Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bare Naked Ladies

When relationships fail we round up the usual suspects: not enough money, not enough sex, not enough feeling, not enough quality time, and not enough in common.

The emphasis always seems to be on what is lacking. No one notices that sometimes relationships fail for: too much money, too much sex, too much feeling, too much quality time, and too much in common.

To these lists I have a new addition: bad advice.

For reasons that escape me most relationship advice is addressed to women. It can't be because women are most in need of such advice. In fact, men are far more needy when it comes to relationship advice.

Yet, you cannot open a woman's magazine without finding advice about how to conduct a romantic relationship. All of it is offered by credentialed experts.

Some of it is good; some of it is awful. If you can sift the good from the awful, more power to you. If you follow it all, you are headed for trouble.

Thanks to the internet much of this advice is now available to people like me who would not be caught dead reading "Marie Claire."

Which brings us to a recent article from said magazine: "5 Ways to Sabotage a Relationship." Link here.

For now I will only address the first way. That is when a woman is so insecure about her body that she is not comfortable letting her lover see her naked.

To those of us who are new to such magazines, it is shocking to see how they produce and manipulate women's insecurities.

Why does "Marie Claire" assume that a woman who instinctively covers up when a man sees her naked has a problem? When a woman (or a man, for that matter) is uncomfortable revealing herself, perhaps this bespeaks something more normal, like modesty.

Do we really want to gauge a woman's mental health or her readiness for intimacy by how ready she is to stand naked in front of her lover?

And how does it happen that "Marie Claire" does not know that lingerie is sexier than naked, or that modesty incites desire in ways that bare nakedness does not? Isn't it a fashion magazine?

If sexual attraction and relationship bliss were based on corporeal perfection the human race would have long since died out?

Between us, a perfect body is a work of art, an object of aesthetic contemplation. It is not an object of desire.

And if "Marie Claire" is right, how far should a woman go to convince herself and the world that she is not ashamed of her body?

What if she simply does not want to have to look at her man's naked glory? Human relationships are based on reciprocity. If a woman decides to reveal all-- whether physically or emotionally-- she must expect that her partner will reciprocate.

Be that as it may, "Marie Claire" offers a therapeutically sanctioned solution to the insecurities it has just helped to produce. Its advice: "Explain your insecurities to him, why you think you have them, and how they make you feel."

In other words, treat your relationship like a psychotherapy session. Does "Marie Claire" really believe that men want to hear about how women have become insecure about their bodies by reading a magazine? Do men really want to hear about why women have these insecurities, and how they feel about them?

And why would any woman want a man to pay closer attention to her bodily imperfections? Does any sentient individual really believe that this will light a fire in his loins?

But then, how is a man supposed to react to her heartfelt confession of insecurity? By telling her he has never noticed the flaws, but will pay closer attention now? By offering up an insecurity of his own about his own body?

If your relationship starts down that path, you are headed for trouble.

"Maris Claire" is telling women to speak to their lovers as though they were speaking to a therapist. After all, a therapist will not feel the need to reciprocate. He or she will either listen in silence, offer some empathy, or compliment the woman on her ability to express her feelings.

Anyone who spends enough time in therapy will come to master this habit. Thereby he or she will become conversationally dysfunctional.

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