Friday, November 14, 2008

What makes an ideal woman? Six writers wax lyrical on their picture of perfection

Until i feel more inspired , more wisdom from wiser (?) men and a woman
Once upon a time, a man on the hunt for a wife would set great store by a woman who could cook. But things have changed. And to be honest, I'll settle for a woman who can eat. A woman who doesn't poke her food around the plate and hide things under her knife and claim to have a thousand intolerances and allergies. A woman who isn't "off carbs", "not drinking this year", "toying with the macrobiotic thing" or made to "feel funny" by red wine. I don't want to sound narrow-minded. If I truly love her, then I guess we could always work the food thing through. As long as she isn't always "tired". Men are either awake or asleep, but women are always "exhausted". What the hell is that? If you're tired, woman, go to bed.
Also, I want a woman who is prepared to admit that what she wants from a man is a big c*** and a lot of money. I am fed up with women always claiming that what they find most sexy is a sense of humour. Because it isn't true. I know this because I am hilarious. Way more funny than most of the slack-arsed, car-obsessed, office wonk baldies you'll meet in a wine bar on a Friday night, and yet I practically never get laid. If it were true that women are turned on by a man who makes them laugh, Woody Allen wouldn't have had to marry his own daughter.
As for a woman with a sense of humour, that's fine, as long as it simply means that she will laugh at my jokes. Most women only laugh at their own jokes. Shut up. If you say something funny, I'll let you know. And don't give me "career". Only women have "careers". Men have jobs, to get money, and if we could stop and have babies while someone else earned the loot, believe me, we would. We don't need a "career" to feel validated. We don't want to feel validated. We just want to feel boobs. As many as possible. And then, at the last minute, quickly have babies and then die.
"Long-legged, expensive, bossy, messy wife required. GSOH not essential in the mornings, but must be able to climb trees and beat me at tennis sometimes."
I'm not sure if that's exactly what I would have written before I met her, but that's what I got and she's perfect for me. The moment I stop believing my wife is my ideal woman, I guess it's over. No man can ever be sure whether he's got a Linda or a Heather on his arm as the confetti falls, but I'm certain that nobody ever walks down the aisle with any sense of compromise. The whole absurdly wonderful, almost impossibly romantic thing about all marriages is that what you are saying to each other is: "You and me, we're perfect."
I suppose all men must conjure notions of their ideal partner. Mmmm, let's see, I'll take a big slice of Zeta-Jones with some Germaine Greer on top and the Abi Titmuss sauce — but these Frankenstein birds would never fly. Choosing a mate is not like buying a car or a house. Until she comes along, we have no idea what we really like: my imagination couldn't hold a candle to the real thing. The best part of falling in love with Claire was discovering all the things I didn't know I wanted or needed.
Of course, it's not been all roses. There are whacking great thorns, but they're a vital part of it, too. I think you've got to be able to surprise each other sometimes, without meaning to. Our daughter was born last week. Claire was pulling faces I'd never seen before and crushing my hand in hers. "Does anyone ever manage to do this without the swearwords?" I asked the midwife. Oh, yes, she said gently, through the torrent of obscenities. It struck me then that Claire, in her mind probably far from her best or most elegant, was incapable of not looking good, and even her swearing had a kind of grace to it.
I'd never seen Claire, or anyone, look so beautiful. Then I saw my daughter, and that's a whole other story.
The most attractive attribute in a woman, the most melting, the most utterly winning, is gratitude. And the older you get, the more attractive it becomes. The nice thing for men who have been short-changed by Adonis, or fallen out of the ugly tree, is that gratitude is the one honest, decent and admirable emotion money can buy. And surprisingly, quite a small amount of money. You will find it in nature: I recently watched a David Attenborough programme about the bower bird. The male of the species spends all his time preparing the nest in an effort to attract a mate. Day after day, he will bring bauble after bauble — a tireless display of devotion to his future bird. But I saw it slightly differently. It's not a virtuoso act of love. It's more what women will do for a couple of bottle tops and an old Oyster card.
