Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Warm Fuzzies #5: Votes for Cookies

My last Warm Fuzzy was a compliment on my baking capabilities and, somewhat unsurprisingly, this one is too.

To get into the holiday spirit—and because I felt like experimenting with cuisine that other people would be willing to eat and enjoy—I decided to bake this weekend. After some searching, I came across a curious recipe for Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip Cookies. This sounded intriguing and quite delicious, so I decided to try it. (Needless to say, I did not invest in good quality white chocolate, despite the author’s insistence.)

Below is a message received from one coworker, who, as part of our lunchtime running group, received first dibs on the cookies when I sent out a message letting everyone know I had brought in treats for everyone. I don’t know what he was voting for, but if the next president of the United States has a bake-off as part of the competition, watch out Martha Stewart!*

Crunchy, tasty, airy, delicious- you have my vote. All I needed was one for the perfect after lunch desert.
Thank you.

*Ironically enough, I just discussed Martha Stewart with my two Chinese roommates and their Chinese friend. They seemed to be in awe of her, as if she were the white Oprah or something. I tactfully reminded them that Martha Stewart has been to jail, but this did not phase them. As far as they were concerned, she may as well have been Hillary Clinton. Amazing, how American Consumerism and its media-generated popularity can span the globe.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The age difference

There are a lot of differences between my life in New York City and my life in Pittsburgh. For instance, in my New York City life, I walk a lot more than in Pittsburgh, where I am forced to drive from location to location. In my New York City life, “dressing down” constitutes wearing jeans as opposed to black dress pants, whereas in Pittsburgh, the sloppy-looking T-shirt and sweatpants that I now wear to bed are my usual garb. In my New York City life, I am regarded as a single girl in her twenties who works in Hoboken, NJ and lives in Queens. In Pittsburgh, I am seen as a Woodland Hills graduate who majored in English and “some science thing” and who has “made it” to The Big Apple.

The most significant difference between my two lives, however, is the people. In New York City, all of my friends are professionals in some capacity; in Pittsburgh, the majority of my friends are still in school or are working “filler” post-graduation jobs. Moreover, while my New York City neighbors and coworkers come from all over the country and the world, very few of the people I know in Pittsburgh have ever left, nor do they ever intend to leave. People in New York City are ready to jump on the next “best opportunity,” to move, to start again. People in Pittsburgh are getting prepared to settle, to establish themselves, and to create stable lives.

Finally, there is the age difference. Every one of my New York City friends and coworkers—with the exception of one girl, who works at the desk beside me—is at the very least five years older than me. My Wiley running buddy is in his 40s, with a 3-year-old daughter, and I play volleyball with men in their 70s. Alternatively, I do not have a single Pittsburgh friend who is more than one year my senior. I never considered the implications of this age gap until I went home to Pittsburgh for Christmas and spent time with my peers en masse.

Over the last seven months, I would say I have grown accustomed to what are considered “social outings” here in New York City. Going to a bar is a social event, whether it is a late-night pub crawl or a happy hour after work. Seeing a play or a musical constitutes an outing, as does going to the ballet or the symphony. And, of course, going out to eat is probably the most common get-together of all: there are breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners, coffees, tastings, and “just going out for ice cream.”

Obviously, in Pittsburgh, these things would all be considered social outings, as well. Therefore, the New Yorker idea of an “outing” is not special by any means. However, I had a sudden revelation while attending a fellow’ high school alumni’s Hanukah party one evening. There I was, sitting out on her back porch in the cool December air at 11pm, drinking Pepsi out of a plastic bottle as everyone around me drank their glass-bottled beer. We were all lounging in rusted lawn chairs under one dim lamp nailed to the wall, and everyone was huddled around the gritty circular ashtrays on the tiny table in center of the porch, smoking and tapping off their ashes. It was at this point, as I gazed around and noticed that I was the only one wearing something other than a hoodie and sneakers, that I began to have the vague notion that, were I back in New York City, I would never ever be doing anything remotely like this. My realization didn’t make the activity good or bad, it was just surprising. Even if there were a porch available, everyone in New York would have been more dressed up, like me, and the place would have been more decorated, and there would have been other alcohol on hand besides just beer. What I realized even more, though was that the situation wouldn’t have been different just because I was in New York City; it would have been different because the crowd I hang out with now is 30 instead of 23. By default, 30 is a classier crowd. Everyone tries to look nicer and can afford to look nicer and is simply intent on acting more “adult-like.” I have gradually begun to assimilate into this 30-year-old crowd, and it was shocking to realize that my 23-year-old peers, who are all still hanging out with one another, are so different.

