Boy Toys

One of my best friends wrote a brilliant essay for this month’s Elle. I’m guessing the audience for The American Scene doesn’t overlap much with that of Elle, which is a shame, and so I thought I’d bring it to your attention. The subject is: dating male models. Apart from the fact that the essay is terrifically witty and fun, it also offers powerful insight into the future of male-female relations.

Consider, for example, Min’s advice to those who hope to date male models, a passage that alludes to an ugly truth about human nature: mating is often (not always, thankfully) driven by insecurity.

My secret to dating male models is simple: Tell them they’re smart. They’re caricatured as feebleminded and vain—an occupational hazard of a profession based on looks—and have become something of a cultural joke, like male nurses or secretaries.

In reality, the male model is well traveled, urbane, charming, conversant, open-minded, scheming, and self-promoting. Unlike the female model, he hasn’t been mentally preparing for his modeling career his entire life: He probably just stumbled into it. He sees his good fortune, therefore, as accidental and ephemeral, which leaves him emotionally detached from his work. Nevertheless, he is plagued by a sort of intellectual insecurity, which a girl can exploit. While I was fascinated by his exotic world of glamour and jet-setting, he was just as intrigued by my world of reference books and research projects. I would ask what Karl Lagerfeld was like, and he’d ask with equal wonder about Stephen Jay Gould (well, after I explained who he was). I would brag about his model ranking to my friends, and he’d announce my SAT scores at parties, which went over surprisingly well. Each male model I dated told me he had never met a girl like me: smart, but easy to talk to; nerdy, but still pretty hot. I was never sure if I was unique or had simply come from a world different from his, but I took the praise eagerly.

By reassuring the beautiful man that he was smart, I was merely telling him to realize his intelligence. And in return, he would help me to realize my own beauty.

After detailing the nature of her own hotness (something I hope to do more of in my own writing), Min writes:

When strangers asked if I was a model, I reveled. But the popular boys in my school who ranked hot girls said they’d have put me at No. 1 if I hadn’t shaved my head or worn lederhosen. I barely made the top 10.

As an avowed head-shaving enthusiast, this disappoints me.

At the close of the essay comes the following:

Sometimes I feel I’m forced to be an apologist for my fetish for good-looking men. Then I remember that men display identical tastes to mine, preferences that tend toward the young and professionally pulchritudinous. Women my mother’s age have told me to find a man who would be a good father and provider, meaning: food, shelter, a steady income—stability. I smile and refrain from telling them that I can afford my own food and rent and that my friends and family give me support and love. About the only thing that I can’t give myself is that flush of excitement upon locking eyes (and lips) with a really gorgeous guy.

Which is to say, as women surpass men in educational attainment and professional accomplishment, we men need to prepare for a radically different future — a future in which we spend hours tweezing our eyebrows and “juicing” our pecs. I don’t like it, but turnabout is fair play.