|"Can you tell I'm |
wearing a pad?"
As Stupid & Contagious HQ was in the process of relocating to a bigger and better media complex, a long-forgotten treasure was uncovered from storage. That little piece of awesome is a book entitled Always Ask a Man: Arlene Dahl's Key to Femininity. Yes, Arlene Dahl. I think she was on To Tell the Truth sometimes. But more importantly, she created Lorenzo Lamas.
This book is fucking amazing. Every lady should have one. In fact, girls should get a free copy at the hospital when they're born. Arlene's words of wisdom are that valuable. And in order to really do a deep dive into what it takes to be acceptable in public, I'm going to write about Always Ask a Man in two parts.
The very first page of the book gets right to the brutal point. In a handwritten note with appropriately ladylike handwriting, Arlene says:
I like men and I like men to like me—so I dress for them. This I used to consider the normal attitude and approach, one I shared with all women. Then not long ago a survey showed me that the average woman doesn't dress to please men at all! She dresses to please herself or other women. That fact shocked me into writing this book.If you've seen Mad Men, you know how scandalous those girls at Sterling Cooper Draper Price can be. And since Always Ask a Man was written in 1965, Arlene was there in person experiencing the horror of a real-life Sterling Cooper Draper Price, where ladies were getting jobs and doing things alone and going on (whispers) The Pill. Hussies... all! Arlene simply did not want to take such carrying-on lying down.
This book is not intended for women who want to be beautiful for beauty's sake. Such beauty serves no purpose...other than self-satisfaction, if that can be considered a purpose. But if you are a woman who loves to be beautiful for and be loved by a man, I believe this book can help you.Arlene reveals that she has always asked dudes for approval on anything related to beauty and fashion. Dad, for one, always had to offer his stamp of approval. "My father loved the smell of lavender soap, so I always made certain that I used it lavishly before I presented myself to him for a goodnight kiss." Um, ew. Chris Hansen wants Arlene's dad to have a seat right there.
But then it gets worse. "Two heads are usually better than one... I often ask my young son, Lorenzo, for his reaction. Children are always so candid!" Some of you may recall that Lorenzo then went on to use a laser pointer to be judgy with on the short-lived reality wreck Are You Hot? Good thing laser pointers weren't around in 1965 or Arlene might be in a mental institution.
To drive her point home, Arlene consults some of the legendary male celebrities of the day for their thoughts on chicks. Yul Brynner laughs, "Women are being emancipated out of their femininity in this modern age. The one thing a woman doesn't have to be is logical!" Richard Burton asserts, "They must be completely feminine and faintly giggly." Burt Lancaster opines, "I admire honesty and straightforwardness, combined with true femininity." See a pattern here? The King of Siam doesn't dig butch. Sorry, ladies.
(Hilariously, she also gets a quote from Tony Perkins, who says, "A girl should act like a girl, and not like the head of a corporation—even if she is." Guess Arlene isn't the authority on perfecting your gaydar to avoid embarrassing situations like this!)
Other pet dislikes from Arlene's showbiz pals include obvious makeup, powder smears on necklines, stray hairs on the shoulders (huh?), table-hopping (huh?) and profanity (oopsie!). Also of vital importance is to never upstage a man. "Never launch loudly into your opinions on a subject...instead, draw out his ideas to which you can gracefully add your footnotes from time to time." Don't try to prove your self-sufficience! Let him order the goddamn wine! (Oopsie again...)
At this point, you're starting to realize what a turn-off you are, at least by old-Hollywood standards, and you're wondering what you can do to clean up this tragic mess of a life you've created. Never fear: here comes Arlene to the rescue!
The first tip is stand naked in front of a mirror and rip yourself to shreds. But find some positive stuff, too! Then get rid of everything else. Personality and charm are great, says Arlene, but they're even better when they come in a pretty package. "Your appearance is a yardstick by which others can measure your self-respect." Uh oh. I'm wearing kitty-cat boxer shorts and Night of the Living Dead t-shirt with a big salsa stain on the front.
