Unsexiest Woman Alive
By Ariel Leve.
Last week, the actor Sarah Jessica Parker admitted in an interview with Grazia magazine that she was hurt by a list that named her the Unsexiest Woman Alive. "Am I really the unsexiest woman in the world?" she asked. "Wow! It's kind of shocking."
Her comments were widely reported. In every piece I read on the subject it was said, with sincerity and compassion, that in spite of being number one on this list, she shouldn't feel too bad about it because at least she's got a husband, a child, a great career and best of all, even though she's 43, advertisers still find her attractive. Really? Even though she's 43?
I suppose not having sex appeal is OK because at least she can cry into her bathtub of money. We can't have everything.
What was refreshing was that usually, when something unflattering is written about a celebrity the typical reaction is to pretend they haven't seen it or to not dignify it with a response. So the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker acknowledged the list at all is admirable.
However, the list that she referred to was in Maxim magazine, a lad mag. Which, on the barometer of things to be legitimately hurt about, is not that much further up the food chain from Googling yourself and finding out that someone has said something bad about you.
I never believe people who say they don't Google themselves. Why the shame? I Google myself all the time just in case my self-esteem has begun to improve. I think it's important to remind myself that there are people out there who think even less of me than I do. It's something along the lines of Google karma - as soon as I read something unpleasant I feel it serves me right for Googling myself in the first place.
But what makes no sense is how someone like Sarah Jessica Parker - such a sensible person - could take this Maxim list to heart? Why would she expect to fit the ideals of its audience? What intrigued me the most about SJP's comments was when she mentioned that her husband, Matthew Broderick, was also stunned by her status on this list. "It upset him because it has to do with his judgment, too," she said.
This I don't understand. Was he always secure in his judgment about her until the Maxim magazine list came along and suddenly forced him to reconsider everything? Did this list really have that kind of impact?
Surely questioning one's judgment about one's spouse should be contingent upon more significant things. For instance, stumbling upon information that reveals your wife had at one point, in a fit of rage, chopped off someone's foot. Then I can understand re-evaluating.
She might not be as sexy as you thought.
Also, I'm not sure a list should ever have the power to change an opinion on anything. Unless it's a list that exposes something. Like restaurants in London that are leaking asbestos. Or the countries where you are most likely to catch the ebola virus. That kind of list is useful. But a list that comes out of a men's magazine about who is the least sexy woman alive? You never hear someone say, "Well, I used to think the unsexiest woman alive was Madeleine Albright but now that Maxim says its Sarah Jessica Parker, I have to reassess." If a list is seriously going to change someone's opinion, how much weight should that opinion be given?
Moreover, the criteria Maxim readers use to define what they consider to be sexy can't be overlooked. Chances are it's not: she makes me think of things in a different way ... that's hot. Or, aside from the fact she can do my taxes, she has opened my eyes to modern art.
On its list of the five unsexiest women, number five was Britney Spears (fat!), number four was Madonna (old!), number three was Sandra Oh (for her "boyish figure", which means "absence of implants"), two was Amy Winehouse, and then Sarah Jessica Parker at number one, with a comment about her being a "Barbaro-faced Broad."
Are Maxim readers really all that familiar with Barbaro, the now dead horse who in 2006 won the Kentucky derby? Let's say they are. Having an equine face and curly hair myself, who knew that trumped being fat and old when it comes to no longer being sexually viable.
Perhaps what is most surprising about Sarah Jessica Parker being top of the list is that Maxim readers rate her at all. Having her on this list (along with wild card Sandra Oh) seems so incongruous. My theory is, it must be a form of latent anger directed at the lads, ex-girlfriends who preferred watching Sex and the City over having meaningless drunken sex with them. As Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker inhabits a world where women are in charge, they live free and interesting lives and are asked out by men every day. I can see why none of this would appeal to readers of Maxim, who are probably quite controlling over the few women they manage to attract.
A few months ago I received a letter. "Dear Ms Leve," it began. "Would you please be so kind as to ask your editor to remove your photograph from appearing with the column you write? It is the first thing I see on a Sunday morning when I am eating breakfast and it is making me sick." I love that this was posed as a request. It continued. "It has to be said that it looks as though you fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down." I'm not sure why that had to be said. But the best part was the end. Because this person was British, he signed off with, "Kind regards."
This week Ariel worried about rheumatoid arthritis: "The distal IP joints in my right hand ached and my index finger swelled up like a sausage." She looked up rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: "At Mayoclinic.com I discovered that arthritis symptoms are usually symmetrical and that most likely it's nothing to worry about. Either that or it's lupus."