True Beauty

So last night we watched the Miss Universe pageant on TV. My lovely & talented wife picked Miss Japan as the winner early on, and as usual she was right. Congratulations to Riyo Mori.

I am not generally a fan of these events but it did bring back some memories. Way back in the 1970s, beauty pageants were annual events on the liturgical calendar of network TV. (For younger readers, this was before we had “cable.” All TV programming came from a strange-looking antenna on the roof. On a good night we were lucky to have five clear channels. Somehow we survived.)

Back then it was also not common to see scantily clad women displaying themselves for all to see. That being the case, the televised swimsuit competitions were eagerly anticipated by at least half the viewing audience. Now, of course, male Americans can hardly escape the onslaught of young things writhing and undulating before us. This may explain why beauty pageants are no longer a ratings bonanza for the networks. This year Miss Universe was surpassed by a rerun of something called Two and a Half Men. Beautiful young girls prancing on stage? Yawn.

In fact, the contestants would probably argue that they are more than just pretty faces/bodies; they have minds, too. I believe them, but the sad fact is it doesn’t matter anymore. The feminist quest to “empower” women by using sexuality as a weapon has had the opposite effect. For men, the mystery is gone. We’ve seen it all. The secret pleasures we longed for as teenagers have lost much of their allure because they are now everywhere.

Young ladies are well aware of this, and their response is to become even more audacious and revealing. Last year's “accidental” view of the nether regions of Britney Spears was, I fear, a sign of things to come. The bikini-clad Girls Gone Wild videos provide an even better example, consisting as they do not of professional models but of otherwise undistinguished college students who think in a drunken fog that flashing their breasts to an anonymous male audience is fun and exciting. Then they wonder why it is so hard to find a man who will view them as more than an object.

Do I mean we should go back to the days of head-to-toe coverage, or Islamic veils for women? No. All I’m saying is that Miss Universe was a reminder of a different time, and in some ways a better time.

The 1970s were not an age of innocence by any means. Nonetheless, it is hard to argue that the increasingly open sexuality of our culture is a positive development for anybody. Far from being “empowered,” women are trying more desperately than ever to extract money and security from men, using their bodies as the medium of exchange. The fact that they can now do this voluntarily is nice, but their real goal remains elusive.

Men share the blame for this state of affairs, of course. We give in too quickly to our adolescent impulses. We run from responsibility and commitment. This needs to change, too. Someday it will - but probably too late for the last generation or two. They don't know what they are missing.

Beauty, we are told, is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not sure that is true. Last night I watched a group of the supposedly most "beautiful" women in the world. Yet none of them were remotely comparable to the woman I've given my life to. I have my own Miss Universe, and I love her more every day. I can't imagine anything better.

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