Marriage Before and After the Ceremony

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Marriage Before and After the Ceremony

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Part 1: Marriage Before and After the Ceremony

Sexual Attraction and Repulsion

Some people give up at the start. They say: "I'm not good looking. It really doesn't make much of a difference how I dress. The opposite sex just isn't interested in me."

This, of course, is a lot of nonsense, for there is no verifiable relationship between looks and sex appeal. Don't get confused by the fact that movie stars, mannequins, photo models or band singers are pretty. It means nothing. For a man, there is a certain prestige in being seen with a beautiful woman or in being
married to her. Let's not underrate the importance of that prestige element, but let's not confuse it with sex appeal either.

The Prettiness Syndrome

If we look in the marital life of exceptionally beautiful women or handsome men, we find a surprisingly high rate of trouble. They commit adultery far more frequently than plain people do. Adultery often leads to divorce. Divorce may lead to remarriage, but even a second, third, or fourth marriage does not cure the central problems- (1) the woman's refusal to spoil her figure by having children, and (2) the temptation of both to commit adultery over and over again.

If the husband is successful in overcoming the wife's objections to having children,
the children will suffer under each divorce. The mother will suffer under her children's suffering. Her beauty will suffer under her children's suffering. Her beauty will suffer under the strain. She will try to counteract the decay of her face and figure by spending too much time and too much money at the coiffeur, the cosmetician, the beauty surgeon. She will age earlier than those women who had less beauty to start with. Her husband, if he avoids the pitfalls of liquor, probably will not show his age as cruelly. Soon he will attract a younger woman and want to start all over again.

This is almost a standard pattern. If it were all, it should be sad but not tragic. But there is a real tragedy which often attaches itself to beauty as to the heroine of a Greek drama. It hinges on the fact that only few beautiful women will ever make an effort to please a man. They feel that men should please them. They develop an attitude of show-me, entertain-me, pay-me-back-for-my-beauty. They become spectators of a marriage instead of acting as participants.

This, of course, is deadly. No one except the two persons concerned knows exactly what goes on in
sexual intercourse. What they tell others is invariably distorted, and that includes what they tell their analyst, their confessor, or their other lovers. Yet one can gather that exceptionally beautiful women almost invariably lack temperament, passion, curiosity, or the will to please -not because they were born without these qualities but because man's flattery has stifled them. Beauty, they feel, should be enough.

Many Aspects of Magnetism

Beauty isn't enough. Not is there reason to believe that it is identical with sex appeal. What attracts people to each other is a highly complex magnetism; beauty may well play a part better than by a painter friend of my youth, now devoted to wholly abstract works but then given to a world of semi-representational, robot like, almost perfectly square people.

I used to criticize his pictures quite fiercely, and one of the points I made was that his people were so singularly unattractive.
Adultery, The painter, who was gracious enough to put up with a lot of my unqualified judgments, bridled at this one and said firmly: "My women are attracted by my square men!" This struck me as so eminently sensible that I have never forgotten it.

Let me give a few examples of how this process of sexual attraction and repulsion operates. I once knew a woman who was driven close to insanity because a man, who seemed to have been greatly attracted to her when they'd first met, had left her without explanation after she had slept with him. She drove herself to a frazzle trying to think what she had done wrong. Had she lost him, as her mother had predicted, by "giving herself" to him? Impossible. He wasn't that small-minded. But then what had she done wrong thing? Had she worn the wrong kind of clothes? Had he come to despise her taste because of some part of the decor of her apartment? Since he was an artist that was not unthinkable. Was it because they didn't have the same religion? Because he was poor and she was well off?

She racked her brains; she became a nuisance to herself and all her friends; she came close to suicide. And then, by sheer fluke, she learned the truth. She went a doctor to get some sleeping pills. The doctor questioned her. It turned out, by one of those fantastic coincidences that seem to rule our lives that he'd gone to college with the man she
loved. Instead of commiserating with her, he burst into laughter and then asked her some questions which struck her not only as irrelevant but as impertinent. "Do you dye your hair?"
"Yes, why?"
"Just a moment. What is your original color?"
"Sort of auburn. Why?'
"Has your pubic hair the same color?"
"Must you know? Yes, it has. Now will you-?"
And then he told her that this man, even as an adolescent, had developed a panic fear of red pubic hair. "If I had him as a patient, I could probably find out why and maybe help him to get over it. As it is, I can only suggest that you dye your pubic hair or else turn the light off."

This sounds comic in retrospect, symptoms of venereal diseases, but it wasn't at all funny at the time. I know of another case, almost equally preposterous, where a highly intelligent woman told me with absolute conviction that her husband, who loved her dearly, was sexually peculiar because he never kissed her. it never occurred to her in all her many years of married life that he had an unusually fine sense of smell and simply couldn't bear his wife's moth odor, although she was an exceptionally clean woman, kept her teeth brushed, and used a gargle, and did everything else any normal woman does to keep herself dainty.

Hidden Desires