Saturday, September 24, 2011

Twelve: Preferences

Desire enters at the eye, but it passes through so many levels and pathways before it's ever confirmed. Everyone has preferences, though I'm catching hints out there in the world of gender politics that preferences are regarded now as suspect. Preferences are regarded as exclusionary and as just a bit tainted. No preference, I've seen it asserted is ever "innocent". That's an unsettling choice of words. The clear implication there is that any preference is guilty, that anyone having a "type" that he prefers (and it's always a "he" under attack here) is accepting all the evil things about the culture. To have a type, the gender moralisers tell us, is to accept stereotypes and devalue the subjectivity of...well, you can fill in the ranting speeches.

I suppose I have to ask myself whether I have a type. My preferences aren't hard to determine. I like my companions much younger. There's no question about that. Tall is better than short. Slender and sharp-angled is always preferred. I've always been attracted to that look, and I can recall being twelve or thirteen and always looking at photos of actresses and models and choosing in my head the ones who were tall and greyhound-lean. I'm old enough to remember Twiggy, and how shocking her cohort was--- Twiggy and Jane Birkin and the young Marisa Berenson. Models were never very curvy, let alone zaftig--- curves distort the lines of the clothes being displayed ---but long, lean, coltish lines ("boyish", magazines like Playboy sniffed, with just a hint of panic) were still new when I was coming into puberty.   Still, that's a look I always preferred. I can remember taking silly multiple-choice quizzes in magazines that promised to tell you what your taste in female body types told you about your own personality and being informed that I couldn't be a "real man" since I didn't like "real women" with hourglass figures and D-cups. Well, my own tastes were formed by age twelve or so. I like to think that the culture changed to meet me rather the other way round.

If I were designing the perfect young companion, what would she look like? Tall, obviously. Long legs are a clear favourite. I'd prefer blonde to anything else. Yet preferences are just that, they aren't requirements. The tallest girl with whom I've been involved was just over six-one; the shortest was just five-one. The two I've loved most over the years were five-nine and five-eleven. Blonde would be the choice, everything else being equal, but again not a requirement. The two girls I did love most had raven-black and light chestnut hair. I grew up in an era where hair colour was endlessly variable, after all. Girls who were ash-blonde on Monday might be goth blue-black on Friday and add a few scarlet tips or streaks for Saturday night. I liked that. I liked the idea that looks could be changed and re-visioned; I liked the idea of colours that weren't "natural".

If I do have requirements--- stronger than preferences ---well, age might be one. Take that as a given. The others have to do with what's back of the eyes. Literate and literary, ironic, open to new ideas and a bit in love with crossing boundaries. A sense of play. A sense that one should live one's life as if inside a novel or a film. Those things I have to insist on.

And your own preferences, darlings? What do you prefer and require?

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