"Is your facial expression pleasant, alert and vital? Or do you look bored, dispirited and disagreeable?" Yikes...strike two.
"Do you appear dainty, feminine and well-groomed?" Well, I took a shower...
Arlene, of course, has plenty of tips on making yourself presentable enough to venture out into society. For one thing, she is a huge advocate of the "slant board," which is apparently a piece of wood that's tipped down at one end. When you lay on it, all the blood rushes to your head. Is that supposed to be good? Arlene says it relieves swollen ankles and gives you a nice flush in the face, but it sounds like a recipe for blood clots and aneurysms to me. But what do I know?
Another important tip is to be slim. Arlene feels sorry for girls who stuff their faces and "cheat themselves out of health, beauty and romance." She recommends Sophia Loren's diet, which includes about a gallon of black coffee a day, lots of tiny vegetables and "boiled tongue." Excuse me for a minute while I vom. *vom* Ooh, maybe that's the secret to the diet: it's so vile, it turns you bulimic.
When you have had it up to here with the West Beach Coffee n' Tongue Diet, don't race out and blow it all on beer (like I'm doing right now). Remind yourself that as you get skinnier, you're getting "lovelier and more lovable every day!" You're nobody until somebody loves you! Find activities like shopping and hairstyling to take your mind off of food.
If you're not already about to lose your mind keeping track of all these rules, make sure also don't turn into a bag of bones! Nervous women may burn off too many calories with their nervous energy, says Arlene. Stop being nervous and letting being perfect fry your nerves!
Take advice from Cyd Charisse to gain weight: drink a glass of sherry with a beaten raw egg in it every night. Excuse me for a minute while I vom again. *vom* See, it's working!
Next up: exercise! Arlene recommends walking, but make sure you're walking the way a man likes. Dean Martin exclaims, "A beautiful woman is like a race horse—slim, sleek and with a beautiful carriage." Maybe he really means a beautiful woman is like a horse pulling an Amish carriage—tied up and blinded with a bunch of bearded men staring at her ass.
Even if you're not an outdoor girl, you can still get some exercise with by watching an exercise TV program. "See how much fun it can be to take your instructions from a pleasant male voice against a background of music!" she twitters. Don't forget that these are the days before Billy's Boot Camp and Harvey Walden IV. Try to imagine fluttery little Arlene in her pink leotard, makeup and jazz slippers dropping down to give Harvey 20. Hilarious! And a big no-no because you might work up an unfeminine sweat!
Her "calisthenics" recommendations are even funnier. Swing your arms in circles to reduce your spare tire. Do five wall push-ups to tone legs. Do four sit-ups for your belly (try to work up to 10). "Most women won't exercise because they think of it as something violent," says Arlene's gal pal Rosalind Russell. Roz says she'll never get a big belly because she stands for 20 minutes after every meal and sometimes does stretches. See, ladies, that's all it takes! No need to get all yucky with sweat and make men uncomfortable with kickboxing.
Also of vital importance in Arlene's world: lovely, touchable skin. To drive it home, Errol Flynn foams, "A beautiful skin is instantly admired like a Moroccan binding on a rare book or the grain of the wood in a fine piece of furniture." Um, hi, Buffalo Bill. Are we sure he wasn't keeping a Senator's daughter prisoner in his basement "workshop"? Either way, what a weirdo.
Arlene notes the three enemies of beautiful skin: alcohol (shit), crash diets (shit) and excessive sun (shit) and advocates "exercising" the face by pulling and pushing it into all kinds of ridiculous positions. She's also a big proponent of makeup (but not too much, cuz the menz hatez that). Like Arlene says, "There's no such thing as an ugly woman—just those who haven't reached their full potential!" Why don't I believe you, Arlene? Why do I think you're secretly sniffing behind my back that I smell like food and I don't have a chin and that I really need to do something about that muffin top? Why, Arlene??? Why don't I believe???
I think this would be a good time to end today. Next time: makeup, clothes and a ridiculously detailed look at what your hair color says about YOU.