I work at a university where I am constantly surrounded by young women, a great many of whom wear quite revealing outfits. I am occasionally asked how can I, as the saying goes, maintain custody of the eyes? The answer, quite simply, is that it is a self correcting problem. At this stage in my life, I have been surrounded by these women and their forerunners for so long that I really don't notice them, unless there is something very different about them.
Although I see pulchritudinous young women every day, as I said, almost none of them stand out in my mind. As I sit at my computer, I can think of three in recent years (out of thousands) who made any impression on me in any way. Let me explain why they stand out.
The first was a rather harmless one, and did nothing other than drive home that life sometimes come with bitter ironies. It was simply an old fool remembering when he was a young one. When I was young, around fourteen or so, my friends and I would discuss girls. There were days when we hardly discussed anything else. Sometimes what we discussed was what our ideal woman would be, mainly in terms of her physical attributes. We then grew up, went off, got married, had kids, divorces, alimony and all the wonders of modern married life. Except me. I somehow bucked the trend, lucked out and married a very real woman who suits me just fine. Reality, in the end, trumps fantasy for those who manage to emerge from teen fantasies and ultimately live in the real world.
But fantasy has a charm and memory of its own, a fact that was driven home one day a few years ago when I was working cash, and that long ago ideal woman walked up to my register.
It was as though she had been created to my specifications. In my mind I could just hear a foreman and worker going over their final inspection:
Foreman: Okay, let's go over this list one more time. Hair?
F: Face, skin and body?
W: Check, check and check.
F: Then it looks like we're done here.
W: Maybe. I was wondering if we should give her a slight Russian accent.
F: Does bear like that sort of thing?
F: Throw it in, then.
Gazing upon her as I handled her purchase I could only reflect on how life isn't always fair. I was married, middle aged, fat and pathetic, and now she walks into my life? I felt some kind of nostalgia and a little rue that we all have to grow up and get old.
The second one was a little less- subtle, shall we say? Again, I was sitting down at my register on a very busy day when line control sent over my next customer just as I was finishing up on the previous one. I closed the till drawer, and looked over straight into about an acre and a half of cleavage. She was wearing a red dress with a neckline that plunged down to her navel at least, rather like that famous, or infamous, gown that Jennifer Lopez wore some years ago, except this woman was far more well endowed.
Unlike the other one, I was glad in this case that I was older rather than younger when this one shown up. Had she shown up when I was in my late teens or early twenties, I imagine my higher thought processes would have shut down and I would have stared at her like a drooling idiot. As it was my thoughts went along the lines of "oooo-kay" and I went to my task of ringing her up. That would have ben the end of it, but for a training session we chanced to have shortly before she came to my register.
The training was about unwanted attention by men on women. The university was getting complaints from women about the way men were looking at them and so the unversity created some rules about conduct and 'unwanted attention'. Long and the short of it: Any 'glance' that lasted longer than three seconds could be seen as unwanted attention and punishable. I don't know how this was enforceable, or how many women carried stopwatches so they could time the men accurately, but they thought they needed a policy, and that was the one up with which they came. What that broke down to for us was: don't stare. period. And I was fine with that.
But that meeting was fresh in my mind when this woman came to my register. It came to my mind when I wasn't even looking at her, and I heard the presenter's voice saying in my head: "Remember: no matter how she is dressed, she has a right not to be subjected to unwanted attention, so don't stare. Don't stare. Don't stare. Don't stare..." it became a loop in my mind, and had about the same effect as "don't think of pink elephants." So rather than helping me not to stare, the training ws the biggest thing driving me to stare. And as the "Don't stare, don't stare, don't stare" looped through my mind, another part of my mind, the part that never really grew up past fourteen began to say: "But why?"
Why indeed? Was it not fairly clear that this woman wanted attention? That if she did not want attention she was clearly wearing the wrong outfit? If she displays it, why should I not see it?
But, I also realized, the issue was not attention but unwanted attention. There are two parts of my attention. The first part is the attention itself. She may have wanted the first part, the attention, but not the second, which was me. What was unwanted about my attention was the fact that it was mine. A young beautiful woman, no matter how she is dressed, probably does not want the stare and ogle of a married, middle aged, fat, pathetic man. I imagine she also didn't want the attention of a very large percentage of the young men out there, and their attention can be brutal and demeaning, and women pay a heavy price for getting it, a point which was driven home to me by the last woman of the three. One of the most interesting things about her was that I did not even realize she was a woman at first.
I was working cash, but this time it was a slow day. I was the only one working on the register and had a small lineup of three or four people. I called the next customer over, and I saw the guy standing behind him, tall and skinny with baggy jeans, a lumberjack shirt and a baseball cap pulled low to cover his face. I dealt with customer and called the tall skinny guy over. As he put his books down upon the desk, I saw his hands, and it was then that I realized that this guy was not a guy but a woman. I glanced up at her face, and she turned her head for a second so I caught a glimpse of her under the cap. She had no makeup on, yet her skin was flawless and her features exquisite.
It was this strange combination that makes her stand out in my mind: Stunning, yet hiding it. The woman was very tall, at least as tall as I am (and I am over six feet tall) very thin, like a model is thin, and with perfect features, like a model. I would go out on a limb and say she was a model, although not a top model that even I would recognize. So why, then was she taking such care not to be noticed?
I came up with two explanations. The first was that she had a stalker, but that didn't seem quite right. It didn't fit her mannerisms precisely. The other explanation was that she may have a psychological disorder, I can't remember its name, but sometimes models and some other women become convinced that they are ugly, and try and hide their looks. Again, it didn't seem quite right.
Whatever the reason, I remembered her in my prayers for some time, and then I read something on another message board I sometimes visit. A man told the story of a female friend of his who was, in his words, gorgeous, and who went out one Saturday morning to do her grocery shopping. She tied her hair back in a ponytail, put on track pants and a loose hoodie and went off. Any idiot could have told be her dress that she was not seeking attention that day, but the guys of today aren't just any idiots. They're a bunch of pigs. Someone hit on her in the parking lot, telling her in graphic detail what he wanted to do to her. Then another two in the store, and then another in the parking lot again on her way out. By the time it was done she felt emotionally drained. She cancelled all her plans for the rest of the day, put on her jammies and sat one her couch and ate ice cream, because she just didn't want to face that crap again for the rest of the day.
As I read that story, the memory of that young girl came back to my mind. That fit in ways the other theories did not. She just didn't want to deal with the kind of garbage the guys of today (I won't call them men) put out.
Maintaining custody of the eyes is one thing, but we must also maintain custody of our mouths and of our person. If we don't we males become far less than men, less even than the animals which lack reason. And the women, they pay a heavy price for us being fools who are not in control of ourselves.
I'll come back and touch on this topic again another day.