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About the cover



Beauty and the Beast

Guys, you can stop working on the six-pack abs now.


We were having dinner at a local restaurant the other night when I noticed a good-looking woman sitting at a table by herself. She had a mane of blondish movie-star hair that reminded me of the Miss Alabama beauty-pageant contestant whom A.J. McCarron, the Alabama quarterback, is dating. This woman was older than Katherine Webb, McCarron's girlfriend who was verbally drooled over by the sportscasters on the recent BCS national championship game, but had the same sort of seemingly effortless beauty. You know those women who look as though they get out of bed in the morning perfectly coiffed and exquisitely made-up, while the rest of the world arises dumpy and disheveled? That kind of look


In what sort of universe does Jason Sudeikis (above)
get to date not only Olivia Wilde (left) but also January Jones (right)?


Normally, being married to an attractive woman myself (bet you were wondering how long before I dug myself out of that hole, huh?), I don't notice other women. But this one was notable not only for her beauty or the fact that she was apparently dining alone, but also because she kept glancing in my direction. Not a come-hither glance — though who knows? I have been working out… — but definitely looking my way.

I was preparing to give her my best, "Sorry, baby, but I'm taken" glare in return when a man walked up to her table. Solo Beauty leapt out of her chair and gave him a hug and a decidedly non-sisterly smooch. When I discussed this later with my wife, who's much more observant about such things, she pointed out that both of them were wearing wedding rings. So much for that come-hither look; Solo Beauty was eyeing the door, not me, in expectation of her hubby's arrival.

Here's what struck me about the husband, though: Most objective observers would agree that, though not so hideous as to scare dogs and children, he was not in her league, looks-wise. "Ordinary" is the word that springs to mind. You wouldn't look twice at the guy as he and his grocery cart passed you in Albertson's.

Which brings me back to the Alabama quarterback, A.J. McCarron. A recent adult haircut has spruced him up a bit, but his early-season mug shot still shown on TV during the game sports a mop of black hair that looks as though a small terrier is perched on his head. Girls his age might, I suppose, judge the quarterback as "cute," but Ryan Gosling or Ryan Reynolds or any other hunky Ryan he is not.

He is, of course, the quarterback for the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, though Miss Alabama started dating him before the BCS win. Girls go for that whole star-quarterback thing, I guess. Go figure.

Nonetheless, Miss Alabama's looks were sufficient to cause ESPN announcer Brent Musburger, a septuagenarian, to go on and on in the midst of the national title game: "Wow, I'm telling ya, you quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman! Whoa! So if you're a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pops."


Creepy as Musburger's outburst may have been, I think he was missing the point. Women, I am coming to believe, are better able than men (such as Brent Musburger) to look beyond surface attractiveness and appreciate the other attributes of a man, be those quarterbacking ability or a good sense of humor.

In short, schlubs of the world, rejoice! There is hope for us yet!

This has not, however, been the message from the media in recent years. Whereas once a man could get away with being merely dashing, lately the stakes have been raised to demand rock-hard abs along with chiseled features. An entire magazine empire, Men's Health, has been built on the importance of abs. For those of us who loathe sit-ups and have since elementary-school PE classes, this has been an unwelcome development.

Another magazine, People, has done its part in raising the handsomeness bar with its annual "sexiest man alive" award. (Guys, can you now understand why women hate being objectified as mere eye candy? Don't you think Ryan Reynolds has feelings, hopes and dreams, too, just like the nebbish-y guy holding his shirt for him between takes?) Channing Tatum, this year's honoree, is pretty much all abs, as far as I can tell. What do women see in this guy? Can you have a witty, bantering conversation with a bunch of abdominal muscles? I think not. Do rock-hard abs bring you flowers or listen to you go on and on about your nails? Good luck with that!


But the media (and most of us men) may have misjudged American women, mistakenly thinking they are as shallow as, well, men. What really brought this home to me was the news, released by a breathless show-business press a day or two after that Solo Beauty dinner out, that "Saturday Night Live" actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis is engaged. To… Olivia Wilde.

Now, as the rest of you pick your collective jaw up off the floor, let me explain to the less-celebrity-obsessed out there about Olivia Wilde. A fine actress who has gone on from the critically acclaimed TV show "House" to a range of motion-picture roles, Miss Wilde is also quite striking-looking. How striking-looking? One young woman I know, happily heterosexual, has stated several times that she would consider "switching to the other team" if offered an opportunity to date Olivia Wilde. Get the picture? Yowsa!, as a previous generation of admiring men might have said.

As for Jason Sudeikis, again, he's not so homely as to invite scorn, ridicule and thrown tomatoes. You might cast him as the leading man's comic-relief best friend. He looks like he could be your high-school geography teacher. In terms of what he brings to the genetic party, it's useful to know that Sudeikis' uncle is George Wendt, who played the barstool-occupying Norm on "Cheers."

Olivia Wilde, in short, would seem to be Way Out of His League. Yet here they are, "blissfully, hopefully, wildly in love" and ready for a walk down the aisle.

But wait, guys, it gets better. Poor ol' Jason hitched up with Olivia Wilde (herself on the rebound from, get this, an Italian prince — yes, apparently Italy still has princes) on the rebound. He'd previously been dating (wait for it…) January Jones.

Yes, the January Jones who plays the (let's be frank here) hot blonde wife on "Mad Men." Who was deemed sufficiently appealing to the eye to portray the blonde-bombshell telepath Emma Frost in the movie X-Men: First Class. (I checked this out on Wikipedia, the Source of All Knowledge, where I also learned that she is working to save endangered sharks and that, after giving birth to a son, Xander Dane Jones, on Sept. 13, 2011, she ate the placenta.)

In what sort of universe does Jason Sudeikis get to date not only Olivia Wilde but also January Jones? Could it be that women really do like a man with a good sense of humor — even if he's ordinary looking? Can it be that women, whom men secretly already know to be vastly superior creatures in every other way, are also less shallow in seeking romantic relationships?

Alas for the interest of science but happily for me, I am in no position to further test this theory — even though, with Sudeikis engaged, January Jones is apparently on the market. She's from my hometown of Sioux Falls, SD, so we'd already have something in common.

But no, I'm already married to another gorgeous woman from Sioux Falls, who apparently did like a man with a good sense of humor (and with looks and wardrobe in serious need of a makeover). Happy Valentine's Day, honey!



Desert Exposure editor David A. Fryxell will be buying
extra flowers and chocolate this Feb. 14.



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