life has taught me.
I was only trying to point out that views of this sort have a historical cultural basis and that it’s not a totally wackjob thing to try and rephrase these views and explain where they come from.
You didn’t quote this line either: “I’m not saying you can’t be perfectly happy with a triple-A or a double-A — I’m saying that happiness odds increase when you drop down into the B and high-C categories. Every now and then you’ll get lucky and meet a lovely, spiritually attractive, good-for-the-soul A-minus woman, but the odds don’t favor it.”
I’m not talking out of some bent prejudice — I’m honestly sharing what I believe based on life experience. Bs and high Cs can be less problematic than As, and particularly AAs and AAAs.
You seem to be saying, Hortense, that it’s horrid to even think of women as AAs or high Cs or whatever — that visual impressions should be tossed out the window at the get-go and that ONLY spiritual and emotional issues and ones relating to character and intestinal fortitude be considered. Well, that would certainly be a better way of assessing people of either gender. Look beyond the flesh and bone and into their souls. I agree with this.
Thank God there are millions of us who immediately try to learn who and what a person is when they meet them, and who give physical attractiveness its proper due, which is that it’s nice and pleasing to be with a physically attractive person (not to mention stimulating) but that this is hardly — shouldn’t be — any sort of final determining factor. I’m with you, Hortense. I get it. You’re right.
Except that guys — hang onto something for balance — have always and will always be attracted to beautiful or provocative women, and once you accept this as inevitable and unstoppable it’s hardly a terrible thing to admit that most of us keep score and hand out school grades about the allure & attractiveness of various women we meet.
I think…hell, I know that most women know and accept this. I also think that this acceptance and awareness might have something to do with the fact that women spend God knows how many billions each year on products and services that enhance and augment their natural physical beauty. What do you think…maybe?
You also didn’t quote a line that said “thank God for life’s exceptions” and another that said that “my last serious relationship was with a solid A and she was fine all around for the most part.” Uh-oh — a quote that indicates that a fair-minded and balanced mentality may be at work here! Strike it!
I also said that “people only develop emotionally and spiritually when they’ve been forced to, and a certain working familiarity with rejection among women or men obviously tends to encourage this.” I would really appreciate an explanation from you, Hortense, about how this statement is inaccurate. I’m all ears.