Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Joy of Trashy Advice Books and Good Posture

There was, for a time, hidden from my mother under my Canadian single bed, an incredibly trashy but interesting book called The Seduction Mystique by Ginny Sayles. Because this How-To-Make-Men-Like-You book was padded with How-To-Do-Stuff-in-Bed information, it was not suitable for nice Catholic girls, nice Catholic wives or even nice Catholic divorcées like me back then. However, I refrained from reading the really naughty stuff in the back and stuck to the interesting advice in the front, which suggested that women should 1) stop resenting men, 2) wear bright colours and pastels instead of brown, black, beige and grey, 3) grow our hair longer and 4) wear makeup.

The mental exercise Sayles gave for removing one's resentment for men (which a woman might very well have after umpteen years of broken hearts and no husband) was to look at men in the street and think "Bless his little heart!" I thought this sounded bonkers, but I tried it out on some unsuspecting, balding soul, and lo! My mood immediately lifted. For awhile I went around silently blessing strangers. "Bless his little heart! Bless his little heart!" I suppose the phrase kicks in my maternal feelings or something.

I became fond of Snagging-Men advice books, trashy and classy, and occasionally bought them on sale. Now that I'm married to the Perfect Man for Me, of course, my interest in such things is completely academic. Yesterday I spotted a bright pink trashy one called Superflirt in Oxfam. It is full of photographs of winking Brits chewing straws and dangling shoes from their stockinged toes. The back cover trumpets: "Make Every Man Want You/Make Every Woman Melt."

"What trash!" I yelped.

It cost me ₤2.99.

I spent the evening perusing it and reading snippets to my husband, who was reading about the Gunpowder Plot.

"It says here that a man takes 30 seconds to determine if a strange woman is his type, but it only takes woman 3 seconds to determine if a man is her type."

"Oh, indeed?"

"That strikes me as true. Women jump to conclusions about men too fast."


"You can't rush a man in his 30 second process, I bet. You gotta let him have his 30 seconds. He looks once. Do nothing. He looks twice. Do nothing. He looks a third time. Smile, if you like him."


"Say," I said. "What made you fall in love with me?"

The husband politely closed the Gunpowder Plot over his finger and pondered.

"You were pretty, intelligent and Catholic," he decided.

"But that's your rational side speaking. There must have been something to attract your reptile brain."

"You were pretty?"

"Hmph," I said, not satisfied on the intellectual level but vastly pleased in my reptile brain, and after some chit-chat about my attractive, happy blog persona (which he met before he met the rest of me), I went back to Superflirt.

Okay, here in my own words are some tips from Superflirt. Some of them will sound very familiar.

1. Men and women are attracted to HAPPY AND CONFIDENT people. So if you are a Searching Single and you are neither happy nor confident, FAKE IT. Incidentally, I wasn't happy all the time I was writing my first Seraphic Singles blog. But I didn't think readers needed to know that. So when it was time to write, I summoned the stiff upper lip and wrote happy.

2. Faking it makes it, apparently. The book says that if you force yourself to smile, you can trick your brain into thinking you are happy. And this is certainly true for me. Writing happy makes me happy. Writing angry makes me angry.

Now at this point, many of you are saying "But I don't want to be fake" and "I gotta be who I really am". And I say, lipstick is way faker, but women wear it all the time. Shaving is also a bit of a dodge, but men shave all the time. If you can wear lipstick to pretend your lips are Toast of New York-coloured or shave so that your chin is as smooth as the sink, you can plaster on a smile. When you are going out into the world to make friends, you just can't let it all hang out. You have to be your most attractive version of you.

