There are beautiful people everywhere, but mostly on my computer or TV screen. I don't see many stunning people in my everyday life and I don't really notice other people too much when I'm in a crowd. But something about my new job at a home renovation warehouse store has made me look at people differently. You know what I've noticed most? People's bodies are lumpy.
Bumps and lumps and bulges and rolls adorn almost every person I see. Odd proportions and strange shapes are the norm. Certainly not the symmetrical face or balanced body that I've come to expect from my TV shows and movies. There are simply no drop dead gorgeous people in real life. Or so I thought.
I was training a young lady (well, girl, she was only 18) to do the same job as me but at a different location of the store...and she was absolutely, shockingly good looking. And I don't mean she applied her makeup well, I mean she was more naturally beautiful than many models I've seen in pictures. No Photoshop required on her proofs - seriously. To top it off, her body was well proportioned, not thin and not fat, not top heavy or bottom heavy. And I noticed some odd things with her by my side.
The first was that I didn't feel jealous at all. There was a time in my life I would have been bitterly envious of her because of her beauty. I was startled to realize that, and a bit taken aback that I was looking at her and the world around her as a scientific experiment.
You see, when we would walk through the store together she would turn heads. People didn't even notice me at all - they only looked at her. Men would try to catch her eye as if to say 'look at me, choose me, I'm a good one'. She always kept her eyes looking straight ahead, not making any eye contact at all. Men straightened their backs, threw their shoulders back, lit up their faces, sucked in their guts, leaned forward to show interest...to no avail. Women looked her up and down and sighed with disappointment, bowed their heads, shook their heads a little while looking away, or glanced at the man at their side to gauge his reaction. And this wasn't just customers, it was my coworkers as well.
I noticed one very grumpy coworker in particular would come into the receiving area as if to locate something several times. He never lingered before, and now he was finding reasons to ask me questions and be cheery to me while his eyes stayed on her. Many other men I work with were volunteering their help to her, asking if she needed anything, looking to make conversation. These people in particular have not ever volunteered anything like that to me, a middle-aged, unremarkable, pudgy woman.
She was obviously used to this kind of attention. She didn't joke around with any men, she wore jeans and a hoodie even though it was +30C in the store, her expression simply required the men to look her in the eye and treat her as if she was intelligent. And when they disappointed her with glib remarks or roving eyes her expression would change to frustration. None of this behaviour seemed new to her or even flattering in any way.
When her training was done and she went to her own store things fell back to normal for me. 'Invisible' or 'in the way' are the two reactions I get from the men I work with and that continued. Except for the questions of where she was and was she coming back..and the disappointment in their eyes when I would tell them that her training was done, she won't be back here.
So I wonder with all of the strides women have made in the workplace and the world, will heterosexual men always look at beautiful women that way? Like objects to obtain, or a receptacle for his seed? None of the men even tried to have a conversation with her or treat her as an equal or an interesting human being. They were all somewhere on the scale of 'sigh, she'll never notice me' to 'hey, look at my full head of hair/broad shoulders'. Does this contribute to the resentment I've seen in men who have to deal with women who are not good looking but above them in the hierarchy of the workplace? Or the general disdain some men seem to have for women over 40 or for women who have 'let themselves go'?
And the bigger question is: did we create this behaviour in men by presenting them with fine specimens to look at on TV and in magazines? Or is this behaviour born into men - to look for visually pleasing bodies to carry on his family line?