Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Misogyny

I spent a large part of last Thursday afternoon, and most of Friday morning, wandering the streets of London around Marble Arch and Marylebone. This is the downside of going to an evening reception a long way from home. Trains don't run to my personal timetable, so I am forced to kill time accommodating theirs.

Most people, when confronted with the thought of spending four hours near Oxford Street, would naturally turn to thoughts of shopping. Forgetting that I'm not most people, I even went into a couple of shops myself, but soon came out again when I realised that there was nothing I wanted to buy. I have grown accustomed to purchasing online and having things delivered to me, too. And I didn't much fancy carrying my suitcase, laden down as it was with a heavy load of free books, let alone any additional impulse purchase.

So I soon gave up on the shopping idea. Thursday afternoon wasn't too bad, as I was able to meet up with Mr Stuart and Agent Phil after a short while, thus opening up the opportunity of pub and beer. But Friday morning was a pain. Hanging around in cafes on my own is not my style any more than is wandering around the kind of boutiques where they have to print the price very small in order to fit it on the label. So really all there was left for me to do was walk.

This wasn't as much a problem as you might think. I like to walk, and watch the world around me. Admittedly this is normally trees, birds, the occasional fox or deer, intermittent Hawk training jets or Tornado fighter-bombers. The ground under my feet is normally soft forestry track and the air is fresh. In London I had to struggle to breathe, even though a gale was scouring the streets of their more noxious fumes. Tall buildings and shop windows were my vista, and the wildlife was of a more depressingly human form. But I walked nonetheless, for several miles just observing the life that passed me by. And one thing struck me as particularly noteworthy.

There are a lot of beautiful women in London.

Now I don't mean this in any particularly sexist way. I think I'm liberal-minded enough to be able to enjoy feminine beauty without any lad-culture connotations. You'll never hear me say 'phwoar, look at the tits on her!' Nevertheless, I am a man, and there is, for me, something very satisfying about seeing a pretty face, a shapely body. I can find just as much pleasure in the company of good conversation; I would hate for anyone to think that I judge purely on looks alone. But there are times when I see someone and seeing is enough. Times when even if it were appropriate to strike up a conversation - and I'm not talking about cheesy pick-up lines here - I would rather not for fear of ruining the potential perfection.

The women of Aberystwyth, indeed Ceredigion as a whole, are not great beauties. That is not to say they are all pug-ugly - far from it. But I am rarely caused to give someone in Chalybeate Street a second glance; the Horse Doctor need not fear my wandering eye whenever we head down to Tregaron for a pint or two. The women around here are too short, or too round; too tall or too thin. An otherwise pretty face might be marred by a pronounced underbite; eyes may be set just too close together; a nose may be crooked, or hooked.

In short, they try but just don't reach the bar.

Don't think that I consider myself a paragon of beauty either - far from it. I'm not much attracted to the male form, my own least of all. Neither am I trying to say that some women are better than others simply because of the way they look. But they do look different, and some are more pleasing to my eye than others.

London has its fair share of near-misses. Actually, probably more than its fair share. But it also has that surprisingly large number of truly gorgeous women. And of all ages, before you accuse me of being a dirty old man. My measure of perfect beauty is not some simple formula of skin tone, body size and potential fecundity alone. The way a person carries themselves, the aura they project is equally important. Perhaps it was my country yokel simplicity overwhelmed by the bright lights of the big city, but in London, as a percentage of the total walking population, I saw more beauty in one Friday morning than I have anywhere else in many a year.

The only other place I've noticed this effect is Sydney, which quite frankly has a lot more going for it than London. There is more of an outdoor culture there, too, a beach mentality of being seen and a fair-minded competitiveness I've never really equated with the English.

Whilst not the capital of Australia, Sydney is the Big City, the place that pulls in people from all over the country and the world. It's possible that other Big Cities - New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo (though I don't remember noticing it so much last time I was there) - have a similar overburden of beautiful people, thus draining the provinces of all they have to give. Maybe that's why Wales is so bereft, why you won't have your breath taken away as you wander along Princes Street in Edinburgh.

Or maybe I'm simply delusional, and having alienated at least half of my readership I should really just shut up.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

You'll never hear me say 'phwoar, look at the tits on her!'

And I would never expect to. Just isn't something even self-confessed dogs say in front of me. I can't imagine why...

Most people, when confronted with the thought of spending four hours near Oxford Street, would naturally turn to thoughts of shopping. Forgetting that I'm not most people, I even went into a couple of shops myself, but soon came out again when I realised that there was nothing I wanted to buy.

That made me laugh. Thanks.

July 13, 2007 4:02 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

You may laugh, Sandra, but one of them was a book shop, and I still didn't want to buy anything. What is the world coming to?

July 14, 2007 12:47 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

It's the luggage factor. Nobody wants anything extra to cart, especially when you can order it and have it delivered to your door!

July 14, 2007 1:33 pm  

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