3. Your posture is worth a thousand words. If the world has been cruel, people will see it in your sagging shoulders, stooped back and lowered chin. And they will avoid you. If the world has been kind, you will naturally stand up straight and tall, put your shoulders back, keep your chin up and look everyone in the eye with a pleasant smile. And people will think, "Wow! Here's a confident and striking person!" And they will find you attractive. Is this fair? No. But there it is.


a) breathe to relax

b) stand tall

c) keep your shoulders back

d) keep your chin up

e) meet people's eyes when you talk to them; if you're too shy to do that, stare at the bridge of their nose

f) keep a relaxed posture: lean on your forward leg or lean on the walls or furniture. Leaning makes you look confident and relaxed. Who knew?

g) if in doubt, watch a confident-looking person and subtly do what they do.

h) wear clothes that reflect your personality but also say "I'm relaxed","I value myself" and "I am a long-term relationship kind of gal/man." Don't leave the house wearing sweatpants ever, ever, ever. And there's a fine line between modest and frumpy. Find it and remain on the side of light.

Incidentally, your eyes are very, very important in attracting people. Plucking your eyebrows makes your eyes look bigger and more noticeable. So keep your brows tidy, accentuate them cleverly if female and, if you are a rest the chin-on-the-hand kind of person, rest your chin in the L of your thumb and point to your eye with your index finger. Hey, that's what the book says.

Meanwhile, I knew a girl in high school who was a flamenco dancer. She had the best posture of anyone I knew, and I was in ballet classes for a long, long time. A tall girl, she never slumped. Her head was always up. Her movements were graceful. Her figure was good. Her clothes, which she paid for from her very good part-time candy-striper salary, were elegant. She was certainly striking. And the cutest, most spoiled, most sought after, boys in our circle followed after her like men stunned.

More unsolicited body language advice later.

Converse: How do you cope in a roomful of strangers?


leonine said...

Re: conversing in a room full of strangers, I always try to find the person who looks as awkward as I feel, then make a concerted effort to be friendly and warm and chatty with that one person. This is much less intimidating than thinking of the whole group of strangers. Also, thinking of it as an opportunity to be kind and to set someone else at ease inevitably makes me more relaxed as well. But I find that I have to do this almost immediately upon arrival, otherwise I might lose my nerve.

Re: beauty tips, you are totally right about posture! But just to be contrarian for a moment, I find black can be a very striking colour, so don't toss it out of your wardrobe immediately. Also, long hair is not necessarily better for everyone. Every so often, I try the long hair thing, but my hair simply isn't the right texture. So I go for the sleek bob instead. But perhaps because I have shorter hair, I believe a good haircut is absolutely essential. You do wear your hair every day, after all!

Seraphic said...

Sometimes I do that in crowds. I definitely do that if I am on "home turf." On home turf, I find the lonely looking stranger and say, "Hi!"

The difficulties are compounded by being in a new-to-me culture, but a person sitting alone at a social gathering is usually someone who wishes to talk to somebody--especially at after-Mass tea.

Black might be a striking colour to other women, but I'd like to know what men think about it! And a young single woman wouldn't want to wear a black mantilla to a TLM because it screams "MARRIED or WIDOWED!" Ginny Sayles was firm on the subject of men and colour, and lo, I bought a red suit.

I was wearing pale blue when I met B.A.

Meanwhile, "Superflirt" says that although long hair is sexier, short hair makes you look "strong, capable and straightforward". These seem like positive qualities to me. The question is, does the reptile brain part of men's brains prefer sexy or "strong, capable and straightforward"? And if sexy, does it matter? As "Superflirt" says, looks do count, but personality counts more for establishing long-term relationships.

Women are well-versed in what WE think looks good and au courant. But we don't always get what actually attracts men. For example, we might think that men prefer very, very thin, tall women who have bodies like boys (except for big breasts), but this is not actually true of most men.

Dominic Mary said...

although now seriously single, I was happily married until my wife died, so can perhaps shed some light on some of your points.

Overall, most men - excluding those stuck at a mental age of fourteen who really only want a Farah Fawcett-Majors lookalike - don't have very strong preferences; what they want is a woman with an attractive and compatible personality (yes, Superflirt was right) who is comfortable with herself and her body, and with what she wears, and how she presents herself.

