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Waist Removal

Your response to "Over The Pump" was incredibly sexist. Apparently, he gets turned on by high-heeled shoes, and he wanted his girlfriend to wear them from time to time. He also wanted her to dress sexier sometimes. He described her as preferring to dress "casually" in comfortable clothing. You suggested that she should do as he wished. Women do not have to wear slinky clothes and high heels to look sexy. Saying so is a double standard. Men are viewed as attractive in Birkenstocks and overalls; why shouldn't women in the same attire be seen the same way? Beauty comes from within. Your response has totally discredited your advice-giving ability.

--A Former Reader

Last week, when I came home and couldn't find my dog, I ran up and down my street screaming, "Lucy...Snausages!" not "Lucy...arugula and frisee salad mix, tossed with edible flowers."

Just call me a slave to effectiveness in dog-catching. The dog-catching principle applies when women are looking for men (or looking to hang onto men they already have). That's why I yelled at "women who dive into farmer overalls and sweatsuits so baggy they make The Big Top seem like a tube top -- anything they can do to help their man forget they ever had a waist." Now, maybe men SHOULD get hot for women who dress like goat-herds. Yes, maybe men should...but they don't. (Regarding the alleged mass appeal of MEN who dress like goat-herds; perhaps you look at a man in Birkenstocks and overalls as attractive. I look at him in my rear-view mirror.)

There IS a double standard for what men and women should wear (a good thing, considering how few men can carry off a little black dress and strappy heels). Contrary to what certain "feminists" would have you believe, this double standard isn't something that's hammered out by a huddled cabal of fashion rag editors, subsisting solely on cigarettes and the micro-calories in Evian while plotting against womankind. No, this goes back much, much further than some back, back office at Harper's Bazaar or Vogue. Like, to the Pleistocene.

It isn't just the idiot Advice Goddess who says so. According to anthropologist Donald Symons, in "Evolution of Human Sexuality," evidence suggests that women and men have "pursued substantially different reproductive 'strategies' for millions of years." An army of anthropologists, psychologists, and chimp-chasers concur. Women evolved to seek men of status and power -- all the better to provide for their furry little children. Women seem wired to care about men's looks to some degree (tipoffs to genetic fitness like tallness and facial and bodily symmetry), but whether a guy's a hottie doesn't seem to be of primo importance. In one of the more hilarious studies (J.M. Townsend and G.D. Levy, "Journal Of Psychology," 1990), women shown photographs of various men said they'd choose an ugly man wearing a Rolex over a handsome man in a Burger King uniform -- no matter whether they were pairing up for the long haul or the short roll.

Men, on the other hand, are wired to want young, beautiful women -- and have been for millions of years, so don't go blaming Hugh Hefner. What's beautiful? What's healthy, that's what. Men evolved to prefer stuff like clear skin, shiny hair, good muscle tone, and symmetrical features; signs that a woman was a strong, healthy candidate to give birth to an entire prehistoric soccer team...or at least a healthy goalie or two. This, in turn, meant that the man's genes would have a good chance of doing the backstroke in the gene pools of future generations.

One of the most biologically reliable signals of a woman's fertility is what University of Texas psych prof Devendra Singh calls a "low waist-to-hip ratio" --"universitese" for "an hourglass figure."In 1993, Singh published his famous study in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," detailing how men, across cultures, are drawn to this shape. The ideal WHR of 0.7, which Singh gets from dividing a woman's waist size by her hip size, is shared (to the few tenths of a point) by Marilyn Monroe and Kate Moss, Barbie dolls and ancient fertility icons, Playboy centerfolds and Miss America winners.

If you're a larger lady, don't despair. Singh found that shape matters more than size. If your waistline is more bell jar than hourglass, dress to give yourself the illusion of a waist. The point, in all this, isn't to attract a guy who's looking to marry Barbie -- which brings us to your retirement from my readership due to your adamance that beauty comes from within. Yes, it does -- and by using your waistline to draw a man to you, you'll increase the chances that he'll come to love you for...the arugula and frisee salad mix within.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.