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Home Is Where The Tart Is
I just posted another Advice Goddess column. A woman's "not as svelte as (she) used to be," but her husband doesn't mind. They have "date night" every Saturday night, after the kiddies are in bed, and he's bought her "many provocative outfits" she's never worn (miniskirts, leather pants, a tartan schoolgirl skirt, thigh-high stiletto boots, etc). She wants to make him see "flabby thighs in miniskirts and a tiny cropped top plus a tummy bulge are not sexy," but he just tells her she's hot. Here's my reply:

He’s thinking “Woo-hoo!” You’re thinking “Mooo, mooo!” Even if you are a bit of a heifer, is it really in your best interest to correct him?

Like a lot of married people, when you pledged “’til death do us part,” you probably didn’t give much thought to how, exactly, you’d make that happen. It starts out promisingly. On the first date, everybody dresses like they want somebody to want to have sex with them. And it often works. Then they land the person, and they dress like they want somebody to want them to fix their toilet. And it often works.

It doesn’t help that women waste weeks, months, or years of their lives staring into the mirror and bemoaning their ugly elbows or freakishly-enlarged pores. If your husband is even aware that you have pores, I’ll give you $5. While there are “leg men,” “butt men,” and “boob men,” most men don’t disassemble the women they care about into their individual figure flaws. Most men don’t want stick figures, either. In studies by psychologist Paul Rozin and others, men consistently preferred women with a bit of meat on them -- just not so much that they need to be hoisted out of bed by three orderlies with a Hoyer lift.

If you want your husband to be there through thick and thin (or thick and thicker, as the case may be), you’d better work on seeing yourself through his eyes. Chances are, when he’s begging you to put on that Catholic schoolgirl uniform, what’s on his mind isn’t how little time you’ve spent in Pilates. What should be on your mind is slipping into a sexy little French thing called “bien dans sa peau” -- being comfortable in your skin, much like all the hot black and Latina secretaries I used to see when I lived in downtown New York City. A lot of them were fat, but they wore bright, tight, sexy clothes, and strutted around like they were fat and proud.

Of course, with all the bulges and folds you purportedly have in your skin, getting truly comfortable in it might take some doing. Fake it until you make it. Pick some hussy from the movies and play her on date night…and beyond. No, you don’t have to dress like you’ll be the featured stripper at the PTA meeting, but would it kill you to throw on a low-cut top, a skirt, and cute shoes before the hubster comes home? The guy’s been patient with sexual vanilla for quite some time, probably because he loves you. He does have his faults. Like, maybe he’s blind. Maybe he’s dangerously nearsighted. And maybe you should count and recount your lucky stars. Whatever you’ve got, he happens to want. Can’t you run with that? I mean, as fast as you can go while being chased around the bed in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform and thigh-high stiletto boots.

The whole thing is here. Oh yeah, and best of all, as expected, I got an e-mail criticizing me for calling the black and Latina secretaries "black" and "Latina":

Dear Ms. Alkon,

Your column is one of the highlights of my weekend. That said, I was totally shocked to read this in your response to "Home is Where the Tart Is" (July12-18): "... -- or being comfortable in your skin, much like all the hot black and Latina secretaries I used to see when I lived in downtown New York City."

Come on, now. Why stoop to objectifying and then labeling a group of people by race? Are you not perpetuating a stereotype?

You might stop to consider all of the current scientific theories that are questioning the notion of race classifications like "black" in the first place. You might stop to think that some "Latina" women might prefer to be called American.

You might also consider that your writer who approached you with the problem of not feeling comfortable in her own skin might, in fact, identify herself as "non-white".

Even if you meant to be complementary, your identification of body confidence with a particular race or culture is still insulting in that it plays into classic stereotypes our society has used in an attempt to place limits on others' experiences.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts regarding this e-mail since I am a writer, and an adjunct professor of English. I hope you will consider my comments relevant and that you will accept my criticism in the spirit of inquiry.

My reply:

Why not identify them by race? They WERE black and Latina. I'm not racist, just observant. The notion that we have to be prissy about identifying people as black or Latina is not one I share.

If an individual wishes to be called a black American or a Spaghetti American or a Petunia American, I'll oblige them. As far as groups go, I identify them in a way that isn't PC, but...understandable without a lot of hemming and hawing. I'm white, but my family is Jewish, but I'm an atheist (post-Jewish). People sometimes refer to me as Jewish because it's my cultural ancestry. Not a really big deal.

I find that people who are very focused on renaming race at every turn are often very focused on being victimized as well rather than actually building things. Black and Latina women DO tend to be more comfortable with their bodies, and I have data somewhere around here about how black men are more accepting of fuller figured women. Because it isn't PC to say so doesn't mean I won't say it.

Thanks for writing, but I disagree with you. Best, -Amy

Posted by aalkon at July 20, 2006 7:33 AM

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Great one. There are probable variations on the theme every culture, but the "Do these pants make me look fat" weirdness seems to be a particular problem in white America. It's like these women are trying to give lip service to the importance of beauty, but they only grasp how it works on a sort of phonetic level.

Paglia, the only person in the world who can use the word bourgeois without making me wince, used to write a lot about how middle-class Americans never really dialed in that whole flesh-and-blood thing.

Also that second point is an important one. Twitchy liberals confuse race with racism, and often confuse feminism with femininity.

Posted by: Crid at July 20, 2006 8:21 AM

A professor of English, eh?

You'd think that s/he would know the difference between "complimentary" and "complementary"

Posted by: Brenda at July 20, 2006 9:32 AM

"If an individual wishes to be called a black American or a Spaghetti American or a Petunia American, I'll oblige them."

I'd like to be called a Macho American.

Posted by: Ken Shultz at July 20, 2006 5:46 PM

This remember me a TV show about a venetarian clinic. One of the character refused to use the word "Dog" to talk about his pet. He used the term "Canine Unit". He felt the term were less insulting to the dog.

Are we so thin skinned or the specter of multi-million dollar lawsuits prevent us to call a dog a dog?

Posted by: Toubrouk at July 21, 2006 7:05 AM

Are you on crack?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 21, 2006 7:28 AM

Nope, I talking about a popular, French-Canadian tv-show called "Quatre et Demi", who lasted on the air for eight years. In no way such a scene never happened in real life. The fictional caracter really insisted to have his dog called a "Canine unit".

I do realise that my last comment felt off the mark amd make me look like a loon. My intent was to show how far the "Walking on eggshells" policy around ethnicity look ridiculous. Looks like we can't use the term "Black" or "Latina" to definite anybody right now unless you are in gangsta rap. Up to that point, hypersensibility just get into the way of rational discution and should be discarded.

Posted by: Toubrouk at July 21, 2006 9:20 AM

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