Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eew and the Objects of Desire

Oliver Roberts' column in the Sunday Times Lifestyle recently brought back another conversation I had last week with an attractive blonde mom. Unexpectedly, as I sipped on a whiskey, the lady started to confide in me that the pressures on women are enormous: they must be perfectly beautiful, and sweet, and sexy, and good mothers etc. I can't verbalise it quite as well as she did, but I ended up blushing inwardly and my shadow gulped guiltily. This is a fun, lighthearted, attractive, bubbly person, so she wasn't moaning and whinging because she had been passed over. She was merely commenting on the strain of the constant objectification going on. And I believed her.

This is why Oliver Roberts' column rang a bell. Perhaps when I was a 20-something I was no different, in fact I know I wasn't. It didn't help that my first three girlfriends were gorgeous and all models. I wanted them all to be. You know you're in trouble when instead of seeing someone for who they are, you're already saying: "You're like the spitting image of Uma." You have to see people for who they are, not whom they resemble. And a lot of men are programmed into 'Pornstar' mode when it comes to rating the attractiveness of women. Essentially they're looking for a pornstar who will be a good mom, at least a loyal partner.

I was surprised that in his column Roberts' mentions all his presummably male friends being grossed out by the fact that he'd seen his girlfriend on the loo. Perhaps having lived with the opposite sex, as the Comfortable Factor increases, the Eeew Factor becomes irrelevant, particularly since, in the scheme of tidiness, the girls (at least those I've been close to) tend to pick up after themselves and run a tigher, neater, cleaner ship than us guys do. It's also a bit rich, given the typical male's sexual requirements (some would say demands), that we expect girls not to go Eeew when we ask them to...well, you know what. It's really a compliment and a luxury when two people can feel entirely comfortable and content with one another, without any Eews. What irks is a persistent requirement to change, or a checklist of things to avoid to avoid conflict or disappointment.

It's also unnecessarily awkward to have to leave the room and close the door in one's own space to change clothes, burp or any of the rest. But personal preferences aside, what is wrong with a man or a woman being a human being around another person of the opposite sex? After all, gasp, we ARE human beings. And guess what, even if we do objectify the opposite sex, we know WE aren't perfect. Right? The converse of Roberts' analogy, and I admit it's not quite the same, is a bald guy like me always wearing a hat, in order to render a more youthful (non-bald) image. Younger people probably won't be able to empathise, but the point is, if you can't accept the imperfections of others, how can you be real with yourself. If you're not real with others you're probably not very real with yourself, are you?

The objectification of women is really quite serious, especially in this country, where we see chronic levels of violence against women, even in wealthier sections of the community. It's easier to hurt, ignore or be generally insensitive to a thing, and objectifying turns someONE effectively into someTHING. A girl or a woman isn't a decoration, or an asset to boost one's ego (like a car). You can't possess or control another person, or you can try, and see what a fuck up that is.

It is supposed to be a relationship with a woman, not ownership, or controllership, or a public exhibition. A relationship is based on the person you are with listening to you, sharing, sacrificing, and you doing the same. It's nice. It's how we feel valued as human beings and how we value others. Objectifiying someone is a brittle, shallow, devaluing form of affection. When you objectify someone, and they do something that breaks through your touchy feely fantasy, affection quickly turns nasty. Objectifying is not love; it's not even lust. It's that weak, pathetic eye-candy aspect of our baser selves that likes chocolate, paging idly through magazines and stomping on ants.

We're capable of being better than that, although it seems many couldn't be bothered to try. That's unfortunate, because by objectifying another, we ourselves become worth less, emptier shells, instead of human beings, emptier structures like shelves and cupboards, meant for the storage and safekeeping of objects. It's a meaningless mindset - this lack of relationship with others - with little personal value.

To graduate out of this shallow swamp, embrace your own humanity, and when next you're with someone you're drawn towards, try to embrace theirs - feel them with your entire being. Breathlessly anticipate what they may say or do, feel the life of the moment, the unrepeatability of one person's feelings mixing with yours in an instant of time, the taste of the air, the colors - and putting aside your own 'act', put yourself in their universe. Feel - be - what life must be to them. This is a much richer, more rewarding life than just taking and glimpsing the juicy tidbits that work for you.

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