Lesser-known incident in Pyramus and Thisbe saga. After conversing for 9 years, Pyramus attempts to close gap in wall.     Anti-Woo
Stephen Potter

The Climate of Anti-Woo

Significance of Beauty in the Male/Female plexus

A year ago Western TV videotaped a discussion, organized by myself, and including two of our Yeovil staff. This has not yet been publicly shown. It may be that some of the conclusions are too subversive for family viewing, for we had a doctor on the panel. We have our own Yeovil School of Medical Behaviouristics, and are hoping to convert the B.M.A. to our belief that no general physician or surgeon should practise without being a fully qualified psychiatrist as well.

During the discussion the Doctor, who was anonymous even to us, said, in reply to a question:

DOCTOR: Men who come within the ambience of a woman, are more likely to be attracted by, to feel the attraction of, that woman, if she is beautiful.

I must have forgotten the circumstances, my surroundings, everything when I said

POTTER: You mean they are more likely to fall in love with them if they are pretty?


We were extremely glad to get this statement from ‘Nonny,’ as we called our anonymous consultant.

This proves that good looks are the natural enemy of Anti-Woo, and that the first hurdle is the most difficult. Beauty is the classical One-Up state, and the true Lifeman must be determined to try to counter this, however unfavourable the circumstances. Let us take the woman known as Warlingham first, because she was the ‘perfect’ beauty. The features were so exactly right, the skin so smooth and textureless, that the whole effect was not of shape or proportion but one of total pang. In the language of inappropriate poetical comparison her ‘eyes are like stars.’ Actually we advise you, to help you as a start, to look at those large wet glistening objects more carefully and realize that they are much more like jellyfish than stars.

But whatever happens, you will look. No expert should have difficulty in staring without seeming to be rude. He does not say ‘haven’t we met before,’ or ‘you remind me,’ but ‘Five years is the limit of any one parliament, isn’t it’ or ‘I’ve just remembered I ought to have caught the 3.10 for Pulborough,’ or ‘You wouldn’t – couldn’t – remember the comedian, Danny Kaye?...’ Listen, and watch, to see if there is any reaction whatever. Drop your eyes to the swan-like neck, except of course that the curve is not like a swan, but (if you turn to our list of alternative similes) the replica of the southern entry to the Doncaster by-pass. In some men, absolute lack of response sparks off a determination to make some impression: and it was on just such occasions as this that, thirty-nine years ago, for the first time, I self-recognized the existence of lifemanship and evolved a self gambit to overcome loss of face.

What does the man do against No Response? How does he deal with that wonderful complexion, so smooth and textureless that all curves and shadows merge; that skin like marble (corrected simile: like peeled pear)?

Layman may say to himself ‘I am not attracted to this girl. Obviously she is simply mad about her own looks. Probably narcy. Since there is no trace of lines on her skin, even about her mouth, she cannnot possibly have a grain of humour. She wants teaching a lesson. I am the one to do it.’

Needless to say, this approach is the usual first step to total slavery. At the very moment when Layman will feel that he is getting his own way, it will be the girl, Warlingham, who gives the order, more piercingly exact, though unspoken, than a drill sergeant. Taken out in the evening, she does not actually refuse, on a dry night, to walk eight yards along the pavement towards the restaurant door, or the theatre entrance, because that would force you, the escort, to drive, after you have dropped her at the very toes of a commissionaire, towards a one-way block facing the wrong direction. She does not refuse, but you will find yourself in that block nevertheless, facing the wrong direction: and when you come back she will certainly be talking to a friend she has found, a man without style, shorter and tubbier than yourself, wearing an unsuitable black-striped shirt, and making the girl laugh like a cockatoo.

Stephen Potter, Anti-Woo, 1965

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