Sunday, June 14, 2009

Men's Beauty

No one looks at women any more, except other women, and when they do, it is to find blemishes and faults. Women aspire to uniformity. Men no longer look at women (except on film, on television and the internet—not in person) because feminists have forbidden this, judging that gazing objectifies and therefore attacks and harms women. Men don’t want to harm women, so we have stopped looking (in person)—especially since if accused of such looking, we are guilty of intent to harm until acquitted by the woman who says she wanted to looked at to enhance her self-esteem, which was damaged as the result of having been looked at in predatory ways by men. More than being chastened, men might even be charged, detained and arrested for such behavior. And so, men (who enjoy looking) have begun to look at other men. We have always looked admiringly at other men, of course.
This book is about men’s beauty, which has always been compelling. (See the history of art beginning with the Greeks.) Let’s look. Let’s see.


Everything I will say here is elaboration of the obvious. Of course, we miss nearly everything important by not attending to the obvious, and that men are more beautiful than women is one of the most obvious things in the world. Again, this has been documented in the West since the ancient Greeks, beginning with Phidias.
Men are beautiful in an indefinite number of ways depending on whether you look them one at a time, or in a pair (the most remarkable situation imaginable for their beauty to be evoked by each other in a sort of mirroring effect), or in a group such as an athletic team (for example, swimmers lined up for a heat, soccer players warming up). The setting and the act being carried out each has its own special ways of showing man’s beauty: spread out on a bed or the beach sleeping, looking at himself in a full-length mirror, sprawling, taking a cell-phone call (pacing and rubbing his body while talking, one of the most important new scenarios provided by technology for a man to unself-consciously display his body), standing still in the surf in saggers or speedos, preparing to dive off a ten-meter platform, executing a dive, dancing alone or with other men (Pilobolus), rock-face climbing, conducting an orchestra, hoisting his son above his head, flexing for fun, leaning against a wall with his hands behind his head or in his front (or back) jeans pockets, working out (here we have thousands of possibilities), exhausted from running, taking off his shirt, taking off his shirt for no particular reason, any time he is standing next to a woman, or taking a friendly body punch (a “buddy punch)”. It’s interesting that men have a certain exceptional beauty when they are exerting tremendous effort or are in mild pain. This is because men have been in such situations so often that a milder version of that look has become part of male physiognomy.
Some actions that show men’s beauty are very common but no less exceptional, since each man does everything differently. Each time we see a man’s beauty defined differently: walking down the street, stretching, rubbing his stomach, adjusting the level of his jeans or shorts, taking a deep breath, slouching or leaning back anywhere, smiling, not smiling. (The reader should add to the list!)
None of my inventories will be exhaustive. They cannot be. There is an indeterminate number of ways a man can do something that allow a man’s beauty to appear. The reader is invited to add to any list in the margins of this book and also start a list of his own. In general, this is a “workbook” for men, something to spend some time with after a work-out. The reader is invited to send the author examples from each inventory.
This book is about men’s physical beauty. Men are beautiful in other ways, too, but all this has been adequately described in world literature and in the record left in what men have accomplished in science and the arts—buildings, machines, songs and other works of art. Men’s inner beauty has been described in works on ethics—how to live well—written by the great philosophers. Every beautiful piece of music, every beautiful sentence composed by a man is an example of a man’s beauty represented in a formal medium.
Men’s beauty varies by age. We can crudely divide men into age-types such as boys, youths or adolescents, young men, middle-age men (men in their “prime”), old men. Each age-type will have certain common features that let us see boys and men at their best. The classifications are arbitrary, though. It doesn’t matter what numeric age a man is or what we call him (in English there is a poverty of words for males at various times in life), because since he is a man he will be beautiful in some way any time you look at him. On the other hand, a friend once observed that everyone has a time in life when the person looks his most beautiful. This is true for men.
We can describe men’s beauty body part by body part, move by move. Keep in mind, though, that these distinctions—these body parts we have names for and acts we have names for—will in sum always have left out some important detail of a man’s body or what he can do. Therefore the best way to talk about the beauty of men is to approach it instance by instance, man by man. In principle, as you can see, this book must eventually run to hundreds of volumes, many times as many volumes as the Patrologia Latina—every word of the Church Fathers written in Latin. But, no, that is not quite accurate. We will need a chapter for each man in our collection and that would take anyone (like me) dozens of lifetimes writing twenty hours a day like another worshiper, Kierkegaard.
My plan is to take men one by one, tell you what is beautiful about him, then about him, then about him—and so on. I have seen many men, but not nearly enough. Every day I see dozens and so I will have to be selective. This is tragic. I can only hope other men will begin to do what I am doing.
Then there’s the pathos of wishing I had seen him ten years earlier or could see him in another five years. Given imagination, this would multiply the volumes this work must have, since men—again, aka boy, youth, man—change. The bright side is that, on a given day a man might just come into my life, cross my path, at one of those moments of perfection I mentioned earlier that my friend was talking about. I am open to that and on the look-out for those times, those men.
I won’t provide illustrations since everyday followers of the internet upload a few hundred thousand images of beautiful men. I invite everyone to start his own iPhoto collection of digital images today and add a few dozen new items each day. You will feel better, smile more often, and see the presence of God more than ever. Remember the famous biblical utterance ecce homo (spoken by Jesus) means both “behold the man” and “what a man!”
Comparisons with women will be inevitable here. But since I do not intend it to be about plainness or max-factured masks to disguise plainness, the comparisons will be few. But that really doesn’t make sense. No, I should avoid comparisons altogether, not with women (because none are beautiful), and not with men, since one cannot compare gods.
Having committed to an unfinishable book of describing individual beautiful men, there are nevertheless a few generalities to start with. There are a few features of all men that are so beautiful that they deserve special mention. This is a random sampling from a treasure trove, so forgive me if I have left out a feature you would have offered up front. They are all visible but more visible in some men. If you look closely, of course, you will see them in every man at some point in his life. Whether it’s the forearm, abs, biceps, pectorals, quadriceps, each man has his favorite parts of the male body, his own and other men’s, parts we admire in each other and are happy to point out to a fellowman. Here are a few of the most beautiful:

a. that long vein under the forearm
b. that vein along the side of the neck that bulges occasionally
c. the vein across the forehead that appears like a streak of lightning
d. large, useful hands
e. large, steadying feet
f. the long waist
g. that central groove down the center of a man’s gut covering the linea alba
h. the pattern of the abdominals (a man’s second face)
i. narrow hips
j. just the hint of biceps
k. the vein across biceps that are thicker
l. the linea fusca or treasure trail, the happy trail running from a man’s navel down to his bush
m. the saggital patterning of pubic hair (a man’s year-round Christmas tree, everblack no ornaments needed)
n. the wing span
o. pectorals
p. dry lips

1 comment:

Graham Forster said...

Did you ever publish anything? I'm eager to read more.