Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm over the hill!

Via Andrew Sullivan, I've found this moment of wit by John Derbyshire:

Did I buy, or browse, a copy of the November 17 GQ, in order to get a look at Jennifer Aniston's bristols?** No, I didn't. While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose. Very few of us, however, can face up to this fact honestly, and I am sure this diary item will generate more angry e-mails of protest than everything else I have written this month.

I would be offended, disgusted, whatever (he speaks with authority on the subject, but what is Derbyshire doing looking at 15-17-year-olds "in the buff"?!), but he is simply wrong. While models may peak at 14, the rest of female humanity does not. Ever seen a high school yearbook? No one looks good at 17, give or take a few years. Every single one of my female friends looks a whole lot hotter now than then. No, I have not seen them "in the buff," but good-looking is good-looking, and it doesn't happen till you've finished the gym requirements, completed your detention sessions, and moved out of your parents' home.

While it's possible Derbyshire's just a run-of-the-mill pervert, what seems more likely, in that he sees his view as a politically conservative one, is that he's attracted to virginity. A 15-year-old is more likely to be a virgin than a 25-year-old, simply because she's had 10 fewer years to get it on. Derbyshire's attracted to virginity the way that Alvy Singer in "Annie Hall" is attracted to "shiksa"-ness. Whether or not a woman's attractive is irrelevant to men in love not with a person, not even with an especially nice set of breasts, but with an idea.


Alex B. said...

Derbyshire's tastes kind of remind me of this Pierre de Ronsard poem, which as a French major you've probably encountered:

Donc, si vous me croyez, mignonne,
Tandis que votre âge fleuronne
En sa plus verte nouveauté,
Cueillez, cueillez votre jeunesse :
Comme à cette fleur la vieillesse
Fera ternir votre beauté.

Alas, social conservatives probably think it's still chic to hold views that were popular in the 16th century.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Good lord, yes. As a French major, I not only read that poem, but, I'm almost certain, in the course of 14 (!) years taking French, read it in at least two classes, probably more like 3 or 4.

At least Ronsard has the decency not to give a specific age at which the inevitable arrives.