The ideal woman. Is there such a thing? We have media prototypes of course — blonde, busty, pouty lips. Oh, right. Perfect whiter-than-white teeth. And let’s not forget that bountiful booty is part of the picture.
Perhaps that seed is the result of gathering input for an article on dating after divorce, a topic less current for me in recent years. Naturally, this means I’ve been catching glimpses of what 50-year-old men are saying they look for, which brings me back to the issue of the ideal woman as we imagine her in 21st century white America.
Media’s Ideal Woman
If we are to believe what we see on television (my first mistake?), or in magazines (my second mistake?), not to mention on social media (three strikes, you’re out?), then except for very old women, we of the female sex are still expected to be fit, smooth-skinned, and put together — at virtually any age.
And no, I will not put a number to “very old women.”
Now, I’m in favor of being fit (if possible), healthy (yes!), and taking care of ourselves (don’t we feel better?). But… What’s realistic? What’s plain crazy?!?
Incidentally, here are phrases from a non-representative sample of what men are looking for, including men in their 50s, 60s and 70s: “women who exercise,” “women who take care of themselves,” “women who are active,” “women who are trim.” In other words, anything but fat.
Not having glanced at online profiles in years, I somehow (foolishly?) thought the older gentleman might be looking for qualities that are substantive rather than superficial. I repeat: My brief survey is not representative, though I am struck by the number of men — themselves not particularly fit or attractive — expecting the ideal in the woman they seek.
By the way, my definition of unattractive (in a profile photo) is this: Men who are scowling, grimacing or leering; men obviously taking (poor) selfies; men using webcam shots in which they are looking down or making faces. Don’t even get me started on any body part pics…
Changes in Ideal Body Size and Shape for Women
Physically speaking, it’s interesting to see how the ideal American woman has changed in the past hundred years or so. We know that the corset was used to reconfigure our “assets,” cinching the waist and creating an impossibly hourglass shape. The 1920s brought about a freer, more boyish form, and Time’s Ideal Woman of the 1930s offers this, which refers to a Life Magazine description from 1938:
… the model, 20-year-old June Cox, stood 5 ft. 6 3/4 in. and weighed 124 lbs., though life insurance statistics, the magazine said, suggested she should weigh 135 lbs.
The magazine explained that American women’s increasing involvement in sports in recent years had made them taller and flatter, and as such, “the boyish form became the vogue.” But by the late ’30s, romantic-influenced clothing had returned to fashion, and a “soft feminine figure” was replacing the athletic form as the look du jour…
Of course, in the 1950s, the voluptuous figure of Marilyn Monroe became the ideal. By the late 1960s, Twiggy brought us a different norm. When I think of the 1970s and 80s, beyond Farrah Fawcett hair and then our perms, the “fit” woman comes to mind, followed by the Bay Watch ideal as embodied by Pamela Anderson who reigned in that role from 1992 to 1998.
What else might men want in an ideal woman?
To hear some talk, they want a “faithful” woman, though I daresay that the Ashley Madison hack may have record numbers of wives streaming to divorce court and hoping, eventually, for a “faithful” man…
I also suspect that articulated or not, many men idealize a certain childlike quality. By that I mean an appearance of innocence, even submissiveness, or the suggestion of both. Didn’t Marilyn Monroe’s apparent vulnerability manifest exactly these qualities?
Incidentally, The Daily Mail would have us believe that a man’s ideal is blonde, blue-eyed, and… drum roll please… possessing a graduate degree!
Now, the source of this finding is a bit suspect, though I think the blonde and blue-eyed aspects are likely right on target. Gigi Hadid is one of the women noted as an ideal. May I clarify that she is 20 years old? (At the time the Mail article was written, she was only 19.) By way of additional information provided by the Daily Mail, “slender” is even more important than blonde, while non-smokers and social drinkers are also preferred.
As for that graduate degree, I just don’t buy it. My own “anecdotal” experience of smart women in the real world has shown me that men, including highly intelligent men, don’t want a woman they think they will compete with, no matter how gorgeous she may be. It takes a secure man to be comfortable with a woman who challenges their assumptions and feels free to disagree with them.
Heart of Gold, Strength of Steel
Like most of us, I prefer to look my best and be my most amiable as often as possible. However, my view of the ideal romantic partner of either gender is less plastic than what we typically see or hear. Aren’t we more interesting for our opinions and foibles? Don’t we adore the twinkle in a mischievous eye?
Whatever happened to appreciating the slight “flaw” in the magnificent Oriental rug? In a woman, that might equate to any number of imperfect, irresistible features, no? What about the slow simmer to be savored in a sultry voice or a sinful saunter?
Personally, when it comes to qualities, I’ll take a heart of gold in friends and lovers, and the strength of steel to get us through tough times. I would’ve thought that as men mature, they just might want the same.
My view of the ideal woman?
Yes, she has pride in her appearance and is attractive (in all its variations), the latter being highly subjective. (Some of us understand that smart is sexy, and humor can be the greatest aphrodisiac around.) I should hope she has a natural sensuality that comes out, more than anything, as a matter of who she is — confident, compassionate, intelligent, self-aware and an independent thinker. A sense of humor helps for all of us as well, don’t you think?
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