I would not want our readers to imagine that my thoughts about human nature are always triggered by seeing an attractive woman, particularly one that I don't know. But with my Darwinian eyes so well adjusted to seeking out reproductive fitness, it happens upon occasion.
There is, you see, a Wells Fargo bank branch located in the central thoroughfare of the massive office building where I work. And the demographics of staffing being what they are, it is invariably staffed entirely by women. The other day I was hurrying by when I happened to notice a woman leaning on counter and talking to the three women manning the bank. That I noticed was probably not coincidental, in that she was to all appearances someone intending to draw attention: tall and slim with a short skirt and very high heels adding to the effect; slouching slightly in the way that thin women often do, thus emphasizing curves above and below while demonstrating they don't have to stand straight to look thin; leaning against the counter in a look-at-my-cleavage kind of way; and talking with frequent tosses of her long, blond hair.
What caused my mental double-take, however, was not the spectacle itself (I would flatter myself that I'm as capable of appreciating without gawking as the next fellow) but rather that all this apparent display was being delivered to an entirely female audience. Why be "on" when talking only to other women? If anything, such flaunting seems more designed to annoy other women that to ingratiate the flaunter to them.
On later contemplation, however, I began to wonder if this kind of "flaunting" was, in fact, unconscious. I had always assumed that the "hot girl" type as an intentional affectation, something turned on at need in order to achieve specific results -- primarily, I think, because although I know women I consider very attractive, none of them routinely exhibit this set of mannerisms and postures. I had, thus, concluded without even thinking about it that this way of behaving was -- like the straightened hair, snug clothes, and style of makeup that usually accompanied it -- something chosen.
As with any analysis of human behavior, I would imagine this is true some of the time. But I wonder how often a style of behavior is assumed subconsciously, based on what results one gets from other people.
This woman's behavior had thrown me because it seemed like "look at me" behavior directed at an audience that would have no interest in it. If such behavior was only adopted intentionally, that would indeed make no sense. But what if the "hot girl" mannerisms (a set of behaviors I had always associated with decorative vacuity of the "don't bother getting to know this person" variety) are to a great extent trained subconsciously into one by society? Growing up, does a girl attractive and outgoing enough to "carry off" the stereotype get constant subconscious feedback in the form of people paying more attention to her when she behaves in certain ways instead of others, gradually training her into a preset style of behavior? To what extent do we find ourselves gently guided into preset "types" by the expectations of society?
Still turning this question over in my mind at home that night, I noticed my two oldest daughters (ages 6 and 7) cavorting around the house. The younger is very slim and tall, while the older is built more solidly, and I realized there was already a discernible difference in how they carried themselves. Does that suggest this is instead some sort of inherent, personality difference? Or do we begin to pick up these queues at a very young age?
Adventures in Assisi
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