At 1 a.m., everyone decided to leave and play Frisbee. That was when I knew I had become different. This felt weird to me. Frisbee? At night? It was just not something that occurred as a fun activity we should go and do. (Thirty-year-olds don’t play Frisbee unless they have a dog, a child, or a team to play with—as far as I am know—and they certainly don’t play it at 1 o’clock in the morning.)

As it turned out, playing Frisbee was fun, in spite of the fact that I had to run around the parking lot in black flats that flapped on and off my feet while the rest of the boys ran in laced-up tennis shoes; still, I did the best I could, and no one seemed to mind. Afterward, we went to a local hole-in-the-wall bar where the boys paid for my drink, and the fact that I was impressed made me realize how little I think of boys my own age.

No matter his age, I am always appreciative when a man has the courtesy to pay for my drink, meal, or ticket. As a rule, though, I am almost always more surprised and impressed when someone my own age makes this gesture than when someone older does it. Perhaps I think that older gentlemen have been raised differently or assume that they will have more money and therefore will be more generous with it. Whatever the reason, I felt very aware that I was probably making more money than most of these guys, and although the majority of them were still accepting money from their parents (either in the form of tuition or room/board), I still felt impressed that they were willing to pay for my drink.

It is strange to think, however, that my Pittsburgh friends are “catching up” to my New York friends. One or two have children, now, and a few are engaged to be married. Fortunately for me, I have a good many New York friends who are single and in their 30s. Granted, several of them have been divorced and/or have children, but at least the road is not paved solely with marriage and children. And maybe there’s even room for some late night Frisbee-playing, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: Twilight Series

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Although they are independent books, the Twilight books are best reviewed as a package deal. Granted, no one would review the Harry Potter books as one complete entity, but that series is both longer and more diverse in each of its “novelesque episodes.” The Twilight books play out one singular storyline: that of Bella and Edward and the fate of their—literally—undying love.

To give a sense of the books in general, let me say this: if I were still twelve years old and desperately seeking a “someday, a boy will swoop into my life and rescue me with his undying love” kind of novel, these books—particularly the first three—would undoubtedly earn five-star ratings. Plus, I have to give Meyers credit: the novels include every form of fantastical escapism—in the way of the vampires’ and the wolves’ beauty, power, and sexuality—that any preadolescent reader with an active, “yearning” imagination would desire. (I can attest to this, because I was such a reader.) Essentially, these novels are exactly like the Christopher Pike and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes books I used to devour back in my prepubescent days. I was addicted to the sexuality, the violence, the grace, and the torment of the characters in Pike’s The Last Vampire series, and I was transfixed by the beauty and longing written into Atwater-Rhodes’ novel In the Forests of the Night, particularly because she wrote it when she was only fifteen. I was fifteen; I wanted to write a best-selling novel.

But back to Twilight. Looking at the series from this perspective, I can understand its appeal. Why this particular series has become so wildly successful, as opposed to Pike’s The Last Vampire Series or some other such thing is probably due to a dozen tiny factors. However, one of the larger ones is that a great portion of Meyers’ readership is composed of the mothers of the girls who became obsessed with these novels. The mothers then also picked up the Twilight epidemic because a) the novels are written by a Mormon mom who intentionally imbued the books with abstinence and anti-abortion messages (which might not even have been particularly obvious if Meyers’ Mormonism hadn’t been so touted by the press), and b) they mimic a genre of book that middle-aged women tend to adore: Harlequin Romances. Then, because these mothers not only approved of but also became obsessed with the novels, they were willing to indulge in and even encouraged their daughters’ infatuation. Thus, the books jumped inside two audiences’ pocketbooks, and linked audiences at that. What better way to get a mother to buy a book’s T-shirt, pencil case, poster, and magnets for her daughter than if she wants these things for herself, too?

As it is, I have sucked down all 800-odd pages of them (each!) within 48 hours of opening the covers. I’ll admit, I do like the feeling of being in junior high school again, racing through the story, and feeling that fast-paced thrill of anguished love. Meanwhile, however, I must acknowledge what I once put up with what I did not notice as a junior high school reader: predictable plot turns, stock characters, and piles of angst-ridden melodrama. These considerably insurmountable hurdles are at the heart of my complaint about the Twilight Series.

