This article arises from a paper Ms. Phillips, a New York City elementary school teacher, presented at a public seminar titled “Can a Woman Be Proud of Her Effect on Men?”
Early in my study of Aesthetic Realism, at a time when I was not hopeful about love, I was asked in a consultation, “Do you want a man to feel, ‘The mind of Lauren Phillips does me good’?” I was surprised; and the answer was yes. But for most of my life before that, it was not the accuracy of my mind I depended on with men; it was the ability to have an immediate effect through the way I looked. Once, while talking to several attractive men, I decided to make a dramatic exit. As I walked away, I glanced over my shoulder to observe the effect I was having and walked right into a large glass door. Luckily, the only thing bruised was my vanity.
Though I was driven by the desire to dazzle men, I didn’t respect myself for it. At 21, attending acting school in New York, I wrote in my journal, “I want to use acting to make the world a better place.” But when it came to men, I had a very different purpose, and every relationship ended painfully. “What do I have to offer a man?” I asked myself. “Well, at least I can make him laugh and I have my body.”
I learned from Aesthetic Realism that the one way a woman can be proud of her effect on a man is by using him to know and like the world and by doing all she can to encourage him to see reality and people fairly. The reason I was so ashamed was that I used men to have a contemptuous victory over the world—to feel I’d conquered it. When I saw that a man was stirred up by me, I didn’t respect him more. I reduced his meaning to a handsome face and a satisfying body. And increasingly I felt doomed to be a failure in love.
In my second Aesthetic Realism consultation, I spoke about Mark, a man I’d been seeing. I told my consultants I was so furious that I wanted to throw something at him. They surprised me by asking, “Do you think you’ve gotten Mark pretty mixed up?” I was confused by men, but the idea that I could confuse a man hadn’t occurred to me. As they asked me to think about what Mark felt, I became irritated and restless, and replied, “I have no idea what he’s thinking.”
Consultants. Do you think Mark feels you’ve shown yourself as you really are or you’ve presented some picture of yourself?
LP. A picture of myself.
Consultants. Do you want to look in a way you’re sure a man will have to notice?
Consultants. The question is, do you like yourself for how you do it? There’s nothing wrong with affecting men with how one looks; but what would be the difference between a woman’s respecting herself for the way she affects a man and not respecting herself?
They gave the criterion—in this question: “Have you wanted Mark to be weaker or stronger through you?” I answered, “I think I want him stronger, but then as we talk I find I want to affect him with my body.” My consultants explained, “So you give him two messages: you’ll say useful things in conversation, but as soon as body gets in, you want him to be weaker. Do you think that’s enough to muddle him a good deal?”
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