“Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got.”
It’s Valentine’s Day and I am sitting in Café Kawa, observing. In Calgary, it’s not a big day. It brings to mind the topics of seduction, sensuality, and sexiness. In this business-oriented city, seduction and sensuality have taken a back seat. Actually, I think they’ve been placed in the trunk.
I know for women, too often we associate sexiness and seduction with the sex trade or images in the media that are used to manipulate, thereby rejecting it. For me, I have had the fear of being perceived as a—I can’t even write the word because I find it so offensive. It’s a rude “C” word that North American culture has created to denigrate women over a certain age (although nobody knows quite what that age is) and depict them as predators. (It’s a word that you might not find offensive because it’s become mainstream, but I do).
Our attitudes and cultural mores are a big motivator for my travels. In many European and Latin countries, the art of seduction and sensual living is alive and well, at any age. I feel freer to be seductive in other countries than my own.
My cousin introduced me to another author, Chen Lizra, who’s written a book about Cuba as well (My Seductive Cuba). A few weeks ago she gave a popular TedTalk called The Power of Seduction in Our Everyday Lives. It got me thinking about how I’ve shelved seduction in my own life. Her observations about the sultry seductiveness of the Cubans mirrored mine.
Cuba is one of the sexiest countries in the world and cubanos have mastered the art of seduction. My theory is that without the drive to succeed and make money, Cubans have placed a good portion of their energy into their sexuality.
Dancing and music are a big part of their everyday existence. Flirtation and seduction are a way of life. Cubans are well aware of the power of seduction to get what you desire or need. They are also astute about how seductive-starved the average tourist is. I’ve excerpted a passage below from my book about what makes the lure of the cubano so irresistible to foreign women.
Seduction is an art and sexy is a state of mind, no matter what you look like. We’ve all seen super models with homely men and in everyday life, we’ve known men or women who, by all norms, are not beautiful, but are sexy because they believe they are. If they are selling it with charismatic conviction, we are buying it.
I am not talking about pretense or a false air of confidence fueled by revealing clothes and make-up, but a genuine love of oneself and an inner belief in one’s “attractivity” (that’s a Wanda word). One of the most seductive actresses of her day, Sophia Loren once said that one day, she just decided to be beautiful, even though she did not fit the standard of beauty in her era. And then she was.
Smiling is seductive and so simple, yet so few do it. It’s as though we are saving our smiles for special occasions or certain people. Some feel that if they smile they seem easy, desperate, or a mark. Whether it’s same-sex or opposite-sex, you can make someone’s day by giving them a genuine, light-in-your-eyes smile. But the underbelly of smiling is that it makes us feel vulnerable because it could lead to something unexpected.
My sister went for a walk with me around the river last summer and was flabbergasted by the number of men in Calgary who actually turn away when passing to avoid eye contact. A smile could bring just a fleeting spark of happiness or it could lead to a friendship, a valuable connection, or romance.
Smiling can lead to laughter and laughter is an awesome aphrodisiac. It’s also a great icebreaker in business or social settings. We all appreciate a day with a good laugh and it’s music to one’s ears when life feels cloyingly serious.
Accepting kindnesses with graciousness (like a door held open, help with a heavy box, or a compliment) is seductive. It must be extremely confusing to the chivalrous when a woman barks, “I can do it myself!” It’s also seductive for a man to remember to hold a door open instead of letting it slam in front of a woman, to smile in a lineup at Starbucks, or to offer assistance.
Last year I was hauling books and paraphernalia from a trade show to my car and a Chinese fellow stopped to offer help. I gladly accepted. When he discovered how heavy my bags were and how far away my car was, he was perplexed.
“Why is nobody helping you with this?! It must be very hard to be a writer in Canada!”
I laughed. When was the last time anyone offered to carry my bags two blocks, I thought?
William had landed only hours before to do business in Calgary for five months and it was the start of a wonderful and enriching friendship.
In a society consumed with impatience (God forbid some forgets their PIN in a lineup at Safeway), waiting at a door for 15 seconds to hold it open, helping someone, or engaging in a conversation with a stranger shows a sense of connection to the world and is seductive in that it generates warmth and a little TLC.
Yesterday I decided to wear a dress (plain black, nothing remotely risqué) on some sales-related visits to a male-dominated industrial area. I seldom wear dresses, yet I do feel more feminine in them. And I have to say, I had a fun day because of that dress! I got a lot of friendly smiles and openness that made a workday that much better. (Note to self: wear more dresses)
When was the last time you flirted with a stranger just for the fun of it? Man or woman, do you feel sexy or is that of no interest to you? If not, why not?
I remember a sex scene in the movie Demolition Man from 1993. The movie takes place in a stringent, politically correct, and sterile 2032. In the scene, Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone have futuristic sex without touching each other while wearing headsets. I remember at the time thinking how absurd and implausible the idea was. But I don’t think we’ll need to wait until 2032 at the rate we’re going.
With people connecting almost exclusively via the Internet for dating instead of real contact and with the whole hypnotic frenzy of texting/sexting and social media life, I think we are running a very real risk of seduction going the way of the dodo bird.
We are human beings, not computers, and we came here with an animal nature. Most of us are not geared to think that honing our charisma or seductiveness is something we should strive for, which is surprising when you think of the potential advantages … more pleasure and rewards, an increase in self-confidence, a sense of playfulness, a new sparkle, a surge of passion—basically, just having a lot more fun each day.
In denying these aspects of our nature, we cut off an enormous and exciting flow of energy by shutting down our sexual energy. Developing (or remembering) the art of seduction will not only make our lives more passionate and enjoyable, it will help us succeed.
On a dull grey winter’s day, it’s something to think about.
I sit on the plane and I am too fatigued and brain-fogged to open my laptop or read a book. I let the faces and events of Cuba pass through my mind like movie clips in bits and bites. I think of women I know and other women I don’t know who have innocently entangled themselves with the men of the beautiful island I have just left. I understand all too well; I am flying back into a business-class culture that does not feed a woman’s soul or anyone’s sensuality. We go through the motions of our lives, too busy to identify what is missing, only knowing that we have a small yet painful ache in our hearts or our bodies or both. I recall the poem I wrote after returning home to the carnal void from my first long-term winter sojourn on the steamy coast of Mexico:
cold, insinuating stares
they starve us of tender smiles of playful lust leaning, sipping with cool façades
they wait and watch
selecting their prey for night’s end
I live in a land of extinct passion a lost art how did they get here all these Icemen?
One day, we take a trip, maybe to Cuba, maybe to Capri, and we come alive in ways we did not know we could. We become the women we have always wanted to be, always known we were: beautiful, sensuous, glowing, and vibrating with sexual energy. Like wilted flowers living in cracks of cement, we are transplanted into a lush tropical jungle and watered with the attentions of hot-blooded men who think we are beautiful, even if we don’t fit the image of a magazine. We are seduced and intoxicated, awash in a cascade of pheromones as powerful and persuasive as any opiate. Like travelers in a dry desert, we do not believe we are seeing only a mirage; we believe we have arrived at the oasis. Only when we endeavor to bring the oasis home do we realize it was only a mirage and cannot sustain itself. Then, it evaporates before our eyes. We think we can transplant hot, tropically grown men and that the cold, harsh environment we plant them into will not reject them. But what is the true success rate of these transplants?
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