I zoomed through the first book, Twilight, in spite of the fact that I never was convinced that Bella would fall in love with Edward (or him with her, even if he was supernatural) so quickly and so completely. I zoomed through the second book also, because I wanted to know what would happen. Was this really going to be a happily-ever-after story, or would the vampiric “darkness” prevail? Then I got to the third book. By that time, I had already read over 1600 pages of “I’m-so-self-sacrificing” Bella and “I’m-so-overprotective-because-I-love-her” Edward. I needed a change. Unfortunately for me (and every other reader reading these books in direct sequence), there was no change. Sure, Meyers tried to introduce a second love interest, in the form of Jacob, but it never really stuck. Bella never really doubted herself, and therefore I, as the reader, never really doubted the outcome: I knew she would end up with Edward. Consequently, I didn’t end up rooting for the happy ending, I ended up rooting for Jacob! (Not quite what Meyers had in mind, I’m sure.) Still, I could barely even root for Jacob, because even he was unbearably predictable, in his violent mood swings and “I’m-coming-back-for-more-because-I-love-you” masochism.

The books’ plots were equally banal. I knew what would happen before Bella, Edward, or any of the characters did, whether Meyers wanted me to or not. It felt like back when I used to read Nancy Drew novels and tried to figure out the mystery before she did. Now, though, I wasn’t even trying; the plots just unfolded themselves with appalling predictability in spite of my attempts to remain ignorant. With this loss of suspense, my desire to continue reading waned. By the end of the third novel, I was so disillusioned by the quality of the writing, I had to take a break. Certainly, I still wanted to find out “what would happen,” because the whole saga was plot-driven, and the ultimate questions hadn’t been answered yet, but I simply could not bear the thought of reading any more “woe is me, I love Edward so much, how can I cause him pain, I am such a bad person, wah wah wah” from Bella. The angst seemed to have grown from sentences in Twilight, to paragraphs in New Moon, to pages in Eclipse. At this rate, I was terrified I’d find chapters of the stuff in Breaking Dawn, and if my patience were stretched that thin, I’d probably go away hating all teen fiction ever written.

After my two-book “break” (I read novels by Saramago and Perez-Reverte to cleanse my mind), I read Breaking Dawn with considerably less irritation than I might have, had I gone straight into it after reading Eclipse. Looking at the series as a whole, I think that the first and fourth books (Twilight and Breaking Dawn, respectively) were the most unique and, therefore, the most interesting. New Moon and Eclipse could probably have been condensed and combined into one novel, without much—if any—story being lost. Still though, my other criticisms stand: the plot was predictable, and the characters were stereotypical, even in the ways Meyers tried to make them dynamic. It irritated me in the last book how all of the characters could be so oblivious and slow in their realizations and problem-solving skills. It’s one thing to realize something before a character does, but it’s another thing to feel as though characters who are supposed to be very intelligent and cunning are stupider than the average reader.

So there is no real final word on these books. They’re easy reads, and very addictive in that pop-mystery/romance-novel way, particularly for the teen/pre-teen female population (and their mothers). The writing is not very “literary,” nor is it meant to be, but this should be considered when incorporating oneself into an audience of readers whose average age range and literary expectations may be lower than your own.*

From reading a spot-on, side-splitting review by Jayne Bielak, I discovered that the Twilight books were written on an approximately fourth-grade reading level. This leads me to believe that perhaps the books were targeted at the reading level of the average American. If so, be content with considering yourself above average. Leave me to do the English-major-y griping and groaning.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coronation: Runnership

Today is the day I am true runner.

I remember the day I decided I was a true swimmer. It was a cold day in the middle of winter, one where my hair would probably freeze against my neck after I left the pool. I had practiced with the Woodland Hills Aquatic Team (aka WHAT) all summer, swimming the first long-course practices of my life and finding, to my surprise, that I actually preferred the long, uninterrupted 50-meter laps to the shorter, more customary 25-yard ones. Initially, that humongous pool had intimidated me; in my mind, only real swimmers swam in long-course pools. Still, I survived the summer and actually found myself reluctant to return to the indoor 25-yard pool when fall returned.

On this particular winter day, I went through the usual routine with WHAT: abs for half an hour, and then two-and-a-half-hours of swimming. What ended up being particularly unusual was the distance we swam: 6,500 yards. Climbing out of the pool at the end of that practice, my sense of accomplishment was unparalleled. I had completed a “real” swimmer’s practice, alongside other swimmers who had been training this way since they were eight years old. I had been at the exhausting 5,000-yard IM practice yesterday, and I would return for the 5,500 yard sprint practice tomorrow. I finally identified myself as a true swimmer.