But, actually, this is the wrong question altogether. When Casanova was very, very old, and was asked how he had been the most successful seducer of women in the history of sex, he said it was because he loved women, and that there was, in every woman, something that was divinely beautiful, and his gift was that he alone had been able to see it in everyone, when so many other men couldn't. I knew a man like that once, a white-van man I used to drink with in a pub. He was one of the most unattractive men: sweat-stained wife-beater, paunch, hairy back, a face that looked like it had been made out of melted tyres. He had a foul mouth and fouler breath, was utterly bereft of charm, but all anyone could talk about was how much and how often he got laid. I thought he was patently lying, but he insisted it was absolutely true. So I asked him why he got lucky so much. He said: "I drive round delivering things all day. I've got a mattress in the back." That doesn't make you any more attractive. "I drive slowly with the sliding door open. Every girl I pass, I say, 'Do you want a shag?' And every so often, one in a hundred says yes. It doesn't take very long to ask a hundred. But that's not the big deal. The big deal is when they say yes, you've got to." Now that's gratitude.
I'll be honest, in five years of marriage, I quickly learnt to be too afraid to imagine the perfect woman. If I had even so much as looked off into the middle distance and begun to picture a half-Swedish, half-Japanese, permanently 25-year-old, 5ft 8in bisexual gymnast with a medium cup, a penchant for tastefully slutty cocktail dresses and an erotically feisty side that meant arguments about the Iraq war always deteriorated into sex rather than slammed doors, my wife would have known. Now that I have been asked, in a professional capacity, to reveal my views on female perfection, she says I have immunity. That is obviously a lie. A man trap. She will read this and I won't be allowed to go to Tokyo or Stockholm or bisexual-gymnast meets ever again. So, obviously, my perfect woman is my wife.
But there are ways to improve on perfection. First, the perfect woman would show far greater tolerance of her perfect man's habits. She would allow, for example, just off the top of my head, not that I have a list or anything, the following: sugar in tea; a healthy scepticism of yoga and/or arnica; at least one curry a week; nonorganic deodorant (ie stuff that works); and free rein in Blockbuster at least twice a year (free rein to include films with explosions in them).
Second, she'd intuitively understand and accept that she was the less accomplished driver. And map reader. And satnav operator.
Third, she would not make any conversation during Sky Cops, Street Wars, Road Wars, Cops on Camera, Cops with Cameras or, latterly, Caribbean Cops.
Fourth and finally, for we don't want to be unreasonable about these things, she would hate having all the duvet. She would not sleep in a starfish shape. And she would always get the tea in the morning. With sugar in, but I think we have already covered that.
Questing for the perfect woman is folly. A check list gets a man nowhere. Like buying property, you'll never find all you desire: "I really like her: high ceilings, great amenities, but does she have a south-facing garden?" In my own case, foolishly harbouring a romantic ideal has left me marooned, like a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Travis Bickle, but with more shoes, fewer guns, and the same chin-up routine.
But since you're interested, here it is. Proficient deployment of glamorous high heels is essential — I call it altitude slickness. She'll also require the knack of delivering the brushoff to unwanted, intrusive men. Some women have instinctive pest-control abilities, some don't. My ideal girl also smells lovely and is excellent with profanities, emitting surprising and haphazard outbursts. Her cooking ability is immaterial, but she delights in her food. I'm needy-phobic, so her independence is crucial, as she runs a vigorous schedule of her own activities. We meet without unsavoury embroilment and enjoy jealousy-free satellite manoeuvring, once loyalty is pledged. It's black and white for me, so no green eye from her. She'll offer to pay her way; who actually pays is irrelevant, but willingness is critical. Her love of music reveals passion for life, while her dance moves will confirm this.