In other words, black can be very popular in the right circumstances (why do you think the 'little black dress' caught on ?), as can long hair; but wearing black to a wedding might not go down well, and having hair like yours if you have the sort of lifestyle where you both constantly need to be getting ready in five minutes might eventually become stressful.

Finally, Mantillas (MOST important) : why only black or white ? My late wife had a Gold one for Easter . . . and a white one with fine blue threads in the lace for Our Lady. Be brave !

Alex said...

There are actually a fair number of women who can wear sweatpants in public and still look pretty good. At least if they're college undergraduates...

It would be a bad idea to wear them to a date or a party, certainly. But at the university I attended, a lot of women wore sweatpants to class on a fairly regular basis and it certainly didn't make them any less attractive. And they certainly would have been hypocritical, then, to judge the many men who also wore sweatpants on a regular basis.

Maybe this is just a Wisconsin thing. I know a number of people who were raised outside the state have criticized how casually people dress when they go to class (oh, superficial campus newspapers,) but we don't seem to care too much. I've even had a number of professors who regularly showed up in T-shirts and jeans, as well--sometimes even jeans with holes in them.

It actually takes quite a lot for me to be completely unattracted to a woman from the start (unless they're married; in which case I do my best to shut off the "reptile" part of my brain.) You pretty much have to be both physically unattractive and really mean or obnoxious. I suppose I should be praying more for the people who fit that description, rather than judging them. But if you're a kind person it's amazing how fast I'll gain interest, no matter what you look like.

If I were a woman, I would NOT want to be really good looking and have to deal with all the crass, vulgar men who just wanted my body. I'd much rather be a moderately attractive, joyful, kind Catholic woman who got less attention from men, but mostly attracted the kinds of men who actually respect women.

Seraphic said...

I am willing to concede the sweatpants for slender teenagers and college girls! If you're a girl between the ages of 17-22 and have a relatively good figure, you can wear anything and look great. But teenage girls seem to hunch a lot; they need to unhunch. Shoulders back, chin up!

Personally, I am against reading matter across the posterior of said track pants. I think it is vulgar beyond belief to have "Juicy" or "State" written across your bottom.

Interestingly, "Superflirt" says that on a subconscious level people are less willing to approach people who are "too" anything, including "too beautiful". Really beautiful women intimidate men, which might be why they make all those dumb, crass, aggressive comments.

The kind of woman you'd like to be (if a woman) is the kind of woman most of us Catholic women would like to be!

Dominic Mary said...

Superflirt is right : I had a friend at University who was notoriously the most beautiful woman there, and had a lovely personality . . . but could never get a boyfriend, because everyone was intimidated by her beauty.

Sorry, by the way; but IMHO trackpants should be forbidden in public (except on the track, of course) - the only reason that glamorous young women can get away with them is because, ultimately, they're a manifestation of 'undress' rather than 'dress' : what trackpants cover up seems, paradoxically, more uncovered; possibly because they're more 'hiding' than 'clothing'.

What people do in private is their own affair; but, in public, can we stick to proper clothes, please - whatever your age and appearance ?

The kind of woman most Catholic women would like to be is the kind of woman which, deep down, most Catholic men would like them to be !

theobromophile said...

Seraphic, that advice exactly like something a Southern momma would tell her daughter!

Meanwhile, "Superflirt" says that although long hair is sexier, short hair makes you look "strong, capable and straightforward".

Balance! The pastel-loving, feminine, skirt-wearing types should add something strong and capable to that image; those inclined in the other direction can often benefit from a very feminine attribute.

I learned this the hard way; naturally blonde (now red), long hair, love pastels, rather quiet, and come across as naive - yes, I attracted every controlling loon on the planet.

Likewise, some women (who always seem to be of a slightly older generation) couple their less-feminine attire and persona with short, close-cropped hair; it just does not project a friendly nor a loving demeanour. (For those who follow American politics, I'm thinking of women like Hillary Clinton; although she's attractive and wears make-up, I've always thought that hair that curls under her chin or maybe a skirt would help her.)