By that same measure, it could be assumed that I would deem myself a “real” runner on the day I finished the Philadelphia half-marathon. After all, if swimming 6,500 yards makes someone a “real swimmer,” wouldn’t running 13.5 miles make someone a real runner? However, I was sure that any reasonably fit athlete would be capable of running 13.5 miles, even they paid dearly for it afterward. (One woman who came on the trip did exactly that and only finished about fifteen minutes behind me.) Plus, I didn’t feel any self-identity with the sport. If someone had asked me, I never would have termed myself a “runner.”

Today, I woke up at 8:30 a.m. Snow—leftover from the storm two days ago—still blanketed the roofs outside my window. The shiny globules and matching tap-tap-tap against my windowpanes, however, did fit with that wintry image. Rain? Tap tap tap. It was raining on top of all that snow. Fabulous. I hadn’t gone running for two days, and already yesterday I was getting antsy. (Picture me, in the Times Square Virgin Records store, doing everything in my power to keep from breaking out and dancing along with the tunes the DJ was blasting from the speakers. And yes, there is a DJ in the Virgin Records store.)

My entire plan had consisted of waking up early, putting on my running gear, and going out for an extra-long run in order to satisfy my cranky dormant muscles. However, this rain was the consistent kind that gets you thoroughly soaked, starting with your feet the minute you step out onto the snowy slushy sidewalk. I hesitated at the door, but only for a second. I was going to run, darn it. I removed my sneakers and ran back up to my room to retrieve my raincoat. I might sweat a little, but it would be better than being soaked to the bone and ill within the first five minutes.

Keys tied into my shoelaces, mp3 clipped into my ears, watch set, and I was off, dodging puddles. Yes, it was unpleasant, but shockingly I wasn’t miserable. I was just happy to be out and moving. My muscles felt ready to go, and were bit annoyed at the fact that I kept them restrained, purely so I didn’t slip on all the ice and slush and break my neck. It was slow-going, and there was wind and icy rain in my face the whole way, but I felt purely happy to be moving. No one in their right mind would even want to be outside right now, and you’re running through slush puddles in a hat and a raincoat, I thought to myself. And that was when I knew: I am a runner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Time

If I only had the time, I would learn to play the oboe. I would pick up the piano again. I would join a flute choir.

If I only had the time, I would get in shape. I would start running twice a day, once before work and once a lunchtime. I would build up to sixty miles a week. I would strength train after work three times a week and swim at the public pool on days when my muscles needed to recover. I would train for a marathon.

If I only had the time, I would learn to cook. I would make good, healthy, delicious food all the time and take my time eating it so that I savored the flavors and planned to next time add a little more salt or a little less onion. I would experiment in the kitchen, create new recipes, bake cookies for work every other week, send homemade candy to friends on their birthdays. I would take the time to learn what those mysterious vegetables sold in my neighborhood are and how to cook them. I would expand my palate.

If I only had the time, I would write that novel I’ve been putting off. I’d sit down, flesh out the characters, spit out the three hundred pages necessary to start the process, and get down to the task of refinement. I would discard the ideas that didn’t work and try to find new ones to take their places. I would write every single day, when I got up or before going to bed. I would back up all of my files, print copies before work, proofread them on the train, on the bus, striking out line after line with a red pen. I’d look for an agent, and keep at it until I found one. I would make progress on a dream that has faded into a wish.

But now I am at a place in life where I do have the time. And suddenly I realize that the problem was never a lack of time, but a lack of will. It was a lack of priorities. Because I could have done any of these things, and I can still do any of these things if I set my mind to them and schedule my life around them. But I haven’t. And, without a “higher order” (the parent, the professor, the coach) ordering me to do so, I won’t.

Funny how we blame “time” when we really only have ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: The Queen of the South

The Queen of the South The Queen of the South by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a book for history-lovers. Anyone who wants the who/how/where/when/why will love the detail and precision with which every event in this book is told. Unless you truly grew up in the culture about which it is written, and know about drug runs and border crossings and vacuum-packing marijuana in bricks to stow away in speedboats, I would wager than Perez-Reverte could convince any reader that he has done his homework. And if you did grow up in that culture, perhaps that would merely strengthen this book’s case, because perhaps you would merely provide validation.