I'd consider a liaison with 70%, ono, of the above criteria satisfied. I guess you could also chuck in the poise of Rachael WW in Blade Runner, the chic of Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair and the impact of the girl on the Rio album cover by Duran Duran. What's wrong with high aspiration? I'll be saying that in the queue for my pension, pondering whether the striking open-plan reception with balcony and sought-after views was "the one".
Let's start with Béatrice Dalle from Betty Blue, but without the mental side. I fancied her when I was 16 — I thought she was gorgeous, exotic, and I liked the idea of having a French girlfriend. Then I once saw her interviewed and realised she was an absolute lunatic. I kind of like stability; I'm pretty all over the shop myself, so I like someone to balance it out. Now I've grown up, my ideal has got even more sensible, boring even, such as Jennifer Aniston.
I also have a thing about noses. My wife has a normal nose, but when she lined up pictures of all my exes, she pointed out that they all had prominent ones. I do like weird, strong noses. Not Jodie Marsh, obviously. Natascha McElhone has a wonderful nose, and I had a big crush on Laura Dern in Wild at Heart, but that went with Jurassic Park.
I am very disappointed that I have a crush on Sarah Palin — and I don't think I'm alone. I loathe everything about her politically, but there's something about her. It's not the librarian bun and glasses, it's just that I find women in power attractive, perhaps because they're bright. I can't stand women like Kate Moss. She is hideous, the exact example of a skank I would snog at Glastonbury and end up regretting. I think Agyness is gorgeous, but reminds me of the girls I fancied at 18.
Having a similar sense of humour is obviously a biggie, because if they don't, the whole thing goes downhill. Sarcasm, cynicism, maybe a goth past — although I do tend to like sloaney girls, which feeds into the nose thing. My ideal woman used to be Patti Smith on the cover of Horses. She's got that very cool, confident New York vibe, that no-bullshit stuff. All my life I've thought I've known what I was after, but I have never ended up with it — and what I have ended up with is a 5ft 2in Canadian blonde, who turns out to be ideal.
The ideal man? By Camilla Long
Under normal circumstances, my ideal man would be anyone who can make me laugh with his clothes on. That, or the entire Oxford Blues rugby team trapped under a net, ankles tied. Or . . . or . . . David Miliband. Either way, my ideal man changes every three minutes. I've got the romantic attention span of a trainee painter-decorator.
But then I was deployed to interview the most handsome man in the world (tough call that one). Bearded French male model Patrick Petitjean is a 6ft wonderwall of bristle, craggy Mount Rushmore cheekbones and (hopefully) some kind of torrid Gallic charisma. He has appeared endlessly as a handsome, hetero, aspirational male model in men's magazines, headed up an H&M campaign and has single-handedly brought the beard back to the mainstream.
But that wasn't all. "'E 'as the heart of an hartist," cooed his agent in Paris. "'E lives in the mountains in the south of France, where he makes and sells furniture." A hot, French, cave-dwelling furniture-maker? Jesus! As I steamed into Paris on Eurostar, my mind was already fast-forwarding. So I'd move to the south of France and live in a tree. He would be a model/carpenter/whatever and could be a lady novelist, and not at all unlike Brigitte Bardot. I quickly envisioned us, deux enfants down the line, happily unloading pains d'épices out of a (wooden) car at the Carrefour outside Lourdes. Never mind I couldn't speak French beyond Tricolore Stage 3 and he could only speak with his . . . hands. It'd be the greatest love story ever.
Let's just say I smelled the roll-ups round about Calais. The soul of an artist? The lungs of a nicotine-marinated haddock more like. And then there was the communication problem. Let's just say my questions — "Où est la plage?", "Le dernier train part à quelle heure?', etc — didn't inspire his "énergie". Then, finally, goodness me, was that a twinkle in his eye? We crossed like ships in the night. Just as I cooled off, he warmed up. Another one bit the dust. Le sigh.
So, there you are: my ideal man is a man who lasts the course, or at least more than three minutes. And not someone French. My mother wouldn't have tolerated it.

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