The problem is that writing a good novel isn’t just about convincing a reader that you’ve done your homework. It isn’t just including every minute detail to show that you know exactly how an operation is performed. The Queen of the South doesn’t “show off,” exactly, like some books do, but it does include more detail than I, a “what’s next!? what’s next!?” kind of reader, deem necessary

For me, all of the details get in the way. Sure, they made the book “authentic,” made the characters seem extremely knowledgeable, and helped Teresa grow as her knowledge grew, but as a reader who wanted to remain gripped in suspense, those long passages of who-did-what-where-how took me out of the “rush” of the novel. I often felt as though I were reading a history textbook, when I wanted to be watching an action movie inside my head.

The Queen of the South has definite appeal for a certain kind of reader: a patient, painstaking, detail-oriented reader who isn’t looking to necessarily be “swept away” and doesn’t mind interruptions in the flow of the story. This ability to tolerate interruptions is important because, aside from the frequently interruptive overly-detailed explanations, Perez-Reverte uses a very interruptive structure to tell his story: a seemingly dual point of view, coming firstly from an omniscient third-person narrator following Teresa Mendoza chronologically and secondly from an anonymous first-person journalist situated in “current time.” The novel would have flowed much more seamlessly without the “present-day” interruptions of the journalist, who seemed as unnecessary as he was intrusive.

All of this being said, Teresa’s story was a gripping one, and one worth being told. Perez-Reverte has a talent for creating mood in a scene while using very little in the way of “literary flourish,” and also for maintaining consistently believable, dynamic characters. Teresa’s various relationships with men and with her cellmate Patty all strike genuine and complex, even as Teresa herself reflects on them little and tries to block them from her mind.

It will be interesting to see what other work Perez-Reverte will produce after this novel.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A particularly female competition

Women are definitely more competitive than men. Men might have their sports and their video games and their egos to uphold, but when it comes down to plain, balls-out, who’s-better-than-whom, women are simply out to beat each other more often than they’re willing to get along. There is loads of evidence to prove this.

Take, for instance, the simple case of high heels. Any realistic, halfway-sane person will acknowledge that high heels are a torturous, vain, unnecessary invention created purely as a means of generating a false sense of hierarchy. Some women claim that men prefer women in high heels, that that is why they wear them. This may be true, and if it is, then shoes are one more way women use to compete for men. However, men certainly did not create high heels, whether they prefer them or not; they are simply not sadistic or impractical enough to think up such painful, unnecessary, restrictive clothing articles.

This raises the question,Why would we do this to ourselves?. To feed our competitive natures, of course. Heightening their sense of eliteness, heels cost more than flats, so if one woman is wearing high heels and another is wearing flats, the woman in heels automatically earns a higher implied socioeconomic status. What’s more, she is assumed to have more poise and grace, because in order to walk in such dangerous contraptions, she must have a greater degree of dexterity. (No one would ever presume this woman to have a greater degree of stupidity, intractability, or masochism because, after all, she is being fashionable. And one must sacrifice comfort, above all else, for fashion.)

But let us return to the premise that women wear heels simply for the purpose of attracting men. (This, in spite of the fact that: 1) most men rarely look at a woman’s footwear; 2) men hate being shorter than women—a circumstance obviously not ameliorated by heels; and 3) if a woman ever discusses her heels or displays any sort of pride or interest in them, it is 99.99% of the time in conversation with another woman—not a man.) Admittedly, just as men boast and posture to try and gain the attention of women, women do—or, for the sake of this argument, wear—a many different things in order to attract men. The general rule of thumb is that the better we look, the more—and hopefully better—men we can attract. Hence, we are again in competition with one another, not only be look better than one another for the mere sake of being one-up, but in the end (at least under this premise), we need to look better for the sake of getting the better man. This explains miniskirts, makeup, curlers/straighteners/perms/hair-dye, control-top pantyhose, pushup bras, and any number of other contraptions we use to contort our bodies.

And so, I return to my original claim. What man do you know who would spend over an hour getting ready for a date? And not only would he spend that “getting ready” time making himself clean and fresh-looking, he would try to make himself appear overall physically smaller by suppressing any extraneous flesh (e.g. the pantyhose, amongst other “suck-it-in” garments) while trying to render certain portions of himself larger (e.g. the deluxe bras, complete with extra padding in all the right places), encase his flesh in a layer of paint (or several, if you consider that you have to layer powder over foundation over concealer, not to mention blush, eye shadow, and any primers you put on so your mascara and lipstick will stay “all night long”), and perform more elaborate procedures to his hair than they do in some laboratories (first blow-dry, but make sure to apply a heat-protection product first; then straighten with one dime-sized drop of straightening serum, more for longer hair; then curl layers appropriately, spraying each with extra-volume hairspray, adding pomade and styling gel as needed). Women are clearly this competitive. They are committed. And in my opinion, they are often completely out of their minds. But of course, who am I to judge? I have bowed out of this particularly competition for almost twenty-three years now, and the result is that I am either clearly at the back of the pack or have thankfully retained my sanity. Both are possible, but I suppose neither are, as well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: Blindness

Blindness Blindness by José Saramago

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a very beautifully written book. I can imagine it as one that will be taught in modern literature classes in universities of the future, once enough time has passed for this to become a “classic.” The plainness of the language exposes the subtleties of the story, which are steeped in allegory—everything in this book seems as though it is standing for something else, from characters such as the doctor’s wife, to the mental asylum where the blind patients are interned, to the very blindness itself.

The story passes as a still-life painting, one scenic episode at a time that is both beautifully and horrifically drawn, but with the full calculated intent to evoke a particular emotion. The plot and the way in which it expands reminds me of something akin I am Legend or 28 Days Later, where society falls to ruins due to an epidemic, only this story is told from the inside out, showing the minds and emotions of the “sick” and “crazy” people. It is meant to show the instinctive downfalls of man, as he tries to obtain and keep power, how he acts civilized even as he acts “savage” and savage even as he acts “civilized.”

Blindness is a very thought-provoking book and certainly belongs on the shelves of Literature-with-a-capital-L. However, without having others with whom to discuss the book or a professor to guide me through it, my preferences tend toward the less allegorical and more straightforward novels. The sudden ending was inevitable and appropriate enough, but I couldn’t help being disappointed that the whole novel added up to exactly what it was promised from the moment the first character went blind.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

What Makes a Man Attractive: Some Superficial Features

I’m not sure if it’s my age (and therefore hormones), or the fact that I’m living in a city stuffed with over 8 million people, roughly half of whom are men, or the fact that I have been around the world and back and still have not found an even temporarily suitable partner, but as of late, I have given a considerable amount of thought to what makes a man initially appealing. (Appealing to me, of course. I would not expect these parameters to extend even to my closest female friends. After all, this is why so many varieties of humans exist!)

  • A good, sharp business suit. There is something inherently charismatic about a man who has his shoulders squared, back straight, striding down the sidewalk of New York City in a clean, dark, wrinkle-free, well-fitted business suit. Perhaps it is the sense of power it implies, or the insinuation of success, and intelligence, and—I’ll admit it—wealth. However, an outfit like this also requires a good deal of effort on the part of a man (compared to what men usually have to put into their appearances, that is), so maybe the professional look appeals to me merely as a reflection of a man’s pride in his appearance. Regardless, what it looks like to me is a display of self-confidence, attention to detail, and success, and that is attractive.
  • A smooth, clean-shaven face. I suppose this characteristic goes right along with the freshly pressed business suit. Of course, the clean-shaven look is even better when paired with a strong, distinguished jawline. I think what it does is increase the impulse to reach up and touch that afce, just like in those razor, and shaving cream, and—oddly enough—gum commercials. You never see a woman caressing a man’s face when he has a beard, do you? Or even a mustache? Again, the appeal could be due to the amount time and care this shows the man took to make himself presentable, but I think the touch-ability factor is the key. Why else must women always shave their legs?
  • Athletic prowess. A man who proves himself to be skilled at a physical sport is instantly more attractive. I have proven this to myself time and time again, in every sport from swimming to basketball to volleyball to basic running—the guys I meet on these teams, in these groups, who can play these sports well have my attention. It doesn’t matter what his initial level of attractiveness is; once he demonstrates any significant amount of physical finesse and strength, a man’s attractiveness appeal immediately raises two notches. I have found myself taking second looks at guys playing on the court or swimming beside me who I would never even glace once at on the subway. The resulting visions themselves are never satisfying—the guy still looks the same—but there is this slight sense of awe that becomes magnetic about a physically fit guy who can play a sport well. This of course, would help to explain the “jocks always get the girls” stereotype.

    Of course, the more consideration I give to external features like these, the shallower I feel. However, I think it’s important for a person to know themselves, and I can’t my self-analytical tendencies. If I’m attracted to someone, I want to know why. Likewise, if I’m not attracted to them, I want to know why. They say curiosity killed the cat, but until things start to look dangerous, I’m going to continue my quest. There’s nowhere better to do so than the action-packed wildly diverse streets of New York City!